Philemon 1-25 NIV
1Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother,
To Philemon our dear friend and fellow worker— 2also to Apphia our sister and Archippus our fellow soldier—and to the church that meets in your home:
Thanksgiving and Prayer
4I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers, 5because I hear about your love for all His holy people and your faith in the Lord Jesus. 6I pray that your partnership with us in the faith may be effective in deepening your understanding of every good thing we share for the sake of Christ. 7Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the Lord’s people.
Paul’s Plea for Onesimus
8Therefore, although in Christ I could be bold and order you to do what you ought to do, 9yet I prefer to appeal to you on the basis of love. It is as none other than Paul—an old man and now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus— 10that I appeal to you for my son Onesimus,bwho became my son while I was in chains. 11Formerly he was useless to you, but now he has become useful both to you and to me.
12I am sending him—who is my very heart—back to you. 13I would have liked to keep him with me so that he could take your place in helping me while I am in chains for the gospel. 14But I did not want to do anything without your consent, so that any favor you do would not seem forced but would be voluntary. 15Perhaps the reason he was separated from you for a little while was that you might have him back forever— 16no longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother. He is very dear to me but even dearer to you, both as a fellow man and as a brother in the Lord.
17So if you consider me a partner, welcome him as you would welcome me. 18If he has done you any wrong or owes you anything, charge it to me. 19I, Paul, am writing this with my own hand. I will pay it back—not to mention that you owe me your very self. 20I do wish, brother, that I may have some benefit from you in the Lord; refresh my heart in Christ. 21Confident of your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I ask.
22And one thing more: Prepare a guest room for me, because I hope to be restored to you in answer to your prayers.
23Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends you greetings. 24And so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas and Luke, my fellow workers.
25The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.
This epistle was written by the Apostle Paul, when a prisoner at Rome, as appears from its inscription and subscription; and seems to have been written at the same time, in the year 60, and sent by the same hand, as the epistle to the Colossians; seeing the same persons were with the apostle at the writing of both, and send their Christian salutations in the one, as in the other; compare Philemon 1:23 with Colossians 4:10 and Archippus, the minister in Colosse, is made mention of in both, Philemon 1:2 and it is very probable that Philemon, to whom it was written, was a Colossian, since Onesimus, his servant, on whose account, and by whom it was sent, is said to be one of the Colossians, Colossians 4:9.
The occasion of the epistle was this; Philemon's servant, Onesimus, having either embezzled his master's goods, or robbed him, ran away from him, and fled to Rome, where the apostle was a prisoner in chains in his own hired house, under the custody of a soldier, and where he received all that came, and preached the Gospel to them, Acts 28:30 and among those that went to hear him, this fugitive servant was one, and was converted under his ministry; and who not only received the grace of God, but had such gifts bestowed on him as qualified him to be a preacher of the Gospel.
Now the design of this epistle is to reconcile Philemon to his servant and to entreat him to receive him again, not only as a servant, but as a brother in Christ. The epistle, though it is a familiar one, and short, is very instructive; it shows great humility in the apostle, and that he did not think it below him to be concerned in doing such an office as to reconcile a master to his servant; as also it teaches the right that masters have over their servants, which is not lost by their becoming Christians, and even ministers of the Gospel; and that recompense should be made to them for injuries done by them.
Paul, a prisoner of Jesus Christ: He was a prisoner at Rome for the sake of Christ, on account of professing Him, and preaching in His Name; his bonds were for the sake of the Gospel of Christ; and therefore they are in this epistle called the bonds of the Gospel. He was not a prisoner for any capital crime, and therefore had no reason to be ashamed of his chain, nor was he; but rather gloried in it, as his taking this title and character to himself, and prefixing it to this epistle shows; and which he chooses to make use of rather than that of a servant of God, or an apostle of Christ, as he elsewhere does, that he might not by constraint, or authority, but by love, move the pity and compassion of Philemon to grant his request, and receive his servant Onesimus back; which, if he should deny, would be to add affliction to his bonds: and that this is his view in the choice of this character, is manifest from Philemon 1:8.