Today we begin our study of Paul’s letter to Philemon, the one-chapter New Testament book tucked neatly between Titus and Hebrews.
We know that this book was written by the Apostle Paul, as he identifies himself at the very beginning of the letter.
We also know that Paul wrote this letter from prison, as he clearly states in verse 1. Scholars guess that Paul wrote this letter along with the other so-called “prison epistles” (Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians) around 60 – 62 AD.
The primary theme of the book is forgiveness, although Paul never directly uses the word (at least not in the NIV translation we are studying).
We know that Philemon was a house church leader in Colossae. We also know that Paul had a major influence in Philemon’s spiritual life and growth as a follower of Christ.
The subject of the letter is Philemon’s slave Onesimus, who had stolen some money from Philemon and run away to Rome. Paul’s letter does not state why Onesimus ran away; history tells us that runaway slaves were common in the day.
Again, the text does not give us the details, but somehow Onesimus meets Paul and Paul leads him to the Lord. When Paul learns Onesimus’ story and finds out his master is Philemon, Paul is faced with a dilemma and knows what he must do – send Onesimus back to Philemon.
Here’s the link to Paul’s letter to Philemon – a mere 25 verses that you can familiarize yourself with before we begin our study in subsequent days.
As you read Paul’s letter to a dear friend, may you see God’s grace and forgiveness received and given to others.