1 Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, To Philemon our beloved friend and fellow laborer, 2 to the beloved Apphia, Archippus our fellow soldier, and to the church in your house: 3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 4 I thank my God, making mention of you always in my prayers, 5 hearing of your love and faith which you have toward the Lord Jesus and toward all the saints, 6 that the sharing of your faith may become effective by the acknowledgment of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus. 7 For we have great joy and consolation in your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed by you, brother. 8 Therefore, though I might be very bold in Christ to command you what is fitting, 9 yet for love’s sake I rather appeal to you—being such a one as Paul, the aged, and now also a prisoner of Jesus Christ— 10 I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten while in my chains, 11 who once was unprofitable to you, but now is profitable to you and to me.
Was in prison in Rome when the events unfold. Wrote the Epistle to his friend who lived in Colosae. Therefore, the message in the Book of Colossians provides context for what was going on at the church there.
Wife of Philemon and assisted him in the work of the ministry from their home. Church tradition says that one day, during a pagan feast, enemies of Christianity invaded her home, dragged her into the public square and stoned her to death.
Why did Paul address the Epistle to Archippus as well as Philemon since this was such a personal matter? Possibly Archippus was a son of Philemon, even the one who was responsible for running the household. But it’s also possible he was simply a key leader in the church at Colossae and Paul addressed the Epistle to him also because he wanted Archippus to know the contents, providing an additional layer of accountability for his instructions.
Slave in Philemon’s household. Most likely stole money from his master upon running away. Fled to Rome where he came under the hearing of the Gospel eventually becoming a Christian and assistant for Paul.
Runaways were huge problem fostering a high demand for bounty hunters.
Paul does not address ethics of slavery as in institution but he does command slave owners and slaves on how they should relate to each other.
Most important thing about slavery in the New Testament is the dignity and worth of the slaves themselves. This was countercultural and it’s easy for us to miss the significance because of our own history.