Philemon 1

Salutation.[a] 1 Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy[b] our brother, to Philemon, our beloved friend and fellow worker, 2 to Apphia our sister, to Archippus[c] our fellow soldier, and to the Church that meets in your house: 3 grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Thanksgiving and Prayer.[d] 4 I always give thanks to my God when I remember you in my prayers, 5 because I hear of the love and faith that you have for the Lord Jesus and for all the saints.[e] 6 I pray that the sharing of your faith may become even more effective so that you may come to perceive all the blessings we have in Christ. 7 Your love has given me much joy and encouragement because the hearts[f] of the saints have been refreshed by you, my brother.

Plea for Onesimus.[g] 8 Therefore, although I am confident that in Christ I have the right to command you to do your duty, 9 I would rather appeal to you on the basis of love. I, Paul, an old man, and now also a prisoner for Christ Jesus, 10 am appealing to you on behalf of my child,[h] Onesimus, whom I have fathered during my imprisonment.

11 He was formerly useless to you, but now he is indeed useful both to you and to me. 12 Therefore, I am sending him back to you, that is, I am sending my very own heart.[i] 13 I wanted to keep him with me so that he might be of service to me on your behalf during my imprisonment for the gospel, 14 but I did not want to do anything without your knowledge, so that your good deed might be voluntary and not compelled.

15 Perhaps this is the reason he was separated from you for a while, so that you might have him back forever,[j] 16 no longer as a slave, but as more than a slave: as a brother. He is beloved especially to me, but even more so to you, both as a man[k] and in the Lord.

17 [l]Therefore, if you consider me to be a friend, welcome him as you would welcome me. 18 If he has wronged you in any way or owes you anything, charge that to my account. 19 I, Paul, am writing this with my own hand: I will repay it. I say nothing about the fact that you owe me your very self. 20 Yes, my brother, grant me some benefit[m] in the Lord. Set my heart at rest in Christ.

21 Conclusion.[n] I have written to you confident of your acceptance, and in fact I am certain that you will do even more than I ask. 22 At the same time, please prepare a guest room for me, for I am hoping through your prayers to be restored to you.

23 Epaphras,[o] my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends you greetings, 24 and so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke,[p] my fellow workers.

25 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.[q]


  1. Philemon 1:1 The salutation indicates that a group of Christians meets together in Philemon’s house and should aid him to decide Onesimus’ fate. These include Apphia, thought to be his wife, and Archippus, thought to be his son, who is also a pastor like Paul (“fellow soldier [of Christ]”). Under the circumstances, Philemon would have had to be an extremely strong-minded individual to resist the eloquent plea of Paul and his protégé Timothy.
  2. Philemon 1:1 Timothy: see Introduction to First Timothy.
  3. Philemon 1:2 Archippus: the apostolic worker mentioned in Col 4:17. Fellow soldier: the only other use of this phrase in the New Testament is in Phil 2:25 concerning Epaphroditus. It exemplifies Paul’s use of military terms to symbolize the service of a Christian (see Rom 6:13; 13:12; 2 Cor 10:3f; Eph 6:10).
  4. Philemon 1:4 Recalling his friend’s love and faith, Paul prays that Philemon’s active participation in the Christian faith will be increased as a result of the latter’s perception of God’s great goodness to both of them. He is implying what he makes specific elsewhere—that good works are the result of a mature knowledge of the faith (see Col 1:9f). In this case, Philemon’s Christian maturity will lead to the beneficial treatment of Onesimus at his hands.
  5. Philemon 1:5 Saints: all the faithful are “saints” in virtue of their consecration to Christ.
  6. Philemon 1:7 Hearts: literally, “intestines,” the part of the body that was considered to house the emotions of pity and love (see vv. 12, 20).
  7. Philemon 1:8 With a touch of humor, Paul utilizes a double play on words. He plays with the meaning of the name “Onesimus,” which is “useful,” and with the meaning of another Greek word, chrestos, which is part of achrestos, the word for “useless,” and euchrestos, the word for “useful.” In the background is the point that chrestos sounds like Christos, which means “Christ.”
    Paul also takes the responsibility to relieve any financial burden that Philemon may have incurred in the affair, but he ends up saying that it is Philemon who is more indebted to the Apostle himself! Indeed, the slave’s flight may turn out to be a grace—it offers Philemon the chance to acknowledge him as a “brother” in Christ.
  8. Philemon 1:10 My child: Paul became a father to Onesimus by converting him (see 1 Cor 4:15; Gal 4:19).
  9. Philemon 1:12 My very own heart: a wonderful description at a time when slaves were regarded as things.
  10. Philemon 1:15 Paul reasons that since he has found Christ, Onesimus is returning to Philemon as a beloved brother in Christ rather than as just a slave. Master and slave are now both brothers in Christ. Hence, for Philemon to treat Onesimus solely as a runaway slave would be entirely unfitting with his Christian witness.
  11. Philemon 1:16 As a man: literally “in the flesh.”
  12. Philemon 1:17 Paul is doing the same thing for Onesimus with Philemon that Christ did for us with God the Father.
  13. Philemon 1:20 Benefit: the Greek for this word is another play on the name Onesimus: what Paul wishes to get out of the master is Onesimus himself; he wants to be able to make use of the Useful One.
  14. Philemon 1:21 The Apostle is confident not only that his request will be more than fully granted but also that he will soon have the joy of being reunited with Philemon. He thus sees hope for a quick release from imprisonment.
  15. Philemon 1:23 Epaphras: founder of the Church at Colossae, who may have been a tenant in the house in which Paul lived as a prisoner (see Acts 28:30).
  16. Philemon 1:24 Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke: see notes on Col 4:7-17; 4:10; and 4:14; also notes on 2 Tim 4:10; 4:11.
  17. Philemon 1:25 See note on Phil 4:23.

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