Paul’s other letter from Rome to Colosse was intended for one specific friend – Philemon (323). It was sent by the same messengers — Tychicus & Onesimus — who carried the letter for the Colossian church body.
Onesimus was a slave who had run away from his master, Philemon, in Colosse. Apparently, Onesimus had stolen something from Philemon before he ran away.
Eventually, Onesimus found his way to Paul, in Rome. There, in that miraculous & marvelous way in which God can redeem the heart of any sinner, Onesimus had become a believer & had surrendered his life to Jesus. Now, as he was about to leave Rome to go back to Colosse, Paul gave him this letter for Philemon.
Paul’s opening prayer tells us that this letter is going to give us a very specific example of what living in the Spirit of Christ is like. It’s going to be a call to Christian action on the part of Philemon. Accordingly, Paul then appeals to Philemon to be merciful to Onesimus, who is no longer a slave but is now their Christian brother.
Paul backs up his appeal with his personal promise to repay Philemon anything he is owed on account of Onesimus.
Effectively, Paul lays aside his rights for the benefit of his brother Onesimus – which is a great illustration of what Jesus has done for every sinner who has believed.
Subsequent church records indicate that Onesimus may eventually have gone on to become the leader of the church at Ephesus (after Timothy).
Onesimus may also be the person who first collected all of Paul’s letters — to assure they were preserved for future generations of Christians.
Thank you, Onesimus. Thank you, Paul. Thank you, Jesus.