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Philemon 1:8-17

Talks for Growing Christians

Paul Makes His Appeal for Onesimus

Philemon 1:8-17

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Lesson Number 3

Background Notes

Doctrinal Point(s)

  1. Biblical guidelines for using friendly persuasion are made on
    a. the basis of Philemon’s love.
    b. the basis of Onesimus’ change.
    c. the basis of God’s sovereignty.
    d. the basis of Paul’s friendship.
  2. Biblical guidelines for using friendly persuasion are made on
    a. the basis of Philemon’s love.
    b. the basis of Onesimus’ change.
    c. the basis of God’s sovereignty.
    d. the basis of Paul’s friendship.

Practical Application

  1. Remember, we don’t always have to use authority to motivate people.

Questions

  1. Why isn’t slavery denounced and condemned more in the New Testament?
  2. How does the New Testament deal with the issue of slavery?
  3. Why did so many slaves elect to stay with their masters after being granted their freedom?
  4. In the case of Philemon, does Paul demand that he give Onesimus his freedom?
  5. Name some kinds of friendly persuasion that are not biblical.
  6. Name the four biblical guidelines for friendly persuasion Paul used in his appeal to Philemon.
  7. What is the play on words with Onesimus’ name?

Answers

  1. Many first century Christian had slaves. Slavery was an essential part of the society in the Roman Empire. To advocate revolt on the part of slaves or demand their release could risk the breakdown of first century society and cause problems including joblessness and homelessness for the slaves.
  2. It denounces the abuses of slavery and exhorts Christian masters to treat their slaves with kindness and fairness. It should be noted, however, that Christian principles worked out little by little in Roman society finally led to the abolition of slavery.
  3. When Christian masters followed New Testament directives on how to treat their slaves, slaves were elevated to a status similar to employees in today’s society. In fact, in some ways the situation was better than an employer-employee relationship.
  4. No. Paul appeals to Philemon by friendly persuasion to receive back the runaway slave as a brother in Christ.
  5. Blackmail, white lies, insincere flattery, and any other kind of arm twisting or manipulation.
  6. The basis of Philemon’s love (verse 9), the basis of Onesimus’ change (verse 11), the basis of God’s sovereignty (verse 15), and the basis of Paul’s friendship (verse 17)
  7. Onesimus’ name means “profitable” (verse 11).

Discuss/Consider

  1. Paul used friendly persuasion in his letter to Philemon. He could have used his authority, but he didn’t. When in a position of leadership, do you use your authority to persuade someone to your way of thinking, or do you use friendly persuasion? Discuss when these two approaches would be appropriate.
  2. Review the biblical guidelines of friendly persuasion that Paul used in his appeal to Philemon. When you write to someone, do you appeal along these guidelines?

Challenge

  1. Recall examples when someone in authority has used his authority to “get things done his way.” Recall examples when someone in authority has used friendly persuasion to motivate people. Parents, try this in your home this week.

Key Verses

  • “For love’s sake, I appeal to you.” Philemon 9
  • “Without your consent I wanted to do nothing, that your good deed might not be by compulsion, but voluntary.” Philemon 14
  • “If you count me as a partner, receive him as you would me.” Philemon 17

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