These small group studies of Philemon 1:8-16 contain outlines, cross-references, Bible study discussion questions, and applications.  Visit our library of inductive Bible studies for more in depth inductive studies on this and other books of the Bible you can use in your small group.

Philemon 1:8-16 Inductive Bible Study

A Persuasive Appeal

Philemon 1:8-16

8 Therefore, though I have enough confidence in Christ to order you to do what is proper,

1 Thess 2:6 nor did we seek glory from men, either from you or from others, even though as apostles of Christ we might have asserted our authority.

1 Cor 9:1 Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are you not my work in the Lord? 2 If to others I am not an apostle, at least I am to you; for you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord.

Phil 4:13 I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.

1.    What does the “therefore’ refer back to?

2.    What would give Paul the confidence to order Philemon to do the right thing?

3.    Paul asserted that what he was proposing wasn’t simply a “good idea”, it was the right thing to do.

9 yet for love’s sake I rather appeal to you—since I am such a person as Paul, the aged, and now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus—

Appeal –

Parakaleo – par-ak-al-eh’-o 5:773,778
Parts of Speech
to call to one’s side, call for, summon

to address, speak to, (call to, call upon), which may be done in the way of exhortation, entreaty, comfort, instruction, etc.

to admonish, exhort

to beg, entreat, beseech

to strive to appease by entreaty

1 Timothy 1:5 ?But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.

1 Corinthians 16:14? Let all that you do be done in love.

Romans 12:1 Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.

Philippians 1:12-14

12 Now I want you to know, brethren, that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel, 13 so that my imprisonment in the cause of Christ has become well known throughout the whole praetorian guard and to everyone else, 14 and that most of the brethren, trusting in the Lord because of my imprisonment, have far more courage to speak the word of God without fear.

1.    Why might Paul site himself as the basis for the appeal, rather than Christ?

2.    The Bible doesn’t tell us how old Paul was. Various scholars, based on I don’t know what think he was born about 5 A.D. If this is correct, that would put Paul at about 55 to 57 years old at the time of this writing. Hardly aged, I’d say!

3.    Some translations say “prisoner for Christ Jesus” and some say “prisoner of Christ Jesus”. In the Greek, there is no preposition at all.

4.    Paul was a prisoner in Rome at the time of this writing

10 I appeal to you for my child Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my imprisonment,

Onesimus – profitable or useful

John 17:9?I ask on their behalf; I do not ask on behalf of the world, but of those whom You have given Me; for they are Yours;

John 17:20?“I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word;

Hebrews 7:25?Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.

1.    Paul appeals rather than requires.

2.    Paul was Onesimus’ spiritual father.

3.    Paul almost certainly discipled Onesimus while he was in prison.

11 who formerly was useless to you, but now is useful both to you and to me.

2 Tim 2:14 Remind them of these things, and solemnly charge them in the presence of God not to wrangle about words, which is useless and leads to the ruin of the hearers. 15 Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.

2 Tim 2:20 Now in a large house there are not only gold and silver vessels, but also vessels of wood and of earthenware, and some to honor and some to dishonor. 21 Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work.

2 Timothy 4:11? Only Luke is with me. Pick up Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for service.

1 Samuel 2:12? Now the sons of Eli were worthless men; they did not know the LORD

Titus 1:16? hey profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient and worthless for any good deed.

1.    God transforms the useless into useful.

2.    We must not be controlled by the past.

3.    We need one another.

4.    Serving one another is an important purpose for the believer.

12 I have sent him back to you in person, that is, sending my very heart,

1 Samuel 18:1?[ Jonathan and David ] Now it came about when he had finished speaking to Saul, that the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as himself.

Philippians 2:3 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; 4 do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.

1 Thessalonians 2:8?Having so fond an affection for you, we were well-pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become very dear to us.

1.    A mere note wasn’t sufficient to restore the relationship.

2.    A personal meeting was the best way to make everything right.

3.    Paul had an incredibly close relationship with Onesimus.

4.    Though Onesimus was clearly willing, his return to Philemon was Paul’s initiative.

13 whom I wished to keep with me, so that on your behalf he might minister to me in my imprisonment for the gospel;

Philippians 1:7

7 For it is only right for me to feel this way about you all, because I have you in my heart, since both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers of grace with me.

Phil 2:22 But you know of his proven worth, that he served with me in the furtherance of the gospel like a child serving his father.

Hebrews 10:34?For you showed sympathy to the prisoners and accepted joyfully the seizure of your property, knowing that you have for yourselves a better possession and a lasting one.

Hebrews 13:3?Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them, and those who are ill-treated, since you yourselves also are in the body.

1.    From a purely personal standpoint, Paul didn’t want Onesimus to go.

2.    Onesimus’ ministered to Paul’s life in a sense as an extension of Philemon’s ministry.

3.    Christians’ ministry to others is for the sake of the gospel.

14 but without your consent I did not want to do anything, so that your goodness would not be, in effect, by compulsion but of your own free will.

2 Corinthians 9:7

7 Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

1 Peter 5:2

2 shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness;

Dan 1:8 But Daniel made up his mind that he would not defile himself with the king’s choice food or with the wine which he drank; so he sought permission from the commander of the officials that he might not defile himself.

1.    Paul sought Philemon’s consent.

2.    Paul wasn’t presumptuous.

3.    There’s no blessing in doing something because we’re forced to do it.

4.    Did Philemon have a free will?

15 For perhaps he was for this reason separated from you for a while, that you would have him back forever,

Genesis 45:5

5 Now do not be grieved or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life.

Genesis 50:20? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.

2 Corinthians 4:17? For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison,

Romans 8:18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.

Romans 8:28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.

1.    God often brings about change in people’s lives over time.

2.    That wasn’t why Philemon had thought he’d been separated from him.

3.    We sometimes see the “big picture” in what God is doing only “after the fact” if at all.

4.    Short term sacrifice is necessary to produce long term benefits.

16 no longer as a slave, but more than a slave, a beloved brother, especially to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.

Beloved – Agapetos: esteemed, dear, favorite, worthy of love

John 15:15?No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you.

Brother – Adelphos: a fellow believer, united to another by the bond of affection

John 8:32 ?and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”

John 8:36? So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.

Romans 6:17? But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed,

Romans 6:20? For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness.

1.    Slavery to Philemon was Onesimus’ starting point.

2.    He was elevated from the position of a slave to become a brother.

3.    Slavery to sin is our starting point.

4.    How was Onesimus a brother in the flesh and in the Lord?

Outline or paraphrase

I.    Paul’s Approach     8-9

II.   Paul’s Appeal         10-14

II.   Paul’s Appraisal     15-16


Relationships, Transformation

Key Verse

9 yet for love’s sake I rather appeal to you—since I am such a person as Paul, the aged, and now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus—

Central Teaching

Love is the most important motivation in Christian relationships.


Focus less on performance and more on speaking edifying words to the kids.

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