Augustine Sokolovski

Tradition calls Saints Philemon and Archippus "apostles from the 70th." According to the Gospel of Luke (Lk.10;1-2), shortly before His suffering, the Lord chose them and sent them to preach. The exact list of the names of these seventy, or seventy-two disciples, as in some ancient manuscripts, has not been preserved. For this reason, among the Apostles of this group, tradition often includes preachers, martyrs, and missionaries of the early Church, who were not directly among the disciples appointed by the hand of the Lord Jesus. Such was Saint Philemon. At the same time, he and his relatives are among the very few saints mentioned in the New Testament texts. It is to him that the Epistle of the Apostle Paul "To Philemon" is dedicated. This is the shortest of the apostolic epistles, 25 verses in total, was written around the year 63 in Rome, where Paul was in prison. It is surprising that in bonds he remembered the circumstances of Philemon's life and wrote him a letter that later became one of the texts of the Holy Scriptures.

It is known that Philemon came from the city of Colossae in the inner region of Asia Minor of Phrygia. Being a wealthy proprietor, who previously owned many slaves and estates, Philemon heard Paul's sermon in Ephesus (Acts.19:10-11), or during one of the Apostle's missionary journeys through the territory of the interior provinces of Asia Minor (Acts.19,26; 1 Cor.16,19). At the same time, he converted to Christianity and was baptized by the Apostle, as evidenced by the text of the Epistle addressed to him, where Paul writes: "I tell you that you also owe me yourself" (Phil. 1:19). It is possible that this happened during Paul's long stay in Ephesus in 54-57. According to Paul's own testimony in the Epistle, according to his conversion, Philemon was distinguished by a very strong faith and love for the Lord Jesus and all the saints (5). In the same place, Paul calls himself an "elder" (9). At the time of writing the Epistle, Paul was about sixty-five years old, Philemon about fifty. According to the testimony of the Epistle, the Apostle considered him and his house his true spiritual children, and soon intended to come to them himself (22). We do not know whether this wish of Paul was fulfilled during his lifetime.

Together with Philemon, the Church also remembers his wife Apphia and his son Archippus, as well as Onesimus, a former slave who once fled from his master, which was Philemon himself, to Rome. In the capital of the world, Onesimus heard the Apostle's sermon and converted to Christianity. This event was the main reason for Paul to write the Epistle. According to the ancient "Apostolic Constitutions", Philemon eventually became the head of the local Christian community in Colossae, and Archippus – in the neighboring city of Laodicea. In the Epistle, Paul asks Philemon to accept Onesimus as a brother, to accept him forever (15-16). These words became prophetic. According to tradition, all four, Philemon, Apphia, Archippus and Onesimus, subsequently preached Christianity in their native land and, as often happened with missionaries of that time and all subsequent times, suffered for Christ from the wrath of an angry crowd of compatriots. This is an amazing and instructive example of family biblical righteousness and apostolic holiness.