A Daily Bible Study in 7-Day Sections with a Summary-Commentary, Discussion Questions, and Daily Application
The prior Section
1:1 From Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, to Philemon, our dear friend and colaborer,
1:2 to Apphia our sister, to Archippus our fellow soldier, and to the church that meets in your house.
1:3 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!
Lord, You see us in many roles; as Your children, saints, The Church, and here in Philemon as soldiers. May I see myself as You do, defined by You, called as I am made a useful instrument in Your great work.
Paul wrote to Philemon while still imprisoned, and accompanied by Timothy.
He called Philemon a “colaborer”, which was high-praise given in parallel with Timothy.
Paul referenced Apphia “our sister” [apparently set apart for her role in some part of the ministry, rather than merely a sister in the faith, since he immediately thereafter referenced the corporate gathering of believers “the church”] and Archippus, “our fellow soldier” [presumably because he may have suffered imprisonment and other punishment for the faith].
He observed that the gathering of believers was in the home of Philemon, as was common for Christians at that time, and remains so in much of the modern world.
Paul concluded with a blessing common to most of his letters.
Paul, like Jesus, was counter-cultural in his respect for the work of women in the fellowship.
How might fellowships better teach the concept of “colaborers”?
It was not uncommon, yet highly-esteemed, when one literally suffered for the faith.
When have you been involved in a fellowship where leaders clearly sought the best-interest of one-another rather than competing?
Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you someone serving in a leadership role, official or unofficial, whom He would like to encourage and support.
Today I will give pray for the one whom the Lord God has “assigned” me. I will, as is appropriate, offer my assistance and support.
Thanks for Philemon’s Love and Faith
1:4 I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers,
1:5 because I hear of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints.
Lord, You ask us to pray for one-another, including giving thanks for those who partner with us in Your service. May I be faithful in remembering my partners in ministry as I live my prayers of thanks to You.
Paul began by role-modeling giving thanks to the Lord God in prayer.
He then taught, by example, Philemon to pray to the Lord God—giving thanks for those who partnered with him in the Lord's service.
Paul explained that despite his lengthy imprisonment he'd heard of Philemon and his faith the in the Lord Jesus.
He also testified to hearing that Philemon had given evidence of his genuine love for his fellow believers “saints”.
The Lord God wants us to give thanks in prayer for those who serve Him with us so that we never lose sight of Who we serve and that we serve together—not separately.
How might your fellowship better teach members to be more-intentional in praying for one-another?
Philemon could pray for his fellow “saints” because he was aware of them and he loved them.
When have you paused to pray for fellow believers?
Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you a fellow believer whom He wants you to lift up in thankful prayer.
Today I will give thanks to the Lord God in prayer for the one whom He has made me especially aware. As is appropriate I will tell them so.
1:6 I pray that the faith you share with us may deepen your understanding of every blessing that belongs to you in Christ.
1:7 I have had great joy and encouragement because of your love, for the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you, brother.
Lord, You not only saved us, You have a storehouse of blessings You wish to give to us. May my choices be obedient so Your blessings flow through me to others.
Paul had received testimonies, both in word and deed, of the faith of Philemon.
He encouraged Philemon to continue to explore his faith as he would come to understand “... every blessing that belongs to you in Christ.”
Paul received “... great joy and encouragement” because the faith-fed love of Philemon, empowered by the Holy Spirit, had cause him to encourage “the hearts of the saints”.
The quality of our personal testimony, both in word and deed, matters.
How might your fellowship better teach the blessings that come from faith and faithfulness?
Philemon did not encourage the saints as a result of resources or wisdom of the flesh but rather as a consequence of blessings that flowed to and through him to others.
When have you observed a leader whose faith was strong and through whom others were blessed because the Lord God's blessings overflowed them?
Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you a fellow believer with whom He wants you to share this text.
Today I will encourage a fellow believer to grow in faith as they better-understand the blessings the Lord God has for them so that He may pour those blessings through them into others.
Paul’s Request for Onesimus
1:8 So, although I have quite a lot of confidence in Christ and could command you to do what is proper,
1:9 I would rather appeal to you on the basis of love—I, Paul, an old man and even now a prisoner for the sake of Christ Jesus—
1:10 I am appealing to you concerning my child, whose spiritual father I have become during my imprisonment, that is, Onesimus,
1:11 who was formerly useless to you, but is now useful to you and me.
Lord, You hold all of the ultimate power in all of Your creation, yet You have chosen to delegate and to invite rather than command and control. May I respond from my freedom with the love-based obedience You so richly deserve.
Paul reminded Philemon that he had the authority from the Lord God, through Christ, to make demands upon him.
He chose, as has the Lord, to appeal to him—based on love—to chose rightly.
Paul explained that he had mentored Onesimus to salvation and through discipleship and now held him in high-esteem.
He observed that the relationship between Philemon and Onesimus, prior to Paul's involvement, had been an unproductive one—but that had all changed.
The role-model of Jesus and of Paul was to teach and demonstrate love-based leadership.
How might your fellowship instill a stronger sense of love, rather than of obedience and/or ritual, into the membership—so that their service to others is both joy-filled and sacrificial?
When people make decisions based on the love-perspective they have learned from the Lord God they mature and become positive role-models for others.
When have you observed a leader who mentored a troubled person to maturity and value in the Lord's service?
Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you someone you may encourage and perhaps mentor to greater maturity in their walk with the Lord God.
Today I will prayerfully accept the challenge from the Holy Spirit. It may be a spouse, a friend, a son or daughter, a co-worker or someone within a ministry in which I serve. I will invest in prayer, teaching, and right modeling of love-driven service to others.
1:12 I have sent him (who is my very heart) back to you.
1:13 I wanted to keep him so that he could serve me in your place during my imprisonment for the sake of the gospel.
