Monday: From Slave to Son

While he was imprisoned in Rome, Paul met a runaway slave named Onesimus who had fled from Colossae to Rome. Paul personally knew Onesimus’ master.

Image © Providence Collection from

Image © Providence Collection from

The Epistle of Philemon is Paul’s personal appeal to his friend regarding a restored relationship with the runaway slave.

Relationships mattered to Paul. The apostle knew that fractured relationships are detrimental to spiritual growth. Philemon was a church leader in Colossae. If he harbored bitterness toward Onesimus, it would color his Christian witness.

Read Philemon 1-25. What important principles about restored relationships can we find here? Remember, the key word is principles .

At first glance it is somewhat surprising that Paul did not speak more forcefully against the evils of slavery. But Paul’s strategy was far more effective. The gospel, ideally, breaks down all class distinctions (Gal. 3:28). The apostle sent Onesimus back to Philemon, not as a slave but as his son in Jesus and Philemon’s “beloved brother” in the Lord (Philem. 16).

Paul knew that runaway slaves had little future. They could be apprehended at anytime. They were doomed to a life of destitution and poverty. But now, as Philemon’s brother in Christ and willing worker, Onesimus could have a wonderful future. His food, lodging, and job could be made secure under Philemon. The restoration of a broken relationship could make a dramatic difference in his life. He became a “faithful and beloved brother” and co-laborer in the gospel with Paul (Col. 4:9).

Drawing from the principles of the gospel as seen here, what can you take away that can help you deal with whatever stresses and strains, even fractures, you have in relationships with others?



Monday: From Slave to Son — 17 Comments

  1. Paul provides a good example of how to deal with conflict between Christians. I like the steps Paul used.
    First Paul expressed appreciation for Philemon's faith in the Lord and his love for all of God's people.

    He knew that trust must be rebuilt between the conflicting parties and he identified with the two parties involved , calling Pilemon his ' brother' and Onesimus 'my child'.

    He requested, not ordered Philemon to do the right thing although as an Elder and Apostle he could have used his authority. But he appealed to Philemon's Christian commitment.

    He agreed to absorb the loss and pay any cost for restoration.

    O for the day when we will really apply these lessons in our relationships with our 'brothers ' and ' sisters' in the church. I guess we'll get there sooner if it starts with me.

  2. Amen, Sheldon! Thanks. Starting with me is the hard part and won't come close enough to God's standard of love if I don't apply myself here. Thank God for His patience. I believe His power here is available on request . Isn't it?

    • Nathan, I'm not sure that we can love according to God's standard by applying ourselves. In fact, I'm pretty sure that won't work.

      The only way we can love as God loves is to focus on Christ's love for us and submit ourselves to Him in gratitude, so that His love can flow through us. When we really understand what He has done and is doing for us, we will want to share the love.

  3. itis good to use paul's way of dealing with people and their ploblems but we should note that been able to bring reconciliation to enemies is not a simple thing. we need God's help and guiedance before we will be able to do that.

    • Amen.AS PHILIPPIANS 4:13 says I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.And also Philippians 2:13 says it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure.Paul loved God he called himself a prisoner of God and so he was able to be who he was.brethren this is such an example and an eye opener for us as Christian follow.If we earnestly seek God we will be able to do what Paul did.

  4. Sometimes there is a great need for us to change our perspective of people in our lives. No class or any other distinction separates us. We are all God's children. We are not on a higher or lower plain than any other human in God's family.

    However, we do need to respect the authority set up in society and in the church. We always obey God first, but we can respect the human authorities over us. Onesimus may have had fear to return to his former master, but with the help of Paul the relationship with that former master was put on the right track. We may need help to have healthy relationships, but making things right with others is possible with God and, sometimes, with the assistance of Godly people in the church.

    • Thanks Jackie, no one is above the other, whether white or black, rich or poor, tall or short, fat or thin we are the same at the feet of Jesus. God's love is so big that our minds can not comprehend the love he has for because we already told that he loved us before we knew him. he does not at this person going to church every Sabbath to be a better child than the one who is always busy with worldly things. he came to die for sinners, he reconciled us to himself hence the mended friendship. when we reconcile with our brothers or sisters, we grow spiritually and we are revived.

      • Amen, forgiveness can set us free nd we can not forgive if we are our own bt trough gods presence we can 4give nd 4get

    • Hi jackie,
      I realise how I desire to read paul's eppistles more and more; for he shows more of the guidelines in how a christian should lead his life.

      The most striking aspect is seen where he reminds Philemon of how his indebted to him given the fact that he nurtured him in the faith and he must have erred here and there ; but he still tolerated him(the same could apply to the case of Onesimus.) (Philemon 19). Certainly, paul brings us to the point where he recosiled with mark and saw his usefulness( 2Timothy 4:11) and thus tells philemon in(philemon 11) of how Onesimus would be profitable to both of them for the ministry of the gospel.

      It's so interesting to note how the gospel and ministry was dear to Paul that he couldn't allow conflicts and grudges be hinderances. Infact he realised how cunning Satan has been to it wards that he mischieveously dots its effectiveness with these tricks.

  5. Very true, mending relationships shld start with me taking the initiative whether I think am right or wrong, let's pray for humility my brothers n sisters!

  6. Moving comments; We need to be last. Lets all remember what James 3:8 sais, but, no man can tame the tongue. It is unruly, and full of deadly poison. We need to put Christ first and just remember to forgive as Jesus forgave. Wrong or right. We are representatives of Christ.
    May the Lord lead us all to everlasting life.
    See u all in heaven.

  7. I thank God for he saw a need to prepare these lessons for us. I have fractured relationships beyond what I could have ever imagined with my close relatives but today God is saying I must look at his example and to Paul and other faithful Christians before me and once you understand who God is and the love he showed to the human kind through his son Jesus all is possible

  8. Consider prayers,love,faith,appeal,begotten,send back & receive finally put on my account for refund. Jesus paid my fine when i was in prison. I am now free to serve Him fully.Be blessed.

  9. bringing back a lost trust is one of the key elements in restoring back a broken relationship. we should be ever ready to forgive even when our offender arnt ready to repent and change


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