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Refreshing the Hearts of the Brethren and the Indebtedness of the Self.

Philemon owned the house where the Colossian church met. He had a slave named Onesimus, who had stolen some of his master’s money and ran away to Rome. While in Rome he met Paul who was being held in prison. They have probably met years before in the house of Philemon. We are not told of the circumstances of their meeting in Rome but they may have rekindled their acquaintances and developed a certain level of friendship. Onesimus was converted and Paul sent him back to Philemon bearing this rather short but delightful letter.

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In his opening statements Paul said, “For we have great joy and consolation in your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed by you, brother.” (Philemon 1:7, NKJV) Paul rejoices because of the news he received probably from Onesimus about Philemon’s strong faith in God and sincere love for God’s people. His faith and love have been a source of strength and encouragement to the church in Colossae. Paul’s prayer is that Philemon would continue to refresh the hearts of the believers and share his faith and love with others and so further build up the church.

Furthermore, in verses 17-20 Paul stated his request with emphasis on his willingness to pay the cost on Onesimus’ behalf, “If then you count me as 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.” (NKJV)

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Paul is willing to pay the cost of Onesimus’ misbehavior, on the other hand Philemon is reminded of the “indebtedness of the self” and challenged to receive Onesimus back on account of this “indebtedness.” In this manner Paul’s heart will be refreshed as well. This is actually a call to bring their friendship into higher level. This indebtedness is deeper than the debt of Onesimus. If through Paul, he was able to pay his debt then Onesimus is free but the indebtedness of the self is forever. Gratefulness is for life!

Let us endeavor to refresh the hearts of other people as part of our new normal. We are surrounded with fear and anxiety. If we can encourage one person every now and then, it will be of great help. Finally, we will be forever grateful first, to God for the life and salvation we received from him. Second, to people who have helped us in one way or the other, as long as we live!


Halley, Henry H. Halley’s Bible Handbook. ePub Format. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2000.

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