A Letter of Reconciliation
Today, we finish the last of the Prison Epistles Philemon This is a letter that Paul wrote to Philemon - wealthy believer in Colossae The letter we’re going to look at was -hard to write -even harder to read Philemon had been wronged. Onesimus (his slave) had: -runaway -possibly stolen from him Onesimus runs far away…to Rome. While there, he meets Paul, Who leads him to Christ. It wasn’t a coincidence. God had his hand in it all along. Paul tells Onesimus that he needs to: -Do the right thing -Return home This was a dangerous proposition. Under Roman law, a slave owner had right to kill a runaway slave. Onesimus feared for his life. Paul makes intercession for him. With that background, let’s examine Paul’s letter. 2) The Welcome Paul begins book of Philemon with a welcome to his friend. 3) 1 Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, To Philemon our dear friend and fellow worker— 2 also to Apphia our sister and Archippus our fellow soldier—and to the church that meets in your home: Apphia- likely Philemon’s wife Archippus- likely Philemon’s son 4)3 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 4 I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers, 5 because I hear about your love for all his holy people and your faith in the Lord Jesus. 6 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. 7 Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the Lord’s people. Philemon is a good man. He’s held in high esteem among Paul (& others). The 2nd part of letter is: 5) The Appeal To Do The Right Thing This appeal was two fold: 1. For Onesimus, is was to return. 2. For Philemon, it was to forgive. 6) 8 Therefore, although in Christ I could be bold and order you to do what you ought to do, 9 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, who became my son while I was in chains. Paul could have commanded him to let him go. Instead, he wanted him to WILLINGLY do it. 7) 11 Formerly he was useless to you, but now he has become useful both to you and to me. The name Onesimus means: USEFUL Play is using a play on words here. 8) 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. Paul appeals for Philemon to accept him as a brother, not a slave. One may ask, “Why would Paul not command slavery to be abolished?” As a Christian, Paul doesn’t have the authority to change the slavery system. Paul recognizes something. 9) Paul uses human slavery to present two GREATER messages: 1. Life’s hardships can work for our good. 2. TRUE Freedom is in Christ. Onesimus thought by running to Rome, he would be free. Then he meets Paul, who shares about real freedom. In 1 Cor 7, Paul shares a similar message: 10) 1 Cor 7:20 Each person should remain in the situation they were in when God called them.21 Were you a slave when you were called? Don’t let it trouble you—although if you can gain your freedom, do so. 22 For the one who was a slave when called to faith in the Lord is the Lord’s freed person; similarly, the one who was free when called is Christ’s slave. 23 You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of human beings. 24 Brothers and sisters, each person, as responsible to God, should remain in the situation they were in when God called them. Christians didn’t have the power to change the slavery system. However, the Gospel changes the person from the inside out. 11) “The Gospel changes social structures by changing the people within those structures.” Life Application Study Bible Paul appeals to Philemon to change his heart. That’s the central message of the Gospel. True change comes from within. You may want your spouse to come to church. Unless they want it themselves, They’re only doing it to please you. What God wants is a changed heart. In Paul’s message to Philemon, he backs his words up with actions. 12) 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. As a prisoner, Paul had limited financial resources. However, he personally offered to: -guarantee payment for anything taken -make restitution Paul was investing in Onesimus’ life That’s the example Paul leaves us. 13) Make An Eternal Investment In Someone When we invest in other people, it can be hard. It takes time, money & energy. 14) Who is it that God is calling you to invest in? It may be a kid that you help with their homework. It may be a neighbor who needs their grass cut. It may be helping someone who is homeless. It’s time & money that is invested, without expectation of reimbursement. Jesus invested everything he had in us. He expects us to do that to others. 15) Mark 9:41 Truly I tell you, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to the Messiah will certainly not lose their reward. By one kind act at a time, we will change the world. That’s how the world will see Jesus. We’ll live and replicate who he is. In it, God will be glorified. The book of Philemon concludes in a positive & hopeful way. 16) 22 And one thing more: Prepare a guest room for me, because I hope to berestored 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 book of Philemon is A Letter of Reconciliation 17) Reconciliation- to reestablish a relationship. Christ reconciles us to God (& others) Jesus changed Onesimus’ relationship with Philemon, From slave to brother. Maybe there’s someone in your life you need to reconcile with.