The brief and practical book of Philemon has long been a favorite of Christians. This commentary expounds Philemon in light of its theological purpose and its setting in the Greco-Roman world. It probes the specific circumstances under which Paul wrote the letter; how Philemon fit in with Paul’s missionary travels; and who Philemon and Onesimus were within the Christian community.
The apostle Paul addresses a crisis: Onesimus has robbed and fled from Philemon, whose house was the place of worship for a Christian church in Colossae. Paul’s letter has both a private and a public cast. He speaks to the relationships within a congregation through all the problems and sorrows—yet also adventures and joys—that attend faithful pastoral ministry. Christ himself serves as the pattern for how Christians relate to one another in forgiving and reconciling love.
Unique features of this commentary include its depth; its detailed consideration of ancient Greek and Latin literature that sheds light on Philemon; and its theology, which emphasizes Jesus Christ, God’s Word and Sacraments, and the doctrine of vocation, whereby each Christian is called to serve God faithfully in his or her particular role in life.