Nick commented on another blog that he thought Philemon was a throw away letter – that he did not see the point of it being in the NT. This is a shame.
Keeping it simple, if I were to sum up the gospel as I see it in the Letter to Philemon it would be that just as Paul was an advocate to Philemon on behalf of Onisemus to grant him freedom – so to Jesus Christ is an advocate before the Father on our behalf to grant us freedom from sin and death.
Note that Paul asked that if Onisemus had done any wrong to Philemon to charge it to his account – this is the case with Christ on our behalf – our sin was charged to his account!
Also, I think a very significant lesson we can learn from Philemon is one about character – do you have to be told what to do or can a person know that on the basis of your character ask you a favor and know it will be done? So I think a key issue Philemon addresses is that of character – do we have to be told what to do or can we do it willingly on the basis of our character? Or, also, will we be willing to do even more than they ask us?
This is short but just a few thoughts on Philemon.