1 Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother,
To Philemon our beloved friend and fellow laborer, 2 to the beloved Apphia, Archippus our fellow soldier, and to the church in your house:
Who is writing: the Apostle Paul, who is with the young pastor Timothy
Cf. Philemon 1:19, “I, Paul, writing with my own hand”
Who it is Written To: Philemon, particularly, Apphia, Archippus (Cf. Colossians 4:17), and the church in your house
When: AD 60 or 61, Paul had prepared to send a letter from a prison cell in Rome to the Colossian church and Philemon by the hand of Tychicus. Joining him was Onesimus. Cf. Colossians 4:7-9
What: Onesimus had stolen from Philemon and fled to Rome. Onesimus met Paul, who led him to faith in Jesus Christ.
Notice how Paul has such a great love for people, and this letter is reflection of his pastor’s heart. This is important because motives matter.
3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
4 I thank my God, making mention of you always in my prayers, 5 hearing of your love and faith which you have toward the Lord Jesus and toward all the saints, 6 that the sharing of your faith may become effective by the acknowledgment of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus. 7 For we have great joy and consolation in your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed by you, brother.
Paul’s choice of words shows his pure motives.
Paul is inciting Philemon, I’m hoping as you walk and act like a believer in Jesus Christ that you should know what you should do, especially in this situation with Onesimus.
Cf. Proverbs 18:1; Proverbs 15:1-2; Ecclesiastes 9:17; Ephesians 4:29; Colossians 4:6; James 1:19, 3:9-10
Paul’s response is peaceful, helpful, and edifying. Hateful name-calling and harsh language is unnecessary to address this situation.
But some would say what about Jesus and Paul used sharp language too…
There are times strong language is used in the Bible, but it is always saved for the religious (Pharisee- self-righteous teachers of the law) and false teachers. So be careful with your words.
Cf. Matthew 12:34; Matthew 23; Mark 7:6; John 2:15; Galatians 5:12; Titus 1:10-13
Your motive matters because your response to difficult situations or people represents what you believe about Jesus.
1 Corinthians 13:1-3
1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. 2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.