The book of Philemon- A Powerful Story On Forgiveness

In my previous post, we learned about the power of forgiveness. One of the greatest things we learned was that forgiveness sets you free. Today, we study the book of Philemon which is an excellent source of learning about grace, forgiveness, and reconciliation.

The book of Philemon was written when Paul was in prison. Despite the fact that he was incarcerated, he did not seize to be useful to the kingdom of God. Philemon, to whom the letter was being written, was a rich man who also hosted a church in his home. Amongst his riches was slaves. And Onesimus was one of them.  At some point,  Onesimus robbed him and ran away. Onesimus fled from Colossae making his way to Rome where he met Paul.

It is at this point, that the story takes a twist. Through Paul’s witnessing, Onesimus life changes and he is transformed from being a run-away thief to being a true child of God.  Onesimus became a devout Christian, one whom Paul referred to as his son and a brother in Christ; One who was useful in the Kingdom. (Philemon 10).


I love how Paul lets the love of Christ to operate through him. Paul was aware of Onesimus’ shameful past, but he chose to do the right thing. He chose to extend his love to Onesimus and preached to him until he gave his life to Christ. And when he had repented, Paul treated him as a new being. Paul had received mercy from our Lord and he chose to freely give the same mercy those around him. The love of Christ that worketh in him is also seen in how he sends Onesimus back to Philemon. He clearly states that  Onesimus was his own” very heart” and that he would have liked to keep him so he could help but he knows it was the right thing to send him back. Even though Onesimus was gone for a long time, he was still the property of Philemon due to the fact that he was his slave.  Paul did a selfless act.

Paul wrote a personal letter to Philemon and sent Onesimus the slave back to Colossae with it. He asked Philemon to forgive him and welcome him as they would welcome him(Paul).  This was no easy task, considering Onesimus deserved death. Paul later mentions that whatever Onesimus owed in restitution, he(Paul) was going to pay on his behalf.  How great is this love!


Perhaps nowhere in the New Testament is the distinction between law and grace so beautifully portrayed. Both Roman law and the Mosaic Law of the Old Testament gave Philemon the right to punish a runaway slave who was considered property. But the covenant of grace through the Lord Jesus allowed both master and slave to fellowship in love on an equal basis in the body of Christ. The bible does not clearly tell us that Philemon forgave Onesimus, but it is very likely that he did. What a beautiful story on mercy, forgiveness, love, and reconciliation.

Key Verses: 

Philemon: 4-5

I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers, because I hear about your love for all his holy people and your faith in the Lord Jesus.

Philemon 12: I am sending him—who is my very heart—back to you. 13 I would have liked to keep him with me so that he could take your place in helping me while I am in chains for the gospel. 14 But I did not want to do anything without your consent, so that any favor you do would not seem forced but would be voluntary..”

Philemon 17-19 

17 So if you consider me a partner, welcome him as you would welcome me. 18 If he has done you any wrong or owes you anything, charge it to me. 19 I, Paul, am writing this with my own hand. I will pay it back—not to mention that you owe me your very self



Today, I want to challenge you to read and finish a bible book in one day. Philemon is a good start. This epistle(letter) is the shortest of all Paul’s writings. You can finish reading it in minutes.

As you meditate on the word in Philemon, allow Paul’s letter to Philemon to encourage forgiveness in your own life. Allow the love of God that has been poured into you to open your eyes so you can them differently. Intentionally, accept back the Onesimuses in your life – these can be those relatives, friends or family members that hurt you deeply.   Like Apostle Paul, be encouraged to let go that which you need for the benefit of others.  Be  Kingdom minded. And every time you struggle with forgiving always remember -freely ye received and freely you have to give.

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