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A Study on Philemon

The Background – Paul wrote this small letter to Philemon, his family, and the whole church in Colossae (v. 1-2). Many think this was a private letter, I believe that is not the case. Paul wrote to Philemon while he was incarcerated in Rome, along with other books of Bible including: Philippians, Ephesians, and Colossians. In fact, the church of Colossae met in Philemon’s house (v.2). It is believed that Paul lead Philemon to Christ during Paul’s trip to Ephesus (about 100 miles from Colossae).

The Characters

Philemon – Philemon was a very wealthy slave–holding Christian man. As a result, he purchased and bought many slaves including Onesimus. There is no evidence that Philemon was an elder of the church at Colossae, but was influential.

Apphia – Philemon’s wife

Archippus – Philemon’s son, who was believed to be in full time ministry. For info on his name check out Colossians 4:10-18.

Onesimus – A slave bought and owned by Philemon. Onesimus wanted his freedom. So, he escaped from Philemon, stole from Philemon (v.18-19), and ran as a fugitive slave to Rome. It is in Rome where he was a runaway slave, homeless, and living on the streets. By God’s providence (Oh! How amazing is His providence) he bumped into Paul, who shared the Gospel with him, and gave His life to Christ! The show the amazing works of God’s sovereignty in our lives. God took Onesimus away from Colossae, to Rome, to bring him to Himself. God has a sovereign working in all of our salvation stories…what is yours?!

Theme – The tiny letter bleeds the Gospel. Love, forgiveness, the Gospel transforming lives, a new heart, restoration, and reconciliation are hallmarks of every believer. This just pours out of the letters that make up Philemon. Paul is writing to Philemon to accept Onesimus back and to: forgive him, erase his owned debt, love him as a brother in Christ, and to be reconciled to him.  

The Difficulty of Forgiveness – we live in a world that does not like forgiveness. In fact Hollywood celebrates characters that get revenge on those who hurt them. Now, I am a sucker and enjoy watching westerns and mafia movies. Tombstone and Goodfellows are two of my favorites. The mafia and Doc Holliday are not very good at forgiving.   

Ask yourself:

Is the there anybody have a hard time with? Especially, with the holidays ahead, you may have to be around that person?

Is there anyone you need to forgive that does not deserve forgiveness?  

Are you holding a grudge? Do you enjoy holding a grudge and play “getting them back” in your mind?

As believers we must forgive. WHY!! Because that is the Gospel!! If we don’t forgive, we are the biggest hypocrites around. How can we REJOICE in Christ forgiving us and then with the same heart, not forgive someone, especially another Christian!! That is not how the Christian responds. Christians have the ability to forgive stems from the new heart. What does Jesus say, Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.” ~ Matthew 18:21,22 

An Unforgiving person has these poisons running through their veins: imprisoned to the hurtful/painful past, blames others for their unforgiveness, bitterness, gossip, slander and it shows on his or her face.

Now my friends, forgive.

Learn more about Brad Woodlief

Originally posted on Brad’s blog