Sunday, May 14, 2017

Paul's Epistles – Philemon - Part 2: Paul’s Plea for Onesimus

Paul's Epistles – Philemon - Part 2:
Paul’s Plea for Onesimus
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 Plea for Onesimus”

Philemon 1:8-25
Therefore, although in Christ I could be bold and order you to do what you ought to do, yet I prefer to appeal to you on the basis of love. It is as none other than Paul—an old man and now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus— 10 that I appeal to you for my son Onesimus,[b] who became my son while I was in chains. 11 Formerly he was useless to you, but now he has become useful both to you and to me.
12 I am sending him—who is my very heart—back to you. 13 I would have liked to keep him with me so that he could take your place in helping me while I am in chains for the gospel. 14 But I did not want to do anything without your consent, so that any favor you do would not seem forced but would be voluntary. 15 Perhaps the reason he was separated from you for a little while was that you might have him back forever— 16 no longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother. He is very dear to me but even dearer to you, both as a fellow man and as a brother in the Lord.
17 So if you consider me a partner, welcome him as you would welcome me. 18 If he has done you any wrong or owes you anything, charge it to me. 19 I, Paul, am writing this with my own hand. I will pay it back—not to mention that you owe me your very self. 20 I do wish, brother, that I may have some benefit from you in the Lord; refresh my heart in Christ.21 Confident of your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I ask.
22 And one thing more: Prepare a guest room for me, because I hope to be restored to you in answer to your prayers.
23 Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends you greetings.24 And so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas and Luke, my fellow workers.
25 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

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

a. Paul greeted Philemon in this letter and his family
                                                                 i. A reminder that Paul was friends with Philemon

                                                              ii. And knew his family intimately, not just casual acquaintances

                                                           iii. If Paul was to plead to Philemon’s heart, he had to show that he knew his heart

b. Paul tells Philemon of how he prays for God’s blessing for him
                                                                 i. Paul wanted to let Philemon know that he prayed for him often

                                                              ii. He was not just trying to butter Philemon up, but actually cared for him and his family

                                                           iii. Praying for God’s blessings on someone takes time, and thought, and genuine concern

                                                            iv. Paul wanted Philemon to know he actually cared for him

c. Paul then makes mention of Philemon’s keeping of the Faith and Loving as all followers of Christ should
                                                                 i. Paul mentions that Philemon was influential in the Christian community

                                                              ii. We learn from this epistle that church services were actually held in Philemon’s home

                                                           iii. Being a man of power, money, resources, and leading Christian events, his influence could have positive or negative effects on the followers in his area

                                                            iv. We, as followers, must always be mindful of our actions and behaviors, because we are all a living testament to our faith and love, and the things we say and do reflect Christ and His Kingdom.

1. We do not care what others think when we want to live for Christ
a. i.e. don’t let what others think effect you obeying the Word of God

2. We DO care what others think when we are living for Christ

a. i.e. if we claim to be followers, then we care what kind of life we are living

                                                               v. I hate seeing people post on Facebook showing they are a walking contradiction.
1. One post has a beautiful scripture

2. The next post filled with swear words

3. James 3:11Does a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter?”

                                                            vi. Or some will continuously post scripture, and talk about God and His blessings, but live a life full of sinful choices, even lifestyles which are in direct opposition to what the Word of God teaches.

1. Proverbs 4:14 “Do not set foot on the path of the wicked or walk in the way of evildoers.”

                                                         vii. All they are doing is causing confusion, and we know from scripture that God is NOT the author of confusion.

                                                      viii. They are not being the light of the world, they are living a contradiction, as waves tossed to and fro, not leading others to Christ, but causing others to question, “What is the difference?”

1. Romans 12:2Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

                                                            ix. If you still live as the world…you have not yet submitted to the Lord

                                                               x. If your thinking has not been transformed, you are not submitting to the Lord

                                                            xi. If you live as the world…You are NOT able to know what God’s Will is

a. “Although I could be bold and order you”
                                                                 i. Paul being a founder, Elder, and Apostle of the Christian faith had the authority to order other followers.

