Who Is Philemon In The Bible

Background Information

Philemon is a figure mentioned in the New Testament of the Bible. He is mentioned only once in the Bible, in a letter written by the Apostle Paul to Philemon concerning Onesimus, a runaway slave of Philemon. Philemon’s name is related to the Greek word for “beloved” and it is possible that Paul referred to him as such because of his ties to the Church.

Previous Study

Though little is known about Philemon, previous studies have suggested he may have been a Christian converted by Paul or perhaps even by Peter. Besides being mentioned in the Bible, Philemon’s story is only alluded to in Paul’s letter. Paul writes of Philemon in the letter as though they are personally acquainted, likely due to Paul having converted him. Traditionally it is thought that Philemon lived in Colossae, judging from the fact the letter is addressed to the “church in his house”.

Purpose of the Letter

The purpose of Paul’s letter to Philemon was to ask for his forgiveness for the runaway slave, Onesimus. Onesimus had been a slave of Philemon and had run away, becoming a Christian in the process. Once Philemon realized what Onesimus had done, he feared his punishment would be severe. Paul asked for Philemon to show mercy and forgive him, instead of punishing him.


Paul’s appeal to Philemon highlights just how much the early Church was concerned with setting a good example. Though slavery was common and even accepted in their society, the Church was opposed to mistreatment of slaves. Paul argued that to claim the name of being a Christian meant to stand up for justice and mercy, and to repent when mercy was not given. This was an example of the Church leading the world at the time in showing mercy, love, and justice toward others.

Witness to Christianity

Paul’s letter to Philemon is a witness to the power of Christianity in standing up for what is right. Even though slavery was a common practice at the time, the Church still held to its higher moral standards. This was even the case when it came to someone as notorious as the runaway slave, Onesimus. Paul’s appeal to Philemon reveals the power of Christianity to inspire mercy, even in difficult and trying circumstances.

Implications of Paul’s Appeal

Paul’s appeal to Philemon also has implications for Christianity today. The Church is still called to stand up for justice and mercy, even in uncomfortable or difficult circumstances. It was and still is an example of doing what is right, and of doing it because it is right. In this way, Paul’s letter to Philemon is an example of how the Church is to lead the world in doing justice and showing mercy.


Though information about Philemon is scarce, his role as a character in Paul’s letter to him is noteworthy. In it is a clear witness to justice and mercy, even in tough situations. His story is an encouragement to the Church today to stand up for what is right and to consistently show mercy and love. Paul’s letter to Philemon is an example to be used as a guide for how to live out Christian principles in difficult and trying circumstances.

Hilda Scott is an avid explorer of the Bible and inteprator of its gospel. She is passionate about researching and uncovering the mysteries that lie in this sacred book. She hopes to use her knowledge and expertise to bring faith and God closer to people all around the world.

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