Deuteronomy 23:15 If a slave has taken refuge with you, do not hand them over to their master.

Paul knows this.

Philemon 1:8 although in Christ I could be bold and order you to do what you ought to do, 9yet I prefer to appeal to you on the basis of love. It is as none other than Paul—an old man and now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus— 10that I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, who became my son while I was in chains. 11Formerly he was useless to you, but now he has become useful both to you and to me. 12I am sending him—who is my very heart—back to you. 13 I would have liked to keep him with me so that he could take your place in helping me while I am in chains for the gospel.

It seems that the decent thing for Philemon to do is to release Onesimus to Paul's charge. Since Philemon is from Colossae, Paul writes a separate letter to the Colossian church at the same time.


Philemon and his family lived in Colossae, and the Colossian church met at his house. Paul wrote his letter to the Colossians at the same time he wrote to Philemon. In that letter, Paul mentioned that Onesimus would be coming home. Paul gave both letters to Tychicus and Onesimus to carry back to Philemon (Colossians 4:9).

What was the outcome after Onesimus had returned to Philemon in Colossae?


In Col 4:9 we read -

With him I am sending Onesimus, our faithful and beloved brother, who is one of you. They will tell you about everything here.

It appears that Onesimus became a Gospel worker along with Paul many other associates. Barnes comments on this verse as follows:

Who is one of you - That is, either who is from your city, or one of your own people and nation. It is clear from this, that Onesimus was from Phrygia, and probably from the city of Colossae itself. It would seem also that he was of a higher rank than is designated by the word "slave" now. He was, indeed, a "servant" δοῦλος doulos - of Philemon, but would the apostle have addressed the Colossians, and said that he was "one of them," if he had occupied precisely the condition which is now denoted by the word "slave"? Would a minister of the gospel now in the Northern States, who should send a letter by a run-away slave to a community of masters at the South, say of him that he was "one of them?" Would it be kindly received, or produce a good impression, if he did? There is reason, therefore, to think that Onesimus was not a slave in the proper sense, but that he might have been a respectable youth, who had bound himself to service for a term of years; compare Plm 1:18.

The Pulpit commentary also observes (on Col 4:9):

Verse 9. - With Onesimus, the faithful and beloved brother, who is (one) of you (ver. 7; Philemon 1:10, 16; Colossians 1:2; 1 Peter 5:12). "In Christ there is no slave" (Colossians 3:11). Onesimus, like Epaphras and Tychicus, is a brother, to be trusted and loved (comp. Philemon 1:10-17). This language strongly supports the appeal of ver. 1, and would further the purpose of the apostle's intercession to Onesimus' master. And Onesimus even shares with the honoured Tychicus in the privilege of being the apostle's messenger! All things that are happening here they will make known to you (ver. 7; Ephesians 6:21). There is, therefore, no need for any detailed account of the writer's circumstances. The solicitude which he assumes that these stranger Colossians (Colossians 1:8; Colossians 2:1) feel on his behalf shows how commanding his ascendancy over the Gentile Churches had become.

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