Philemon was the master of a slave called Onesimus. Onesimus had probably stolen from Philemon and made his escape to Rome. It is probable that Apphia was the wife of Philemon, and Archippus was his son (Philemon 1:2). After he ran away to Rome, he met Paul who converted him to Christ. Onesimus was afraid of going back to Rome because he knew that he could be arrested and receive severe punishment under the Roman law. In those days, the master has unlimited power over the slaves.
Onesimus had been taking care of Paul when he was at the prison. Now, Paul is helping him back by writing to Philemon to receive Onesimus back. Paul knew Philemon because he opened up his home as church for the people in the region. Paul encouraged Philemon to treat Onesimus not just as his slave but also as a fellow brother in Christ. He encouraged him to treat Onesimus with kindness. If Onesimus owe him anything, he could charge to him and he promise to pay back. Since Philemon can changed, why can’t Onesimus changed as well? Therefore, Paul reasoned that Onesimus deserved to be given a second chance to be accepted back into the household of Philemon.
What Can We Learn from Philemon?
Slavery was a common practice during the first century in Rome. Paul always preach that master should be good to their slaves; and slaves should fulfill their duties and be faithful to their master. This is based on the fellowship they have in God.
If you have servant, you should treat them kindly. There are some people that ill treat their servants and torture them. Everyone make mistake. Philemon was urged by Paul to forgive Onesimus and receive him back as a brother in Christ. Onesimus did sinned against Philemon but he had become a changed man after conversion.
This applies to the gospel. The gospel is about God’s forgiveness and second chances on people who sinned but had sincerely repented from them. God is always willing to accept us back when we confess and repent from our sins completely. Many churches now refuse to accept back members who had sinned but repented from their sins. Christians should be open to receive brethren who have sinned but repented from their ways. We should always be ready to accept sinners who had repented back into the society. It demonstrates that you have the love of Jesus Christ in you.
Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ. (Ephesians 6:5 KJV)
Masters, give unto your servants that which is just and equal; knowing that ye also have a Master in heaven. (Colossians 4:1 KJV)
Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. (Galatians 5:1 KJV)
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28 KJV)
Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward. (1 Peter 2:18 KJV)
Exhort servants to be obedient unto their own masters, and to please them well in all things; not answering again; Not purloining, but shewing all good fidelity; that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things. (Titus 2:9-10 KJV)