The people gradually begin to head for home, but Onesimus lingers behind. He has this feeling that he must talk to this man, that the rest of his life hangs in the balance. He doesn’t even know the man’s name, but as soon as everyone has gone, Onesimus boldly walks up to the door and knocks. Another man opens the door and looks at Onesimus inquisitively. “Yes? What can we do for you?” Onesimus falters for just a moment, not expecting anyone else to be there, but squares his shoulders and takes a deep breath, saying, “I need to speak with the man who talked about Jesus today. I don’t know his name, but his words made me believe…” He trails off, feeling like he’s speaking nonsense, but the other man smiles and gestures for Onesimus to enter. “Please, come in. Paul will be delighted to talk with you, young man.” Relieved that he has not been turned away – yet, Onesimus enters Paul’s home and sits in the chair that the other man directs him to. Paul comes over and sits next to him. “Tell me about yourself, my son.” Onesimus hesitates, not wanting to reveal his crimes against his master and mistress, but that same feeling comes over him again, and somehow he knows he is safe. He launches into a story about his life with Philemon and Apphia, finishing by telling Paul about stealing from them and running away to Rome, then coming upon the gathering here accidentally. “My son, that was no accident! It was the leading of the Holy Spirit. It is that same Spirit who made you feel that you must come and talk to me, and that you would be safe in telling me what you have done.” Onesimus smiles and asks, “Will you teach me? There is so much I want – need – to know!” Paul agrees to teach Onesimus about Jesus and what it means to follow Him. For the next several weeks, Onesimus stays with Paul in his home and soaks in the knowledge that Paul willingly pours out to him. In return, Onesimus serves Paul, attending to his every need in a way that he never had for Philemon and Apphia.
Philemon, Matthew Henry Commentary