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Dearst Philemon … Grace Be with Your Spirit

Confident of your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I ask.
Philemon 21 

Paul’s concluding remarks to Philemon ooze with confidence in his dear friend’s faith and love. His wish is delicately expressed: that I may have some benefit from you in the Lord; refresh my heart in Christ (vs20). With that he turns it over to God, confident that from what he knows about Philemon, he will be obedient to the leading of the Spirit. Paul has merely pricked his heart. Philemon has to lay it at the feet of Jesus.   

What about Onesimus? What was going through his mind? He was with Tychicus who delivered the letter (Colossians 4:9). He was still a slave, his freedom in the hands of his master. How would the piper be paid? Suspense hangs heavily in the air. 

And there we would have to let it hang, if not for writings of that era. The Bible says nothing more about Philemon. We do know that he and Apphia were martyred at Colosse. The clue to Onesimus’ freedom—the letter is in Scripture. If Philemon had not done the even more than Paul asked (vs21), would not it have been mysteriously ‘lost’? 

According to the Holman commentary Onesimus became the bishop of Ephesus, obviously a free and valuable leader. The church at Ephesus published the letters of Paul to make them available to the other churches. Onesimus would certainly have wanted this one included.     

Even better than writing letters is to receive them. I cherish the handwritten words of encouragement from friends. They find their way as bookmarks into my favorite books. I can imagine this letter, in the possession of Philemon dog-eared with prayer, in the hands of Onesimus tear-stained with thanksgiving. The southern plantation owners avoided it like the plague, lest they be forced to treat their believing slaves as equals.

I admire Paul’s gentle persuasion, artfully couched in tact and tenderness. His lesson in forgiveness and acceptance transcends time. I love that Philemon did what he ought to do, and that Onesimus made sure we had this letter to read. May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit(s) too ladies (vs25), as you absorb truth in all His word.   


Nancy P

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