Offer Them Christ
The Weblog Of J.F. Howard

An Overlooked Scripture

           Let’s take the month of July and study one of the most interesting writings in the New Testament: Paul’s letter to Philemon. In more than a quarter century of ministry in the local church, I have never led a Bible study on this Scripture or did a series of messages on it. So why not now during the warm, lazy days of summer?

            Throughout July I’ll speak on the themes found in this brief, twenty-five verse letter, on Sunday mornings. I would like for you to join me in reading and studying this little letter throughout the remainder of July. I’ve included some study questions below to help you focus on Paul’s message and get the most out of this often, overlooked Scripture. I encourage you to use these questions to help you dig deeper into this wonderful Biblical text (the entire letter to Philemon is printed at the end of the study questions).

The New Testament Letter Of Philemon

Study Questions

1. Read through the entire letter of Philemon a couple of times (it is just 25 verses). What is this letter about?

2. Why were Philemon and Onesimus at odds with one another?

3. Read the following verses to find the words or phrases that indicate how Paul felt toward Philemon:

verse 1

verse 7

verse 17

verse 19

verse 20

verse 21

verse 22

4. Read the following verses to find the words and phrases that indicate how Paul felt toward Onesimus:

verse 10

verse 12

verse 16

5. Philemon’s love and faith were well known among Christians. As a result, something had happened to those Christians. According to verse 7, what was it?

6. Read verses 12 and 17. What does Paul want Philemon to do?

7. Read verses 17-19. What price is Paul willing to pay to help restore Philemon and Onesimus?

8. Paul was trying to play the part of peacemaker between two Jesus-followers who found themselves in a disagreement with one another. What did Jesus say about this in Matthew 5:9?

9. What risks would Onesimus take to return back to Philemon?

10. How do you think Onesimus felt about the idea to return to Philemon?

11. What is God saying to you through your study of Paul’s letter to Philemon?

12. What should you do as a result of studying Paul’s letter to Philemon?

The full text of:

Philemon 1-25

1 This letter is from Paul, a prisoner for preaching the Good News about Christ Jesus, and from our brother Timothy.
  I am writing to Philemon, our beloved co-worker,2 and to our sister Apphia, and to our fellow soldier Archippus, and to the church that meets in your house.
  3 May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace.

4 I always thank my God when I pray for you, Philemon,5 because I keep hearing about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all of God’s people.6 And I am praying that you will put into action the generosity that comes from your faith as you understand and experience all the good things we have in Christ.7 Your love has given me much joy and comfort, my brother, for your kindness has often refreshed the hearts of God’s people.

8 That is why I am boldly asking a favor of you. I could demand it in the name of Christ because it is the right thing for you to do.9 But because of our love, I prefer simply to ask you. Consider this as a request from me—Paul, an old man and now also a prisoner for the sake of Christ Jesus.
  10 I appeal to you to show kindness to my child, Onesimus. I became his father in the faith while here in prison.11 Onesimus hasn’t been of much use to you in the past, but now he is very useful to both of us.12 I am sending him back to you, and with him comes my own heart.
  13 I wanted to keep him here with me while I am in these chains for preaching the Good News, and he would have helped me on your behalf.14 But I didn’t want to do anything without your consent. I wanted you to help because you were willing, not because you were forced.15 It seems you lost Onesimus for a little while so that you could have him back forever.16 He is no longer like a slave to you. He is more than a slave, for he is a beloved brother, especially to me. Now he will mean much more to you, both as a man and as a brother in the Lord.
  17 So if you consider me your partner, welcome him as you would welcome me.18 If he has wronged you in any way or owes you anything, charge it to me.19 I, Paul, write this with my own hand: I will repay it. And I won’t mention that you owe me your very soul! 20 Yes, my brother, please do me this favor for the Lord’s sake. Give me this encouragement in Christ.
  21 I am confident as I write this letter that you will do what I ask and even more!22 One more thing—please prepare a guest room for me, for I am hoping that God will answer your prayers and let me return to you soon.

23 Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends you his greetings.24 So do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke, my co-workers.
  25 May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.


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