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The Blue Letter Bible

Philemon, Part 2

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Chapter One


  1. To be impressed with the loving hospitality which characterized the Christians in the early church
  2. To learn lessons in the use of tact in dealing with others


In this very short and personal epistle, Paul addresses it to Philemon, Apphia, Archippus and to the church in their house. But it soon becomes evident that its contents are directed toward Philemon, a beloved friend and fellow laborer with Paul (Phm 1-3).

After his salutation, Paul expresses his thanks for the noble qualities which have characterized Philemon in the past, especially his love for the saints. It is because of Philemon's past performance that Paul is confident his plea will be carried out faithfully (Phm 4-7).

Paul's plea concerns Onesimus, a slave who had run away from Philemon. Somehow he had run into Paul at Rome and was now a new convert to Jesus Christ. As a brother in Christ, Onesimus had made himself very useful to Paul in Rome. But because he still legally belongs to Philemon, Paul is sending him back with a plea that Onesimus be forgiven and received as a brother in the Lord. Paul also offers to pay any restitution which may be owed Philemon by Onesimus (Phm 8-21).

The epistle ends with a request for lodging in the near future, and with sundry greetings from individuals who were with Paul in Rome (Phm 22-25).

Outline to Philemon, Part 2
  1. SALUTATION (Phm 1-3)
    1. FROM... (Phm 1a)
      1. Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus
      2. Timothy, a brother
    2. TO... (Phm 1b-2)
      1. Philemon, a beloved friend and fellow laborer
      2. Apphia
      3. Archippus, a fellow soldier
      4. The church in their house
    3. GREETINGS (Phm 3)
      1. Grace and peace
      2. From God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ
    1. PAUL'S THANKFULNESS (Phm 4-5)
      1. Expressed in frequent prayers to God
      2. For Philemon's love and faith toward Jesus and all the saints
    2. PAUL'S PRAYER (Phm 6-7)
      1. That the sharing of Philemon's faith might be effective
      2. Through the acknowledgment of every good thing in Philemon
      3. For example, the joy and comfort experienced by Paul from Philemon's love, as Paul hears of how he refreshed the hearts of the saints
    1. AN APPEAL, NOT A COMMAND (Phm 8-9)
      1. Paul had the authority to command what is fitting
      2. He chose instead to make an appeal based upon...
        1. Love itself
        2. Paul's "age"
        3. His imprisonment
    2. PAUL'S PLEA (Phm 10-20)
      1. Concerns Onesimus (Phm 10-11)
        1. Who was converted by Paul while in chains, and is now like a son to him
        2. Who though once was unprofitable to Philemon, is now profitable to both him and Paul
      2. Paul is now sending Onesimus back to Philemon (Phm 12-14)
        1. Though he is very dear to Paul
        2. Though Paul wished to keep him and have him work in Philemon's behalf in the gospel
        3. But Paul did not want to do anything without Philemon's whole-hearted consent
      3. Paul's desire is that Philemon receive Onesimus as a brother in Christ (Phm 15-17)
        1. Perhaps his running away was for this purpose, that he might become a beloved brother in the Lord
        2. So if Philemon considered himself a partner of Paul, Paul asks that he receive Onesimus as he would Paul himself
      4. Paul offers to repay Philemon (Phm 18-19)
        1. For any wrong that Onesimus might have done
        2. Of course, Philemon already owed Paul his own life
      5. By receiving Onesimus in this way, Philemon could give Paul joy and a refreshed heart in the Lord (Phm 20)
      1. In Philemon's obedience
      2. That Philemon will do even more than what Paul is asking for
      1. That Paul might be able to stay with Philemon
      2. For Paul is confident that through the prayers of Philemon he will soon be able to come to him
    2. GREETINGS FROM OTHERS (Phm 23-24)
      1. Epaphras, a fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus
      2. Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke, fellow laborers with Paul
    3. A CLOSING PRAYER (Phm 25)
Review Questions
  1. Why does Paul refer to himself as a prisoner of Christ Jesus? (Phm 1)
    • He was "in chains" (also under house arrest, awaiting trial)
    • But note also that he says "of Christ", for it was while engaged in HIS service and thus for HIS sake he was imprisoned
  2. Why the mention of Timothy? (Phm 1)
    • He was with Paul at Rome
    • Also, it is possible that he was acquainted with Philemon
  3. What does Philemon's name mean? Did he live up to it?
    • His name means "one that is affectionate"
    • Yes! cf. verse 5 and 7
  4. Who, possibly, are Apphia and Archippus? (Phm 2)
    • Apphia may have been the wife of Philemon
    • Archippus may have been their son, also the minister for the church in Colosse (cf. Co 4:17)
  5. Is this letter primarily to Philemon, or to all?
    • To Philemon (note the use of the singular in verses 4-21)
    • Though by mentioning the others, perhaps Paul was soliciting their help to encourage Philemon
  6. What is a good example of this family's devotion to Christ and of their hospitality to the saints? (Phm 2)
    • It appears that they let the church meet in their home
