Among the letters Paul wrote while imprisoned in Rome (see Acts 28:16,30) were two that went to the town of Colossae in Asia Minor. One was for the church in Colossae, the other for Philemon, the Christian in whose house the Colossian church met (Philem 2). In both letters Paul mentions that Epaphras, Mark, Luke, Aristarchus and Demas are with him in his imprisonment (Col 1:7-8; 4:10,12,14; Philem 23-24). In both letters he sends a message to Archippus, who was engaged in God’s work in Colossae (Col 4:17; Philem 2).
In particular, Paul talks about Onesimus, a slave who had worked in the house of Philemon (Col 4:9; Philem 10). Onesimus had fled from his master and, in search of a new life of freedom, had found his way to Rome. There he met Paul, repented of his wrongdoing and became a Christian. He knew that, being a Christian, he should return to his master to correct the wrong he had done. Paul knew Philemon well, and was in fact the person through whom Philemon had first believed the gospel (Philem 19). Paul therefore wrote to Philemon, and though his letter was only a brief personal note, it has been preserved as part of the sacred writings. Contents of the letter Paul greets Philemon with a note of thanks that Philemon’s faith has been such an encouragement to the Colossian church (1-7). He then asks Philemon to forgive Onesimus (8-14) and to welcome him back as a brother in Christ, as if he were welcoming Paul himself (15-20). He closes with a few personal notes and greetings from his friends (21-25).