Tag Archives: first-century Christianity

Salutation: Philemon, Part Three

featurePhilemon 1-3

Luther said, “We are all God’s Onesimus.” It is true that, in this incident, we have a striking picture of our lost condition by nature and practice and of the activities of divine grace on our behalf. This letter sets forth, most beautifully, the great truths of forgiveness on the ground of the expiatory work of Another and of acceptance in the Beloved. Harry Ironside makes a strong case for this truth in a short gospel article entitled “Charge That to My Account.” We are presented with an excellent example of what God could do within both a householder and a slave in bringing them to Christ and causing the love of the Spirit to be manifested richly through them.

What a story the name of the writer calls to mind—Paul! It is he who presents the picture of that which we have just spoken. Allow all that you know of this man to roll through your mind. It was William Ramsay who speaks of the “Charm of Paul,” and indeed, when we think of Paul, we cannot help but be reminded of him as preacher, pastor, and man of prayer. He is self-described as the “chief of sinners” (1 Tim. 1:15), yet he was one who met Christ and had his life radically changed with sins forgiven and redemption received. God chose this man to pen a large share of the New Testament Scriptures. Paul wrote to numerous churches and individuals, giving us a wonderful view into the very depths of his own heart. When he might have “pulled rank” on Philemon as “Paul the Apostle,” he, instead, appealed to his friend and brother in Christ on the basis of “Paul, a prisoner of Jesus Christ” (v. 1), preferring to entreat him (vv. 8-9) as a “prisoner” than as an “apostle.” Paul’s tact and appeal are consummate. — John Duty

Feature Bible Study Guide

Bond Brothers new coverExcerpt from Chapter One

Athens

The streets were crowded with an array of travelers and Athenians. Philemon put a protective hand on Archippus’ shoulder, and Onesimus flanked the boy’s other side, much to Philemon’s delight. Hagglers called to them as they picked their way through the filthy narrow spots, and Philemon was glad when the alley gave way to a wider street.

By the time they reached the Agora, it seemed as though every person in Athens was looking for something to eat! Philemon pulled several small loaves of bread from his sack along with a cluster of figs and handed them to his companions. The snack would hold them until their business was over and they were on the ship once more.

Philemon had decided on a small piglet for his sacrifice. It was not the biggest or most costly animal, but it was not the smallest either. The animal squealed as the young boy, presumably the merchant’s son, cornered it, picked it up by its hind feet, and handed it to Onesimus, who took the tiny creature and cradled it in his arms. Soon the squeals ended, and the tiny pig actually fell asleep bringing a smile to everyone’s faces.

Philemon watched his son’s face knowing exactly what he was thinking before he asked.

“Father, must we sacrifice it?”

Philemon only nodded.

“But why do the gods require a blood sacrifice?”

His father put an arm around his shoulders. “Our gods do not require it son, but the sacrifice lets them know that we are serious about our request.”

“Do some gods require blood?”

Philemon was ready to change the subject, but he knew he needed to answer the question. “Yes, Archippus, the Jewish God requires a blood sacrifice.”

“Is that why Simeon is a butcher?”

Philemon chuckled. “Well, I suppose that is part of the reason,” he replied, thinking of their neighbor and friend. The thought stopped him for a moment. He had never really given much thought to any god. Even this gesture of worship was for his wife, not him. At times he wondered if the gods even existed.

Another thought came to Archippus, and he looked at his father with alarm.  “Is mother ill? Is that what the sacrifice is for?” He had seen her outside one morning, relieving herself of everything in her stomach. She had brushed him off, but the memory came back in vivid detail as his mind whirled in all the wrong places.

Philemon turned and stopped their procession. He placed both hands on his son’s shoulders and looked him squarely in the eye. The boy had sprung up this past summer and was nearly as tall as his father. “No, Archippus, she is not in any danger. But you will have to ask her any more of your questions.” He knew the stern look would end all other inquiries.

As they drew near to the Areopagos, Philemon could see that a crowd was gathered. Someone was being pushed to the front. He was a short man, certainly not a Greek. Perhaps a Roman? No, his garments were more like that of the Jews. Philemon’s curiosity drew him into the crowd and the others followed.

“Tell us of this new doctrine of which you speak,” one of the elders of the city was saying. At the mention of doctrine, Philemon turned to go, but as the man began to speak, he felt drawn back. He turned and watched, now focused on the man’s eyes. There was something different about him, but Philemon could not understand what it was.

“Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religious.” The man stopped and looked over the crowd as though seeing into the heart of every man. “For as I was passing through and considering the objects of your worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Therefore, the One whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you: God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything since He gives to all life, breath, and all things.”

The speaker was warming to his subject, and every person present stood silent, watching him as he gestured to the sky, urging them to pay heed. He hesitated for a moment, as though he knew that his next statement would not be well received. “And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us.”

Unknowingly, Philemon leaned forward, as though fearing that he might miss a word. The man’s voice dropped in volume, drawing even more attention from each listener. “For in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’” The statement struck a knowing cord among the crowd. Many were nodding their approval. This man is an incredible orator, Philemon thought. I have never heard such things! A yearning to know and understand gnawed at Philemon’s heart.

“Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising. Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.”

Somewhere further into the circle of people that were gathered to listen, a man laughed loudly. “You speak of the one they call Jesus, the Jews’ so-called Messiah,” the man mocked. He grunted and turned to walk away.

Archippus was turning to follow those who were leaving when he saw his father’s face. Philemon’s eyes were riveted to the speaker. It was as though their eyes were locked, sending messages that only those two could understand.

Dionysius watched the exchange, which was taking place between Paul and the man who had watched him so intently. He saw there the hungering that he himself felt in his soul. As the man turned to walk away, he felt an urging to meet him. Pressing through the crowd, he came beside him, not sure what to say; but as he considered his words, the man turned to face him.

“I could not help but watch you as our speaker shared his beliefs. They are quite unusual, would you not agree?”

Philemon could see the sincerity in the man’s eyes. He was obviously an elder of the city. “Yes, sir. I must say his words intrigued me.”

“I am hoping to have him to my home for the afternoon meal. Would you and your group care to join me? His words intrigue me as well.”

Philemon considered the offer. To refuse would be disgraceful to the man before him and a social indecency; however, if he accepted, it would mean an added night to their journey.      It was as though a war was battling within him. The greater part of his heart willed him to move on and forget what he had just heard, but somewhere in the recesses of his mind, the words UNKNOWN GOD vibrated over and over, creating questions that he ached to have answered. “That is very kind of you, sir. We have business in the city, but will be free by midday.”

“Good. Come when you are free.” He gave Philemon his name and directions and turned to find Paul.

Archippus looked at him questioningly, but Philemon ignored the look and hurried them to their task. As he passed the collection of gods and their altars, he decided upon Athena. After all, was not she one of the most powerful goddesses? To the Unknown God… Him I proclaim to you… Paul’s words continued to echo in Philemon’s mind, but he pushed them away. I must do this for Appia and our unborn child!

The priests were all too happy to accept and offer the little pig. Onesimus handed over the tiny animal, feeling some angst at the whole ordeal. As the priest chanted his incantations, the piglet squealed as though understanding its fate. However, it soon lay silent upon the altar, its blood oozing from its slit throat.  Philemon looked on, bowed his head and without a word walked away. It was done, but somehow, the entire scenario left him cold and empty. His pace quickened as he turned toward the Stoa.

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God’s Providential Purposes: Philemon, Part Two

feature

Philemon 1

As we saw yesterday, Paul opens his letter with these words: “Paul, a prisoner” (v. 1), and he strikes that same note again three more times (vv. 9-10, 13). His tact and consummate skill in communication make it nearly impossible for Philemon to refuse his request. We are provided with evidence here that asking will often succeed where commanding will altogether fail. And note that Paul does not speak of being a prisoner of Nero or Rome, but of Jesus Christ. It is striking that Paul is a captive who is pleading for a slave. He, in speaking of his captivity to Jesus Christ, reveals his faith. His eyes are shut to all secondary causes. Paul is well aware that his imprisonment was allowed and guided in the all-wise providence of God, just as Joseph, long before this, saw as well: “Now therefore be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither: for God did send me before you to preserve life” (Gen. 45:5). In the same manner, God controlled the circumstances so that Paul was in the right place at the right time to lead Onesimus to Christ and then send him back to Philemon.

