New International Reader's Version

Philemon

I, Paul, am writing this letter. I am a prisoner because of Christ Jesus. Our brother Timothy joins me in writing.

Philemon, we are sending you this letter. You are our dear friend. You work together with us. We are also sending it to our sister Apphia and to Archippus. He is a soldier of Christ together with us. And we are sending it to the church that meets in your home.

May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace.

Paul Prays and Gives Thanks

I always thank my God when I remember you in my prayers. That’s because I hear about your love for all God’s people. I also hear about your faith in the Lord Jesus. I pray that what we share by believing will help you understand even more. Then you will completely understand every good thing we share by believing in Christ. Your love has given me great joy. It has encouraged me. My brother, you have renewed the hearts of the Lord’s people.

Paul Makes an Appeal for Onesimus

Because of the authority Christ has given me, I could be bold. I could order you to do what you should do anyway. But we love each other. And I would rather appeal to you on the basis of that love. I, Paul, am an old man. I am now also a prisoner because of Christ Jesus. 10 I am an old man, and I’m in prison. This is how I make my appeal to you for my son Onesimus. He became a son to me while I was being held in chains. 11 Before that, he was useless to you. But now he has become useful to you and to me.

12 I’m sending Onesimus back to you. All my love for him goes with him. 13 I’m being held in chains because of the good news. So I would have liked to keep Onesimus with me. And he could take your place in helping me. 14 But I didn’t want to do anything unless you agreed. Any favor you do must be done because you want to do it, not because you have to. 15 Onesimus was separated from you for a little while. Maybe that was so you could have him back forever. 16 You could have him back not as a slave. Instead, he would be better than a slave. He would be a dear brother. He is very dear to me but even more dear to you. He is dear to you not only as another human being. He is also dear to you as a brother in the Lord.

17 Do you think of me as a believer who works together with you? Then welcome Onesimus as you would welcome me. 18 Has he done anything wrong to you? Does he owe you anything? Then charge it to me. 19 I’ll pay it back. I, Paul, am writing this with my own hand. I won’t even mention that you owe me your life. 20 My brother, we both belong to the Lord. So I wish I could receive some benefit from you. Renew my heart. We know that Christ is the one who really renews it. 21 I’m sure you will obey. So I’m writing to you. I know you will do even more than I ask.

22 There is one more thing. Have a guest room ready for me. I hope I can return to all of you in answer to your prayers.

23 Epaphras sends you greetings. Together with me, he is a prisoner because of Christ Jesus.

24 Mark, Aristarchus, Demas and Luke work together with me. They also send you greetings.

25 May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

The Message

Philemon

1-3 I, Paul, am a prisoner for the sake of Christ, here with my brother Timothy. I write this letter to you, Philemon, my good friend and companion in this work—also to our sister Apphia, to Archippus, a real trooper, and to the church that meets in your house. God’s best to you! Christ’s blessings on you!

4-7 Every time your name comes up in my prayers, I say, “Oh, thank you, God!” I keep hearing of the love and faith you have for the Master Jesus, which brims over to other believers. And I keep praying that this faith we hold in common keeps showing up in the good things we do, and that people recognize Christ in all of it. Friend, you have no idea how good your love makes me feel, doubly so when I see your hospitality to fellow believers.

To Call the Slave Your Friend

8-9 In line with all this I have a favor to ask of you. As Christ’s ambassador and now a prisoner for him, I wouldn’t hesitate to command this if I thought it necessary, but I’d rather make it a personal request.

10-14 While here in jail, I’ve fathered a child, so to speak. And here he is, hand-carrying this letter—Onesimus! He was useless to you before; now he’s useful to both of us. I’m sending him back to you, but it feels like I’m cutting off my right arm in doing so. I wanted in the worst way to keep him here as your stand-in to help out while I’m in jail for the Message. But I didn’t want to do anything behind your back, make you do a good deed that you hadn’t willingly agreed to.

15-16 Maybe it’s all for the best that you lost him for a while. You’re getting him back now for good—and no mere slave this time, but a true Christian brother! That’s what he was to me—he’ll be even more than that to you.

17-20 So if you still consider me a comrade-in-arms, welcome him back as you would me. If he damaged anything or owes you anything, chalk it up to my account. This is my personal signature—Paul—and I stand behind it. (I don’t need to remind you, do I, that you owe your very life to me?) Do me this big favor, friend. You’ll be doing it for Christ, but it will also do my heart good.

21-22 I know you well enough to know you will. You’ll probably go far beyond what I’ve written. And by the way, get a room ready for me. Because of your prayers, I fully expect to be your guest again.

23-25 Epaphras, my cellmate in the cause of Christ, says hello. Also my coworkers Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke. All the best to you from the Master, Jesus Christ!