Monday, August 8, 2016


By Allen Olatunde

Philemon 1-25


The book of Philemon is found among the Epistles of the New Testament. More specifically, it is one of the Pauline Epistles. Yet more specifically, it is one of the "Prison Epistles" (along with Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians).The Prison Epistles were written while Paul was under house arrest in Rome (Acts 28:14-31; cf. Philemon 1, 9, 10, 13, and 23) for two years (Acts 28:30) in the early 60s A.D. awaiting trial before the Roman Supreme Court. As already indicated, the author of the epistle of Philemon was clearly the apostle Paul (Philemon 1, 9, and 19). He wrote the letter to show a Christian virtue to Philemon. Paul was opportune to claim wayward but saved Onesimus but he did not use his position to impose and override his followers which Philemon was one. This act is needed in the church of God. This study will x-ray the topic in three ways, namely: Christian, selfishness and selflessness.


CHRISTIAN: A person who repents from his/her sinful ways through confession and faith in redemptive work of Christ and decides to follow Jesus daily. He/she is a not believer only in the church but everywhere. He/she displays virtue of Christ. He/she is ready to receive correction from the Lord and His servants. He/she is selfless and not selfish; because he/she is a steward of Christ.

SELFISHNESS: Selfishness is being concerned, sometimes excessively or exclusively, for oneself or one's own advantage, pleasure, or welfare, regardless of others. Selfishness is the opposite of selflessness.

SELFLESSNESS: It is an act of having or showing great concern for other people and little or no concern for oneself.  It is also the quality of not putting yourself first but being willing to give your time or money or effort, etc. for others. It involves much labour.


The issue of selfishness is related to self. Today in our church, self is elevated and servant-hood is deflated by our society and by some in the church. A ‘self’ person is always drawing attention to what he/she wants or desires in life. He/she has no desire to help out others or even have empathy for others. Paul displayed his control over self as he did not use his privilege to cheat Philemon of his saved servant Onesimus. Let’s check few verses in the book of Philemon and apply for spiritual edification.

1.      Read Philemon 8-9. Yet for love's sake I rather beseech thee… An appeal instead of an obligation. The Apostle Paul could have commanded Philemon to do the right thing (what he wants as his discipler), yet, for love’s sake, he made an appeal. Paul’s love caused him to carefully consider how he would approach Philemon on the issue. It was not selfish of power. Though he was the discipler and father in the Lord unto Philemon, yet he appealed.

Question:   What are the benefits of appealing to someone versus commanding someone? How can we help a person who sees all men as inferior?

2.      Read Philemon 10-12. Whom I have sent again… Do not withhold/holdback. Paul actually laboured on Onesimus in the prison until he became a saint and responsible citizen, yet he did not hold back. Sometimes we help and care some people and we still expect them to serve us till eternity. Paul did not use the boy as slave or deny the master to have access because he had laboured. Christians should allow God to reward them rather than being selfish against the vulnerable.

Question:   Why is it difficult for some believers to hold on to their good works hoping that the beneficiary must pay back? Who pays back benefactors? If it is God, how does He pay back? Discuss.

3.      Read Philemon 11. Which in time past was to thee unprofitable, but now profitable to thee and to me… Learn to share with others. Who laboured on Onesimus? Paul did. In this verse, he decided to share with Philemon who had not done anything. On this note, David established a law in Israel on sharing (1 Samuel 30:22-25). David shared spoilt with those that stayed at home and on the war front equally. As Christians, we should not be selfish with our efforts on some people. It is God’s grace that helped you. Paul acknowledged Philemon as fellow to enjoy new life of Onesimus. This is a selfless life.

Question:   What can you share with others and you will not claim glory? Why do you need to share your reward with others when you did all the work? As a single parent or guardian, can you share your child’s prosperity with idle and irresponsible father/mother or family members after many years of toiling? If yes/no, discuss.


1.      Inability to release one’s home, properties for church use.

2.      Inability to respond to needs without announcement.

3.      Inability to participate in things/duties that will involve giving.

4.      When a person wants to choose first before others or desires best place before others.


·         Philippians 2:4 - Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

·         1 John 3:17 - But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him?

·         1 Corinthians 10:24 - Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.

·         Philippians 2:21 - For they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.

·         Galatians 6:2 - Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

·         Romans 15:1-3 - We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.”

·         Haggai 1:9 - You looked for much, and behold, it came to little. And when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why? Declares the Lord of hosts. Because of my house that lies in ruins, while each of you busies himself with his own house.

·         Galatians 5:26 - Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.

·         Hebrews 13:16 - Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.

·         1 Timothy 6:17-19 - As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.

·         Luke 12:16-21 - Then He spoke a parable to them, saying: "The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. And he thought within himself, saying, 'What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?' "So he said, 'I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods.  'And I will say to my soul, "Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry."' "But God said to him, 'Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?' "So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God."


1.      Do good and do not expect reward from man. Do something once, and again, and then in perpetuity without ever getting a thank you from men because it can never be enough.

2.      Share your reward with sincere love of Christ with others. Try to invest in the least members of the church than the most distant from you that may pay back.

3.      Do not be selfish with your beneficiaries’ freedom; release them to live their lives.

4.      Do something every day no matter what for someone else, rather than avoiding it to the final day or time of urgency.

5.      Do something for someone else that cannot be repaid in any way. Consider your success as God’s. Then you will do more.

6.      Consider others and think of their needs and desires rather than you waiting for them or the pastor to ask. Do not bother if anyone knows or cares about what you did in light of God.

7.      Agree to undertake every opportunity of service without persuasion and human recognition. Be selfless.

8.      Always risk your feelings, your money, your reputation, and your time for salvation of the selfish. One day, they will conquer act of selfishness through your selfless service.


Paul, an example of selfless leader, did not cheat Philemon of his servant. He gave all even when he had laboured on him. A heavenly-conscious Christian will emulate Paul in his selfless lifestyle, and also endeavour deal with selfish behaviour that enslaves its host from enjoying himself, others and what he has. Give out yourself, money, time, labour, influence, material things and love to people that cannot pay back. Start from your home to church and in extension to the society. Paul encourages us through this scripture, “For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister” (Hebrews 6:10). Be blessed.

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