yet for love's sake I rather appeal to you--since I am such a person as Paul, the aged, and now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus--Philemon 1:9(NASB)
How blessed we are to have brothers and sisters in Christ, who refresh our soul and encourage our heart. Paul was a man who appreciated his Christian friends and also showed great love and affection for fellow believers. His short, personal letter to Philemon, is a beautiful example of the high value he placed on fellow-believers and his companions-in-Christ.
The first third of his letter to Philemon, outlines Paul's greetings to this beloved brother and the heart-felt regard he had for him. Paul rejoiced when he considered the love and faith Philemon had for the Lord Jesus, and made reference to the joy, comfort, love, and refreshment he readily supplied to many other saints in the Lord.
But Paul was also an apostle of Christ who was ready and willing to supply advice to those that were confused, encourage those whose faith was faltering, edify those who were growing in grace, and to warn of false teachings. He was also prepared to chasten those going astray, to tackle issues of doctrine, and to deal head-on, with moral issues that needed to be addressed.
Paul had sufficient confidence in Christ, to give a specific directive to Philemon to do what is right, in connection with his runaway slave, Onesimus, who had recently become a believer. However, instead of lecturing Philemon as an apostle of Christ and instructing him to reinstate his slave as part of his Christian duty, he appealed to him as a friend. He referred to himself as 'Paul the elder' and also 'a prisoner of Christ Jesus'. He petitioned his friend to receive the fugitive back, with love and forgiveness, and to regard him as a fellow member of the body of Christ, who was clothed in Christ's righteousness.
In an era when runaway slaves and fugitives were frequently caught and executed, Paul's pleading request must have touched the heart and conscience of all who read it, including Philemon, for it was a beautiful illustration of the exchanged status of a condemned sinner, who was once dead in trespasses and sins, but is now a redeemed man, who is born-again, declared righteous in the sight of God, and given heavenly honours beyond imagination.
Just as Onesimus was a fugitive under Philemon's justified condemnation, there was a time when we were slaves to sin and under God's righteous condemnation, but by God's grace through faith, we were forgiven of our wrongdoing and our sin is remembered no more. Similarly, Paul's appeal enabled Philemon to not only forgive his slave, but also to receive Onesimus back into his service with Christlike love, and regard him as a beloved brother in Christ.
Not only did Onesimus benefit from his conversion because he was justified in the eyes of God, and found grace in the eyes of Paul and his master, but Philemon was enabled to have his slave returned, with an assurance that both he and his slave were brothers in Christ, and as such, Onesimus would serve him as unto to Lord.
Like Philemon, we are all sinners, saved by grace, and it behoves each one of us to act towards those who do us wrong or cause us harm, with Christlike love, and demonstrate the grace of God by forgiving our adversaries when we are wronged.
Like Onesimus, we are all sinners, saved by grace, and we should be ready and prepared to face up to our wrong-doing, rather than running away from the consequences of our actions - and everything that we do should be done as unto the Lord.
Like Paul, we are all sinners, saved by grace, and we should remain humble in our dealings with others, wise in the advice we offer others, gracious with our dealings with those who have done us wrong, willing to die to our self-interest, and be ready to do everything to the honour of God and for His eternal praise and glory.
Heavenly Father, thank You for my brothers and sisters in Christ and for mutual joy and encouragement we are able to give to one another. I pray that I may foster a Christlike spirit in my dealings with others, especially those that are of the household of faith. When I have been wronged, give me the grace and wisdom to do what is right and when I have wronged others, give me the courage to face up to my fault and failings. Give me the wisdom and confidence to always stand for that which is right and whether in a position of authority or when serving others, I pray that I may honour Your name by my words and actions. Thank You for the short book of Philemon, and may I learn the many lessons it has to teach me. This I ask in Jesus' name, AMEN.
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