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Read Introduction to Philemon


“Therefore, though I might be very bold in Christ to command you what is fitting…”


Paul now turns to the primary purpose of the epistle – the forgiveness of Onesimus by Philemon.  This petition to Philemon for Onesimus runs from verse eight to twenty-two.  The slave owner in the days of the Roman Empire was judge, jury, and executioner. The slave had no rights whatsoever.  It must have been a great risk for Paul to send Onesimus back to Philemon.   


Paul now appeals to Philemon based on what he has said about him to this point in the epistle (vv. 4-7).  Paul says in effect, “Seeing that I know and trust your character, I am going to ask something special from you.” 

though I might be very bold in Christ

Paul now sets the context for his appeal to Philemon.  He first states his personal attitude toward the situation.  “Bold” here conveys the idea of right or authority.  Paul has the right or authority to command Philemon to free Onesimus, but he does not choose that course of action. 

to command you what is fitting

Paul had the right to “command” Philemon to release Onesimus, but he chose to appeal to his character.  Paul could have said, “I could pull rank on you, Philemon, but I do not choose to do so.”  The word “command” signifies to charge, to enjoin, to order. 

“Fitting” is that which pertains to what is due, duty, convenient.  It is proper for Paul to exercise his authority as an apostle to command Philemon to release Onesimus. 


Discernment in dealing with followers is a great characteristic of an outstanding leader. 


At times, it is not wise to use our authority or prerogative.  Judgment is something that eludes many of us.  Knowledge is the accumulation of facts, whereas judgment is the correct use of the facts.  May God give the church many wise leaders who use discernment in their dealings with people.  Discernment is the ability to distinguish between the good and the best.  It is the ability to separate the facts to form the best judgment. This is acceptable discrimination. 

Php 1:9-11, 9 “And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, 10 that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, 11 being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.”