Philemon, pt.2

Please remember that we reading through Paul’s letter to Philemon this evening. This will be our last night of discussion of Pau’s letters. Dinner is at 6. The menu is gourmet sub sandwiches.  

As we read through this very short letter, notice the names. First, although this letter is a personal letter from Paul to Philemon, notice how Paul makes this letter from one community of believers to another. In the greeting, Paul adds Timothy’s name (v.1), and in the benediction, he adds the names of others (v.23-24), including (potentially) the authors of two of our Gospels. This is not simply a letter from Paul but from his whole leadership team. Further, the letter itself is not addressed to only Philemon. Paul includes a woman named Apphia, who may be Philemon’s wife or a congregational leader, and he mentions Archippus, whom we met last week in Colossians 4:17, and has some “special ministry.” Paul also addresses the entire church that meets in Philemon’s house, which would necessarily also include any Christian slaves. As such, we are reminded that our life in Christ is never an individual endeavor, but that we are always part of a community when we are speaking or when being addressed.

Second, the name of the person who is the topic of the letter is Onesimus. The name means “useful.” This was a common name for a slave. Paul has a wordplay on this name in v.11. Paul first points out that Onesimus was not useful because he was a runaway slave who caused damage on his way out. But then Paul redeems his name by reminding Philemon (and the rest of the audience) that what was useless before, is now useful to all. This change happened at his baptism. v.10. Paul continues with this wordplay when he asks Philemon if Philemon will be useful to Paul in accepting Onesimus back. v.20.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your Spirit.

Philemon 25

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