The Parallel of Ministerial Patience

Clarence Bishop

Philemon vs.1-25


The patience and tenderness exemplified by Paul in his dealings with Philemon is clearly seen. Note vs.7,9,14,17 and 21. Paul winds up his appeal with a statement of confidence in v.21 that usually moves us to service. How much better is this approach than the denunciations that so often are displayed on the part of God's preacher today.

This lesson should be studied with the thought in mind of capitol and labor, boss and employee. We see much more said to the boss than to the worker in this brief epistle.


Paul was truly grateful to Philemon for his manifested Christianity. Paul felt confidence in him that Christian principle would be followed in regard to Onesimus.

A. The Apostolic Greeting - vs.1-3

Little difference is seen here from Paul's usual greeting.

1. The authors - v.1a-c

It is Paul, a prisoner of Jesus Christ and Timothy.

2. The addressees - v.1d-2

There are four of these.

Philemon - the particular one - Who is a beloved brother - and Apphia - Archippus - Col. 4:14 and finally to the church that met in Philemon's house. If we wonder why such a personal letter was also addressed to the church, then let us consider that principles were being dealt with that will effect the church in all ages.

3. The address - v.3

V.3 doesn't say everything that Paul said, but everything could be summed up in that usual greeting.

B. The Attitude Of Gladness - vs.4-6

Don't you enjoy a letter that comes from one who is joyfully writing? This was the way it was with Paul.

1. There was thanksgiving and prayer - v.4

Note again the prayer life of Paul.

"Making mention of thee always."

How real his prayer life was.

2. There was thoughtfulness and praise - v.5

Paul was rejoicing over Philemon's testimony of love and faith. It was not just toward Jesus, though that is the most important, but toward the saints as well. Don't we believe that proper love toward God will be reflected toward others?

3. There was thoroughness and practice - v.6

This verse is instructive to Philemon. Vs.4&5 were testimonial. Now Philemon is yet to learn some more. His faith is to be communicated more effectually by the acknowledging of all good thing sin him through Jesus Christ. Here is the groundwork for the appeal Paul is to make later on. Surely there was compassion and forgiveness in Philemon's life from Jesus - Philemon's testimony was to be more effective when these characteristics come out.

C. Admission Of Good - v.7

Paul notes Philemon's goodness toward the saints. This brings great joy to Paul. Paul is still laying the foundation for a proper response toward Onesimus - He seems to say - Now as you have treated other saints - so treat Onesimus.


While groundwork was laid in the previous passage - vs.8-20 are truly the heart of this brief letter.

A. The Conflict Of The Mind - vs.8-9

Paul now confesses that he has the power to enjoy (command) Philemon, and no doubt that thought had entered his mind, but love for Philemon and what Paul considered Christian ethics came to the front and dictated the method with which the matter would be resolved. Paul says I have decided to beseech you to do what is Christian in this matter - Paul is not above a little pressure- as he reminds Philemon that he (Paul) is both aged and a prisoner of Jesus Christ.

If vs.8-9 need to be divided, I suggest -

1. The power (authority) acknowledged - v.8

2. The priority activated - v.9a

3. The passion attached - v.9b-c

B. The Concern For The Man - vs.10-12

These are very simple truths.

1. His relation to Paul - v.10

Paul says he is my son in the faith. Paul had led him to the Lord there in that Roman prison. It is likely Onesimus, a runaway slave, had gotten into prison himself for some cause and during that time he met Paul and got saved. Knowing Paul to be a close friend of Philemon, Onesimus would not have willingly sought Paul out. Thought that could have happened.

2. His record of the past - v,11

Paul states it simply as being unprofitable - He had possibly been a very rebellious slave, one who caused trouble.

3. His return to Philemon - v.12

Paul sent him back to his former state and responsibility. Philemon is encouraged to receive him as this is the most earnest desire of Paul.

C. The Concepts Of Morality - vs.13-14

Again we see Christian ethics coming to the front and apostolic rights given place. We live in a day of "our rights" but oftentimes our rights should give place to Christian ethics.

1. The desire of the prisoner (Paul) - v.13

It is evident that Paul had some definite needs that Onesimus could have fulfilled. It is further evident that he wanted Onesimus to remain with him and minister to him.

2. The deference to principle - v.14

Ah, how strong is the evidence of Christian ethics here! But without thy mind (consent) would I do nothing. If I'm to have any benefit from you, it must come willingly from your heart and not out of necessity.

D. The Conversion Of Meaning - vs.15-16

Now Paul explains that through the conversion of Onesimus, Philemon could be greatly benefited.

1. A situation suggested - v.15

Paul is suggesting that God could have been working in this incident to bless Philemon. God does work behind the scenes to accomplish His will on many occasions.

2. A service supplemented - v.16

Onesimus can be now more than a slave - Slaves were profitable but oftentimes a problem as Onesimus was. But now he is elevated to the place of a brother in the Lord, and beloved by both you and me.

E. The Condition Of Mercy - vs.17-20

Now we come to the time when a decision has to be made.

1. A principle applied - vs.17-18

This is the principle of substitution. Paul says, Place his debts on my shoulders. That is exactly what Jesus has done for us.

2. A pressure administered - v.19

First, there is the promise by Paul to pay the debt of Onesimus and second, there is the reminder that Philemon owes Paul his very self. That is very strong pressure.

3. A plea accented - v.20

Now if and when you do this, I will have joy in the Lord. Let me have this joy in seeing you demonstrate Christian conduct in this matter.


The growth we mention is seen in v.21. Paul was assured in his heart that Philemon would not fail to be a Christian in this situation and go even beyond the requirements. Paul then mentions his expectation of deliverance from prison and planned a visit to Philemon. The epistle is closed by the salutation of Epaphras, a fellow prisoner, Marcus, Aristarchus, Demas, Lucas, fellow laborers in the work nd the pronouncing of grace upon them.