Philemon 1:18-21

Talks for Growing Christians

Paul Makes a Pledge to Philemon

Philemon 1:18-21

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Lesson Number 4

Background Notes

Doctrinal Point(s)

  1. Believers should go to bat for one another in Christ.
  2. Believers should refresh the hearts of one another in Christ.

Practical Application

  1. You can serve the Lord even if you are a convicted thief.


  1. How was Paul planning to compensate Philemon for Onesimus’ robbery?
  2. Was it just coincidence that Onesimus and Paul met in Rome?
  3. What was the penalty for runaway slaves in the Roman Empire?
  4. What was the primary purpose of this personal letter?
  5. What is the play on words in verse 20?
  6. Define the word “imputation.”
  7. Was Paul covering up wrongdoing for Onesimus?


  1. He wrote that if Onesimus owed Philemon anything, he should put it on Paul’s account. In other words, Paul was ready to reimburse Philemon for Onesimus’ wrongdoing.
  2. No, it was God who arranged their meeting.
  3. They could be put to death, especially if they had robbed someone.
  4. To pave the way for Onesimus to be restored to Philemon.
  5. “Benefit” and “Onesimus” come from the same root word meaning “useful or profitable.” In other words, Paul was saying to Philemon, “Let me find in you a true Onesimus.”
  6. It is the act of God whereby our sins are put on (imputed to) Christ’s account and His righteousness is put on our account.
  7. Not at all. Onesimus was changed because he trusted Christ, and now both he and Paul want to set things straight.


  1. Paul went to bat on behalf of Onesimus. Has someone done this for you? Have you done this for someone?
  2. “Let me have joy from you” Philemon 20. The heart is the seat of affections. If Philemon followed Paul’s advice, his heart would be refreshed, even as Philemon had refreshed the hearts of others. Has your heart been refreshed lately? Have you refreshed someone’s heart?


  1. Onesimus was a converted runaway thief. There is no one who hasn’t done something wrong as an unbeliever, but when that person is saved, regardless of the extent of his sin, he can be useful to Christ. Have you put away the old things in your life that you might serve the Lord wholeheartedly?

Key Verses

  • “If he has wronged you or owes anything, put that on my account.” Philemon 18
  • “Brother, let me have joy from you in the Lord; refresh my heart in the Lord.” Philemon 20
  • “I have confidence in your obedience, knowing that you will do even more than I say.” Philemon 21

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