Appeal to Forgive

INTRODUCTION: This week we are reading Paul’s letter to Philemon. We’ll use a different perspective each day to examine the issues at stake in this short epistle.


In today’s passage we focus on Philemon, a first century man of wealth who faces a cultural dilemma: Will he forgive a bondservant who has wronged him? Will he be able to see him no longer as a slave, but as a fellow brother in Christ? Philemon’s response will reveal the sincerity of his pronounced faith.

  • When have you needed to forgive someone who wronged you? In what ways was the gospel advanced because of your willingness to forgive?


1:1 Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother,

To Philemon our beloved fellow worker and Apphia our sister and Archippus our fellow soldier, and the church in your house:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

I thank my God always when I remember you in my prayers, because I hear of your love and of the faith that you have toward the Lord Jesus and for all the saints, and I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ. For I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you.

Accordingly, though I am bold enough in Christ to command you to do what is required,yet for love’s sake I prefer to appeal to you—I, Paul, an old man and now a prisoner also for Christ Jesus— 10 I appeal to you for my child, Onesimus, whose father I became in my imprisonment. 11 (Formerly he was useless to you, but now he is indeed useful to you and to me.) 12 I am sending him back to you, sending my very heart. 13 I would have been glad to keep him with me, in order that he might serve me on your behalf during my imprisonment for the gospel, 14 but I preferred to do nothing without your consent in order that your goodness might not be by compulsion but of your own accord. 15 For this perhaps is why he was parted from you for a while, that you might have him back forever, 16 no longer as a bondservant but more than a bondservant, as a beloved brother—especially to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.

17 So if you consider me your partner, receive him as you would receive me. 18 If he has wronged you at all, or owes you anything, charge that to my account. 19 I, Paul, write this with my own hand: I will repay it—to say nothing of your owing me even your own self.20 Yes, brother, I want 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 say. 22 At the same time, prepare a guest room for me, for I am hoping that through your prayers I will be graciously given to you.

23 Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends greetings to you, 24 and so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke, my fellow workers.

25 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.


  1. How did Paul address Philemon (vs. 1)? What did this indicate about Philemon?
  2. To whom did Philemon demonstrate faith and love (vs. 5)? How did Paul know of Philemon’s faith and love?
  3. How had Philemon demonstrated his faith (vs. 7)? 
  4. What would it have cost Philemon to accommodate Paul’s request (vss. 17-18)?
  5. How are you demonstrating your trust in Jesus through acts of faith and love? Whom do you need to forgive as you’ve been forgiven?


Paul pleaded for Philemon to accept Onesimus, his runaway bondservant, just as he would accept Paul, as his brother in Christ. The world at that time would have seen Philemon’s acceptance and forgiveness of Onesimus as extraordinary, an incredible exception to the norm. Imagine the impact that Philemon’s grace towards Onesimus would have had on those around him! To not only forgive Onesimus, but to receive him with love as well, would have communicated the life-changing beauty of the gospel message in a tangible way for all to see.

  • Spend some time in prayer, thanking the Lord for his grace and forgiveness.
  • Pray for the ability to extend forgiveness to another as you seek the reconciliation of a relationship.