Paul’s letter to Philemon serves as a model of Christian compassion. In many ways, it parallels Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son, which captures the gospel in a nutshell. The letter speaks of failure, the need for intercession, returning, forgiveness, and restoration. When we read it side by side with the letter to the Colossians, we learn that getting relationships straight is just as important as getting doctrine straight. If we are genuine disciples of Christ, we will relate to our fellow believes with grace, forgiveness, and encouragement.
Nov 26 | Philemon 1-7
Paul’s brief letter to Philemon follows the standard letter form that we find throughout antiquity. It begins with the name of the writer, then the name(s) of the addressee’s, and a greeting. Thereupon follows the body of the letter. At the end Paul appends concluding comments and further greetings, this time from his coworkers, and he closes with another brief salutation.
Dec 3 | Philemon 8-25
Paul begins the body of the letter with a delicate reference to Onesimus’ return as one newly converted to Christ (vv. 8-12). He underscores his great value to him by mentioning that he would have liked nothing better than to keep Onesimus with him (vv. 13-14). He then makes his formal request that Philemon receive Onesimus as a brother (vv. 15-16) and backs up that request with a pledge to pay any damages that Onesimus may have cost his own (vv. 17-18). He then concludes this brief letter (vv. 19-25) by reminding his good friend again of their close bonds and expressing his confidence that he will do even more than what Paul has specifically asked him to do. Final greetings from Paul’s coworkers and a blessing close the letter.