For Paul, it was as though Christ Himself had placed the manacles on his wrists and chained him to a soldier. He wore them lightly and proudly, for he understood and believed God’s purpose for this situation. He knew that the events in every believer’s life have both human and divine aspects, with both primary and secondary causes. He was “a prisoner of Jesus Christ”—he was there according to the will of God and because of his loyalty to Christ. Paul saw the divine aspect of his afflictions and rejoiced in being a vessel in the Potter’s hand on the wheel of circumstances (Jer. 18:3-4). — John Duty

 

bookcoverpreview-2Excerpt from Chapter Twelve

Rome
60 AD

 So, as much as in me is,
I am ready to preach the gospel
to you that are at Rome also.
For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ:
for it is the power of God unto salvation
to every one that believeth;
to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.
 Romans 1:15, 16

“At last we make the final leg of our journey,” Luke said as he stood next to Paul and Tychicus on the deck of the Roman vessel. Since their shipwreck at Melitta, and the healing of Publius’ father, the Roman soldiers and sailors alike looked upon Paul with awe. Many had secretly come to him seeking to know more about his God, and some had even ventured to place their trust in Jesus, the Son of the unseen God. It was a courageous step, and Luke was not surprised that many kept their conversions to themselves.

         When there was no reply from his companions, he looked at Paul and wondered at the great man’s expression. Tychicus watched from the other side of the apostle. It was not a look of fear nor dread, but perhaps burden. Luke placed a hand on his arm, stirring Paul from his reverie.

         Paul smiled weakly and breathed in the briny air. “Yes, before us lies Rome.” A dark line could be seen in the distance, barely visible to the naked eye. He sighed, “I wonder what our Lord has in store for us there. Rome is a dark place, but it also holds many brethren.”

         “So I have heard. How good it will be to break bread once again,” Luke said. The statement brought a softened look to Paul’s face. “Yes, and may our Lord give us the opportunity to break the bondage of many more souls!”

         Tychicus smiled and shook his head. What other response would he have expected from the apostle? “Yes, indeed.”

         As they entered the port city of Puteloi, the day was clear and merchants were busy about their business. The prisoners were herded off the ship and into a corral of sorts, where they would be kept until arrangements were made for them to travel across land. All were bound except Paul and his companions.

         As the soldiers guided them through the gate, one pulled Paul aside. “You have the freedom to walk about, as long as Tatius accompanies you.” The soldier nodded toward one of the men who had made a rather bold profession of faith.

         Paul nodded and turned toward Tatius, who was waiting just beyond a tightknit circle of sailors. As he drew near, he heard several taunting remarks toward the young man; however, Tatius ignored them and stood tall with his jaw set and a light in his eyes, which many of the sailors envied.

         The little group of believers fell into an even gait, enjoying solid ground beneath their feet. “You are a good man, Tatius. Already you have found the way to be difficult?” Paul asked.

         Tatius looked his way and smiled. “No, sir, I have found that nothing can dispel the light that shattered the darkness of my former life.”

         Paul just smiled as they continued their way through the market area. As they followed the curve of the road, Paul’s face brightened. Before them was a fish market, and on the post, for all to see, was the carving of a fish—the symbol for followers of Jesus Christ! It was as though all three men saw the symbol at the same time, and they moved in unison toward the booth. An old man appeared from within but recoiled when he saw Tatius, dressed in his Roman uniform. He looked suspiciously from face to face until his eyes rested on Paul. He studied Paul, who could not conceal the Owner of his heart, and a smile spread across the weathered fisherman’s face.

         “Welcome, my brother, welcome. I see the love of our dear Savior clearly in your eyes.” He reached out and clasped Paul’s arm warmly; however, his gaze was still wary concerning the others.

         Paul laughed. “These are also believers, my brother.” First, he turned to Luke. “This is Luke, the beloved physician who has done me great service. Tychicus is also a faithful follower.” Then looking fondly at Tatius, he continued, “And Tatius is a new believer who has also served me well.”

         The old man nodded to the other men before looking back at Paul, staring for a moment before he put his hand to his mouth in surprise. “You are Paul, the great champion for our Lord!”

         The others smiled at his reaction, but Paul merely shook his head. “I am the least of His servants, my friend.” He pointed to the fish, hoping to change the course of conversation. “You are a bold one to post this sign so openly. God will surely bless you. Are there other believers in this place? And forgive me for not asking your name.”

         The old man smiled broadly, showing several gaps where his teeth expired long before their owner. “My name is Caelius, and yes, there are several believers.” His face brightened. “Will you speak to us?”

