Paul’s request in this personal letter to Philemon builds on a deep friendship which perhaps had existed for years between the two of them. While Paul at times dictated his letters to other writers (e.g. Romans 16:22 “I, Tertius, who wrote down this letter, greet you in the Lord”), he often took the pen himself and in his own handwriting penned the Greek text.
“I, Paul, am writing this with my own hand. I will pay it back–not to mention that you owe me your very self.” Had Philemon received personal notes before from Paul? Paul’s assurance is clear. Paul’s ‘account’ with Philemon is in good standing. If there are any charges, incurred by Onesimus from his wrongdoing, they will be fully paid by Paul.
What a beautiful illustration of how Jesus Christ pays our debt as sinners. “If he has done you any wrong or owes you anything….” (v.18) Surely no one could claim that in a lifetime of living no wrong has been done, no debt to God or others incurred. No, our own consciences testify that we are wrongdoers, that we are debtors. We have an outstanding account as sinners but find great comfort that there is One who is our propitiation, One who satisfies God’s wrath and as we trust Him as our Saviour and Lord, the Spirit of God convinces us that “the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:6)
Well may we sing,
“HE paid a debt HE did not owe,
I owed a debt I could not pay,
I needed SOMEONE to wash my sins away!
And now I sing a brand new song,
AMAZING GRACE, the whole day long
CHRIST JESUS paid a debt that I could never pay!