Onesimus was Philemon’s slave. He was probably influenced and convinced to become a Christian by his master, Philemon. But, after taking advantage of his master’s good faith, which is a character trait of those who are convinced, he stole and then fled. Knowing that sooner or later he would be arrested and sentenced to death, he sought refuge with the apostle Paul in Rome.
While in prison, Paul taught him that the life span granted to us in this world is short and worst of all would be spending eternity in the Lake of fire and brimstone. And even though he was in in prison, he was still a free man. He was free to think about and determine his eternal future. The Lord Jesus is the only One who is able to simultaneously guarantee freedom and eternity.
After leading him to a true conversion, Paul sent him back to Philemon with a recommendation letter.
Note his words to Philemon: “...I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten while in my chains”, which show slave, robber Onesimus’ true conversion into a free man, and above all, he was identified as Paul’s son by faith. This is exactly what we expect to happen with those who, for whatever reason, fled from the Lord’s presence and are lost somewhere out there, threatened with a death sentence by hell.
Because, like Paul, we believe that they have departed for a while, so that we may receive them forever, not as slaves of sin but as beloved brothers. For perhaps he departed for a while for this purpose, that you might receive him forever, no longer as a slave but more than a slave—a beloved brother, especially to me but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord. Philemon 1.10 and 1.15-16
If you are reading this and find yourself in the position of being a fugitive Onesimus, lost in this world, know that the UCKG is always ready to give you a new chance.
Be free of your sad past in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.