1 Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother,
To Philemon our dear friend and fellow worker— 2 also to Apphia our sister and Archippus our fellow soldier—and to the church that meets in your home:
3 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
4 I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers, 5 because I hear about your love for all his holy people and your faith in the Lord Jesus. 6 I pray that your partnership with us in the faith may be effective in deepening your understanding of every good thing we share for the sake of Christ. 7 Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the Lord’s people.
8 Therefore, although in Christ I could be bold and order you to do what you ought to do, 9 yet I prefer to appeal to you on the basis of love. It is as none other than Paul—an old man and now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus— 10 that I appeal to you for my son Onesimus,[b] who became my son while I was in chains. 11 Formerly he was useless to you, but now he has become useful both to you and to me.
12 I am sending him—who is my very heart—back to you. 13 I would have liked to keep him with me so that he could take your place in helping me while I am in chains for the gospel. 14 But I did not want to do anything without your consent, so that any favor you do would not seem forced but would be voluntary. 15 Perhaps the reason he was separated from you for a little while was that you might have him back forever— 16 no longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother. He is very dear to me but even dearer to you, both as a fellow man and as a brother in the Lord.
17 So if you consider me a partner, welcome him as you would welcome me. 18 If he has done you any wrong or owes you anything, charge it to me. 19 I, Paul, am writing this with my own hand. I will pay it back—not to mention that you owe me your very self. 20 I do wish, brother, that I may have some benefit from you in the Lord; refresh my heart in Christ. 21 Confident of your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I ask.
22 And one thing more: Prepare a guest room for me, because I hope to be restored to you in answer to your prayers.
23 Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends you greetings. 24 And so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas and Luke, my fellow workers.
25 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.
This man was well known to Paul. Philemon, like Peter and Paul, is not like the followers of David. David attracted the rabble and the malcontents who very much wanted to overthrow King Saul. Even David's prized friend, Jonathon, stayed to die with his father, Saul. David was left with the men willing to live in ditches.
It's different with the followers of Jesus. They are all arriving from different perspectives - the Stewart's wife of Herod's Palace, the Temple lawyer - trained by Gamaliel. The Roman's prized tax collector. Simon - a zealot - intent on overthrow.
Philemon is the Bishop of Gaza, like Peter, he is a wealthy business man who has a house Church in a house large enough to hold a large number of people. Philemon is married to Apphia. Emperor Nero is going to get so freaked out by the name of Jesus, he kills Philemon and Apphia sometime in 50 A.D.
About twenty years after the death of an obscure man in a suburban province of Syria called Judea - a man the Jews call Son of God, Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ. The Sadducean Council records are available and tell us the blind see, the deaf hear and the lame walk because of Jesus. Scary news indeed.
We find in the Menai records - Onesimus is with Philemon and Apphia and dies with them. In the list of the Seventy Apostles, attributed to Dorotheus of Tyre - Philemon is one of the 70 disciples Jesus sent forth and later as bishop of Gaza.
Dorotheus Bishop of Tyre 255–362 A.D. looks at records Bishop Papias of Hierapolis wrote and interviewed the Disciple John on Patmos as well as every presbyter he could find witnessing Jesus. And AD 110 to 140 - Polycarp, a disciple of the beloved disciple John on Patmos, also leaves Christian community records of conversations. Bishop Dorotheus tells us Philemon was probably one of the 70 Disciples in the Menai records.
Dorotheus lives to be 107, very old, like the Disciple John.
Colossae in Greece was an ancient city of Phrygia, and near the great road from Ephesus to the Euphrates. It has never been excavated until 2013. (Wikipedia meet UK's Daily Mail star date 3 April 2013)
It's a strange place.
Recreation of the Hades Temple
It sounds like the plot for a new Indiana Jones film. Archaeologists say they have discovered the 'Gates of Hell', the mythical portal to the underworld in Greek and Roman legend.The site, in the ancient Phrygian city of Hierapolis, now Pamukkale in southwestern Turkey, is said to closely match historical descriptions of what was known as Ploutonion in Greek and Plutonium in Latin.
In its heyday, a small temple with traditional Greco-Roman pillars was said to have stood next to wall with steps leading down to a cave doorway filled with foul and noxious gasses. Describing the site, the Greek geographer Strabo (64/63 BC -- about 24 A.D.) said: 'This space is full of a vapor so misty and dense that one can scarcely see the ground. 'Any animal that passes inside meets instant death. I threw in sparrows and they immediately breathed their last and fell.'
We talk today about the world being a sad place. And we have opportunities for solutions.
However, few of our friends and acquaintances have so given up on the world they sacrifice animals to the god Hades. Seen in a local statue outside the Temple. Pretty ugly statue.
So we can be reasonably assured - this city lived in fear of crime. Of robbery. The city area records indicate fear of invasion, war and crime - famous for this trouble. You really don't want Onesimus, who has a name which means useful, running off to Paul.
And Onesimus, would want to point fingers and escape a bitter master - not dying with Philemon and Apphia. Instead they did.
Let the record clearly show:
Onesimus, Philemon and Apphia lived the church that met in their home.
Grace and peace came to dwell in a city sacrificing to a god of death.
Paul's prayers were remembered.
Love for all his holy people and their faith in the Lord Jesus had Victory.
Their partnership with us in the faith may be effective in deepening our understanding of every good thing we share for the sake of Christ. Their love has given us great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the Lord’s people.
The appeal on the basis of love was lived to the end.
Separated from them in death, as a dear brother. A partner to share their fate.
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with our spirit to find this participation and encouragement in the Body of Christ.
The LORD gives strength to his people; the LORD blesses his people with peace.
Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.
Consider the blameless, observe the upright; there is a future for the man of peace.
I will listen to what God the LORD will say; he promises peace to his people, his saints-- but let them not return to folly.
Father God let us remember You are the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. You love Your Creation and want to save the world. Relationships tangle, the people of God press on to Peace, Faith, Hope, Love and Jesus. Let us ask You for Your mercy, leadership, guidance and joy to be centered in You and Your Path. We have the highest privilege to ask in the Name of Jesus. Amen.
♔ Lord Jesus Saves †