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Philemon - doing what is "proper"

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Paul writes a letter. This is tied with Jude for the shortest book in the New Testament. A mere 25 verses. (Jude has a higher word count)
It seems Philemon is a Christian, at least he is called a beloved brother and fellow worker. It surprises me how often the term "worker"is applied to Christians in the new testament.

But this letter is also addressed to Apphia, and Archippus. WE don't know a lot about these other two people, but again it seems they are Christians because Apphia is called "our sister"
and Archippus is called a "fellow soldier". I have to wonder, what exactly is the difference between a fellow worker and a fellow soldier? Some would say this is simply a reference to their
job professions, but I'm not sure. Paul also mentions.. "the church in your house". The way this is worded, it seems there was an assembly of sorts, perhaps what we might call a Bible study today
that met regularly at their house.

In verse 5 Paul mentions the "love and of the faith which you have toward the Lord Jesus and toward all the saints". More evidence that these people were Christians.

In verse 8, Paul tells these people, he has confidence in them, to do what is ... "proper". Paul is writing this from prison in Rome. By this time he is much older.
Verse 9 says...

Phm 1:9; yet for love's sake I rather appeal to you—since I am such a person as Paul, the aged, and now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus—

He calls himself "aged". In the next verse he mentions Onesimus. In a way, this is really who this book is about, even though the letter is addressed to Philemon.

He calls Onesimus his "child". We know Paul wasn't married, so likely this is meant in a spiritual sense. It seems Onesimus was in prison with Paul for a while, and Paul either led him to
the Lord, or at least mentored and discipled him for a while.

It seems Onesimus is about to be released from prison. It also seems Onesimus was a slave. A slave belonging to Philemon (and perhaps Apphia and/or Archippus).
Scholars have speculated if Apphia was Philemon's wife. Or perhaps Apphia and Archippus were siblings of Philemon? In any case Paul is sending back to his "owners".

What an interesting term to use in a letter to Christians. Why would Christians even have a slave? It seems Onesimus wasn't a very good slave. Paul says in verse 11 that he used to be useless to you.
Now we could debate if it is a Christian thing to do... having a slave, but for the purpose of this book, it doesn't really matter that much.

Paul is appealing to Philemon. He says I am sending Onesimus back to you. I know you are a Christian, and now he is also. Please don't treat him as a slave any longer.
ahhh... there it is. Paul even says he wished he could keep Onesimus with him in prison. (verse 13)

Phm 1:14; but without your consent I did not want to do anything, so that your goodness would not be, in effect, by compulsion but of your own free will.
Phm 1:15; For perhaps he was for this reason separated from you for a while, that you would have him back forever,
Phm 1:16; no longer as a slave, but more than a slave, a beloved brother, especially to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.
Phm 1:17; If then you regard me a partner, accept him as you would me.

Paul says I don't want you to do this under compulsion, but rather "of your own free will".
Paul goes on to say, perhaps this is the reason he ran away in the first place. He was separated from you so that I could meet him and teach him for a while.
But Paul asks Philemon to take Onesimus back again. Not as a slave, but as a brother. Paul is appealing to Philemon to do "what is proper".

I wonder how many of us would be willing to take the time to tutor and disciple a nobody, a runaway slave. But it gets better.

Phm 1:18; But if he has wronged you in any way or owes you anything, charge that to my account;
Phm 1:19; I, Paul, am writing this with my own hand, I will repay it (not to mention to you that you owe to me even your own self as well).

Paul says if he owes you anything, charge it to "my account". Much like Jesus, if this person has sinned... "charge it to my account".
Paul says he will repay Philemon at some point. We don't know if this ever happened, because tradition says Paul died in prison.
But how many of us would be willing to do that? How much faith does this take?

1. That Onesimus would actually go back to his former master.
2. That Onesimus would actually take him back.
3. That he would stop treating Onesimus as a slave.
4. That Philemon wouldn't take advantage of Paul, Philemon could say yes he owes me, big time, thousands of dollars, are you really gonna pay up?

This took faith on Philemons part too. That Paul would actually do what he said.

Phm 1:21; Having confidence in your obedience, I write to you, since I know that you will do even more than what I say.
Phm 1:22; At the same time also prepare me a lodging, for I hope that through your prayers I will be given to you.

Again Paul mentions his "confidence" that Philemon would be obedient. Verse 22 is controversial. Some say Paul knew he was going to get out soon.
Others say Philemon prepared a room for Paul, that Paul was never able to use. (due to dying in prison).

In signing off this letter, Paul mentions four other prisoners.

Epaphras, Mark, Aristarhus, and Luke. Some scholars believe this could be the same Mark and Luke that wrote part of the gospels.

Epaphrus is also mentioned in Col 1:17; and Col 4:12;

Some of the other names here Onesimus, Luke, Archippus, etc... also mentioned in the last 10 or so verses in Colossians (chapter 4).

The take aways for me here are... Paul encourages Onesimus to do the right thing and go back to his former owner.
Paul encourages Philemon to take Onesimus back, but don't treat him as a slave any longer.

Finally, that Paul willing to "pay" for Onesimus's previous wrong doings. Much like Jesus pays for ours.

as always, any other thoughts, comments and scriptures are welcome.
 
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Slave teaching in scripture is on par with employee / employer today.

What I get from this passage is that Paul has confidence in Onesimus being a changed person. As such there is not hesitation on Paul's part to 'pay whatever debt' he had from previous wrong doings.

I imagine Paul wanting him to go back to Philemon as a testimony of how Jesus can change a person.
 
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