Lesson #22: Philemon

Talk about Philemon: Here is the back story of Mr. Philemon. Philemon was a wealthy man and a member of the church in Colossae. The book of Philemon was a letter written to Philemon from Paul. In the letter, Paul references a man named Onesimus. Onesimus was a slave that had run away from Philemon and had made his way to Rome where he eventually met Paul. Paul then convinced Onesimus to return to his master. He told Onesimus that running away from his responsibilities and problems wouldn’t achieve what he had originally hoped it would achieve. The intent of Paul’s letter to Philemon was for Philemon to forgive his runaway slave and to accept him as a brother in faith.

Read Philemon 1:1-3Verse one suggests that Philemon became a follower under Paul’s ministry.

Ask about “church”: Where did the “church” meet according to verse one? At this time, “church” didn’t necessarily meet at a specific church building. Instead, here, they met at a home. A “church” is more of a group of individuals that meet to fellowship and grow together

Read Philemon 1: 4-7…Pay close attention to the structure of Paul’s prayer.

Ask about Paul’s prayer: What does Paul pray about here in verses 4-7?…Paul first thanks God, prays for others, and then acknowledges God’s impact on him. Paul prays specifically for Philemon’s faith, rather than Paul’s own wants and perceived needs. If you want a good template on how to pray for someone else’s faith, read and memorize verse six.

Ask about “refreshed hearts”: What does “You have refreshed the hearts of the Lord’s people” mean as it says in verse seven?…It means that God has revived/restored his followers in the faith through His love and generosity.

Ask about how we can refresh the hearts of others: How can we refresh the hearts of others?…encourage, love, be friendly and spend time with others.

Ask about your own efforts to impact others: Are you a refreshing influence to others? Does your attitude and how you act add to the burdens that others carry?

Talk about the description of Philemon. In this letter, Paul wanted to point out how faithful Philemon was. Philemon was active in his faith, generous in sharing his faith’s blessings. Paul was hoping and praying that Philemon would respond appropriately to this circumstance: Onesimus was returning back to him.

Ask about how we can relate to Onesimus’s circumstance: How can we compare this story, so far, to something going on in your life?

Talk about your personal experience: (author’s example) I have a story that relates to this. When I was in High School, a friend of mine began to run away from his parents’ house. Even though he eventually wanted to come back home, he still was afraid to come back. He was afraid of how his parents would respond to him suddenly coming home. His fear prevented him from coming home.

Talk about forgiveness: Forgiveness is important. If you eventually are a parent of a child who runs away from home, you will need to forgive. Greet him/her with love, generosity, not frustration.

Read Philemon 1:8-11Verse 8 explains…Since Paul had power in the church, he could have demanded that Philemon deals kindly with the runaway slave. Instead, he uses a tactic of love to communicate how to deal with the slave.

Talk about Paul’s communication methods: If you look closely, you will see that Paul had some smooth methods in resolving this dispute:

  1. According to verse 7, Paul identifies Philemon as a “brother”.
  2. According to verse 10, Paul identifies Onesimus as “my son”.
  3. Instead of ordering, Paul requested and encouraged Philemon to do the right thing.
  4. Paul used the power of love, rather than the power of authority.

Ask about Paul’s methods: Why did Paul use these methods?…This is what Jesus would have done. This method would most likely cause the least amount of conflict, using the approach of love.

Talk about the rights that masters had over their slaves: In this society, masters had complete control over their slaves and they are permitted to severely punish them by whatever means (even death), especially if they caught them trying to run away or if they found them after they ran away.

Ask about what you would do if you were a runaway slave: If you were a slave at that time, would you run back to your owner after you had successfully run away?

Talk about acceptance: In verse 10, it identifies that Onesimus had become a Christian and Paul was hoping that Philemon would accept him as a brother in Christ.

Read Philemon 1:12-16…What does this mean?…How should a brother of Christ be treated?

Read Philemon 1:17-25…Do things for each other. Look out for one another. Paul was asking for a favor from Philemon. Paul mentions that if Onesimus did anything wrong or owes him anything, Paul would repay it.

Talk about respect: Respect is one of many lessons that are given in the book of Philemon. Paul was asking him to respect him and listen to what he was saying, especially since Paul had led him to the Lord.

Ask about who led you to the Lord: Who led you to the Lord?…We should treat everyone with respect, especially those who have helped you.



Bible Study Tools. (2017). Retrieved from http://www.biblestudytools.com/

NIV Life Application Study Bible. (2011). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan.

The Bible Knowledge Commentary: New Testament. (2004). Colorado Springs, Colorado: International Bible Society.

The Bible Knowledge Commentary: Old Testament. (2004). Colorado Springs, Colorado: International Bible Society.

Unger, M. F. (1976) Unger’s bible dictionary. Chicago, IL: The Moody Bible Institute of Chicago.


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