1:14 However, without your consent I did not want to do anything, so that your good deed would not be out of compulsion, but from your own willingness.
1:15 For perhaps it was for this reason that he was separated from you for a little while, so that you would have him back eternally,
1:16 no longer as a slave, but more than a slave, as a dear brother. He is especially so to me, and even more so to you now, both humanly speaking and in the Lord.
Lord, You often separate us from our familiar worldly circumstances so that You may get our attention and lead us toward You, because You desire our relationship eternally. May I never forget what You have done for me and never forget that when You work in my life Your ways are always-perfect whether I understand them at the time or not.
Paul sent Onesimus back to Philemon because he wanted Philemon to have full-freedom to choose his path.
While Paul had a strong fellowship with Onesimus, and found him valuable to ministry, he was willing to sacrifice his presence and service for the sake of leading Philemon through a teachable moment.
He speculated, rhetorically (for the sake of leading Philemon to discover the Lord's hand in things), that Onesimus had fled Philemon as a slave to Paul so that he might be spiritually-saved.
Paul led Philemon to recognize that Onesimus, as a fellow-believer, was far more valuable than an unsaved slave.
Sometimes we have to allow those we mentor to make decisions freely, with full power to choose differently than we'd choose, within the bounds of legality.
How would you adjust your practice of mentoring to lead and model rather than instruct and control?
Paul modeled “meekness” as his was power (he had authority from the Lord God) under control (the control of the Lord) but withheld it for a better cause.
When have you observed a mentor who used Paul's method?
Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you an opportunity to apply Paul's model.
Today I will take the risk of trying Paul's model. I will pray about it and as-appropriate consult one who qualifies as a Biblical elder for counsel and prayer.
1:17 Therefore if you regard me as a partner, accept him as you would me.
1:18 Now if he has defrauded you of anything or owes you anything, charge what he owes to me.
1:19 I, Paul, have written this letter with my own hand: I will repay it. I could also mention that you owe me your very self.
1:20 Yes, brother, let me have some benefit from you in the Lord. Refresh my heart in Christ.
1:21 Since I was confident that you would obey, I wrote to you, because I knew that you would do even more than what I am asking you to do.
Lord, I owe You my very self. May I repay You even more than the minimal obedience You ask of me.
Paul continued his mentoring of Philemon through the teachable case of Onesimus.
He knew that Philemon held him in high-esteem so he asked him to view Onesimus in the same way.
Paul wanted to remove any financial considerations that might burden Philemon and cloud his judgment of Onesimus, so Paul offered to cover any expenses he may have incurred while in the service of Philemon prior to fleeing to Paul and coming to faith.
He reminded Philemon that was he (Paul) who had led him to faith and mentored him, so for all that was important Philemon owed Paul for his sacrifice on his behalf.
Paul asked Philemon to refresh his soul with beyond-expectation faith and love-driven choices.
Every fellow believer is a brother or sister in-Christ.
Would you be willing to pay the debts of someone whom you led to Christ, mentored, loved dearly as a brother or sister in-Christ—in order that they might be reconciled to another brother or sister in-Christ whom they had previously wronged?
We all owe a debt of gratitude to the one who made themselves available to the Lord and became His instrument to lead us to faith and through discipleship.
When have you appealed to a brother or sister to change their view of a new brother or sister in-Christ whom they had previously viewed badly as an unsaved person?
Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you someone who needs you to speak-up for them within the fellowship of believers.
Today I will come alongside a fellow believer who is either somewhat new in faith or is recovering from a poor choice or choices. I will invest in their discipleship and walk with them through the process of reconciliation, and hopefully, restoration with the person (or persons) whom they have previously offended.
1:22 At the same time also, prepare a place for me to stay, for I hope that through your prayers I will be given back to you.
1:23 Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, greets you.
1:24 Mark, Aristarchus, Demas and Luke, my colaborers, greet you too.
1:25 May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.
Lord, You bless the prayers of others who pray for us, and you give us Your grace through Your Holy Spirit. May I be faithful in praying for others and in living-out the grace You have given me.
Paul asked Philemon to pray for his freedom so that he might come to him.
He was sure enough that he asked Philemon to prepare a place for him to stay. (Philemon would have known that Paul's visit would likely be lengthy and would involve company and conflict.
Paul sent greetings from several who were with him, perhaps as assurance that he was not alone, and also as evidence that the Lord was still active in and through him.
His closing prayer was for the Holy Spirit to find a welcoming heart in Philemon such that he could be filled with the grace of Jesus.
Prayers for fellow believers are answered by the Lord God.
How might a prayer journal be helpful in building confidence that the Lord God answers prayers?
If we welcome Him the Holy Spirit will bless us with grace.
When have you observed answered prayer—raised by one believer for another—where the one praying made plans based on the expectation of answered prayer?
Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you someone for whom He wants you to pray.
Today I will pray without hesitation and in anticipation of the Lord God's perfect answer in His perfect time. I will ask at least one fellow believer to pray in-agreement.
All Bible text is from the NET unless otherwise indicated—http://bible.org
Note 1: These Studies often rely upon the guidance of the NET Translators from their associated notes. Careful attention has been given to cite that source where it has been quoted directly or closely paraphrased. Feedback is encouraged where credit has not been sufficiently assigned.
Note 2: When NET text is quoted in commentary and discussion all pronouns referring to God are capitalized, though they are lower-case in the original NET text.
Commentary text is from David M. Colburn, D.Min. unless otherwise noted.
Copyright © 2012 by David M. Colburn. This is a BibleSeven Study –“Philemon”—prepared by David M. Colburn and edited for bible.org in April of 2012. This text may be used for non-profit educational purposes only, with credit; all other usage requires prior written consent of the author.