C. Then Paul mentions that Onesimus has become a Christian, and since Onesimus
has become a believer, Philemon is now governed by a greater Master than the law
of Rome in dealing with him.
D. Paul speaks of Onesimus being a 'minister' to him. In Greek that word is deacon,
meaning not only a slave, but a hired worker, a salaried worker.
1. Paul says at verse 16, “No longer a slave, but more than a slave.
Paul says, “If you count me as a partner, receive him as you would myself.”
A. The word for 'partner' is the word 'koinia', the term for fellowship. The word 'receive' means
'to take to'.
Paul: Take to him as you would take to me: an apostle, a freeman, a fellow believer.
Paul then writes, “If Onesimus has cost you anything, charge it to my account.”
A. Paul had no Jerusalem Master Card.
B. Though Paul would be willing to pay Philemon in cash, there could be something else he had
C. It is not beyond the realm of reason to suspect that Paul is telling Philemon that if he chooses
to be legalistic about it all, and seeks compensation for what is owed to him, then as a friend
of Onesimus he will work off his debt.
D. If Paul is saying that he will become a slave to pay for the crimes of a slave, we can only
imagine the chill this sent down the spine of Philemon.
This is the germ of the Gospel. This is possibly why the Holy Ghost has included this
obscure, ancient letter in the Bible.
A. Paul's statement that he will pay the bills of Onesimus is the doctrine of salvation.
B. Onesimus has no value in and of himself to achieve his own salvation.
C. He seems to symbolize the lost human being in need of a Savior.
D. Paul, offering to pay whatever price that is needed is imitating a Savior who paid the
ultimate price for him.
XIII. People have questioned why Paul never condemned slavery in this letter.
A. Paul does not order Philemon to free all of his slaves.
B. Slavery was deeply embedded in the economic system of the Roman empire.
C. Slavery was a means by which people could pay their bills.
D. If bills could not be paid and you had no means to pay them, you could work off your
debt with slave labor.
E. People were often so poor that being a slave was the only way to have a meal in the day
time, and a shelter at night.
F. The Roman empire had as many as 60 million slaves and 60 million slaves could cause a
lot of problems if they revolted.
G. The Romans had a scare about 100 years before Paul with Spartacus.
1. The Romans crushed slave rebellion in an instant.
H. Paul probably concluded that slavery was so ingrained in the empire that it would be a
waste of time to actively protest against it.
1. Paul did not consider himself a social activist, his calling was as a missionary.
a. Paul's calling was to take the gospel to the world and let the influence of Christ
over time eradicate things like slavery.
b. FF. Bruce: “The letter of Philemon brings us into an atmosphere in which the entire
institution of slavery could only wilt and die.”
(1.) In the ancient church, a slave could be an elder. The church had a different
attitude toward slavery than the outside empire.
I. Paul states that his time in prison will be much easier if Philemon treats Onesimus with
mercy, requests a room be prepared for him, with this interesting statement: “for I trust
that through your prayers I shall be granted to you”. He assumes that Philemon is praying
J. Near the end of the letter Paul mentions Epaphras, Mark, Aristarchus, and Luke his fellow
laborers. My fellow “laborers”. I wonder if that word haunted Philemon. The word for
'laborers' isn't 'dolos', the word for 'slave'. It is “sun-ergoi”: with + work, co-workers.
1. My workers are co-workers, not slaves; only slaves of Christ. And notice within the
letter, Paul has said Onesimus did things for him. Technically, Onesimus is one of Paul's
co-workers, included among men like Luke and Mark. Early in the letter Paul called
Philemon a co-worker. Paul has been about equalizing everyone.
K. Paul ends his letter with a benediction to Philemon and the glimpse into the private lives
of these ancient Christians is over.
The rest of the story.
A. Did Philemon let Onesimus live?
B. We need to jump ahead fifty years after the death of Paul.
C. The letters of Paul were being collected to put in one volume.
1. An elderly bishop of Ephesus gives to the collectors a special letter, a small letter, but a
letter that spoke of an apostle's concern for a young runaway slave, a nobody, a fugitive.
D. It was a letter that saved the bishop's life when he was that slave, that nobody doomed to
E. There are scholars that believe Onesimus became the bishop of Ephesus and kept in his
possession for many decades the letter of Paul we have looked at today.
F. William Barclay: “The letter was Onesimus' way of saying, “This is what Christ has done for