Skip to content

Philemon 12-16

  1. What does it say? (Philemon 12-16)

    Paul told Philemon that he was sending Onesimus back to him. He asked Philemon to receive him because he was part of his heart and someone he would have liked to minister to him. But he was unwilling to do anything without Philemon’s consent so that his future kindness would be voluntary instead of forced. On top of this, Paul suggested that Onesimus had perhaps left him for a good purpose. Now he could receive him forever no longer as a slave but as a loved brother. This relationship would affect both Paul and Philemon as they would know him on a human level but also in the Lord.

    Paul was sending Onesimus back. We aren’t told why Paul sent him back only that he was doing so. Onesimus was a slave who departed from his master Philemon. Perhaps he ran away. But now he was being sent back to his master.

    Paul was asking Philemon to receive Onesimus. Paul wanted Philemon to receive Onesimus as if he was Paul’s own heart. Paul must have loved Onesimus very much to say this.

    Paul was showing how much he cared for Onesimus. Paul thought so highly of Onesimus that he would have kept him as a personal minister while he was in jail for preaching the gospel. But he also thought highly of Philemon and didn’t want to force him to do this.

    Paul was showing God’s hand in the situation. Paul used the word perhaps to make Philemon look beyond the situation to what God’s greater purpose might have been. Instead of dwelling on the fact that his slave had departed, Paul saw that God had used the bad situation to turn a slave into a Christian brother.

  2. What does it mean?

    Reconciliation should follow salvation.

    The fact that Onesimus had become a Christian was a great thing. He had been forgiven by God through faith in Christ. But this did not remove the consequences of his sin nor did it automatically repair the relationship. While he had been changed on the inside, he still needed to go back and make things right with his master.

    Love covers a multitude of sins.

    It is hard to miss the love expressed by Paul toward Onesimus. He was so happy that Onesimus had become a Christian. And he would have kept him with him if possible. But Philemon wasn’t yet aware of these changes in his slave’s life. So Paul tried to show him the proper way to respond to Onesimus. If Philemon could see how much Paul loved Onesimus, perhaps Philemon would see the need to love him as well.

    God’s plan often accomplishes more than expected.

    Paul doesn’t elaborate about what Onesimus had done. He only said that he had departed and was coming back. Paul pointed out that this might have been the hidden purpose behind Onesimus’ departure. In the same way that God used Joseph being sold into slavery to save many lives, so Onesimus’ departure was what led him to becoming a loved brother in Christ. When looked at in this way, it is easy to see how God was behind the scenes orchestrating everything to work together for good.

  3. How does it apply?

    Think about relationships in your life.

    It may be that a strained relationship may be because of your own actions. Consider how you can repair that relationship in an appropriate way. On the other hand, there may be someone who has wronged you. Consider how you can go back and make amends.

    Think about how you can show Christ’s love to others.

    Loving a runaway slave would not have been easy for Philemon, I would imagine. But God’s love for us through Christ is a great example to follow. Instead of dwelling on the wrongs done to you, think of how you can respond in a Christ-like way. It is easy to love those who love you back. Be like Jesus and love others more than they deserve.

    Think about God’s purpose in your life.

    When we go through difficult times, it is easy to look at the situation and wonder where God is. Thankfully, we know from Romans 8:28, that God has an overarching purpose which He wants to accomplish in the lives of His children. One purpose is to make us more Christ-like. Another purpose might be getting us ready to help others as with Joseph. But whatever the case, we must remember that God is working behind the scenes to accomplish his purpose and we need to trust Him.