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Philemon

A STRANGE REQUEST

This one is an unusual letter, but you are going to love getting to know the people in it. Paul is writing to Philemon to save one of Paul’s ‘sons’, Onesimus, and his cheeky request comes with everything that makes Paul amazing. The question you are going to ask yourself at the end of this letter is, ‘Did Philemon obey Paul?’.

 

PART ONE

 
 

 

Part One

LET HIM LEAD ME TO THE BANQUET HALL, AND LET HIS BANNER OVER ME BE LOVE.

S 2:4


DIVE

THE CHEEKY REQUEST

Paul is a lot of things in his letters – fiery, passionate, self-effacing, confident, controversial, and in this letter of Philemon, he is completely cheeky.

As we went through in our Snapshot video, Paul is writing to one of the leaders of the house groups in Colosse, Philemon, asking him to pardon his slave, Onesimus. Paul does it with such cheek and confidence that you can only imagine the reaction of Philemon.

Now, use your imagination and venture with me a little bit into what it looked like when Philemon got the letter. Firstly, we have to ask ourselves, did Onesimus deliver the letter himself? Did Paul send Onesimus back with the letter of pardon in his hand?

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DEEP DIVE

PHILEMON | ADAM WHITE

One of the unrecognised facets of any New Testament letter is the fact that they were read publicly to the addressed audience. The letter was written with an oral performance in mind; therefore, the structure and argument of it was a speech. More importantly, they were speeches designed to persuade. Their purpose was to move the audience to a particular position or belief with the attendant change of behaviour. All of Paul’s letters were aimed at this end, including Philemon. This simple fact should give us a moment of pause to reflect on what that implies for our reading and understanding of the text. Not just, what does it mean? But, how was it heard? What was the situation of its first hearing? What happened in the room and what can we assume of its outcome? This will be our approach reading Philemon.

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