Philemon 11-15
Philemon 11 (KJB)
Which in time past was to thee unprofitable, but now profitable to thee and to me:
Unprofitable - Useless
Profitable - Useful
This verse gives insight as to why it is important in naming a person properly upon birth. Paul here is describing that Onesimus went from being useless or unprofitable to Philemon, and maybe this was already the situation causing him to run away but Paul now states that because Onesimus had become saved, that his attitude has changed and now he has become profitable. The name “Onesimus” means “profitable or useful.” So now through salvation, Onesimus is now fulfilling the meaning of his name. True salvation always changes the attitude. No longer does one look through the eyes of earthly futility but now through the eyes of a spiritual person who realizes that now all things are done to the Glory of God. (Col 3:17 KJV) And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him. Now even the most menial tasks take on new meaning.
Philemon 12 (KJB)
Whom I have sent again: thou therefore receive him, that is, mine own bowels:
Receive - Welcome or accept
Paul knew that Onesimus had an obligation to return to Philemon and even more now since he has become saved. One of the aspects of Christianity is to right a wrong that has been done, whether intentional or not. The word for “receive” in the Greek is in the Imperative Mood making it a command. So Paul is actually combining a command while he beseeches Philemon to accept Onesimus back. Paul uses the phrase “mine own bowels” meaning that he has a tremendous emotional connection with Onesimus. In ancient times, it was believed that the seat of emotions was in the liver or kidneys, representing the deep affection one person had for another. It would not surprise me that when Philemon read these words that he too would remember what an emotional attachment he would have had with the Apostle Paul. As Paul had a great attachment to Philemon, he prayed that Philemon would have a great attachment to Onesimus as a brother in the faith.
Philemon 13 (KJB)
Whom I would have retained with me, that in thy stead he might have ministered unto me in the bonds of the gospel:
Retained - Held back or restrained
As an apostle, Paul had every right to desire that Onesimus would stay behind and minister with him and to him. Onesimus was on the par with Philemon as a spiritual Christian and Paul had seen him as profitable and could have used his help from prison. Paul even stated that Onesimus could have taken the place of Philemon in ministering to Paul. Since Onesimus had become a very profitable Christian, it was hard for Paul to send him back but he knew that it was the right thing to do.
Philemon 14 (KJB)
But without thy mind would I do nothing; that thy benefit should not be as it were of necessity, but willingly.
Paul did not want to assume anything in reference to Onesimus. He did not want to assume that Philemon would have the same mindset as he did concerning the situation with Onesimus. Paul sent this letter to Philemon informing him that he did not want to presume upon their friendship. Paul would probably love to have Onesimus minister with him but it would have to be by the willing permission of Philemon. Paul also did not want Philemon to feel obligated to let Onesimus come back to him, since he knew that Onesimus would have duties to fulfill at his home.
Philemon 15 (KJB)
For perhaps he therefore departed for a season, that thou shouldest receive him for ever;
(Prov 16:9 KJV) A man's heart deviseth his way: but the LORD directeth his steps. Here Paul gives us insight into the workings of God and man. Onesimus had escaped from the daily rigors of being a slave in the house of Philemon, but he probably never expected to become saved. God was surely guiding his steps as he left an unsaved man, and then during his escape, he becomes a saved man, never expecting that he would go back to his old master. Paul speaks about Onesimus leaving for a season, in the ultimate plan of God, but now he returns as a brother in the Lord where he will dwell with Philemon for eternity. This is what Paul meant by receiving him for ever. No matter what our social position is on earth, be it slave or master, if we have become saved, we are all equal at the foot of the cross. Onesimus left Philemon as a slave and returned to him a profitable brother. Sometimes we as Christians always think it is better somewhere else. This book teaches us that sometimes we have it better right where we are but all we need is a change of perspective. We need to ask the Lord to change us right where we are and if there is any moving to do, He will do it.