Daily Reading: (Read all of Philemon)
The entire theme of Philemon can be summed up as follows: Through the shared affliction of Paul and Timothy- God would bring about the healing relationship of (Philemon and Onesimus) and form a new partnership.
“Formerly he was useless to you,” (Philemon 1:11). There was 3 ways a slave in Roman times received their name? 1) the region they came from Britanicus is from Britania. 2) Slaves could also be named in the possessive form of their owner. Example: Caesaris belongs to Caesar or 3) Slaves might also be given a name to describe them or the work that they do. Example: Felix ("the lucky one") In this case – Onesimus is named for what he does. Onesimus = "profitable or useful". According to verse eleven, he wasn’t living up to his name.
“But now he has become useful”. (euchrēstos)- easy to make use of, useful. It is the same root word as eucharist- communion of the Lord’s Supper. Through receiving Christ, Onesimus has become what God intended, “useful” not as a slave but as a son in the kingdom.
When we look back at things that seemed to be negative, detrimental or didn’t make sense, may we look back by inserting a perhaps (Philemon 1:15).
Paul’s desire is for Philemon to treat Onesimus as he truly is, your blood brother (Philemon 1:16).
Onesimus ran from his situation in search of freedom. He found that his true freedom wouldn’t be found in running from his past, but in a God-ordained moment in his present, a prison encounter with Paul and Timothy. As Onesimus received the love of God through Jesus, he found freedom from the slavery of sin, adoption into the family of God, and brotherhood with his former slave owner.
What brotherly Christian love looks like in action
Paul gave freely to Philemon, he expects Philemon to give freely to Onesimus, but even if he is not at that point in His spiritual life where Christ has been able to cultivate the fruit of generosity through him, Paul is willing to pay whatever debt Onesimus owes (Philemon 1:18-19).