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by Larry Miles

Onesimus Needed Someone to Intercede on His Behalf

Roman law allowed for a freeman to intercede on behalf of a slave. While a fugitive in Rome, Onesimus met Paul and was converted by him.

Phile. 10:  I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten while in my chains).

It is possible that Paul had also converted Philemon

Phile.19:1: 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.

Since Paul knew Philemon, he could intercede on Onesimus’ behalf. Having seen the change wrought in Onesimus, Paul was willing to do so. (One had to be a Roman Citizen to do this). Did Paul “flaunt” his Roman citizenship?


Acts 16:37 – 38:  But Paul said to them, “They have beaten us openly, uncondemned Romans, and have thrown us into prison. And now do they put us out secretly? No indeed! Let them come themselves and get us out.” 38 And the officers told these words to the magistrates, and they were afraid when they heard that they were Romans.  Acts 22:25-29: And as they bound him with thongs, Paul said to the centurion who stood by, “Is it lawful for you to scourge a man who is a Roman, and uncondemned?”26 When the centurion heard that, he went and told the commander, saying, “Take care what you do, for this man is a Roman.” 27 Then the commander came and said to him, “Tell me, are you a Roman?” He said, “Yes.”28 The commander answered, “With a large sum I obtained this citizenship.” And Paul said, “But I was born a citizen.”  29 Then immediately those who were about to examine him withdrew from him; and the commander was also afraid after he found out that he was a Roman, and because he had bound him.

Application for Us

Like Onesimus, we needed someone to intercede on our behalf.

1 John 2:1: My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.) and  (I Tim. 2:5 For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus,).

We needed someone who knows our Master and is in good standing with Him. Mt. 17:5 While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them; and suddenly a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!”.

We needed someone sympathetic to our plight.

Heb. 4:15  For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.


       Larry Miles is Co-Editor of Word & Work and attends Cherry St. Church of Christ in New Albany, IN.

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The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

John 10:10