Paul wrote to Philemon to reconcile Onesimus with Philemon
Philemon had heard Paul teach and had apparently told his servant Onesimus about Paul. Onesimus was so impressed with Philemon’s reports about Paul’s teachings that he had straightway thoughtlessly ran off to find Paul without informing his master.
This epistle is an example of lovingly seeking to reconcile brethren who have been offended by one another.
Paul sent Onesimus back to Philemon at Colossae with Tychicus who was also delivering the Epistle from Paul to the Colossians.
Colossians 4:7 All my state shall Tychicus declare unto you, who is a beloved brother, and a faithful minister and fellowservant in the Lord: 4:8 Whom I have sent unto you for the same purpose, that he might know your estate, and comfort your hearts; 4:9 With Onesimus, a faithful and beloved brother, who is one of you. They shall make known unto you all things which are done here.
Paul writing from Rome was imprisoned for preaching Christ; this does not mean that Paul was calling himself a prisoner held by Christ; he was the prisoner of the Romans having appealed to Caesar because of the false accusations made about him.
Philemon 1:1 Paul, a prisoner of Jesus Christ, and Timothy our brother, 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: 1:3 Grace to you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Paul begins by referring to the deep conversion of Philemon, so as to gently remind Philemon of his obligation to forgive others.
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, 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.
Paul says that he could command Philemon, but that he thinks it much more appropriate to beseech him as a friend and brother in regards to this matter, because after all Onesimus was the one in the wrong.
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.
Paul explained that Philemon’s servant Onesimus had left him to seek out Paul and was now converted in the faith; and that Onesimus who had been unprofitable to Philemon by leaving his master without seeking his consent; was now very profitable in the faith.
Paul asks Philemon to accept Onesimus as he would accept Paul himself.
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:
Paul then praises Onesimus for his service to Paul, but sends him back so as to allow Philemon to decide for himself what is to be done concerning his own servant.
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.
Paul told Philemon that if he considers himself in the faith, he will forgive Onesimus and accept him as a brother in the faith.
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? 1:17 If thou count me therefore a partner [if you are my brother in the same faith], 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.
Paul declares his confidence in the conversion and love of Philemon, that he would forgive Onesimus and accept as a brother in the faith..
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.
Paul indicates that he will soon be coming to Colosse and will visit Philemon and Onesimus then.
1:22 But withal prepare me also a lodging: for I trust that through your prayers I shall be given unto you.
1:23 There salute thee Epaphras, my fellowprisoner in Christ Jesus; 1:24 Marcus, Aristarchus, Demas, Lucas, my fellowlabourers.
1:25 The grace [mercy, forgiveness] of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.