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11. Forgiveness and Reconciliation (Philemon 1-25)

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Day One Study
Read the letter to Philemon in one sitting. A copy is provided before Lesson 1.

  1. What words or phrases interested you as you read this letter?
  2. To whom is the letter addressed?
  1. Why do you think Paul addressed this letter to the church, not just to Philemon?
  2. What is Onesimus’ relationship to Philemon?

Historical Insight: To help you get the big picture—Onesimus apparently stole some money and ran away from Philemon. He ended up in jail with Paul in Rome. He became a Christian, and now Paul is sending him back to Philemon to restore the relationship. The two men now share the relationship as brothers in Christ as well as master/slave.

  1. How does Paul feel about these two men? Give verses to support your answers.
  • Philemon —
  • Onesimus —
  1. Review Colossians 4:9.
  • What is said about Onesimus?
  • What is not said about Onesimus?
  • Why do you think Paul said what he did about Onesimus in his letter to the Colossians?
  1. What does Paul ask Philemon to do regarding Onesimus?
  2. Put yourself in Philemon’s shoes. What would be his biggest challenges to accepting Onesimus as an equal in Christ and worshiping alongside him in church?
  3. Now, put yourself in Onesimus’ shoes. What be his biggest challenges in going back to Philemon and putting himself under Philemon’s authority again?
  4. Staying Healthy: Have you been in conflict with someone in your church? Regardless of any feelings of guilt or of being wronged, what challenges did you face (do you face) in loving that person as your sister (brother) in Christ and worshiping alongside them in church?

Day Two Study
Read Philemon 1-25.

  1. If Jesus Christ is above all powers and authorities, in all believers, and is all we need for earth and heaven, His Word should make a difference in our lives in very tough situations. This is a tough situation. The book of Philemon is a practical application of the teachings Paul wrote in his letter to the Colossian church, especially Colossians chapter 3. How should both Philemon and Onesimus apply the teaching Paul gives to the Colossians? Support your answer with verses from Colossians 3:5-4:1.
  • Philemon —
  • Onesimus —
  1. Why should they be obedient to God’s teaching through Paul?

Think About It: Freedom of slaves, like all freedom, must come from the heart of Christ inspired men. Under this compulsion, slavery must ultimately wilt and die.
That it took so long for it to do so, that slavery was practiced by many Christians in America until the Civil War ended it, that it is still, in one form or another, in the world today—these humbling facts show the tenacity of socially entrenched sin and the failure of Christendom to deal with it. While all ethical behavior for Christians should arise out of love, rather than regulation or constraint, yet it takes fully committed disciples to put it into practice. (Constables Notes on Philemon, p. 15)

  1. Read Philemon 11. The name Onesimus means “profitable” or “useful.” Paul makes use of this in his attempt to persuade Philemon (verse 11). What do you think Paul means?

From the Greek: The name Philemon means “affectionate” or “one who is kind.” If the slave was expected to live up to his name, then what about the master? (Constables Notes on Philemon, p. 11)

  1. In summary, what is Paul really asking of Philemon in this letter regarding Onesimus?

Historical Insight: What happened as a result of this letter? Did Philemon forgive Onesimus? We have no direct record of his response to this letter. However, the fact that Philemon preserved this epistle and allowed it to circulate among the churches, strongly suggests that he did behave as Paul had requested. (Constable’s Notes on Philemon, p. 16)
By 110 AD, the bishop of Ephesus was named Onesimus. From some correspondence preserved during this time period, many scholars believe this is the same Onesimus who is the subject of Paul’s letter to Philemon.

  1. What do you learn from this small but powerful letter about the cost of forgiveness and reconciliation?
  2. Staying Healthy: In Philemon, Paul is proactively serving as a mediator between Philemon and Onesimus.
  • Define mediator and mediation.
  • Have you been in a place where you needed mediation between yourself and another person? Maybe you are in that place now. What can you do (based on what you’ve learned in Colossians and Philemon) to bring about reconciliation?
  • Do you need to proactively serve as mediator between 2 people in conflict? What have you learned from Paul’s example that you can use to hopefully bring about reconciliation?

Day Three Study: TRUTH—the Prescription for Healthy Living
Dwell in Truth You Can Know

  1. What 3 truths will you take away from this study of Colossians and Philemon?

Humbly Accept the “I Don’t Know or Understand”

  1. Remember to accept the things you don’t know or understand and patiently wait for the Lord to help you know what He wants you to know.

Discern Teaching through the Complete Revelation of God’s Word

  1. Remember to evaluate what you read, see or hear in light of the TRUTH you have learned—books, social media, billboards—things that sound nice and comfy but may actually lead to or be based upon error in biblical thinking. Always discern truth from error using the Bible.

Jesus Christ is above all powers and authorities, in all believers, and is all we need for earth and heaven!
© Copyright, 2018.

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