Having confidence in your obedience, I write to you, since I know that you will do even more than what I say.Philemon 1:21(NASB)
This little communication from Paul, is a personal plea from the apostle to a wealthy, Gentile, slave-owner, who lived in the city of Colossae. He was writing to Philemon, from his first prison incarceration in Rome.. in connection with a bond-servant called Onesimus, who had recently trusted Christ for his salvation.
Before his conversion, this slave had run away from his Christian master - Philemon, and the epistle which was carried to Colossae by a fellow-labourer in the gospel, called Tychicus, was a simple plea from the heart of Paul to Philemon, courteously requesting that this disobedient, runaway slave, be reinstated to his former position and treated kindly by his master.
Paul's love for Philemon and his high regard for his fellow-believer is reflected in his warm, introductory remarks to him, where he praises God for Philemon's love, faith, and integrity. And the apostle reminded his friend that he often made mention of him in his prayers.
Paul made his heart-felt, yet forceful request, to this brother in Christ, extremely courteously. He asked if this runaway slave might be restored to his former position. He referred to Onesimus fondly as 'a son in the faith,' and called him 'a servant and beloved brother.' Onesimus had evidently become very special to Paul, and despite being Philemon's runaway slave, Paul asked that on his return, Onesimus would be treated kindly by Philemon. Paul asked him to receive him with the love and respect that brothers-in-Christ should always have for another.
It is obvious from the tone of his letter, that Paul did not expect his request to be refused, but he also wanted to ensure Philemon was obedient to the high principles and godly practices that are expected of all who are saved by grace through faith in Christ, and are walking in spirit and truth... and so we read, "Having confidence in your obedience, I write to you, since I know that you will do even more than what I say."
One of the identifying characteristics of the early Church was the deep love that each Christian had for their fellow believers. Both the gospels and the epistles give multiple examples of the call to love one another, as Christ loved us, and to think more highly of our brothers and sisters in Christ, that we do of ourselves - no matter what their station in life.
Philemon's positive response to Paul's request would give the apostle much joy in the Lord. It would refresh his heart to see faith in action being carried out in this brother in Christ. Paul had great confidence that Philemon would not only respond to his request with grace and favour, but would do even more than he had asked.
This brief, but compassionate epistle, is a living example of the attitude and behaviour that one brother in Christ should foster towards another - as clearly laid out in Scripture. Despite being his shortest letter, this epistle from Paul highlights the attitude that every one of us should have towards our brothers and sisters in Christ, even when they have wronged us, hurt us, or in any way abused us.
Just as Paul expected Philemon to be Christlike in his behaviour towards his errant servant, and to do over and above all that had been asked of him.. so it should be the desire of each of us to apply all the godly principles and practices that are so clearly laid out in the Bible, and seek to do them spontaneously and with abundant grace and favour.
May we demonstrate to others the same love and faith that Paul identified in the letter to Philemon, and obediently, willingly - and for the sake of Christ Who died for us so that we might live - carry out all the principles and practices of Christian love. May we willingly and cheerfully do over and above all that we are called upon to do as instructed in the Word of God, and may we do it with a joyful heart, so that Christ may be glorified in all we do.
Heavenly Father, thank You for the beautiful illustration of practical, Christian love for one another, that is written in the book of Philemon. I pray that I may incorporate the same practical love and living faith towards God and my fellow Christians, that was found in Philemon. May my life become a living example of gracious love that reflects the deep love of Christ for me. This I ask in Jesus' name, AMEN.