Sunday, May 7, 2017

Paul's Epistles – Philemon - Part 1: Introduction

Paul's Epistles – Philemon - Part 1:
Pastor Bruce A. Shields

Philemon, unlike some of Paul’s other epistles, was not written to a church, rather a friend.

Although the shortest of Paul’s letters, Philemon is one of the most coveted by readers.

A slave of Philemon (who was an important member of the church at Colosse), Onesimus by name, had escaped, and made his way to Rome with the aid of money stolen from his master.

There he was brought under the influence of Paul, was converted, and endeared himself to the Apostle by his grateful and devoted service.

However, he was still Philemon’s lawful slave, and Paul could not think of retaining him permanently in his service, as he could not use the servant, and benefit by his labors without his master’s knowledge.

In other words, this servant was in debt of service to Philemon, and also stole from him which that debt would also have to be returned in labor.

Paul could not hire Onesimus because he as still in debt to Philemon.

In modern days, this would be known as poaching, when you take the employees for your company from another.

Paul wanted to save the runaway slave from the severe and cruel punishment he earned by leaving a debt and stealing, which was against Roman law. He also wanted to make peace with Philemon without humiliating Onesimus.

This epistle will address the situation, and in doing so, Paul will give us the message of the practice of Christian forgiveness being enforced and illustrated.

“Paul’s Introduction to Philemon”

Philemon 1:1-7
Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother,
To Philemon our dear friend and fellow worker—also to Apphia our sister and Archippus our fellow soldier—and to the church that meets in your home:
Grace and peace to you[a] from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers, because I hear about your love for all his holy people and your faith in the Lord Jesus. I pray that your partnership with us in the faith may be effective in deepening your understanding of every good thing we share for the sake of Christ. Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the Lord’s people.

The overall message of this epistle to the church is;
The practice of Christian forgiveness being enforced and illustrated

a. Paul’s imprisonment
                                                                 i. This letter was written to Philemon around 64 A.D.

                                                              ii. Paul was in prison in Rome at this time

                                                           iii. Although in a Roman prison, Paul introduces himself as a prisoner of Christ, not Nero

                                                            iv.  Paul also mentions Timothy, the young Apostle who was with Paul at this time in Rome.

1. Was Timothy in prison literally with Paul at this time?

2. We know from scripture Timothy was in prison more than once, and released before Paul, Timothy is mentioned being “with” Paul, so probably.

3. Why do not know “why” Timothy was in prison, but it more than likely had something to do with teaching the gospel.

b. Philemon was a brother believer in Christ
                                                                 i. Paul writes “Unto Philemon our dearly beloved, and fellow laborer

1. This tells us two things about Philemon, he was dearly loved by other believers, a man of some standing and wealth, as well as a believer. He was actually a convert of Paul’s.

c. Paul knew him and his family intimately
                                                                 i. Being a convert of Paul’s, he had opportunity to know Philemon and his family.

                                                              ii. We see in verse 2 he is also greeting Apphia, Philemon’s wife, and Archippus, Philemon and Aphhia’s son.

                                                           iii. Paul greets them with, “Grace to you, and Peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

1. Implying all these Blessings proceed from God the Father, with the Lord Jesus Christ being the means, which refers to the Cross.

a. Paul prayed for his friend Philemon
                                                                 i. Paul states he mentions Philemon in his prayers, and thanks God for him.

                                                              ii. Paul also mentions that he has heard of Philemon’s Love and Faith toward the Lord Jesus, and toward all Saints.

1. All who are saved followers of Christ are Saints

2. Philemon was living as a follower, keeping the Faith and showing Love as all followers should

3. Christ really was at the center of Philemon’s life

b. Paul encourages Philemon and reminds him of his influence
                                                                 i. Paul prayed that Philemon’s Love and Faith would be effective
1. In other words, Paul prayed that Philemon’s faith and love would bring forth Spiritual Fruit, with Grace extended to others
                                                              ii. Paul reminds Philemon that acknowledging every good thing in us is from Christ Jesus

                                                           iii. Christ is the source of all that is good in us

c. Other believer’s looked up to Philemon
                                                                 i. “We have great joy and consolation in your love”
1. Paul got strength from hearing encouraging repots of those like Philemon

2. I too, am encouraged, and find spiritual strength when I hear those I have ministered to in the past and present are living in Faith and Love for the Lord.

3. In the same way, myself as I am sure Paul as well, are discouraged when we receive reports of those we have ministered to in the past living out of the Will of God.

                                                              ii. Paul states in this introduction that because of Philemon’s faith and love for Christ, the way he is living, and acknowledging Jesus, “bowels” of the Saints are refreshed by him.
1. Bowels in scriptures mean your hearts.

2. Saints are all who are saved followers of Christ

3. Philemon was an encouragement to the Saints in the area of Colosse

a. Paul’s strategy
                                                                 i. Paul feels the slave Onesimus must not encounter his outraged master alone, so he will secure a mediator named Tychicus, who was on his way there

                                                              ii. Paul wrote this personal letter to Philemon for Onesimus to take with him, a letter which is a model of tact and courtesy

                                                           iii. Then, Paul planned to make it more difficult for Philemon not to pardon and restore Onesimus for escaping and stealing from him by commending him to the whole church (Colossians 4:9)

b. Division of the text and keywords
                                                                 i. For the seminary students here today, this letter is broken into 4 division
1. Greeting (VS 1-3)

2. Splendid Character of Philemon commended (VS 4-7)

3. Intercession for Onesimus (VS 8-21)

4. Salutation and Conclusion (VS 22-25)

                                                              ii. The key-word for this book is “Receive.”
1. You will note in verses 12, 15, 17, Paul strikes a louder note and a higher key each time he repeats it.

c. The value of the epistle
                                                                 i. This epistle is a revelation of Paul’s Character
1. Something which can only be learned from these personal letters rather than epistles which address the church as a whole.

                                                              ii. This letter is also an example or Paul’s tact and wisdom
1. This letter is a masterful model of graceful, tactful and delicate pleading.
a. Paul reaches for Philemon’s tenderness
b. He acknowledges Philemon’s excellencies
c. He waits to mention Onesimus
d. He refuses to command with the authority of an Apostle, although he had that authority
e. He was modest
f. He openly acknowledged the wrong Onesimus had done
g. He vouched of the change in Onesimus
h. He maintained respectful speech to Philemon
i. And carefully chose his words

                                                           iii. This is also a great illustration of the Gospel Method of Social Reform
1. This book proves once and for all that the Gospel of Christ does not approve of slavery, but through intelligent, gentle persuasion, freedom could be won.

                                                            iv. This book is also an analogy of our redemption.

1. The sinner is God’s property.
2. He has not only run away from his Master, but robbed Him.
3. The law affords him the right of asylum
4. But Grace concedes him the right of appeal
5. He flees for refuge in Jesus, whom God counts as Partner
6. In Him he is made new
7. As a son, he finds both an intercessor and a Father
8. He returns to God, and is received, not as a slave, but as Christ Himself, and all the debt is put to Christ’s account

CONCLUSION – Colossians instructions

This is a clear illustration, and a book all should read, and share. It is never too late to appeal to the one whom you are running, come to Christ, confess, repent, accept Jesus as your Lord and allow Him to be your mediator to God.

Want to learn more about Salvation and Getting Saved?    CLICK HERE!

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