Philemon verses 1 to 3:
“Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus,” Paul specifically mentions that he is a prisoner. “and Timothy our brother, To Philemon our beloved fellow worker and Apphia our sister and Archippus our fellow soldier, and the church in your house: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
At that time, they had church meetings at home. Due to the recent pandemic, we have been having meetings at home more than ever before. It’s quite similar to having cell groups. Actually, big meetings may not be feasible in some countries, yet the church can continue to progress. It’s because the church is not just a meeting place; rather, it consists of you and me. We should be grateful that we are able to come together. We are blessed to be able to enjoy big meetings as well as small gatherings. The church will continue to move forward. Nothing can stop our hearts. The Lord’s presence is the most precious.
Paul faced persecution and was in prison. In spite of his imprisonment, however, Paul was able to bear fruits and even affect people of royal status. There are parts of the letter that don’t explicitly mention the appeal, but they actually are related to Paul’s appeal on behalf of Onesimus.
Verses 4 to 6 read:
“I thank my God always when I remember you in my prayers, because I hear of your love and of the faith that you have toward the Lord Jesus and for all the saints, and I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective…”
Love is one of the things that faith produces. Galatians chapter 5 tells us, “…but only faith working through love.” Paul mentioned Philemon’s love because a servant stole from Philemon and ran away.
Let’s continue on with verses 6-8:
“…for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ. For I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you. Accordingly, though I am bold enough in Christ to command you to do what is required,”
Paul praised Philemon’s love and it was appropriate for him to do so.
Verse 9 reads:
“yet for love’s sake I prefer to appeal to you—I, Paul, an old man…”
Though I feel young at heart, indeed, I’m actually advanced in age. We can see from previous verses that Paul did not write this letter with ill intent. In fact, Philemon deserved to be praised for opening up his house for the church. His love was sincere and he refreshed the hearts of saints. I believe he had welcomed many to his house for meetings and had received those who passed by his place. It was difficult for Philemon to reject Paul’s request, because Paul praised him, and also because Paul was an old man in prison.
Let’s continue with verses 9-10:
“…and now a prisoner also for Christ Jesus—I appeal to you for my child, Onesimus, whose father I became in my imprisonment.”
Paul regarded Onesimus his son in Christ because Paul brought him to Christ. I’d like to use this letter to help you to see that the Lord is our High Priest and advocate, who makes intercessions on our behalf.
Verse 11 reads:
“(Formerly he was useless to you, but now he is indeed useful to you and to me.)”
The name “Onesimus” means useful. In the past, Onesimus was useless to Philemon because he escaped from Philemon and took things from him. But then, Onesimus was saved and changed greatly. He became a dear brother and was useful to Paul. Paul would have been glad to keep Onesimus with him, in order that Onesimus might serve him and cowork with him.
Verses 12 to 15 read: “I am sending him back to you, sending my very heart. I would have been glad to keep him with me, in order that he might serve me on your behalf during my imprisonment for the gospel, but I preferred to do nothing without your consent in order that your goodness might not be by compulsion but of your own accord. For this perhaps is why he was parted from you for a while, that you might have him back forever,”
It’s so precious that I also forever belong to you; and you belong to me forever. The love dream of Abba, the Lord and the Holy Spirit is God’s household. It’s very precious that we are members of the household of God. Our relationship with God is much deeper than the relationship with our family on earth. We are not adopted. Our relationship with God is deeper than that between a father and son on earth. The husband and wife become one body through marriage, but we are united with the Lord in one spirit. This union is incomparable. Today, we are the dearest in the Lord’s heart.
Verses 15 to 17 read:
“For this perhaps is why he was parted from you for a while, that you might have him back forever, no longer as a bondservant but more than a bondservant, as a beloved brother—especially to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord. So if you consider me your partner, receive him as you would receive me.”
It’s very precious that we have been united with the Lord. Abba has accepted us fully. The Lord does not only accept us fully, but Song of Solomon 7:10 says; “I am my beloved’s, and his desire is for me.” Before we had done anything for Him, when we returned to Him, He ran out to embrace us to the bottom of His heart, and kissed us with many kisses. What the Lord has accomplished is truly precious. Ephesians tells us many of the spiritual blessings, one of which is God’s full acceptance.