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Paul and the runaway slave

Philemon
Onesimus, the runaway slave, returns to face his master.
Contributed by SIKU – Edge Group
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Paul was a prisoner under house arrest in Rome awaiting trial before the Roman Emperor.  He had been on many travels preaching the gospel. New churches had been formed as a result including one at Colossae. – Slide 1
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One day Paul came into contact with a slave called Onesimus. The slave confessed he had run away from his master Philemon who lived in Colossae. Now Paul knew Philemon well. Philemon had become a Christian after hearing Paul preach and had worked with him in sharing the gospel to others. – Slide 2
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Paul told the runaway slave about God’s love and forgiveness and Onesimus decided to become a Christian too.  <br/>The situation was very tricky. Runaway slaves, if caught, faced severe punishment even death. What should happen now? – Slide 3
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Paul confronted Onesimus and told him he must return to Philemon and ask for his forgiveness. ‘I will write a letter to Philemon that you can give him.’ – Slide 4
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‘I will ask Philemon to show kindness to you for you are now both brothers in Christ. I will ask him not to treat you as a slave but as a fellow Christian. He is well known for his faith in the Lord Jesus and his love for God’s people. – Slide 5
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‘I will ask him not to be angry with you but welcome you as he would welcome me.’ <br/>Onesimus was keenly aware of the wrong he had done and the punishment he deserved. <br/>Paul reassured him, ‘And if Philemon feels you have wronged him in any way or you owe him anything, then I will repay the debt.’ – Slide 6
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So Paul dictated a letter from prison for Philemon pleading him to forgive Onesimus. ‘Please do this for the Lord’s sake and give me this encouragement in Christ,’ he added. – Slide 7
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‘I am confident as I write this letter that you will do what I ask and even more!’ he concluded. (You can read Paul’s full letter to Philemon in the New Testament). – Slide 8
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We don’t know what happened when Onesimus returned to Philemon with the letter. How do you think Philemon reacted when he saw his disobedient slave? We know Paul hoped to visit Philemon if he was released from prison, for in the letter he asked him to prepare a guest room for him. <br/>(In the early church writings of this period we later read of a leader at the church in Ephesus called Onesimus. Could this be the same person? We don’t know, but if it was, what does this tell us about God’s love and forgiveness among these Christians?) – Slide 9
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Slide 10