Continuing the series, looking at books of the Bible with only one chapter, David tackled Philemon – a letter written by Paul to Philemon, an early Christian.
In this letter Paul asks Philemon to welcome back Onesimus, a wrongdoer, to forgive him and treat him as a brother. In this letter we are introduced to three key characters.
The beginning of Paul’s letter does not take his usual approach: instead of affirming his apostolic credentials, he begins with:
This sets the tone for the letter, as Paul appeals to Philemon to forgive Onesimus. Paul’s appeal to Philemon continues as he asks him to forgive, rather than commanding him to do so:
Verses 4-7 reveal more information about Philemon, evidencing his love for and faith in God: not only did Philemon have a personal faith, there was also a church meeting in his house. These verses reveal Philemon’s qualities.
Onesimus was once Philemon’s slave until he ran away, although we do not have any further information as to how Onesimus caused Philemon to suffer losses. During this period of history, Onesimus’s actions would have been punishable by death.
However, we learn from this letter that Paul introduced Onesimus to Jesus. In these verses Paul demonstrates his affection for Onesimus:
It is apparent that Onesimus has now become a part of God’s family. Paul appeals to Philemon to not only forgive Onesimus but to accept him as a brother in Christ:
In this letter there is no specific mention of the Cross, however Paul embodies it in verse 18:
Just as Jesus died on the cross to take our punishment, Paul is offering to pay the price for Onesimus’s wrongdoing. The letter does not tell us the outcome – leaving the reader unsure of whether Philemon forgives Onesimus. However, towards the end of the short letter, it is evident that Paul is confident that he will:
Paul’s confidence may also be bolstered by the fact that, although this letter contained details of a personal matter, the letter would be read publicly to the church. This mirrors the idea that the implications of the gospel may be personal, but they are never private.
Application – What about us?
- In forgiving someone we must bear the cost and it is never easy
- Jesus bore the cost when he prayed for forgiveness for those who sinned against him
- Forgiveness is of vital importance and we need to be reconciled to each other in the Christian family