About this letter
Paul was a great Christian teacher. He was in prison, at either Rome or Ephesus, when he wrote this letter to Philemon. (Rome was a very important city at that time, because the king of Rome ruled many other countries. Ephesus was a city in the south and west part of the country that is called Turkey now.) Paul was in prison because he taught people about Jesus Christ. We think that Paul wrote this letter in the year AD 60 or 61. That was about 30 years after Jesus died.
Philemon was a Christian man who lived in the town called
Colossae. Colossae was also in the south and west part of the country that is
called Turkey now. Philemon had become a Christian because Paul had taught him
about Christ. Philemon was a rich man who was the master of a house. A church
(a group of Christians) met regularly in his house. A man called Onesimus was
one of Philemon’s slaves. We think that Onesimus had robbed Philemon. He may
have taken some of Philemon’s money or other things. Then Onesimus had run away
Paul was in prison in his own house. People came to visit him,
and he taught them about Jesus. Onesimus met Paul and Paul taught him about
Jesus. As a result, Onesimus believed Jesus and he became a Christian. After
that, Paul wrote this letter and he gave it to Onesimus. Then he sent Onesimus
back to Philemon at Colossae. Paul wanted Onesimus to give the letter to
In his letter, Paul asks Philemon to forgive Onesimus. (To
forgive means that you choose to forget the wrong things that someone has
done.) Paul asks Philemon to say ‘welcome’ to Onesimus, as another Christian,
who is like his brother. This was very important for Onesimus. It was difficult
for Onesimus to return to Philemon. He had taken some of Philemon’s things and
he was still one of Philemon’s slaves. Philemon could have killed Onesimus
because of what he had done.
Tychicus was a friend of Paul and he was also a Christian.
Tychicus was taking a letter from Paul to the Christians at Colossae, so he
travelled with Onesimus.
1 I, Paul, am writing this letter. I am in prison because
I am Christ Jesus’s servant. Timothy, who is like our brother, is here with me
We are writing this letter to you, Philemon. You are our friend,
that we love. And you work on behalf of Christ, as we do. 2 We say
‘hello’ also to you, Apphia, who are like a sister to us. And we say ‘hello’ to
you, Archippus. You work like a soldier on behalf of Christ, as we do. We say
‘hello’ also to the group of Christians who meet in your home.
3 We pray that God, our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ will continue to be very kind to you. We pray that they will cause you to be without trouble inside yourselves.
Paul thanks God because of Philemon
4 When I pray for you, I thank my God because of you
always. 5 I thank God because people tell me good things about you. You love and believe the Lord Jesus. And you love all God’s people. 6 I
pray that you may always be ready to talk to other people about Christ. Talk to
them about what you believe. So then you will understand more completely every
good thing that is ours because of Christ. 7 My friend, you have been
kind to God’s people. You have helped them and you have made them happy. I know
that you love Jesus and all God’s people. That makes me very happy. And it
makes me feel much braver and stronger.
Verse 6 It is not completely clear what this verse means. It
could also mean something like this: ‘Many good things are ours because of
Christ. I pray that you will understand all those good things more and more
completely. So then you will really be able to help God’s people. You will talk
to them about what you believe. And so they will know how great Christ is.’
Paul asks Philemon to help Onesimus
8 There is something that you ought to do. I could tell
you that you must do it. I could tell you that clearly, with the authority that
comes from Christ. 9 But I am not telling you that you must do it.
Instead, I am asking you to do it because you love people. I am Paul, and I am
an old man. Also, I am in prison now because I am Christ Jesus’s servant. 10
So I am asking you on behalf of Onesimus, who is like my own child. I taught
him about Jesus while I was in prison. And now he has become really alive
because he believes Jesus. So he is like my own child. 11 Before,
Onesimus did not help you. But now he can help both you and me.
Verse 10 The name Onesimus means ‘a person who helps other
12 I love Onesimus so much that he is like part of me.
But I am sending him back to you. 13 I wanted to keep him here with me
while I am in prison. I am in prison because I taught people the good news
about Jesus. If you were here, you would have helped me. I know that. And I
wanted Onesimus to help me on your behalf. 14 But I wanted to ask you
first. I did not want to do anything unless you agreed. I did not want you to
think that you had to help me. I did not want you to help me because you
thought like that. Instead, I wanted you to help me because you really want to
15 Perhaps God let Onesimus leave you for a short time so
that you could have him back for always. 16 You can have him back again not only as your slave. Now he can be something much better than a slave. He can be like a brother, that you love. I love Onesimus very much. But you will love him even more than I do. You will love him as a slave and you will love him also as a brother. He is like a brother to you because you and he are both the Lord’s people.
17 I am your friend, who works with you. If you think
about me as a friend like that, then please say ‘welcome’ to Onesimus. Be happy
that he has come back to you. And be kind to him. If I came to meet you, you
would say ‘welcome’ to me. And you would be happy to meet me. Be happy about
him in the same way. 18 If Onesimus has done anything wrong to you, I
will make it right again. If he ought to pay you some money, I will pay the
money to you on his behalf. 19 I, Paul, am writing this with my own
hand. I will pay the money back to you. But remember how very much you yourself
have received from me. You have become really alive by Jesus Christ because I
taught you about him.
20 So, my friend, I really want you to help me, because we are both the Lord’s. Help me, so that I can feel stronger and happier. Help me because we are both united to Christ. 21 I write to you because I am
sure about you. You will do what I ask. I am sure about that. Also, I know that
you will do even more than this.
Paul finishes his letter
22 I want to ask you one more thing. Please prepare a
room in your home where I can stay. I know that all of you are praying about
me. I hope that, as a result, they will let me go out of prison. Then I will be
able to visit you again.
23 Epaphras is also here in prison with me because he is
Christ Jesus’s servant. Epaphras says ‘hello’ to you. 24 Mark,
Aristarchus, Demas and Luke, who work with me, say ‘hello’ to you also.
25 I pray that the Lord Jesus Christ will continue to be very kind to all of you.
- AD 50 means the year that was 50 years after Jesus
came, and so on.
- master; another name for God. It means that he is
greater than everyone else.
A. Marshall ~ The Interlinear Greek-English New Testament
Peter T. O’Brien ~ Word Biblical Commentary Volume 44:
Various Bible versions
© Wycliffe Associates (UK), 1997-2003
This version published September 2003
The translated Bible text has been through Advanced Checking.