1Paul [Paulos], a prisoner of Christ [christou; Heb. Messiah] Jesus, and Timothy [Timotheos] our brother [adelphos], to Philemon Philēmoni]

A well -to-do man, very likely with a considerable household. Perhaps business interests originally led him to Ephesus, and so within Paul's sphere of influence. He owed his faith to the apostle's ministry and his house had become the meeting place of a Christian congregation.

, our beloved [agapētō] fellow worker [synergō], 2to the beloved [agapētē] Apphia [Apphia], to Archippus [Archippō], our fellow soldier [systratiōtē], and to the assembly [ekklēsia] in your house [oikon]: 3Grace [charis] to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 4I thank [eucharisteō] my God always, making mention of you in my prayers, 5hearing of your love [agapēn], and of the faith [pistin] which you have toward the Lord Jesus, and toward all the saints [agious]; 6that the fellowship [koinōnia] of your faith [pisteōs] may become effective, in the knowledge of every good thing which is in us in Christ Jesus. 7For we have much joy [charan] and comfort [paraklēsin] in your love [agapē], because the hearts [splagchna] of the saints [agiōn] have been refreshed [anapauō] through you, brother. 8Therefore, though I have all boldness in Christ to command you that which is appropriate, 9yet for love's [agapēn] sake I rather beg [parakaleō], being such a one as Paul, the aged [presbytēs], but also a prisoner [desmios] of Jesus Christ. 10I beg [parakaleō] you for my child, whom I have become the father of in my chains [desmois], Onesimus Onēsimon

He was an unsatisfactory servant (v11) and may have injured his master by robbing him (v18) before absconding in a bid for freedom. Yet the 'freedom' he could hope for was an existence lived in constant dread of discovery and always near to starvation, shifting among the dregs of a great city. A slave on the run was guilty of one of the most serious offences known to ancient law. He could expect to be treated harshly, possibly with death. The fear of slave-risings was so great that often extreme and savage vengeance would be meted out. Perhaps desperation drove Onesimus to seek out the confined apostle. Why didn't Paul protest louder against the injustice of slavery? Such a crusade would have succeeded only in making the lot of slaves, especially those associated with the new faith, infinitely harsher rather than more hopeful and such a campaign would have indelibly stamped the new movement as a dangerous and revolutionary political force, to be ruthlessly crushed.

, 11who once was useless [archrēston] to you, but now is useful [euchrēston] to you and to me. 12I am sending him back. Therefore receive him, that is, my own heart [splagchna], 13whom I desired to keep with me, that on your behalf he might serve me in my chains [desmois] for the Good News [euangeliou]. 14But I was willing to do nothing without your consent, that your goodness would not be as of necessity, but of free will. 15For perhaps he was therefore separated from you for a while, that you would have him forever, 16no longer as a slave [doulon], but more than a slave [doulon], a beloved brother [adelphon agapēton], especially to me, but how much rather to you, both in the flesh [sarki] and in the Lord. 17If then you count me a partner [koinōnon], receive him as you would receive me. 18But if he has wronged you at all, or owes you anything, put that to my account. 19I, Paul, write this with my own hand: I will repay it (not to mention to you that you owe to me even your own self besides). 20Yes, brother [adelphe], let me have joy [oninēmi] from you in the Lord. Refresh [anapauō] my heart [splagchna] in the Lord. 21Having confidence in your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even beyond what I say. 22Also, prepare a guest room for me, for I hope that through your prayers I will be restored [charizomai] to you. 23Epaphras [Epaphras], my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, greets you, 24as do Mark [Markos], Aristarchus [Aristarchos], Demas [Dēmas], and Luke [Loukas], my fellow workers. 25The grace [charis] of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen [amēn].

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