Philemon 1:1 - 25
NKJV - 1 Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, To Philemon our beloved friend and fellow laborer. 2 To the beloved Apphia, Archippus our fellow soldier, and to the church in your house:
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My understanding is that Onesimus is regarded as having run away because of allegations of theft from his master (Philemon). (Paul referred to this in his epistle to Philemon when he said (in verse 18 and 19), "If he [Onesimus] has done you any wrong or owes you anything, charge it to me. I, Paul, am writing this with my own hand. I will pay it back—not to mention that you owe me your very self." Paul converted Onesimus to Christianity, and persuaded him to return to Philemon, along with the letter that Paul had written to Philemon, in which (in addition to the passage quoted above) Paul asked Philemon to receive Onesimus not as a runaway slave (with the punishment that that act would normally involve), but as a brother in Christ. As a means of persuasion, Paul also reminded Philemon that Philemon himself owed his own salvation to Paul, since (as noted above) it was Paul's preaching that had converted Philemon to Christianity. This has led one commentator to humorously characterize Paul's epistle to Philemon as "the friendliest blackmail letter in history".
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