Let's continue on in our study of the book of Philemon.
Paul Pleads for Reconciliation (Philemon 17-22)
"If then you count me as a partner, receive him as you would me. But if he has wronged you or owes anything, put that on my account. I, Paul, am writing with my own hand. I will repay--not to mention to you that you owe me even your own self besides. Yes, brother, let me have joy from you in the Lord; refresh my heart in the Lord. Having confidence in your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I say. But, meanwhile, also prepare a guest room for me, for I trust that through your prayers I shall be granted to you."
Once Onesimus repented and was baptized into the kingdom, God made him a fellow worker (or partner) with Paul and all other Christians, including Philemon! Of course, simply because Onesimus had become Philemon's partner spiritually does not mean Philemon had accepted Onesimus as a fellow spiritual worker yet. This is really where the theme of reconciliation is the strongest. Onesimus was doing all that he could to make himself right before God and before Philemon. He had repented and was immersed into Christ. God forgave him of his sin, and thus he was reconciled to God. He had also repented of his sins against Philemon and wanted Philemon to forgive him also. Why? So that they could be reconciled! So that they could be partners together just like all Christians are with one another! Onesimus has done his part, now Paul entreats Philemon to forgive him.
"If he has wronged you or owes anything" - Paul knows Philemon has been wronged. The idea here is that if those wrongs need to be repaid, then Paul is willing to cover it. Paul then goes on to give a gentle but pointed reminder that Philemon in fact owed himself to Paul. This evidently refers to the fact that Paul had converted Philemon previously. We should observe from this that we are all, in a special way, indebted to those who taught us the truth and led us to Christ. I am eternally indebted to several special people who helped teach me the truth as a young man, particularly my mother and several others.
Paul again pleads with him to do what is right. This is how Paul would receive joy: to see Philemon and Onesimus reconciled. The way for this to happen was for Philemon to receive Onesimus and forgive him. We, too, should be joyful when a brother or sister is restored or when two Christians are reconciled to each other. But notice that this joy is in the Lord; that is, it's only according to His will. There cannot be joy over a reconciliation if that reconciliation is based upon compromising the truth. We need to remember that always!
Paul is very confident in Philemon and that he will not only do the right thing, but that he will do even more than what Paul expects. Likely this refers to the fact that Philemon would ideally set Onesimus free. It is good to have and to express confidence in others and it is good to be deserving of the confidence of others.
Paul asks Philemon to prepare lodging for him for he hopes to visit soon. Is this a subtle way of encouraging Philemon to do the right thing since Paul would be there in person at some point to follow up on this? Perhaps. He asks for the prayers of Philemon. Truly, there is much power in prayer. If Paul needed the prayers of others, how much more do we need the prayers of others? James 5:16 is still true - "The effective fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much."
We will conclude this study in our next lesson.