The Book of Philemon: Lesson #1 The Character of Paul

The Book of Philemon : Lesson #1

The Character of Paul

In this study we are going to look at the entire book of Philemon. Instead of looking at the book in a verse by verse method, we will use several lessons dealing with the characters found in the book to get a good understanding of what the book of Philemon is about.

Before we begin dealing with Paul’s character as found in this book, we will give a brief overview and explanation of the book. Paul is writing to Philemon who has a church in his house at Colosse. Onesimus, who was a servant of Philemon, had deserted and stolen from his master Philemon. Paul has now led him to the Lord and is requesting that Philemon accept him back. The text shows us (verse 21) that Paul believes that Philemon will accept him and possible even send him back to Paul because he is profitable to him. All this speaks to the character of Philemon which we will discuss in lesson #2. Also, we see a beautiful type of Salvation and the Doctrine of Imputation as it applies to us today. Therefore, the Book of Philemon has great spiritual application and also much practical application for us today.  

The Character of Paul:

1)  He considers himself a prisoner of the Lord Jesus Christ (verses 1, 9)

  • Paul is in prison physically, but he considers himself to be a prisoner of the Lord Jesus Christ. This says a lot about the character of Paul because no matter where Paul is he considers the Lord to be in total control of the situation and therefore he is content with whatever situation that he is in. (Philippians 4:11-13)
  • This teaches us two spiritual principles for our lives that we can live by. As a prisoner we belong to the Lord Jesus Christ and not ourselves (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). Second it shows us that as a prisoner of the Lord Jesus Christ he is in control (James 4:14-15).

2)  He prayed for the brethren (verse 4)

  • Here we see a great character trait of Paul. Even though he is in prison and needs to be concerned with praying for himself he is still concerned with praying for the brethren. If we could just get this attitude in our own lives imagine what could get accomplished for the Lord. (Philippians 2:1-8)
  • When you study the Pauline Epistles, you cannot help but notice all the times that Paul prayed for others (Ephesians 1:16 ; 3:14-20 ; Philippians 1:4 ; Colossians 1:3 etc.).

3)  He loved the brethren (verse 9)

  • Paul’s love for the brethren was undeniable as was his love for lost souls. He said in Romans that if he would wish himself accursed from Christ if it could get Israel saved. If we could get a love like that for lost souls imagine how many lives would be affected.
  • We should also have the same love for the brethren that Paul showed here in Philemon.

(1 John 2:3-11)

4)  He kept God’s word above his own wants and wishes (verses 13-14)

  • Paul really wanted to have Onesimus stay with him and help with what he was doing at the time. But Paul knew that Onesimus needed to make things right with his master

(1 Timothy 6:1-2). Therefore, Paul sent him back to Philemon.

  • We need this in our character today. No matter what we want or think or wish we should put the word of God before our wants and wishes. Notice another example with Paul found in Philippians 1:23-26. Paul says here his desire is to go ahead and go to heaven, but it is more needful for others that he stays here and ministers. That is the attitude that we need.

5)  He did not think too much of himself (verse 17)

  • Paul is an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ who has been given much revelation regarding the church age and its doctrine. But not that he considers himself a partner with Philemon. As far as Paul is concerned, he and Philemon are both ministering the gospel and doing something for the Lord Jesus Christ therefore they are the same. He said the same thing regarding Apollos in 1 Corinthians 3:5-8.
  • This is the kind of character that we need in the ministry today. Sometimes we may think that what we are doing for God makes us better than someone else. If we are doing what God told us to do then it does not matter what our title, position, or ministry is (Philippians 2:1-8).

We should ask ourselves if we see any of the character traits in us that were in Paul. If not, why don’t we start striving to build some character for ourselves? The book of Proverbs is a great place to start!

The Book of Philemon: Lesson #1 Handout

The Character of Paul

1)  Give a brief description of what each of the following characters role is in the book of Philemon.

            Paul –

            Philemon –

            Onesimus –

2)  List the 5 Character Traits of Paul found in this Lesson and give the verse for each one.






3)  What are two important spiritual lessons that we can learn from being a prisoner of the Lord Jesus Christ?

4)  Why should we pray for the brethren as Paul did?

5)  What is a good passage for us regarding loving the brethren and what is it telling us?

6)  What is important about the fact that Paul sent Onesimus back to Philemon and what lesson can we learn from this?

7)  What is a good passage for us to use for not thinking too highly of ourselves?