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Philemon was a prominent Christian in Colossae whose house served as a meeting place for at least part of the church there (Phm 1:2).  Like Epaphras, he had likely come to know the Lord through Paul’s three year ministry in Ephesus when “all who lived in Asia heard the word of the Lord” (Phm 1:19Acts 19:10).  Philemon’s slave Onesimus had wronged him in some way, perhaps stealing from him (Phm 1:18), and run away to Rome whose distance from Colossae and large population would help him escape detection.  Because of Paul’s influence upon Philemon, Onesimus had no doubt heard of the apostle and in Rome came under his influence and was saved (Phm 1:10).  Although he had become useful to Paul in his imprisonment, to make right the wrongs he had committed in running away Paul sent Onesimus back to Philemon in the company of Tychicus, who was traveling to Asia to deliver the letters we know as Ephesians and Colossians to the saints there and inform them about Paul’s circumstances (Eph 6:21-22Col 4:7-8).  Because runaway slaves could be punished severely to the point of death, Paul wrote this letter appealing to Philemon that in love he receive Onesimus as a Christian brother and accept him as he would accept Paul himself.

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