This post is Day 11 in a series of studies about “Philemon”. I strongly suggest you begin with the introduction to this study, please click here to read it.
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Philemon – Day 11
Up to now Philemon has been personal compliments and encouragements. Here we read the reason Paul is writing to Philemon. In the original Greek, it reads as a play on words. The name Onesimus means useful or profitable. Paul is obviously hoping that his words will make the reader smile.
I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, who became my son while I was in chains. Formerly he was useless to you, but now he has become useful both to you and to me.
It is not until half way through Paul’s letter that he got round to the purpose for writing. Up to now it has been personal compliments and encouragements for the reader. Here we read of Paul’s reason for writing to Philemon. In the original Greek, it reads as a play on words. The name Onesimus means useful or profitable. Paul is obviously hoping that his words will make the reader smile.
Under Roman law at that time slavery was an accepted practice, and many slaves didn’t receive any finance for their work, but they had a safe place to live and all their needs met in payment for devotion to duty. A slave was considered as his master’s property.
Runaway slaves took the risk of being severely punished, if discovered and returned to their masters.
We don’t really know how Paul met Onesimus, but somehow Paul had managed to tell him the gospel and bring him to faith. Ever since his conversion, telling his story to others had been Paul’s “raison d’être”. He lived to tell others about Jesus who fulfilled all the Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah, and who had so impacted his own life.
Ask yourself today what is your life’s motivation. Why do you do what you do each day? Paul was here operating in the ministry of reconciliation. He talks more of that in 2 Corinthians 5:18-19.
Read that chapter today and pray about what you can do to reconcile those around you to The Lord. For Onesimus, being reconciled to God led him to be reconciled with his old employer.
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