Philemon is one of the four epistles (along with Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians, which Paul wrote during his first Roman imprisonment. Onesimus, Philemon and Paul are the three main characters in his epistle. Onesimus, a slave in Colossae, had robbed Philemon, his master, and then ran away. During the course of his flight, Onesimus encountered Paul in Rome, and through his ministry came to faith in Christ. Subsequently, Onesimus became a helper to Paul. Paul recognized Onesimus’s duty to his master, so sent him back to Philemon, along with Tychicus, who carried Paul’s letter to the Colossian church at the same time. In this letter, Paul implores Philemon to receive Onesimus not as a slave, but as “a brother beloved”.

Philemon 1

1:1-3 Salutation
1:4-7 Thanksgiving
1:8-21 Paul’s appeal for Onesimus
1:22-25 Final greetings