Philemon 8-16 From Unprofitable Slave To Profitable Brother.
Paul might have been very bold to command what was fitting “in Christ,” but instead he appeals to Philemon as a brother on behalf of another brother, his runaway slave Onesimus (v. 8). Paul was a prisoner, something worse than a slave, making his appeal through love for one he also regarded as a son, who in the providence of God became a Christian through his ministry (vv. 9-10). “As Paul, the aged,” he spoke with the wisdom but also the urgency of one who knew his time was running out. He wished that Onesimus could stay with him, but he did what was right and fair by sending him back to his rightful owner (vv. 12-13 Cf. Eph. 6:5; Col. 3:22). Nevertheless, he appeals to him out of love for both. Paul wanted Philemon to free Onesimus, but to do so willingly, and not “by compulsion” (v. 14). Before Onesimus became a Christian he was unprofitable to Philemon, since he had run away. However, now that he was a brother, he became profitable to many besides Philemon, including Paul. Paul saw in Onesimus’ departure the providence of God, because through his ministry Onesimus was being returned to Philemon as a brother (vv. 11, 15-16 Cf. Col. 4:9).