In the book of Philemon we are introduced to Onesimus who is the servant of Philemon or plainly said his slave. There is much conjecture and debate over the exact meaning here as to slave or servant. I will leave that up to you and deal with the facts as we know them. Onesimus had probably done some wrong to Philemon either by taking his property, or by the fact that he had escaped from him. We know he is a servant because old testament writings use a word that designate his condition as such. Philemon 1:16 ( δοῦλος, doulos). We know that he was bound to Philemon, either by his parents or guardians, or that he had bound himself to render voluntary service. Hidden within this book are some interesting little pointers that speak to Christian character.
Onesimus , has left his master Philemon, and is in Rome at the same time that Paul is in prison there. Paul was confined for a lack of a better term, to house arrest. He could receive guests but was not allowed to wander in the city. How we do not know, he knew where Paul was being held and went there to see Paul. It is pretty certain that Paul would have known him from staying at Philemon’s home on occasion. Of course Onesimus would have known him from the time he served Philemon. As things go he finds Paul and over some time he is converted and stays to work with Paul. Why Onesimus came to the apostle, is not known. It may have been because he was in need and Paul was the only one in Rome whom he had ever seen or knew. Here now is the first little nugget in this story. He had perhaps come to realize on his own that leaving Philemon was wrong, or maybe there were other sins and he sought him out to obtain spiritual counsel. Sin or wrong doing is felt by all people, whether they are Christian or not, it is part of our earthly being. Onesimus knew he needed help and he saw something in Paul and his God that he needed. How about us? Do we live a Christ like life that would draw others to God?
Some commentaries point to slavery, which was prevalent in biblical times as part of this story. I will not dwell on that but rather pick up on Ablert Barnes’ commentary on this book. For hidden in this book is to me the undisputable power of the Christian faith. “Christianity, in its highest influences, interferes with nothing that is good, and would annihilate nothing which is not wrong. That which is true, and best for the welfare of man.”(AB)
Christianity will destroy intemperance, and idolatry, and superstition, and war. Stepping back and looking at our lives and realizing that sin separates us from God, what a powerful message lies among the words of this story. We also are given the example of the courtesy and politeness which the Christian ought to practice at all times, as well as furnishing many valuable lessons on Christian duty that will inspire others to want the same things in their lives. I love to go beyond the words as written and seek the little things that are hidden there. Remember “seek and ye shall find”.
So to wrap this up, what are some of the things that you find you are a slave to? Maybe I am being too simplistic but I believe in this little book are some big things that help us in our Christian walk. Would you like to lose some things and gain your freedom? If so it is worth repeating…..
“Christianity, in its highest influences, interferes with nothing that is good, and would annihilate nothing which is not wrong. That which is true, and best for the welfare of man.”(AB)
You have nothing good to lose. jk
Reference Materials: Albert Barnes Commenteries / Panorama Bible