  7. Define the terms "grace" and "peace" (Phm 3)
    • Grace: favor that is unmerited
    • Peace: harmony (e.g., with God, self, and others), the result of God's grace
  8. How could Paul have heard about Philemon? (Phm 4,5)
    • From Epaphras, who was a member of the church at Epaphras (Co 4:12, 13)
    • From Onesimus himself
  9. What good things had Paul heard concerning Philemon? (Phm 5)
    • His love and faith toward Christ and the saints
  10. What are some examples of Philemon's love for the saints?
    • Letting the church meet in his home (Phm 1)
    • Refreshing the hearts of the saints (Phm 7)
    • Preparing guest rooms (Phm 22)
  11. What does Paul pray for in behalf of Philemon? (Phm 6)
    • That the sharing of his faith may become effective
  12. How is this prayer related to the plea which follows in verses 8-21?
    • Carrying out Paul's plea concerning Onesimus would be one way of assuring that Philemon's faith in its sharing would be effective
  13. What had given Paul great joy and comfort in his imprisonment? (Phm 7)
    • Philemon's love and the way the saints have been refreshed by him
  14. How does Paul re-emphasize his close feelings for Philemon? (Phm 7)
    • By calling him "brother"
  15. What does the word "therefore" indicate? (Phm 8)
    • That Paul's plea for Onesimus is predicated upon Philemon's past behavior mentioned in verses 4-7
  16. What could Paul have done in this matter? (Phm 8)
    • Simply commanded Philemon to do what is proper
  17. What does Paul do instead? (Phm 9)
    • He "appeals" to Philemon
  18. Why does Paul call himself "the aged"? (Phm 9)
    • Perhaps to appeal to Philemon's sympathy
    • Paul is probably about sixty years old at this time, but in light of bodily injuries incurred throughout his ministry (cf. 2 Co 11:23-29), he was likely older than his years would normally indicate
  19. Why does he again refer to himself as a prisoner? (Phm 9)
    • Perhaps to tactfully remind Philemon that since Paul had suffered so much in service to Christ, certainly Philemon could honor his request
  20. In the original language, where does the name "Onesimus" appear in the sentence? (Phm 10)
    • At the end: "I appeal to you for my son, whom I have begotten while in my chains, ONESIMUS."
  21. What significance might there be in placing Onesimus' name at the end of the sentence?
    • Possibly that Paul is tactfully preparing Philemon to honor Paul's request by saying what he does before mentioning a name that is likely to bring bad memories to Philemon
  22. What does Paul call Onesimus? What does it mean? (Phm 10)
    • "My son"
    • Like Timothy, this convert of Paul had become like a son to him
  23. What does the name "Onesimus" mean?
    • "Profitable", or "useful"
  24. How had becoming a Christian changed Onesimus? (Phm 11)
    • Prior to his conversion, he was "unprofitable" (as a runaway slave)
    • Now, he was "profitable" to both Paul and Philemon
    • Thus he was now living up to his name!
  25. What does Paul want Philemon to do in regard to Onesimus? (Phm 12)
    • Receive him
  26. How does Paul express further what Onesimus has meant to him? (Phm 12)
    • He refers to Onesimus as "my own heart"
  27. What had Paul wished to do with Onesimus? (Phm 13)
    • To keep him, and let him serve Paul in the gospel
  28. Why had Paul refrained from doing what he wished? (Phm 14)
    • He did not want to do anything without Philemon's whole-hearted consent
  29. What did Paul see as the "possible" reason for this turn of events? (Phm 15)
    • The providence of God
    • Note that Paul says "perhaps"; Paul recognized that we cannot always be certain as to why things happen the way they do (just as Mordecai said in Esther 4:14), and whether it is always the Lord's doing
  30. How did Paul want Philemon to receive Onesimus? (Phm 16)
    • No longer as a slave, but as a beloved brother
  31. Upon what basis does Paul ask Philemon to receive Onesimus as he would Paul himself? (Phm 17)
    • If he considered Paul as a partner
  32. What is Paul willing to do in behalf of Onesimus? (Phm 18-19)
    • Pay back anything Onesimus might owe Philemon
  33. What indicates that Paul may have personally converted Philemon to the gospel? (Phm 19)
    • Paul's statement, "you owe me even your own self"
  34. How will Philemon's forgiveness of Onesimus affect Paul? (Phm 20)
    • Despite being in chains, Paul will have joy and be refreshed in his heart
  35. Was Paul in doubt about Philemon's response to his request? (Phm 21)
    • No, he had confidence that Philemon would do even more that what Paul asked
  36. How could Philemon do more than what Paul had asked of him?
    • He could free Onesimus
    • He could give him spare time to evangelize
    • He could treat other slaves with similar compassion
  37. How might Paul's request for lodging tactfully induce Philemon to honor his request for Onesimus? (Phm 22)
    • Philemon would know that Paul would soon be able to witness firsthand Philemon's response to the plea for Onesimus
  38. Where else do we read of these men who accompany Paul in sending greetings to Philemon? (Phm 23,24)
  39. What is Paul's concluding prayer for Philemon? (Phm 25)
    • "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen."
  40. List the main point of this epistle
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