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Friday, September 14 2012

The Epistles: Philemon

Studies in this complete Epistles series:
What Is An Epistle? Luke Acts Romans First Corinthians
Second Corinthians Galatians Ephesians Philippians Colossians
First Thessalonians Second Thessalonians First Timothy Second Timothy Titus
Philemon Hebrews James First Peter Second Peter
First John Second John Third John Jude Revelation


Paul's epistle to Philemon was a request for the freedom of a runaway slave, Philemon's runaway slave, Onesimus. Ironically, Paul wrote the epistle when he was himself a prisoner, held in chains by the Romans.

Paul In Prison

"1:1 Paul, a prisoner of Jesus Christ, and Timothy our brother [see The Epistles: First Timothy and The Epistles: Second Timothy], unto Philemon our dearly beloved, and fellowlabourer,

1:2 And to our beloved Apphia, and Archippus our fellowsoldier, and to the church in thy house [see Can You See The Church?]: 1:3 Grace to you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ." (Philemon 1:1-3 KJV)

Paul's greeting was much the same as in all of his epistles, however it seems certain that Philemon already knew the purpose of it - Paul had the runaway Onesimus deliver the request for his freedom to Philemon. It was a bold act that surely tested the faith of Paul, of Onesimus, and of Philemon - "That the communication of thy faith may become effectual."

"1:4 I thank my God, making mention of thee always in my prayers, 1:5 Hearing of thy love and faith, which thou hast toward the Lord Jesus [see Who Is The LORD?], and toward all saints; 1:6 That the communication of thy faith may become effectual by the acknowledging of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus. 1:7 For we have great joy and consolation in thy love, because the bowels of the saints are refreshed by thee, brother." (Philemon 1:4-7 KJV)

Paul then reminded Philemon of the apostle's own situation, "Paul the aged, and now also a prisoner of Jesus Christ." From that vantage point, Paul made the request, "I beseech thee for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my bonds." Onesimus had run away from Philemon, encountered the apostle Paul, and was converted by Paul i.e. "I beseech thee for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my bonds."

"1:8 Wherefore, though I might be much bold in Christ to enjoin thee that which is convenient, 1:9 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. 1:10 I beseech thee for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my bonds: 1:11 Which in time past was to thee unprofitable, but now profitable to thee and to me:

1:12 Whom I have sent again: thou therefore receive him, that is, mine own bowels: 1:13 Whom I would have retained with me, that in thy stead he might have ministered unto me in the bonds of the gospel: 1:14 But without thy mind would I do nothing; that thy benefit should not be as it were of necessity, but willingly. 1:15 For perhaps he therefore departed for a season, that thou shouldest receive him for ever; 1:16 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?" (Philemon 1:8-16 KJV)

Paul made the stark request, to a fellow Christian, to free a fellow Christian.

Training Grape Vines

"1:17 If thou count me therefore a partner, receive him as myself. 1:18 If he hath wronged thee, or oweth thee ought, put that on mine account; 1:19 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. 1:20 Yea, brother, let me have joy of thee in the Lord: refresh my bowels in the Lord. 1:21 Having confidence in thy obedience I wrote unto thee, knowing that thou wilt also do more than I say." (Philemon 1:17-21 KJV)

There is no Biblical record of what Philemon did in response to the request, however Paul intended to follow up with a personal visit.

"1:22 But withal prepare me also a lodging: for I trust that through your prayers I shall be given unto you." (Philemon 1:22 KJV)

Two of the Gospel Book writers were also with Paul at the time, Luke ("Lucas") and Mark ("Marcus").

"1:23 There salute thee Epaphras, my fellowprisoner in Christ Jesus; 1:24 Marcus, Aristarchus, Demas, Lucas [see The Epistles: Luke and The Epistles: Acts], my fellowlabourers.

1:25 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen." (Philemon 1:23-25 KJV)

Fact Finder: What sort of "yoke" do Christians have?
See The Yoke Of Freedom


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This Day In History, September 14

81: Domitian became the 11th Roman emperor (see A History Of Jerusalem: Pompey And The Caesars). He reigned (81-96 AD) during the time that the then elderly apostle John was given to write the book of Revelation (see The Old Man's Letter). Domitian succeeded his brother Titus who oversaw the prophesied destruction of Jerusalem in 70 (see A History Of Jerusalem: Titus And The Zealots and What Did Jesus Christ Say About Those Stones?).

1180: The Battle of Ishibashiyama in Japan.

1262: Cadiz, Spain, was captured by Alfonso X of Castille, ending a 500-year occupation of the city by the Moors.

1741: The German-born English composer George Frederick Handel finished his "Messiah" oratorio, after working on it non-stop for 23 days.

1752: Along with most of the rest of the world, Britain and its worldwide colonies adopted the Gregorian calendar (see Pope Gregory's Calendar; also The Blasphemy Calendar).

1812: During the Napoleonic Wars, Napoleon's invasion of Russia reached Moscow to find that the entire city had been abandoned and set on fire by retreating Russian forces.

1829: The Russo-Turkish War ended with the signing of the Treaty of Adrianople between the Ottomans and the Russians (listen to our Sermon The Ottoman Empire).

1854: British and French forces landed in the Crimea to fight the Russians, who had started the Crimean War with their invasion of Turkey in July 1853.

1901: U.S. President William McKinley died at age 58, a week after being hit by an assassin's bullet while standing in a reception line in Buffalo, New York. McKinley was one of many U.S. Presidents who did not survive their elected office (historically, the greatest danger for U.S. Presidents hasn't been foreign enemies, but their own people). In 1989, Ronald Reagan broke what some called the "year zero curse" when he became the first U.S. President since 1840, who won a Presidential election in a year ending in a zero, to leave office alive (although not without incident - Mr. Reagan was very seriously wounded in an assassination attempt in March of 1981):
1960: John F. Kennedy, assassinated
1940: Franklin D. Roosevelt, natural causes
1920: Warren Harding, natural causes
1900: William McKinley, assassinated
1880: James Garfield, assassinated
1860: Abraham Lincoln, assassinated
1840: William Harrison, natural causes

1939: The first functional helicopter, Russian-born Igor Sikorsky's VS-300, made its first flight.

1944: Belgium, Luxembourg and part of Holland were liberated from Nazi occupation by U.S., British and Canadian troops.

1948: Construction of the United Nations buildings in New York began.

1959: The Soviet Union's unmanned Luna-2 became the first man-made spacecraft to land on the Moon.

1960: Iraq, Iran, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia formed OPEC.

1982: Bashir Gemayel, President-elect of Lebanon, was assassinated by a bomb while speaking before a Maronite women's group. The explosive device, which was set by a pro-Syrian dissident, demolished the building and killed dozens of other people.

2001: A "National Prayer Service" was held at the Washington National Cathedral for victims of the September 11 terrorist attacks. A service was also held on Parliament Hill in Canada, the largest such service in Canada's capital (when the U.S. abruptly closed its airspace on September 11, threatening to arbitrarily shoot down any domestic or foreign aircraft that entered U.S. airspace, U.S. bound aircraft already in flight over the Atlantic and Pacific, carrying thousands of passengers, with insufficient fuel to turn around, landed safely at numerous airports in Canada).




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