Philemon; The Gospel


I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Philemon is only one chapter but says a lot!

Paul, a prisoner of Jesus Christ, and Timothy [our] brother, unto Philemon our dearly beloved, and fellowlabourer, Philemon 1:1

Paul calls himself a prisoner of Jesus Christ. Man had no power over him. He knew if he was in a prison it was to serve the purpose of Jesus Christ, otherwise Jesus would not allow him to be there.

And to [our] beloved Apphia, and Archippus our fellowsoldier, and to the church in thy house:  Philemon 1:2

Paul and the Scriptures commend house churches!

I beseech thee for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my bonds:  Philemon 1:10

Among those who gave their hearts to God through the labors of Paul in Rome was Onesimus, a pagan slave who had wronged his master, Philemon, a Christian believer in Colosse, and had escaped to Rome. In the kindness of his heart, Paul sought to relieve the poverty and distress of the wretched fugitive and then endeavored to shed the light of truth into his darkened mind. Onesimus listened to the words of life, confessed his sins, and was converted to the faith of Christ. 

Onesimus endeared himself to Paul by his piety and sincerity, no less than by his tender care for the apostle’s comfort, and his zeal in promoting the work of the gospel. Paul saw in him traits of character that would render him a useful helper in missionary labor, and he counseled him to return without delay to Philemon, beg his forgiveness, and plan for the future. The apostle promised to hold himself responsible for the sum of which Philemon had been robbed. Being about to dispatch Tychicus with letters to various churches in Asia Minor, he sent Onesimus with him. It was a severe test for this servant thus to deliver himself up to the master he had wronged; but he had been truly converted, and he did not turn aside from his duty.  {Acts of the Apostles 456} 

 Which in time past was to thee unprofitable, but now profitable to thee and to me: Whom I have sent again: thou therefore receive him, that is, mine own bowels: Whom I would have retained with me, that in thy stead he might have ministered unto me in the bonds of the gospel:  But without thy mind would I do nothing; that thy benefit should not be as it were of necessity, but willingly.  For perhaps he therefore departed for a season, that thou shouldest receive him for ever; Not now as a servant, but above a servant, a brother beloved, specially to me, but how much more unto thee, both in the flesh, and in the Lord? If thou count me therefore a partner, receive him as myself. If he hath wronged thee, or oweth [thee] ought, put that on mine account; I Paul have written [it] with mine own hand, I will repay [it]: albeit I do not say to thee how thou owest unto me even thine own self besides.  Philemon 1:11-19

The apostle well knew the severity which masters exercised toward their slaves, and he knew also that Philemon was greatly incensed because of the conduct of his servant. He tried to write to him in a way that would arouse his deepest and tenderest feelings as a Christian. The conversion of Onesimus had made him a brother in the faith, and any punishment inflicted on this new convert would be regarded by Paul as inflicted on himself. Paul voluntarily proposed to assume the debt of Onesimus in order that the guilty one might be spared the disgrace of punishment, and might again enjoy the privileges he had forfeited. “If thou count me therefore a partner,” he wrote to Philemon, “receive him as myself. If he hath wronged thee, or oweth thee aught, put that on mine account; I Paul have written it with mine own hand, I will repay it.” 

     How fitting an illustration of the love of Christ for the repentant sinner! The servant who had defrauded his master had nothing with which to make restitution. The sinner who has robbed God of years of service has no means of canceling the debt. Jesus interposes between the sinner and God, saying, I will pay the debt. Let the sinner be spared; I will suffer in his stead. 

     After offering to assume the debt of Onesimus, Paul reminded Philemon how greatly he himself was indebted to the apostle. He owed him his own self, since God had made Paul the instrument of his conversion. Then, in a tender, earnest appeal, he besought Philemon that as he had by his liberalities refreshed the saints, so he would refresh the spirit of the apostle by granting him this cause of rejoicing. {Acts of the Apsotles, 457-458}

Yea, brother, let me have joy of thee in the Lord: refresh my bowels in the Lord. Having confidence in thy obedience I wrote unto thee, knowing that thou wilt also do more than I say. But withal prepare me also a lodging: for I trust that through your prayers I shall be given unto you.There salute thee Epaphras, my fellowprisoner in Christ Jesus; Marcus, Aristarchus, Demas, Lucas, my fellowlabourers. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ [be] with your spirit. Amen.  Philemon 1:20-25

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