         “It would be my joy.”

         Caelius spoke excitedly, “I will make all the arrangements. Can you be here after the evening meal?”

         Paul looked at Tatius questioningly. “I will arrange it,” the young soldier replied.

         Caelius raised his hands to the heavens. “Praise Jehovah!”

         Several folks passing by looked at him in disgust and then hurried on their way. Paul slapped his back, and they moved on. Caelius could be heard humming an old tune from the Psalms. “What a wonderful testimony he has,” Paul commented.

         “Let us hope it does not cost him his life,” Tatius countered.

         “Just the opportunity to see our blessed Savior that much sooner,” Paul replied.

*        *        *

         For seven days, Paul met with the believers at Putioli before all was arranged for their departure to Rome. Like every believer who knew of Paul’s future, the small group sorrowed to see him go to Rome. They, as well, urged him to be careful, but Paul knew that his life was not his own. He was going to Rome because his heavenly Father was sending him there.

         By the end of the week, the weary prisoners were entering the gates of Rome. Paul eyed the massive walls, admiring their strength and enormity. Rome was like no other city! As they passed through the streets, the bulwarks of the prison rose before them. Some whimpered while others openly wept at the thought of what lay ahead.

         Paul and the others were at the end of the caravan with Tatius. As the others entered the prison, the commanding officer came to stand before the small group. He was glad for this voyage to be over. It was undeniable that this man, Paul, had strange powers unlike anything he had seen before, but he had more important things to do than to muse the miracles of a Jew.

         He looked sternly at Tatius. He had heard of the soldier’s choice to follow this prisoner’s beliefs. Weak! What a shame. The young man could have had a prosperous future, he thought. “Tatius, you will be keeping this prisoner under house arrest. If he should escape or cause any disturbances before his trial, you will be held directly responsible. Is that clear?”

         “Yes, captain,” Tatius barked as he saluted his commanding officer. The captain handed him a scroll.

         “It is all explained here.” He looked at Paul, showing no emotion on his face, and then turned away, walking briskly into the prison. The doors swung closed and clattered to a halt as they were barred and latched.

         Tatius unrolled the scroll and read his instructions. His face showed his surprise. “There is a house down the street and across from the prison where we are to live together.” He wondered if the great leader would frown at the notion, but the look on Paul’s face put his heart at ease.

         “Praise Jehovah! I do not mind telling you that the thought of living in a prison again was not appealing to me.” His face beamed at the young soldier. “God is already using you, my son.”

         The four ambled down the crowded street, each silently thanking the Lord for going before them in such a remarkable way. “And it shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear,” Luke quoted.

         “Isaiah 65:24,” Paul replied as Tatius looked on questioningly.

         “Is that a quote from your holy scriptures?” he asked.

         Paul smiled, “Yes it is.” He could see the longing in the young soldier’s eyes. “That promise is for you too, Tatius. Soon we’ll have you quoting scripture like a Hebrew rabbi!”

         Luke chuckled at Tatius’ look of surprise.

         As they neared the house, Luke looked further down the street as Tatius unlocked the door. The road began to slope down as it narrowed and curved out of sight. Houses seemed to be built on top of each other, and some looked like a strong wind would topple them, as though they were built in great haste. The stench from raw sewage and trash wafted up the hill, and the ragged condition of many of the tenants made Luke wonder if sickness and disease was an accepted part of these people’s lives. Living so close with filth all around, he was certain it would not take much to have an epidemic.

         Tatius entered first, walking up the rickety steps that led to the second floor. The smell of bread baking from the bakery below made their stomachs rumble. “Well, we will not need to go far for our food,” Tatius said over his shoulder as he reached the landing at the top. He opened the door and stepped into the first of two rooms: one faced the street and the other a courtyard behind the building. As they all walked into the back room, they were pleased to find a porch, which extended the length of the room and allowed them to look down into the courtyard. The sun was nearly set, casting long shadows across the ground and buildings.

         “Jehovah be praised,” Paul whispered, drawing the attention of his companions. His face was radiant, as though he had just seen a vision. He closed his eyes and bowed to his knees. Luke, and then Tychicus and Tatius followed his example. “Thank you, Father. Truly, You have filled our lives with every benefit this day. Only You could provide this place. Only You would allow our new brother to be with us, and only You would even give me a porch which faces east. Oh, we long for Your return, Lord Jesus! Oh, to see the true Son rising in the east to deliver us! But until that day, may You find us faithful!”

