A rich citizen of Colosse, in Phrygia, to whom Paul wrote an epistle, on occasion of sending back to him his servant Onesimus. Philemon, converted by the instrumentality of Paul, is exhorted to receive Onesimus as "a brother beloved." Paul was then a prisoner at Rome. His letter is universally admired for its delicacy, courtesy, and manliness. See ONESIMUS, and EPISTLE.
an inhabitant of Colosse, and apparently a person of some note among the citizens (Col 4:9; Phm 1:2). He was brought to a knowledge of the gospel through the instrumentality of Paul (19), and held a prominent place in the Christian community for his piety and beneficence (4-7). He is called in the epistle a "fellow-labourer," and therefore probably held some office in the church at Colosse; at all events, the title denotes that he took part in the work of spreading a knowledge of the gospel.
A Christian householder who hospitably entertained the saints (Phm 1:7) and befriended them with loving sympathy at Colossae, for Onesimus and Archippus were Colossians (Col 4:9,17; Phm 1:1-2,10); to whom Paul wrote the epistle. He calls Philemon "brother," and says "thou owest unto me even thine own self," namely, as being the instrument of thy conversion (Phm 1:19); probably during Paul's long stay at the neighboring Ephesus (Ac 19:10), when "all they which dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus." Col 2:1 shows Paul had not in person visited Colosse, though he must have passed near it in going through Phrygia on his second missionary tour (Ac 16:6).
The character which Paul gives Philemon for "love and faith toward the Lord Jesus and all saints," so that "the bowels of the saints were refreshed by him," and Paul had "confidence in his obedience that he would do even more than Paul said" is not mere politic flattery to induce him to receive his slave Cnesimus kindly, but is the sincere tribute of the apostle's esteem. Such Christian masters, treating their slaves as "above servants" (Phm 1:16), "brothers beloved both in the flesh and in the Lord," mitigated the evil of slavery and paved the way for its abolition. In the absence of a regular church building, Philemon opened his house for Christian worship and communion (Phm 1:2; compare Ro 16:5). He "feared God with all his house," like Abraham (Ge 18:19), Joshua (Jos 24:15), and Cornelius (Ac 10:2,). The attractive power of such a religion proved its divine origination, and speedily, in spite of persecutions, won the world.
Known only as the person addressed by St. Paul on behalf of the runaway slave Onssimus (Phm 1:1). The closeness of the personal tie between him and the Apostle is expressed in the terms 'beloved and fellow-worker,' and appears in the familiar confidence with which St. Paul presses his appeal. From Col 4:9 it seems that Onesimus, and therefore Philemon, resided in Coloss
Phile'mon Epistle to.
Nothing is known of Philemon beyond what is found in this epistle, nor is it clear where he resided. The similarity of the salutations to those found in the Epistle to the Colossians, and the reference to Onesimus in that epistle, leads to the conclusion that Philemon dwelt somewhere in the direction of Colosse (probably at Laodicea, Archippus being mentioned in Col 4:17, and Phm 1:2), and that both epistles were sent from Rome about A.D. 62. Though the assembly in the house of Philemon is mentioned in verse 2, the epistle is a personal one to Philemon and his wife.
Onesimus their slave had run away, and, having been converted under the ministry of Paul, he was sent back by the latter to his master. Paul does not ask for the freedom of Onesimus, but that he may now be received in grace as a brother, indeed, be received as the apostle's 'own bowels.' Paul does not assert apostolic authority, but entreats as the 'prisoner ' and 'the aged.' Led by the Holy Spirit, the epistle is a gracious appeal, and difficulties are met in it in a matter requiring much delicacy. If the slave had robbed Philemon, Paul would repay it; but he reminds Philemon of how much he owed him, even his 'own self besides.'
Some may be surprised that such an epistle should form part of the inspired word. But it is 'profitable': for fifteen hundred years slaves were extensively owned by Christians. Many may never have thought of seeking their conversion, or may have been prejudiced against it. A Boer in South Africa, though a Christian himself, once told a preacher that he was sure he might as well preach to the dogs as to his African servants. God saw the need of such an epistle. The slave had become 'a brother beloved.'
the name of the Christian to whom Paul addressed his epistle in behalf of Onesimus. He was a native probably of Colosse, or at all events lived in that city when the apostle wrote to him: first, because Onesimus was a Colossian,
and secondly because Archippus was a Colossian,
whom Paul associates with Philemon at the beginning of his letter.
It is related that Philemon became bishop of Colosse, and died as a martyr under Nero. It is evident from the letter to him that Philemon was a man of property and influence, since he is represented as the head of a numerous household, and as exercising an expensive liberality toward his friends and the poor in general. He was indebted to the apostle Paul as the medium of his personal participation in the gospel. It is not certain under what circumstances they became known to each other. It is evident that on becoming a disciple he gave no common proof of the sincerity and power of his faith. His character as shadowed forth in the epistle to him, is one of the noblest which the sacred record makes known to us.
PHILEMON was an inhabitant of Colosse; and from the manner in which he is addressed by St. Paul in his epistle to him, it is probable that he was a person of some consideration in that city. St. Paul seems to have been the means of converting him to the belief of the Gospel, Phm 1:19. He calls him his fellow-labourer; and from that expression some have thought that he was bishop or deacon of the church at Colosse; but others have been of opinion, that he was only a private Christian, who had shown a zealous and active disposition in the cause of Christianity, without holding any ecclesiastical office. We learn from this epistle itself, that it was written when St. Paul was a prisoner, and when he had hope of soon recovering his liberty, Phm 1:1,22; and thence we conclude that it was written toward the end of his first confinement at Rome. This epistle has always been deservedly admired for the delicacy and address with which it is written; and it places St. Paul's character in a very amiable point of view. He had converted a fugitive slave to the Christian faith; and he here intercedes with his master in the most earnest and affectionate manner for his pardon; he speaks of Onesimus in terms calculated to soften Philemon's resentment, engages to make full compensation for any injury which he might have sustained from him, and conjures him to reconciliation and forgiveness by the now endearing connection of Christian brotherhood. See ONESIMUS.