“together with Onesimus, the faithful and beloved brother, who is one of you. They will make known to you everything that is going on here.”
This Onesimus is also a brother with a godly character in Colosse who has the same vision as Paul and the Apostles. The Onesimus who is identified as a converted slave to Philemon who ran away and found himself with the Apostle Paul, could well be this person, but we do not really know. Whoever he was, he was a reliable servant of the gospel of Jesus Christ and has been given this trusted job to do in the church at Colosse.
This is not a one way street of help or encouragement, but is the sharing of the churches of God with each other. Paul is eager to know the news from Colosse but Tychicus and Onesimus will also relate to them the news from Paul. The closeness of the relationships in the New Testament churches is very touching and the levels of trust, are as is fitting in Christ.
Paul entrusts his work to these two brothers and they are faithful to their dearly beloved brother Paul, who is in chains.
John Calvin maintains that it was not the runaway slave that is spoken about here, who he labels with a bad character, even thought a converted brother! John Gill identifies the name Onesimus, with the slave of Philemon and tradition holds that he became a trusted and loyal servant of the early church.
Personally, I prefer the view of John Gill, since he ascribes change and personal holiness to the converted runaway slave and gives space for the grace of God in his life. What a great testimony that God will lift up those who are sinful and change them and make them what they are not, trustworthy and loyal. It is the same for us. We are all moral failures and under the wrath of a holy God, until we repent from our sinful mind and deeds and put our trust in the Saviour Christ. All those who have done mighty things for God are those who are clear about their natural status before God and always conscious of what they have been saved from. God will use the humility of the repentant sinner to do His work and the result will be great glory for His name.
There are some who will label people according to the multitude of their sins and the magnitude of their failures and exclude them for service and usefulness. This is a great pity and indicates the presence of some judgmental self-righteousness that is willing to keep people down and reminded them that they are failures and always to feel the effect of that. God does not operate in this way, but freely forgives and wipes out the remembrance of all sin from the record of the penitent sinner.
Paul himself was always conscious of his gross sins and therefore able to forgive the sinful failures, which is all of us! and include them in the work of the Lord. Paul calls Onesimus the faithful and beloved brother, and so he was – forgiven and lifted up to usefulness and a blessing to the church of Jesus Christ.