Tucked somewhere in the Bible is a small letter from Paul to his dear friend Philemon. A very small letter, only 25 verses, but loaded with a great gospel message. A letter worth reading and rereading!
A letter we will think of here in a series of coming posts.
Background of the letter:
Paul introduces himself in verse 1 as the author of the letter together with his dear brother Timothy. What is most exciting about his introduction is his emphasis, also found in other of his letters, on ‘whose he is,’ a prisoner of Christ Jesus.
He writes this letter to a wealthy man whom he evangelized to sometime ago, a dear friend to him and a fellow worker. He then copied the letter to two more people- Apphia and Archippus, and to a home cell fellowship. Though, as we will note later, is a personal letter to Philemon, Paul makes it open letter to other individuals and to the church.
In verse 10, we are introduced to a young man named Onesimus, a man who was once useless regardless of his name meaning useful. It is in verse 16 that we learn that Onesismus was a bondservant to Philemon. However, Philemon and Onesimus separated after the latter ran away.
Onesismus is believed to have fled from Philemon after possibly stealing from him. It was during their time of separation that Onesimus came into contact with Paul, who preached to him the gospel and he believed. The gospel transformed Onesimus, making him useful to Paul by assisting him greatly while he was in prison as Paul notes in verse 13 and 14.
Paul knew that Onesimus had fled from Philemon, and as a bondservant, he need to go back to his master. He therefore gives himself to the task of reconciling servant Onesimus to his master Philemon. He writes him this letter, a dear letter from a spiritual father to a spiritual son pleading him to accept back a transformed servant.
What a letter?! Just thinking how Philemon must have received the letter, possibly with pleasure rather than with a frown. A letter from a dear friend, the one who preached the gospel to him, pleading with him to accept a man who had stolen from him, now not as a slave but as a dear brother!
It must have been a joyful moment to Onesimus, reconciling back with his master Philemon better than a slave to him- as a dear brother in the Lord. He must have been grateful to Paul, for even accepting to pay his debt or anything he owed to Philemon. But more grateful to Jesus, just as me and you- for dying for all our sins, past, present and future- and giving us an opportunity to became heirs of God and co-heirs with him (Christ).
(Be on the lookout for next Post on Theological Reflections we get in this Paul’s letter to Philemon)
By: Kenneth Irungu
iServe Africa Apprentice 2015/2016
At DOVE Christian Fellowship, Kawangware (Nairobi-Kenya)