“Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy. To Philemon our beloved friend and fellow laborer…”
To Philemon our beloved friend and fellow laborer
This is the only occurrence of the name Philemon in Scripture. Philemon was the object of this little letter. He was a convert of Paul (v. 19; Ac 19:10). He was the master of the fugitive slave Onesimus (Co 4:9; Philemon 10). Onesimus stole from this wealthy slave owner. Onesimus later came to trust Christ through Paul and became a great help to Paul in ministry.
Philemon was Paul’s “beloved friend and fellow laborer.” Philemon was a beloved one, a dear friend. Paul viewed Philemon as someone close to him. They probably cultivated their friendship in Ephesus, where Paul stayed for three years.
1 Co 15: 58, “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.”
Php 4:1, “Therefore, my beloved and longed-for brethren, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, beloved.”
“Fellow laborer” means that Philemon participated with Paul in the ministry of Christ at Ephesus. “Fellow laborer” occurs 13 times, 12 times in Philemon, and once in 3rd John 8.
Paul claims no right to order Philemon to release Onesimus but appeals to Philemon as a “friend” and “fellow laborer.” Philemon was a Christian businessman whose home was always open. He labored with Paul in Ephesus, and later, he opened his home for the cause of Christ in Colosse.
A good leader values good workers.
As Paul appreciated good men and women, so should we, especially those who labor in the gospel and the Word. This is an indication of a good spiritual leader.
Those who labor with us in the truth of the Word are fellow-soldiers. We endure conflict together; we stand alert against the enemy together; we remind each other of our spiritual weapons; we take responsibility for one another.
Paul was some soul winner. He led the wealthy Philemon to Christ, and he led the slave Onesimus to Christ. All of us can do something for the Savior. We may not have a public gift, but we can serve the Lord. There is room for everyone in the service of the King. We cannot sit on our hands and say, “There is nothing for me to do in the ministry.” God will use all of us if we are willing.
Ac 15: 38, “But Paul insisted that they should not take with them the one who had departed from them in Pamphylia, and had not gone with them to the work.”
1 Co 3: 9, “For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building.”
2 Co 6: 1, “We then, as workers together with Him also plead with you not to receive the grace of God in vain.”
2 Ti 2: 15, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”