A Christian slave owner associated with the congregation at Colossae. His house in this city of southwestern Asia Minor served as a meeting place for the congregation there. Philemon proved himself to be a source of refreshment to fellow Christians and an example in faith and love. The apostle Paul regarded him as a beloved fellow worker. (Phm 1, 2, 5-7; compare Col 4:9 with Phm 10-12.) Paul’s desire to lodge with Philemon reflects favorably on this man’s hospitality.—Phm 22; compare Ac 16:14, 15.
Apphia and Archippus seem to have been members of Philemon’s household, as they are also addressed in Paul’s personal letter to Philemon. Apphia was perhaps Philemon’s wife, and Archippus may have been his son.—Phm 2.
It appears that Philemon became a Christian through Paul’s efforts. (Phm 19) However, since Paul had done no preaching in Colossae itself (Col 2:1), Philemon may have become acquainted with Christianity as a result of the apostle’s two-year activity in Ephesus, when “all those inhabiting the district of Asia [which embraced Colossae] heard the word of the Lord.”—Ac 19:10.
Sometime before receiving Paul’s letter, Philemon had been deserted by his slave Onesimus. This runaway slave possibly even stole funds from his master to finance the voyage to Rome, where he later met Paul and became a Christian.—Phm 10, 11, 18, 19; see SLAVE.