Had been a slave to Philemon of Colosse, and had run away from him, and fled to Rome; but being converted to Christianity through preaching of Paul, he was the occasion of Paul's writing the epistle to Philemon, Col 4:9; Phm 1:10.
useful, a slave who, after robbing his master Philemon (q.v.) at Colosse, fled to Rome, where he was converted by the apostle Paul, who sent him back to his master with the epistle which bears his name. In it he beseeches Philemon to receive his slave as a "faithful and beloved brother." Paul offers to pay to Philemon anything his slave had taken, and to bear the wrong he had done him. He was accompanied on his return by Tychicus, the bearer of the Epistle to the Colossians (Phm 1:16,18).
The story of this fugitive Colossian slave is a remarkable evidence of the freedom of access to the prisoner which was granted to all, and "a beautiful illustration both of the character of St. Paul and the transfiguring power and righteous principles of the gospel."
("profitable".) Philemon's runaway slave, of Colosse (Col 4:9, "one of you"), in whose behalf Paul wrote the epistle to Philemon: Phm 1:10-16. Slaves were numerous in Phrygia, from whence Paul dwells on the relative duties of masters and slaves (Col 3:22; 4:1). Paul's "son in the faith," begotten spiritually while Paul was a prisoner at Rome, where Onesimus hoped to escape detection amidst its vast population. Onesimus doubtless had heard the gospel before going to Rome, in Philemon's household, for at Paul's third missionary tour (Ac 18:23) there were in Phrygia believers. Once unprofitable, by conversion Onesimus became really what his name implies, "profitable" to his master, to Paul, and to the church of God; "the faithful and beloved brother" of the apostle and of his master; godliness is profitable for both worlds, and makes men so (1Ti 4:8). Sent with Tychicus his safeguard, and put under the spiritual protection of the whole Colossian church and of Philemon. He probably had defrauded his master, as well as run away (1Ti 6:21); Paul offered to make good the loss.
The Apostolic Canons (73) make him to have been emancipated by Philemon. The Apostolic Constitutions (7:46) make him to have been consecrated bishop of Berea by Paul, and martyred at Rome. Ignatius (Ep. ad Ephes. i.) makes an Onesimus the Bishop of the Ephesians. Instead of violently convulsing society by stirring up slaves against their masters, Christianity introduces love, a principle sure to undermine slavery at last; "by christianizing the master, Christianity enfranchises the slave" (Wordsworth). Onesimus so endeared himself to Paul by Christian sympathy and by personal services that he calls him "mine own bowels," i.e. vitals: he bore for him a parent's intense affection for a child. Paul would gladly have kept him to minister to him, but delicate regard to Philemon's rights, and self denying love, made him waive his claims on Philemon and Onesimus (Phm 1:13-14,19). Onesimus "was parted" from his master "for a season" to become his "forever" in Christian bonds. In Phm 1:20 he plays again on the name, "let me have 'profit' (Greek onaimen) of thee in the Lord," "refresh my bowels," i.e. gratify my feelings by granting this.
The name of the slave in whose behalf St. Paul wrote the Epistle to Philemon. As in his Epistle to the Colossians, St. Paul speaks of Onesimus as 'one of you' (Col 4:9), we may infer that he was a native of Coloss
Slave of Philemon, converted when with Paul, and sent back to his master not simply as a servant, but as 'a brother beloved.' Col 4:9; Phm 1:10. Christianity did not come in to set the world right thus: Onesimus was sent back to his master, and slaves are elsewhere exhorted to be faithful to their masters; but slavery is doubtless one of the fruits of man's sin.
(profitable, useful), the name of the servant or slave in whose behalf Paul wrote the Epistle to Philemon. He was a native, or certainly an inhabitant, of Colosse.
(A.D. 58.) He fled from his master end escaped to Rome, where he was led to embrace the gospel through Paul's instrumentality. After his conversion the most happy and friendly relations sprung up between the teacher and disciple. Whether Paul desired his presence as a personal attendant or as a minister of the gospel is not certain from verse 13 of the epistle.
ONESIMUS was a Phrygian by nation, a slave to Philemon, and a disciple of the Apostle Paul. Onesimus having run away from his master, and also having robbed him, Philemon 5:18, went to Rome while St. Paul was there in prison the first time. As Onesimus knew him by repute, (his master Philemon being a Christian,) he sought him out. St. Paul brought him to a sense of the greatness of his crime, instructed him, baptized him, and sent him back to his master Philemon with a letter, inserted among St. Paul's epistles, which is universally acknowledged as canonical. This letter had all the good success he could desire. Philemon not only received Onesimus as a faithful servant, but rather as a brother and a friend. A little time after, he sent him back to Rome to St. Paul. that he might continue to be serviceable to him in his prison. And we see that after this Onesimus was employed to carry such epistles as the Apostle wrote at that time. He carried, for example, that which was written to the Colossians, while St. Paul was yet in his bonds.