Onesimus was still a heathen when he defrauded his master and ran off from Colosse. He found his way to Rome, where evil men tended to flock as to a common centre, as Tacitus tells us they did at that period.
It was there in Rome that he came into contact with Paul, who was then in his own hired house, in military custody. He could not forget that his master’s house in Colosse was the place where the Christians met in their weekly assemblies for the service for Christ and worship of God. Neither could he forget how Philemon had many a time spoken of Paul, to whom he owed his conversion.
The apostle Paul got him converted to Christianity, and furnishes Onesimus with a letter written by himself to Philemon. Returning to a city where it was well known that he had been neither a Christian nor even an honest man, he needed someone to vouch for the reality of the change which had taken place in his life. And Paul does this for him both in the Epistle to the Colossians and in that to Philemon.
“The man whom the Colossians had only known hitherto, if they knew him all, as a worthless runaway slave, is thus commended to them, as no more a slave but a brother, no more dishonest and faithless but trustworthy; no more an object of contempt but of love” (Lightfoot’s Commentary on Col, 235).
Col. 4:9. With Onesimus, a faithful and beloved brother, who is one of you. They shall make known unto you all things which are done here.
Onesimus was to travel with Tychicus to take news of Paul to the churches in Colosse. He has quite a story of his own, which I’m considering making my next study. We’ll see.
Onesimus was an escaped slave. He belonged to a believer named Philemon. Paul had counseled him to return, and that’s the core of his story.
Paul calls Onesimus a faithful and beloved brother, one of you.
Clearly, Paul expected Onesimus to be received with the same hospitality as Tychicus would receive, and to be recognized as a fellow believer. Some believe that Paul condoned slavery. He did not. In Galatians 3:28 he wrote, There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one inChrist Jesus.
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