What is the shortest of Paul’s epistles?
The introduction to the book of Philemon from the NET Art Edition Bible says: “The briefest of Pauls’ letters (only 334 words in the Greek text) is a model of courtesy, discretion, and loving concern for the forgiveness of one who would otherwise face a death sentence.
The forgiveness that the believer finds in Christ is beautifully portrayed by analogy in Philemon. Although Onesimus is guilty of a great offense (see v 11,18), Paul is moved to intercede on his behalf (see vv. 10-17). Paul lays aside his rights (see v. 8) and becomes Onesimus’s substitute by assuming his debt ( see vv. 18-19). By Philemon’s gracious act, Onesimus will be restored and placed in a new relationship (see vv. 15-16). In this analogy, we are as Onesimus. Paul’s advocacy before Philemon is parallel to Christ’s work of mediation before the Father. Onesimus was condemned by law but saved by grace.