THE EPISTLE OF ST. PAUL TO PHILEMON
The Epistle of St. Paul to Philemon is preceded by his Letter to Titus and followed by the Letter to the Hebrews. The Letter to Philemon is one of the 4 Captivity Epistles, along with
Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians.
In this short letter, Paul appeals to Philemon to take back his runaway slave, not just as a slave but as a brother in Christ. Onesimus had run away and found Paul imprisoned in Rome, and became a convert under Paul. Paul decided to send him back to his master Philemon.
While this letter of Paul to Philemon may be brief, it is quite important, for it urges the treatment of slaves with brotherly love, a principle that will ultimately put an end to slavery, the custom of Roman times. The Final Greeting is also noteworthy, as it identifies both Luke and Mark as his companions and fellow workers.
The following Scripture is from The Worldwide New Testament Bible on the Life and Teachings of Jesus Christ, © 1969, 1971, 1996, 1998 by SOON Educational Publications, Willington, Derby, DE65 6BN, England. Used by permission.
THE LETTER OF ST. PAUL TO PHILEMON
1 I am Paul. I am in prison because I belong to Christ Jesus. Our brother Timothy and I send greetings to you, Philemon.
We love you very much. And you work with us.
2 We also send greetings to our sister Apphia; to Archippus who is worker in God's army as we are; and to the people who meet as a church in your house.
3 May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ bless you in their kindness and give you peace.
4 I always thank my God when I talk to him about you.
5 I have heard that you love all of God's people and that you believe in our Lord Jesus Christ.
6 You believe as I do. I ask God that he may help you to know more and more of every good thing that we have in Christ.
7 My brother, your love made me very glad and it comforted my heart. I know that God's people were glad because you loved them.
A Plea for Onesimus
8 Because I am Christ's apostle, I could tell you what you must do.
9 But because I love you, I would rather not tell you, but ask you to do this for me. I, Paul, am an old man and now I am in prison because I belong to Jesus Christ.
10 I am asking you to do something for my son. He became a Christian here in prison. This son is Onesimus.
11 At one time he was no help to you. But now he is a big help to you and to me.
12 I am sending him back to you and it is like sending you my own heart.
13 I would like to keep him with me. He can help me while I am in prison for the sake of the good news. That would be just as if you were here to help me.
14 But I did not want to do anything unless you agreed. I did not want you to do this because you were forced to do it, but because you wanted to do it.
15 Maybe it was good for him to be away from you for a while. Now you will have him with you for ever.
16 Now he is not like a slave who must work for you. He is better than a slave. He is a Christian brother and you will love him. I love him very much. But you will love him even more because he belongs to you and he is a Christian.
17 So if you think of me as a real friend, take him back just as you would take me back.
18 If he has done you any wrong, or if he owes you a debt, then ask me to pay it.
19 I, Paul, write this with my own hand. I will repay it. I do not need to tell you that you have your life because of what I did for you.
20 Yes, my brother, give me some help in the Lord. Make me happy in Christ.
21 I believe that you will do what I ask you to do. And so I am writing to you.
I know that you will do even more than I ask you to do.
22 At the same time, please make a place ready for me to stay.
I know you are asking God to set me free, so I believe he will let me come to see you.
23 Epaphras is in prison with me for the sake of Christ Jesus. He sends greetings to you.
24 Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke are working with me. They all send greetings too.
25 May the loving kindness of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen! May it be so!