Philemon 1:1-3

Talks for Growing Christians

The Greeting of the Letter

Philemon 1:1-3

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Lesson Number 1

Background Notes

Doctrinal Point(s)

  1. The hardships of believers are opportunities for Christian service.
  2. The home of believers are opportunities for Christian service.

Practical Application

  1. Are you a beloved brother/sister?
  2. Don’t forget, grace always comes before peace.


  1. The book of Philemon is only one chapter, but it isn’t the shortest book in the New Testament. Name the two books that are shorter.
  2. Philemon is one of Paul’s “Prison Epistles.” What does this mean?
  3. Who was Philemon?
  4. Who was Onesimus?
  5. What was this letter about?


  1. 1 John and 2 John are shorter than Philemon. (Philemon, however, is the Apostle Paul’s shortest letter.)
  2. In the early 60s A.D., Paul was confined to house arrest under the Roman authorities while he was awaiting his trial in Rome. See Acts 28:30-31. Paul wrote the epistle to Philemon, along with the other “Prison Epistles,” Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians, during this first Roman imprisonment.
  3. Philemon was a well-to-do Christian from Colosse. He and his wife hosted the whole Colossian church. Philemon may have been led to the Lord by Paul (see verse 19).
  4. Onesimus was Philemon’s slave.
  5. Paul wrote on behalf of Onesimus, Philemon’s runaway slave. Apparently, Onesimus had stolen some of Philemon’s property and then run away to Rome. There he came in contact with Paul, who led him to the Lord (see verse 10). Now Paul is sending Onesimus back to Philemon in order to straighten things out.


  1. Paul was confined under house arrest, with a Roman guard chained to him at all times. Yet Paul did not complain. Instead, he looked upon his hardship as an opportunity to share the gospel. Read Philippians 1:12-13. Paul saw the bigger picture–he was not a prisoner of Rome, or of Nero, but a prisoner of Jesus Christ, because he knew that his imprisonment was ordained by God. Do you see your hardships as an opportunity to further the gospel? Whatever your “confinement,” look upon it as a special opportunity to serve Christ.
  2. The home of Philemon and Apphia was open to the church. When homes are opened freely, furniture gets scratched, food and drinks are spilled, and things may get broken. They saw beyond the damage, using their home as a means for Christian service. How do you view your home? Do you open it freely and happily for the Lord Jesus?


  1. Philemon was not just a brother, but a beloved brother (verse 1). Are you not just a brother/sister, but a beloved brother/sister?
  2. Paul always put grace before peace in his greetings. It’s the same from God’s perspective. There can be no human peace apart from God’s grace, whether it be peace with God in reference to salvation; or the peace of God, in reference to rest for our soul. Are you aware of God’s grace? Do you have both peace with God and the peace of God?

Key Verses

  • “…I am a prisoner of Christ Jesus.” – Philemon 1
  • “…our beloved friend and fellow laborer.” – Philemon 2
  • “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” – Philemon 3

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