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Introduction to the Books of the Bible

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Paul's Letter to Philemon





BOOK : Philemon

Description : A short letter by Paul to his friend, a Christian slave owner, to take back a runaway slave who had become a Christian.

Author: The apostle Paul

Date written : Probably about AD60

Chapters :   1



Brief Synopsis:


There is history behind this letter: 
•  Philemon is a believer (v.5) and a friend and fellow worker of Paul (v.1)
•  Onesimus had been a slave owned by Philemon (v.15,16) and had run away and had probably stolen from Philemon (v.18,19). He has subsequently become a Christian (v.16) and so now Paul asks Philemon to take him back (v.12) on the basis of love (v.9) and to honour Paul (an old man and in chains v.9)



Outline :


1-3 Greetings
4-7 Thanksgiving and Prayer
8-21 Paul's Plea for Onesimus
22-25 Final Request, Greetings and Benediction



Concluding Comments


The question that arises in the mind of most people when they are confronted by this letter and other letters that address slaves is why doesn't the Bible denounce slavery? The answer may be summed up a) by common sense and b) by reference to the Scriptures.

Common sense suggests that God knows that slavery was a practice of a sinful world and that there would come a time when in history it would be possible to raise up His servants who would stand against it with a hope of changing it.

The Scriptures show us that the regulations of the Law did not encourage or condone such situations but were divinely-given, practical ways of dealing with the realities of the day. For a wider consideration fo slavery see the additional resources below.



Additional Resources on this site 


  The Appendix 3 ‘Slavery' to our book ‘God is Not Great - An Appraisal'