Paul’s Epistle to Philemon is a brief letter, one of the shorter books of the New Testament. In fact, it is the shortest of Paul’s letters. He writes this short letter from prison, with the help of his compatriot, Timothy. It is addressed to Philemon, a wealthy home owner in Colossae -an early leader in the early Christian church. Paul also addresses the letter to Apphia and Archippus.
Paul says he could order Philemon to follow the orders of God, however he prefers to appeal to Philemon on the basis of love. Paul confesses he is writing this short letter on behalf of a slave: Onesimus. Paul is sending Onesimus to Philemon to be among the Colossians. It seems Onesimus is a runaway slave, who may have stolen something from Philemon. Paul’s letter is an appeal to make amends.
Appeasing the wealthy and powerful appears to have been a top priority for Paul. It was better to return a runaway slave and preserve the place of worship in Collosae, rather than lose the wealth, real estate, and connections of Philemon. Paul praises Onesimus as a human being, but also reaffirms his status as a slave.