Paul and Timothy make a personal plea to Philemon, a Colossian believer whom Paul mentored into Christ. The appeal is for Philemon to forgive Onesimus, his runaway slave, who also came to Christ through Paul’s ministry.
Paul and Timothy greet Philemon, Apphia, Archippus, and the church that meets in Philemon’s house with his signature salutation of “grace” and “peace.” Paul identifies himself “a prisoner of Christ Jesus” without mentioning his apostleship.
Paul commends Philemon for his faith in Jesus and his service toward other believers. Paul tells him that he thanks God for the blessing Philemon is to the church and that he continues to pray that Philemon’s faith and knowledge will become even more effective in doing good.
Paul asks Philemon to forgive Onesimus, the slave that ran away from Philemon. Paul informs Philemon that Onesimus was born into Christ’s family and had become a believer when he met the apostle during his house arrest in Rome.
Paul requests that Philemon return Onesimus back to Rome, where he can continue serving the gospel and ministering to Paul in his imprisonment. Paul does not wish to take advantage of Philemon. For this reason, he sent Onesimus back so that Philemon could decide what to do and have the opportunity to choose for himself what is good.
Paul requests that Philemon emancipate Onesimus and receive him as a beloved brother.
Paul asks Philemon to forgive any debt that Onesimus owes him. He also promises to pay Philemon back, if necessary. Paul adds that he would consider Philemon’s forgiveness of Onesimus as a full return of blessing for Paul’s sharing of the gospel with Philemon.
Paul sums up his requests and asks Philemon to refresh his heart. He expresses confidence that Philemon will do even more than what Paul asked of him.
Paul concludes his letter to Philemon asking him to prepare a place for him to stay whenever he is able to come and sends him greetings from some believers who are serving with Paul who knew Philemon. Paul finishes his letter with a blessing.