1. Which he had done on occasion when instructing churches to get in line with the teachings of Christ in some other epistles

                                                              ii. However, Paul, like Christ, wants people to do the right thing “because they know it’s the right thing”, not because they are forced.
1. This exercise of free will is what makes a great follower

2. Our obedience to Christ is because we know the right thing to do, and we do it.

3. This is “how” we show our love to Christ.

4. John 14:15 Jesus says; "If you love me, keep my commands.”

b. “Onesimus became my son while I was in chains”
                                                                 i. Paul led Onesimus to Christ while in a Roman prison

                                                              ii. Paul knew firsthand that Onesimus was a true convert

                                                           iii. Paul considered him a son because Onesimus was a new convert and needed guidance, Paul taught him as a loving father teaches his child.

c. “Formerly he was useless, but now he is useful to you and me”
                                                                 i. Onesimus actually translates “useful”

                                                              ii. This allegorically speaks of our condition before and after coming to the Lord

                                                           iii. We are of no use to the Kingdom until we are “true” converts.
1. We can sing praises in church
2. Even be in the choir
3. We can pray, hold healing services, preach on TV
4. We can evangelize, do mission work, travel the world for Christ
5. We can do all things in Christ’s name…
6. But if are not true converts, He does NOT know us.

                                                            iv. Matthew 7:21-23 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’”

1. ONLY those who do the Will of my Father
a. How do we know the Will of the Father?

2. Romans 12:2Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

a. By NOT conforming to the pattern of this world
b. By allowing the Holy Spirit to transform your mind
c. THEN you can know God’s Will
d. THEN you can DO God’s Will
e. THEN you can enter the Kingdom of Heaven

a. “I would like to keep him”
                                                                 i. Paul, showing Onesimus’ usefulness by stating he would like to keep him

                                                              ii. But Paul doesn’t want to make it look like Philemon had no choice in forgiving and releasing Onesimus, so Paul would send him back

                                                           iii. “Knowing” Philemon would make the right decision

b. “So if you consider me your partner”
                                                                 i. Basically meaning, look, we are on the same page, we both know what is right here, so let us both do the right thing, I’ll send him back, you can forgive him and consider him a brother now.

c. Whatever he may owe, I will pay it
                                                                 i. Paul carefully words his letter

                                                              ii. Vs 18, 19If he has done you any wrong or owes you anything, charge it to me. 19 I, Paul, am writing this with my own hand. I will pay it back—not to mention that you owe me your very self”

1. Meaning, if you forgive him, but not his debt, charge it to me, I’ll pay it.

a. Oh, and by the way, remember you owe me, and I never collected.

2. Some scholars believe that Philemon’s livelihood as well as his influence was due to the working of Paul in Philemon’s life and ministry.

CONCLUSION – Forgive, especially to brothers and sisters in christ

There are two clear lessons in the epistle of Philemon.

1)     Anyone who has done wrong, and confessed to the Lord, repented and asked God for forgiveness, becoming a follower of Christ, and then confessing their wrongs to others, repenting and asking forgiveness, MUST be forgiven if we truly are followers of Christ, keeping the Faith and living in Love as we should.

2)     We must be sure that the lives we live truly reflect the Kingdom, and that we have truly submitted to our Lord and savior, else all we say and do in this life will be meaningless on the Day of Judgment when we stand before the Lord.

Confess your sins, repent (turn away from, stop doing them), ask the Lord for forgiveness, submit to Him.

Then Jesus said to his disciples, "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” Matthew 16:24

Stop living like the world, allow the Holy Spirit to change your mind (or thinking), THEN you will know the Will of God, and obey it, and then you will be worthy of the Kingdom of Heaven!

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

Want to hear the audio to this sermon?    CLICK HERE!

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