LETTER 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 the time. 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 New Jerusalem Bible, copyright 1985, by Darton, Longman & Todd, Ltd. and Doubleday, a division of Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group Inc. All rights reserved.
THE EPISTLE OF ST. PAUL TO PHILEMON
1 From Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus and from our brother Timothy; to our dear fellow worker Philemon,
2 our sister Apphia, our fellow soldier Archippus and the church that meets in your house.
3 Grace and the peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
4 I always thank my God, mentioning you in my prayers, 5 because I hear of the love and the faith which you have for the Lord Jesus and for all God's holy people. 6 I pray that your fellowship in faith may come to expression in full knowledge of all the good we can do for Christ. 7 I have received much joy and encouragement by your love; you have set the hearts of God's holy people at rest.
A Plea for Onesimus
8 Therefore, although in Christ I have no hesitations about telling you what your duty is, 9 I am rather appealing to your love, being what I am, Paul, an old man, and now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus. 10 I am appealing to you for a child of mine, whose father I became while wearing these chains: I mean Onesimus. 11 He was of no use to you before, but now he is useful both to you and to me.
12 I am sending him back to you - that is to say, sending you my own heart. 13 I should have liked to keep him with me; he could have been a substitute for you, to help me while I am in the chains that the gospel has brought me. 14 However, I did not want to do anything without your consent; it would have been forcing your act of kindness, which should be spontaneous. 15 I suppose you have been deprived of Onesimus for a time, merely so that you could have him back for ever, 16 no longer as a slave, but something much better than a slave, a dear brother; especially dear to me, but how much more to you, both on the natural plane and in the Lord.
17 So if you grant me any fellowship with yourself, welcome him as you would me; 18 if he has wronged you in any way or owes you anything, put it down to my account.
19 I am writing this in my own hand: I, Paul, shall pay it back - I make no mention of a further debt, that you owe your very self to me!
20 Well then, brother, I am counting on you, in the Lord;
set my heart at rest, in Christ.
21 I am writing with complete confidence in your compliance,
sure that you will do even more than I ask.
22 There is another thing: will you get a place ready for me to stay in?
I am hoping through your prayers to be restored to you.
23 Epaphras, a prisoner with me in Christ Jesus, sends his greetings;
24 so do my fellow-workers Mark, Aristarchus, Demas and Luke.
25 May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.