08 Feb 2014 Service – Phil Pringle
“Forget about what’s happened;
don’t keep going over old history.
Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand-new.
It’s bursting out! Don’t you see it?
There it is! I’m making a road through the desert,
rivers in the badlands.
Isa 43:18-19 MSG
Philemon – Paul’s Plea to a Friend, on Behalf of a Slave
Slavery was a normal part of their culture at that time. Many had slaves, and runaway slaves often faced extreme punishments.
This letter is primarily addressed to ‘Philemon, our beloved and fellow worker’, in whose house a portion of the Colossian church met for worship.
Paul’s central purpose is to restore to Philemon a runaway slave of Philemon’s who had absconded with his master’s goods. His name was Onesimus, and he had somehow met up with Paul in Rome where he was in hiding.
1 Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, To Philemon our beloved friend and fellow laborer, 2 to the beloved Apphia, Archippus our fellow soldier, and to the church in your house: 3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Apphia was probably the wife of Philemon, and Archippus was probably his son. This address to family members is unique among the letters of Paul, but it makes sense considering the content of the letter to Philemon. In this letter Paul will appeal to Philemon regarding a runaway slave who has met Jesus and found refuge with Paul. In the customs of that day, Philemon’s wife Apphia was the supervisor of the slaves in the household, so the letter concerned her also.
To the church in your house: This means that the church – or a portion of the church – in Colosse met in the house of Philemon.
4 I thank my God, making mention of you always in my prayers, 5 hearing of your love and faith which you have toward the Lord Jesus and toward all the saints
While writing the letter, Paul didn’t rush to the subject he needed to talk about. He thanks God for Philemon and his friends first!
Paul, after complementing Philemon for the big inspiration and source of encouragement that he was to the church members in Colossae, now asked Philemon to have this same loving spirit and a attitude of forgiveness toward Onesimus, the runaway slave.
3 Things For A Brand New Start :
#1 Face Your Fears
12 I am sending him back.You therefore receive him, that is, my own heart
Onesimus had done something wrong in that he escaped from his master. It was time to set that right, so Paul was willing to send him back. Yet Paul obviously wanted Philemon to deal gently with Onesimus. Under Roman law the slave owner had complete and total control over his slave. It wasn’t unusual for slaves to be crucified for lesser offenses than escaping.
Forgive and be forgiven. There is an area in every one of us that needs addressing. That’s how God constantly comes and changes our lives!
Paul is writing to Philemon to receive him back, but not only to him, but to his wife, his son, the entire church. Paul wanted them to receive the runaway slaves back, people who are rejected. That there should be no judgment, that they are accepting of everyone.
Let room be made for people to have their journey. Unforgiveness creates a spiritual hole in you, where you allow Satan to get into you.
You need hard skin and soft heart, not soft skin and hard heart. That’s what forgiveness is! You only bind yourself when you don’t forgive, not the other person. Anything that stays in the dark has power over you. Once you bring it into the light it loses its power.
14 But without your consent I wanted to do nothing, that your good deed might not be by compulsion, as it were, but voluntary.
Paul made his appeal and made it strong and skillfully. At the same time, he really did leave the decision to Philemon. He would appeal in love, but he would not trample over the rights of Philemon. If Paul demanded it, then Philemon’s good deed would come by compulsion, and not be voluntary. This would make the whole affair unpleasant and rob Philemon of any reward he otherwise might have had.
15 For perhaps he departed for a while for this purpose, that you might receive him forever..
In some ways the escape of Onesimus was nothing but trouble. It deprived Philemon of a worker and an asset. It made Onesimus a criminal, possibly subject to the death penalty. Yet in it all, Paul could see a purpose of God and he wanted Philemon to see the purpose also.
Paul’s heart is like this: “Philemon, it seems to me that God is working in unusual ways here. Let me tell you what I see, and perhaps it will make sense to you.”
