Philemon 1:17

ESV So if you consider me your partner, receive him as you would receive me.
NIV So if you consider me a partner, welcome him as you would welcome me.
NASB If then you regard me as a partner, accept him as you would me.
CSB So if you consider me a partner, welcome him as you would me.
NLT So if you consider me your partner, welcome him as you would welcome me.
KJV If thou count me therefore a partner, receive him as myself.

What does Philemon 1:17 mean?

In verse 17, Paul amplifies his request for Onesimus to be freed. He does this by offering himself in exchange for the runaway slave's debts. He first appeals to his own friendship with Philemon, referring to him as a "partner." Paul had also called Philemon his "beloved brother and fellow worker" in verse 2. He offers a conditional statement in this verse ("if then you regard me…") but assumed Philemon would accept this condition as true.

Paul's request is that Philemon receive Onesimus as if he were Paul himself. This phrase again supports the view that Paul is asking for Onesimus' freedom, not just his forgiveness (Philemon 1:16). How else could Philemon accept Onesimus as he would accept Paul? The request is much more than merely accepting the return of a runaway slave. Paul intended for Onesimus to be granted a new status.

Though the New Testament writers did not explicitly urge the complete abolishment of slavery, they certainly supported freedom whenever possible (1 Corinthians 7:21) and commanded masters to treat servants well. Later generations of Christians would work to improve the rights of bondservants in society and eventually work to end slavery. Paul appeared to oppose slavery, yet did not make it his main work. He was called as a bond-servant of Christ Jesus and an apostle (Romans 1:1). History shows that Christian principles, correctly applied, corrode the practice of slavery.
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