The Book of Philemon

Book of Philemon

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Forgiveness shines like a brilliant light throughout the Bible, and one of its brightest spots is the tiny book of Philemon. In this short personal letter, the Apostle Paul asks his friend Philemon to extend forgiveness to a runaway slave named Onesimus.

Neither Paul nor Jesus Christ tried to abolish slavery as it was too entrenched a part of the Roman Empire. Rather, their mission was to preach the gospel. Philemon was one of those people swayed by that gospel, in the church at Colossae. Paul reminded Philemon of that as he urged him to accept the newly converted Onesimus back, not as a lawbreaker or his slave, but as a fellow brother in Christ.

Book of Philemon

  • Author of the Book of Philemon: Philemon is one of Paul's four Prison Epistles.
  • Date Written: Approximately 60-62 A.D.
  • Written to: Philemon, a wealthy Christian at Colossae, and all future readers of the Bible.
  • Key Characters in Philemon: Paul, Onesimus, Philemon.
  • Landscape of Philemon: Paul was imprisoned in Rome when he wrote this personal letter. It was addressed to Philemon and to the other members of the church at Colossae who met in Philemon's house.

Themes in the Book of Philemon

  • Forgiveness: Forgiveness is a key theme. Just as God forgives us, he expects us to forgive others, as we find in the Lord's Prayer. Paul even offered to pay Philemon for anything Onesimus had stolen if the man would grant forgiveness.
  • Equality: Equality exists among believers. Although Onesimus was a slave, Paul asked Philemon to consider him as an equal brother in Christ. Paul was an apostle, an exalted position, but he appealed to Philemon as a fellow Christian instead of a church authority figure.
  • Grace: Grace is a gift from God, and out of gratitude, we can show grace to others. Jesus constantly commanded his disciples to love one another, and taught that the difference between them and pagans would be how they showed love. Paul requested that same kind of love from Philemon even though it went against Philemon's more baser instincts.

Key Bible Verses

Philemon 1:15-16
"Perhaps the reason he was separated from you for a little while was that you might have him back forever—no longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother. He is very dear to me but even dearer to you, both as a fellow man and as a brother in the Lord." (NIV)

Philemon 1:17-19
"So if you consider me a partner, welcome him as you would welcome me. If he has done you any wrong or owes you anything, charge it to me. I, Paul, am writing this with my own hand. I will pay it back—not to mention that you owe me your very self." (NIV)

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Your Citation
Zavada, Jack. "The Book of Philemon." Learn Religions, Oct. 22, 2020, Zavada, Jack. (2020, October 22). The Book of Philemon. Retrieved from Zavada, Jack. "The Book of Philemon." Learn Religions. (accessed June 8, 2023).