         Tychicus murmured a soft ‘amen,’ and when Paul finished his prayer, he was surprised to find tears streaming down Tatius’ face. The young soldier’s eyes were still closed, and with the faith of a little child, this strong soldier added his own words of praise. “God of heaven, thank You for bringing this great man of faith into my life.” He still could not bring himself to speak Paul’s name. Quietly, he continued. “Thank You for all the miracles which You have already done, but most of all, thank You for this privilege to stay with this great one. Keep him safe, and may I be strong enough to remain faithful to You, my Lord.”

         The others also prayed, and they continued in prayer until the sun had set. Then Paul, Tychicus, and Luke led Tatius in a simple song of praise written long ago by another worshiper in another place and another time.

For there they that carried us away captive
required of us a song;
and they that wasted us required of us mirth,
 saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion.

         Their voices rang and echoed across the courtyard, and those below stood still, listening to the beautiful canticle. When they had finished, a holy hush hovered around them sending messages of peace and comfort to their souls. Though weary in body, their spirits soared to the highest heavens, and the angels seemed to echo back their praises.

A Runaway Slave

The next few posts (8) will be a combination of two sources: the Feature Bible Study Guide put out by the Fundamental Evangelistic Association and Bond Brothers, a historical Christian fiction novel I wrote three years ago.

Philemon is such a fascinating book. It gives us an insight into so many facets of first-century Christianity at a personal level. If your curiosity is piqued, check out the book AND the devotional. I’ll warn you: the Feature Bible Study Guide is not fluff! The writers do an excellent job at presenting scripture in a straight-forward, applicable manner. And Bond Brothers… well, I’m a little partial, but I think you will find it to be inspiring, informational, and entertaining–at least that is my goal. 

featurePhilemon 1-25

Tucked away in the text of the New Testament, this short epistle of Philemon has been called the finest specimen of early private Christian correspondence extant. That should not surprise us, for it was given by divine inspiration and flowed from the heart of Paul the apostle. The contents center around the circumstance of a slave who had stolen from his master (v. 18), a wealthy householder named Philemon, and had run off to Rome where, providentially, he came in contact with Paul.

Philemon was a believer who apparently was led to saving faith in Christ some years before this letter was penned, perhaps during Paul’s ministry at Ephesus (v. 19; Acts 19). He was a man active in the cause of Christ, for Paul refers to him as a “fellowlabourer” (v. 1). It is obvious from the letter that he owned at least one slave: Onesimus, the runaway. During Onesimus’ contact with Paul, he became a Christian and began to live up to the meaning of his name—“useful” or “profitable” (vv. 11, 13)—and he quickly endeared himself to the apostle (vv. 12, 16). Clearly, Paul would have been delighted to have kept Onesimus by his side in order for him to minister to Paul’s own needs. However, a more pressing matter had to be rectified: Onesimus was a runaway slave, worthy of death under Roman law if his master should so choose. He had wronged Philemon, and now, as a brother in Christ, he needed to return to Colosse and make it right. The apostle encouraged Philemon to receive him back willingly and to recognize that they were now one in Christ. Forgiveness and restoration are prominent in this beautiful letter. May our hearts be profited as we explore it more fully. — John Duty

bookcoverpreview-2Chapter Eight: Ephesus

There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked.
Isaiah 57:21

Onesimus watched as Solon [Philemon’s son] dealt with the greedy merchants, each one striving to outwit the young man but finding him to be a worthy opponent. The last of the business transactions was finished with a slap on the back, and Solon turned to walk away. Onesimus saw the relief on the young man’s face and was proud of his master’s son. It was then that he saw him—the man who had ruined his life: Leontios.

He was also making business dealings, arguing with a merchant and intimidating him. He watched as Leontios leaned forward and whispered something into the man’s ear. A look of unbelief spread over the man’s face until he pulled back to see that Leontios was not joking. Horror replaced unbelief, and he quickly finished his trading and hurried away while Leontios counted his coins, a greedy satisfaction curling the corners of his lips.

“Well, my friend,” Solon began, but stopped when he saw his servant’s face. “Onesimus, what is wrong? You look as though you just saw a ghost.”

