Paul (1,9,19), from Roman prison, probably AD 61-62.
Philemon, a slave owner.
Onesimus (a slave) ran away from and defrauded his master Philemon. Paul converted Onesimus, sends him back to Philemon, and yet explains how useful Onesimus has been in evangelism efforts.
Paul promises to pay Onesimus’ debt and gently instructs Philemon to forgive this slave and see him as a brother. He makes his appeal by the gospel, not apostolic authority.
How to Read it
Picture yourself in the room with the assembled church and the appearance of Onesimus as these words are read. Onesimus is facing probable crucifixion, the church is having their concept of grace stretched to new limits, and Philemon is in the middle of it all with a weighty decision that will set the town. The fact that this letter is preserved indicates that it went over well!
Read 8-9a, 15-16a
The reframing of slavery presented here will help believers reframe a variety of social norms.