Onesimus: converted servant

Published 6:42 pm Friday, May 21, 2010

Scripture: Philemon 1-25

Aim: To instruct the pupil to forgive others who have been forgiven by Christ.

Golden Text: “If thou count me therefore a partner, receive him as myself. If he hath wronged thee, or oweth thee ought, put that on mine account” (Philemon 17-18).

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Philemon was written by the apostle Paul, probably from Roman prison (about 63 A.D.). Philemon had been converted under the ministry of Paul (vs. 19). Philemon’s servant, Onesimus, had stolen some goods and had run away to Rome.

Onesimus somehow met Paul the apostle, who was in Roman prison. As a result of his relationship with Paul, Onesimus was converted to Christ and became a close friend of Paul.

Paul desired to have Onesimus remain with him as a helper in Rome, but would not keep him without the permission of his owner, Philemon.

Onesimus returned home under the instructions of Paul. He carried this letter to his master, Philemon. The letter is Paul’s request to Philemon to forgive and accept Onesimus as a Christian brother.

1. Paul greets Philemon (vs. 1-3). Paul and Timothy greeted their Christian brother, Philemon, a fellow-laborer in the Christian faith (vs. 1). They also greeted his wife, Apphia, and probably a son, Archippus (a fellow-soldier in the Christian faith, vs. 2). Paul greeted them with grace and peace from the Father and Son, the Lord Jesus Christ (vs. 3).

2. Paul gives the character of Philemon (vs. 4-7). Paul thanked God for Philemon. Paul prayed for Philemon. Paul was aware of the character of Philemon: first, he had love and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and toward other saints (vs. 5).

Second, he faithfully communicated his faith to others in an effective way (that others were influenced through him, vs. 6).

Third, he caused others to be refreshed in their Christian faith, producing joy and much consolation in love (vs. 7).

3. Paul interceded for Onesimus (vs. 8-12). It would have been convenient for Paul to have Onesimus stay and help him in Rome (vs. 8). Paul did not want to “force” Philemon to supply him with a helper; therefore, he sent Onesimus back home with this letter (vs. 9-11). Paul asked that Philemon receive Onesimus the same as he would receive Paul (vs. 12), as a brother.

4. Paul acknowledged his desire to retain Onesimus and relates Onesimus’ conversion to Christ (vs. 13-16). Onesimus had stolen and runaway as a servant. Paul asks that Philemon receive him back as a “brother beloved” in the Lord (vs. 16).

5. Paul makes a plea for Onesimus (vs. 17-21). He is now a “partner” in the Christian faith (vs. 17). Whatever he owes to Philemon, Paul asks that it be accounted to Paul, and he will pay the bill (vs. 18). Paul had written with his own “hand,” and expressed confidence in Philemon, that he would do the right thing toward Onesimus (vs. 20-21).

6. Paul asks Philemon to prepare lodging for his intended visit. He asks for Philemon’s prayers on his behalf (vs. 22). Epaphras, Mark, Aristarchus, Demas and Luke sends greetings to Philemon (vs. 23-24). Paul closed with, “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.”

Paul is a good example. He was willing to help a newly converted Christian “get his life straightened out.” He was willing to pay a debt that was owed by Onesimus in order to help him.

New Christians need help and encouragement of all kinds. Christians ought to be willing to help in whatever way they can for the glory of God and aid of the new believer.