Onesimus pulled his gaze from Leontios, but not before his former master saw him. As recognition dawned on the older man’s face, he started making his way toward the two young men, his face splayed with a wicked look, like a gladiator who knew he was about to best his opponent.

“Well, well, what do we have here?” Leontios said, his voice syrupy with condescension. His eyes were boring into Onesimus’ eyes when Solon spoke.

“Excuse me, sir?” Solon questioned, feeling the need to lead in the situation and affirm his authority.

Leontios turned his gaze upon him, his annoyance clearly visible. When he spoke, he addressed Solon as though he were a child. “I suppose you are also a runaway?”

Onesimus saw the anger roil up in Solon and feared what the young master might say, but what he heard surprised him.

With a calmness that Solon himself did not know he possessed, he answered his elder in a cool, controlled tone. “No, sir, I am Solon, son of Philemon. I do not believe we have ever met.”

At first, Leontios was taken aback by the young man’s self-control, a quality he rarely saw in young people these days—a quality he greatly admired. His look of condescension was slowly replaced with a reserved smile. “Ah yes, Philemon. Good man, although why he ever bought this one is a mystery to me.” He jutted out his chin toward Onesimus, who knew to keep quiet. After all, what were masters for, but to lead, even in conversation?

Solon showed no reaction, but simply smiled curtly as he formed a reply. No one could ever accuse his father of poor business affairs. “Well, I know not the details; however, this young man has served our whole family with great honor and ambition.”

Leontios allowed a chuckle to begin low in his throat before it burst forth into an obnoxious laugh. “Well, my friend,” he said as he placed a hand on Solon’s shoulder and squeezed more than would be deemed friendly. “Be forewarned that his ‘ambition’ may cause you great difficulties.”

The older man swung his gaze back to his former slave. A menacing grin spread across his leering face. “Have you heard from your family lately?”

Onesimus’ eyes grew steely, but he did not answer.

Leontios continued, “That young sister of yours is quite the little filly.”

Onesimus began to advance, but Solon restrained him. Leontios laughed and walked away, leaving the two young men to bore hateful holes into his back. Onesimus’ chest heaved as anger coursed through his veins. He clenched his teeth until his jaw hurt.

Solon watched his reaction, amazed at the intensity of anger he saw there. It frightened him a bit. What did he really know about this man? “How do you know him?” he asked quietly.

Onesimus never let his eyes leave Leontios until he was lost in the crowd. He took a slow deep breath, trying to still his rankled soul. “He was my former master,” he said with marked tones.

Solon wanted to ask more but was afraid of what he might hear. Hoping to rekindle their good moods, he placed a hand on Onesimus’ shoulder, squeezing it for emphasis. “Let us forget him and go celebrate our good success.”

It had been a good day. They had accomplished their tasks and worked as a team. Solon treated Onesimus more like a brother than a servant. Onesimus’ heart slowed its pace and a quick, appreciative smile touched his lips for one brief moment. He would try to forget Leontios’ comments, at least for the moment.

*        *        *

         As Onesimus listened to Solon snoring, Leontios’ words echoed over and over in his mind. Have you heard from your family lately? That young sister of yours is quite the little filly. What had he meant? He tried not to think the worst, but his mind continued to conjure up images of the young women who had been slaves of Leontios. He knew what the man did to them. He saw the fear in their eyes, saw them recoil from even the slightest touch from their master.

The moon was far into the western sky when Onesimus could stand it no longer. He looked around the room and spotted the bags of gold Solon had placed near his pillow. One lay a bit apart from the rest. Slowly, Onesimus sat up. As silent as the predawn breeze that crept softly through the window, Onesimus stole to Solon’s side and reached for the pouch of coins. Holding it securely so the coins would not rattle together, he lifted it from the floor, all the while keeping his eye on Solon. His heart raced and ached for what he was doing. His conscience battled with reason, but in the end, reason won.

With a heavy heart he slipped into the night, his conscience none the more silent even after it had lost the battle. They have treated you like family! Philemon saved you from that rascal and a life as a galley slave. Have you forgotten? “No, I have not,” he hissed, and then looked out into the vacant streets to be certain no one was lurking about. He made his way north through the back streets of the city, thankful for the early hour. He would be able to be far into the wilderness before he would be missed. With so much gold, he was tempted to pay the fare and travel by ship to Troas, but the chance of meeting Leontios or someone with a lot of questions pushed him to travel alone and on foot.

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