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Paul’s Letter to Philemon

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Introduction to Philemon

When Paul writes, presumably in about 52 CE, to Philemon (“phi-LEE-mon”), who has been wronged in some way by Onesimus (“o-NEE-see-mus”), he uses his best persuasive abilities, wisdom and love. The traditional view that Onesimus is a run-away slave may be true, but it is disputed by some scholars today. Regardless, Onesimus is in debt to Philemon and Paul writes to get Philemon to forgive the debt.

The Metaphysical Bible Dictionary says that Philemon represents “a thought that belongs to the love nature in man, and becomes deeply attached to the Christ Truth” and Turner says, “the epistle expresses to the fullest the apostle's compassionate spirit” (:135). Obviously, Paul is appealing to the love faculty of Philemon, which is the attracting, harmonizing, unifying faculty of mind; it is the constructive, building force of Spirit and our power to comprehend Oneness.

When Paul writes “formerly he was useless to you, but now he is indeed useful both to you and to me” (1:11) and “if he has wronged you in any way, or owes you anything, charge that to my account” (1:18),“ Paul is appealing to Philemon's faculty of judgment, which is the faculty by which we appraise, evaluate, and discern in order to make correct decisions.

Philemon 1

(Online: ASV WEB)

The Word addresses a friend of Truth

1:1 Paul, a prisoner1 of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother,

to Philemon,2 our beloved fellow worker, 1:2 to the beloved Apphia, to Archippus, our fellow soldier, and to the assembly in your house:

1:3 Grace to you and peace3 from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

  1. Paul, a prisoner. In this letter, Paul represents the Word; the prison represents the center from which the will rules. When the will imprisons the Word, the activity of the Spirit seems inhibited.
  2. Philemon. Philemon was the owner of Onesimus, a slave. Philemon bad been converted to Christianity by Paul; his name means friendship; he was a friend of Truth. Philemon (loving, affectionate) represents a thought that belongs to the love nature in man and that becomes devoted to the Christ Truth. This thought is established in substance and power (Philemon was wealthy and influential).
  3. grace, peace. Grace: see verse 25 below; peace: harmony and tranquillity derived from awareness of the Christ consciousness. (RW/peace)

Paul Appeals to Higher Consciousness

1:4 I thank my God always, making mention of you in my prayers, 1:5 hearing of your love, and of the faith which you have toward the Lord Jesus, and toward all the saints; 1:6 that the fellowship of your faith may become effective,1 in the knowledge of every good thing which is in us in Christ Jesus. 1:7 For we have much joy and comfort in your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you, brother.2

  1. may become effective. Paul recalls Philemon's reputation for faith both as an individual follower of the Christ and as a member of the entire Christian brotherhood. The inference is that Philemon will wish to sustain his reputation as a follower of the Christ.
  2. refreshed through you, brother. The mind of Christ refreshes the heart by leading its possessor to forgive fully and freely in order to get the wrong out of mind as quickly as possible and so permit the expressing of good will, knowing also that the harboring of grudges injures the one who harbors them, as well as the one against whom they are directed.

Paul’s Plea for Oneness

1:8 Therefore, though I have all boldness in Christ to command you that which is appropriate, 1:9 yet for love's sake I rather beg,1 being such a one as Paul, the aged, but also a prisoner of Jesus Christ. 1:10 I beg you for my child, whom I have become the father of in my chains, Onesimus,[1] 1:11 who once was useless to you, but now is useful to you and to me. 1:12 I am sending him back. Therefore receive him, that is, my own heart, 1:13 whom I desired to keep with me, that on your behalf he might serve me in my chains for the Good News. 1:14 But I was willing to do nothing without your consent, that your goodness would not be as of necessity, but of free will. 1:15 For perhaps he was therefore separated from you for a while, that you would have him forever, 1:16 no longer as a slave,2 but more than a slave, a beloved brother, especially to me, but how much rather to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.

1:17 If then you count me a partner, receive him as you would receive me. 1:18 But if he has wronged you at all, or owes you anything, put that to my account. 1:19 I, Paul, write this with my own hand: I will repay it (not to mention to you that you owe to me even your own self besides). 1:20 Yes, brother, let me have joy from you in the Lord. Refresh my heart in the Lord. 1:21 Having confidence in your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even beyond what I say.

1:22 Also, prepare a guest room for me, for I hope that through your prayers I will be restored to you.3

  1. for love's sake I rather beg. Paul appeals to love and cooperation instead of commanding. Inspiring others toward goodness of their own free will is the highest form of influence possible. Our best course is to show others that the Divine will is for one's highest good, and to try to inspire others to align their will with it.
  2. no longer as a slave, but ... a beloved brother. Paul’s appeal to Philemon for clemency towards Onesimus the slave is based on the Truth that in spite of certain limitations in the activity of the Word, it can, through the forgiving love of God, bring about freedom in some planes of consciousness.
  3. restored to you. Paul asked Philemon to prepare to receive him, expecting Philemon’s prayers to effect his release from prison.

Affirming a Change in Consciousness

1:23 Epaphras,1 my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, greets you, 1:24 as do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke, my fellow workers. 1:25 The grace2 of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.

  1. Epaphras ... greets you. Epaphras: the loving message of the Christ and its action in the Colossæ and Rome states of mind. (MBD/Epaphras)
  2. grace. Grace is a change in consciousness that lets go of the insistence of “even-exchanges” in life all the time. Ed Rabel–Metaphysics 1, The Divine Paradox, Law/Grace

Fillmore Study Bible annotations by Mary Salama.

World English Bible Footnotes:

[1] v1:10. Onesimus means "useful."

© 2021. Fillmore Bible Society. All rights reserved.

Creative Commons License image The Fillmore Study Bible is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) License, except where otherwise noted. You are free to download the work and share it with others as long as you follow the license terms:

Contact Fillmore Bible Society for permission to adapt and/or republish.