That you may receive him forever: This was one aspect of the purpose Paul saw God working in the escape of Onesimus. Philemon the master lost a slave; but Philemon the Christian gained a brother, and he gained that brother forever.
16 no longer as a slave but more than a slave—a beloved brother, especially to me but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord. 17 If then you count me as a partner, receive him as you would me.
This breaking of the distinction between master and slave was an absolutely revolutionary development. It did far more to change society than the passing of a law prohibiting slavery.
You might think something is bad but actually it might be really good. Because there, in that situation, in that trial, you meet Jesus Christ. There you get sent back to a fresh start, that you might receive him back. Perhaps for this runaway slave, God made it happen so that he could have a brand new start and beginning for his life.
18 But if he has wronged you or owes anything, put that on my account. 19 I, Paul, am writing with my own hand. I will repay—not to mention to you that you owe me even your own self besides.
Here we see how Paul lays himself out for poor Onesimus, and with all his means pleads his cause with his master, and so sets himself as if he were Onesimus, and had himself done wrong to Philemon. Even as Christ did for us with God the Father, thus also does Paul for Onesimus with Philemon.
Paul teaches in Ephesians 4:28 that a Christian is not only to provide for their own needs but also for the needs of others: “let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need.”
Paul assures him he will pay any debts, but with a caveat. Subtly mentioning that Philemon owes him his life. Most think that the “debt” that Philemon owed Paul was due to Paul converting Philemon at an earlier time when Paul was working with the church in Ephesus (Acts 19).
Every Christian owes a debt of gratitude to those who were involved in bringing us to Christ. These may include our parents, other relatives, friends, etc. If we appreciate spiritual blessings as we ought, that debt of gratitude we will repay—somehow—perhaps by teaching someone else the gospel.
20 Yes, brother, let me have joy from you in the Lord; refresh my heart in the Lord. 21 Having confidence in your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I say.
Paul had full confidence that Philemon will do that Paul has asked him, and even more! He trusted and elevated him.
We should impude in the person! Believe that they are bigger than they think they are!
#2 Become Effective
Usefulness creates opportunities!
10 I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten while in my chains, 11 who once was unprofitable to you, but now is profitable to you and to me.
Interestingly, the word Onesimus means “profitable” and Paul makes a play on the meaning of Onesimus’ name.
The conversion of Onesimus had made him profitable and live up to the meaning of his name, instead of being unprofitable. Conversion does that. A converted person becomes better person for their self, for their family and for society than an unconverted person.
One of the most defining characteristics of a person who had received Jesus christ into his life. We are profitable when we become a useful person!
7 things that will make you a useful person:
- Skillful at what you do.
- Be willing. Eager happy enthusiastic.
- Be reliable. Be on time.
- Excel. Do better than expected.
- Prepare well and complete the job.
- Be wise and appropriate, discreet, prudent.
- Be healthy, fit and strong.
#3 Fresh Encounters With Jesus Christ
A fresh start usually comes with a fresh encounter with Jesus!!
6 that the sharing of your faith may become effective by the acknowledgment of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus.
All throughout the Bible, we can see that!
7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. 2 Tim 1:7
26 But Jesus looked at them and said to them, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Mtt 19:26
14 Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place. 2 Cor 2:14
14 If you ask anything in My name, I will do it. Jn 14:14
7 “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. Mtt 7:7
7 If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. Jn 15:7
28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. Rom 8:28
5 Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Heb 13:5
4 You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. 1 Jn4:4
No weapon formed against you shall prosper,
And every tongue which rises against you in judgment
You shall condemn.
This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord,
And their righteousness is from Me,”
Says the Lord.
“Do not fear, for you will not be ashamed;
Neither be disgraced, for you will not be put to shame;
For you will forget the shame of your youth,
And will not remember the reproach of your widowhood anymore.
6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; Phil 4:6
Delight yourself also in the Lord,
And He shall give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the Lord,
Trust also in Him,
And He shall bring it to pass.