Philemon: You Should Facilitate Reconciliation

  Context Philemon is a personal letter from the Apostle Paul, written to Philemon, a leader in the Colossian church. This letter concerns O...



Philemon is a personal letter from the Apostle Paul, written to Philemon, a leader in the Colossian church. This letter concerns Onesimus, a runaway slave who had become a Christian under Paul's ministry. Paul sends Onesimus back to Philemon, not merely as a slave but as a "beloved brother" in Christ. This short epistle is a powerful example of Christian love, forgiveness, and reconciliation, reflecting the transformative impact of the gospel on social relationships.

Proposition: You Should Facilitate Reconciliation

The epistle to Philemon powerfully demonstrates the gospel's call for reconciliation, not only of the lost with God but within the Christian community. Paul's appeal to Philemon to receive Onesimus as a brother, transcending societal and personal grievances, underlines the transformative impact of Christ's love. This act of facilitating reconciliation mirrors Jesus' own work in bridging the chasm of sin that separates us from God. By embracing and practicing reconciliation, we live out the gospel's core message of love, unity, and forgiveness, fostering a vibrant, Christ-centered community. Let Philemon inspire us to actively facilitate reconciliation, embodying Christ's reconciliatory work in our lives and relationships.

Philemon shows several ways to reconcile believers.

1) By Incorporating the Church (1-3)

Paul's letter, while addressed to Philemon, includes the church that meets in his house, highlighting a communal aspect to the reconciliation process. By doing this, Paul places Philemon in a position of accountability before the broader Christian community. This strategy emphasizes that reconciliation is not just a private matter but one that involves and impacts the body of Christ. The inclusion of the church underscores the collective responsibility in fostering unity and reconciliation among believers, aligning with the Greek concept of *koinonia* (fellowship, participation) which is foundational to Christian community life.

2) By Acknowledging Their Fruit (4-7)

Paul commends Philemon for his faith and love, which have been evident to others. In verse 6, the "knowledge of every good thing" (*epignosis*) that is in us for the sake of Christ, implies a deep, experiential understanding that motivates Christian action. Paul’s acknowledgment of Onesimus's positive impact and Philemon's faith encourages a reconciliatory posture. Recognizing and affirming the spiritual growth and contributions of others within the community can significantly motivate reconciliation, fostering an environment of mutual respect and love.

3) By Appealing to Brotherhood (8-16)

Paul chooses not to command Philemon but rather appeals (*parakalo*, meaning to call to one's side, to encourage, or to beseech) to him on the basis of love. This approach reflects a voluntary, rather than obligatory, reconciliation. Paul highlights that Onesimus, once unprofitable, is now beneficial both to him and Philemon, illustrating the transformative power of the gospel in individual lives. This transformation from slave to brother exemplifies the radical new relationships formed in Christ, transcending social and cultural barriers, and is a compelling reason for reconciliation among believers.

4) By Calling for Reception (17)

Paul uses the term "receive" (prosdechomai, meaning to welcome or accept) in a way that echoes the acceptance believers have in Christ. By offering to repay any debt Onesimus owed, Paul illustrates the gospel's principle of substitution and redemption. This act is a vivid demonstration of how believers are to embody Christ's reconciliatory work, encouraging a welcoming, forgiving attitude that mirrors the grace we have received in Christ.

Pointing to Christ

The letter to Philemon magnifies the reconciling work of Jesus Christ. Just as Paul intercedes on behalf of Onesimus, Christ intercedes for us, transforming our status before God from runaway sinners to beloved children. Paul’s actions model Christ's atonement, highlighting the profound truth that our reconciliation with God through Christ has tangible implications for our relationships with one another.


The teachings in Philemon are a beautiful picture of the gospel's power to transform relationships. This epistle invites us to reflect on Christ's death and resurrection, which reconciles us to God, and how this reconciliation should be mirrored in our relationships with fellow believers. Let us embrace the forgiveness and grace offered through Christ, allowing His work on the cross to be the foundation of our reconciliation with others. If you have not yet trusted in Christ for salvation, I invite you to do so today, relying on His death and resurrection as the atonement for your sins. In Christ, you will find true reconciliation with God and a new family among His people.

As believers, we are called to be ambassadors of this reconciliation. Just as Paul played a crucial role in facilitating the reconciliation between Philemon and Onesimus, we are tasked with a similar mission—to plead on behalf of Christ, "be reconciled to God" (2 Corinthians 5:20). Our ministry of reconciliation is rooted in the reality of what Christ achieved on the cross; He paid the ultimate price to settle our debt, offering us peace with God.

This mission involves more than just sharing the gospel message; it's about embodying it in our relationships, showing love, forgiveness, and acceptance, mirroring the grace we've received. It's about reaching out to those who are lost, with the compassion and humility of Christ, inviting them into a restored relationship with God through faith in Jesus.

 Image by 12138562O from Pixabay


  1. Thank you for this valuable and timely message.

    To limit attempts at reconciliation with the "Christian community" only is not enough. The observation and experience of Christian outreach is an opportunity for non-believers that we should lovingly provide. "Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone." Colossians 4:5–6

    1. Yes, you're correct. Thanks for mentioning that.



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item Philemon: You Should Facilitate Reconciliation
Philemon: You Should Facilitate Reconciliation
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