Philemon 17–25 (NKJV)
Paul sums up the letter to Philemon with a call to obedience. Paul asks Philemon to receive this runaway slave, Onesimus, as a brother, and offers to cover whatever damage he may have incurred from his forsaking his duties.
17 If then you count me as a partner, receive him as you would me. 18 But if he has wronged you or owes anything, put that on my account. 19 I, Paul, am writing with my own hand. I will repay—not to mention to you that you owe me even your own self besides. 20 Yes, brother, let me have joy from you in the Lord; refresh my heart in the Lord.Philemon 1:17-22
21 Having confidence in your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I say. 22 But, meanwhile, also prepare a guest room for me, for I trust that through your prayers I shall be granted to you.
Paul further appeals to Philemon as a partner in ministry, asking him to receive Onesimus as he would receive Paul himself. He gives his catchet to the slave in order to make his return more pleasant. Paul asks that any wrong accounted to Onesimus be charged to Paul. “But if he has wronged you or owes anything, put that on my account.” Paul notes that he is writing this letter by his own hand and promises that he will repay Philemon any damages. He then uses their common history as a point of emphasis: “not to mention to you that you owe me even your own self besides.” Paul implores Philemon to bring him joy and to refresh his heart by his actions. Paul is pulling out all the stops in this appeal, hoping that Philemon will see things the right way. He expresses his confidence in Philemon that he will respond positively to the appeal for grace toward Onesimus. Paul even speculates that Philemon will do even more than Paul requests. What audacity Paul exhibits here! He even asks Philemon to prepare a room for him, as he expects to visit at some point. He believes that Philemon’s prayers will result in his release from prison. This entire request is audacious, asking a master to forgive his runaway servant and receive him back as a brother! However, this is the way of Christ, a righteous audacity requiring forgiveness rather than punishment, grace instead of judgement, mercy instead of condemnation. Paul has taught his disciple well. Now he asks him to respond accordingly.
23 Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, greets you, 24 as do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, Luke, my fellow laborers.Philemon 1:23-25
25 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.
Paul closes his letter with a greeting from a fellow prisoner in Rome, and from his fellow laborers in the Roman harvest field. He then offers a traditional blessing of grace as he ends the letter. Perhaps one of the shortest books in the Bible (besides 2 & 3 John), Philemon offers a great lesson on forgiveness and restoration. The normal action of a master whose slave had run away would involve some type of discipline and perhaps a longer period of service to make up for the lost time and rebellion of the servant. However, in this case, Paul calls for grace. The slave will return, but as a brother. What strange politics are these? These are the “politics” of grace, of the kingdom of God. When you are wronged, remember the Word of God spoken through Paul, that the offending soul can become a brother if grace is extended. Put your enemies’ debt on Jesus’ account, for His grace is sufficient.