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Philemon, from the Greek name pronounced fil-ay-mone, meaning friendly, was the recipient of the apostle Paul's Biblical epistle (see Epistles) to Philemon which was written when Paul was in prison. The subject of the letter was Onesimus, the runaway slave of Philemon who met Paul in Rome. Paul was responsible for the conversion of both master and slave, and the apostle urged Philemon to welcome Onesimus back as a brother, not as property.

Philemon and Onesimus

Holy Bible The opening tells us that Paul was in a Roman prison because of his preaching of The Gospel of The Kingdom of God and that Timothy was with him. It also tells us that Philemon was a prominent Christian; the local church (i.e. "church" literally means people) met in his house.

"Paul, a prisoner of Jesus Christ, and Timothy our brother, unto Philemon our dearly beloved, and fellowlabourer, And to our beloved Apphia, and Archippus our fellowsoldier, and to the church in thy house" (Philemon 1:1-2 KJV)

The letter is brief (one of the shortest epistles of the Bible) and Paul gets right to the point - freedom for Onesimus:

"Yet for love's sake I rather beseech thee, being such an one as Paul the aged, and now also a prisoner of Jesus Christ. I beseech thee for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my bonds: Which in time past was to thee unprofitable, but now profitable to thee and to me: Whom I have sent again: thou therefore receive him, that is, mine own bowels: Whom I would have retained with me, that in thy stead he might have ministered unto me in the bonds of the gospel: But without thy mind would I do nothing; that thy benefit should not be as it were of necessity, but willingly. For perhaps he therefore departed for a season, that thou shouldest receive him for ever; Not now as a servant, but above a servant, a brother beloved, specially to me, but how much more unto thee, both in the flesh, and in the Lord?"

"If thou count me therefore a partner, receive him as myself. If he hath wronged thee, or oweth thee ought, put that on mine account; I Paul have written it with mine own hand, I will repay it: albeit I do not say to thee how thou owest unto me even thine own self besides. Yea, brother, let me have joy of thee in the Lord: refresh my bowels in the Lord. Having confidence in thy obedience I wrote unto thee, knowing that thou wilt also do more than I say." (Philemon 1:9-21 KJV)

Fact Finder: (a) Did Paul remind his readers in another epistle, Colossians, in which he again mentioned Onesimus, that everyone has a Master in heaven? (b) How did the term "Christian" originally mean "slavery"?
(a) Colossians 4:1-9, see also No Class Struggles In Christianity (b) See Christianos

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