This letter is written to Philemon a leader in the Colossian church. It is a prison letter, co-authored by Paul the Apostle with Timothy. Paul I am sure wrote more personal letters but this is the only one that has survived. From most accounts Paul would have been between fifty-five and sixty years old. We see in this letter the power of Christian fellowship and the reaching out to the Christian community in absolute confidence. Let’s start by looking at verses 1-7. You might read into these first few verses the fact that while Paul referred to himself as an apostle, here in writing to Philemon he identifies himself as “Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ” and we know from the scripture that he is not alone, Timothy is there with him. Paul puts aside any claim to authority and states his appeal with sympathy and love. We read that good deeds can increase our knowledge of good things and bring us closer to Christ. We can also believe that joy and encouragement are the fruits of such behavior for ourselves and those around us. Paul is not seeking a favor for himself, Paul rarely sought favors for himself, this time he sought to help Onesimus find his way back. It is certain that Christian generosity was a characteristic of Philemon. He loved God and he loved Gods people. In his home they could rest and be refreshed. Philemon apparently was known among the Christian community as a generous and kind man.
In these next verses 8-17 Paul humbly summits his request. Again, he appeals not to office or authority but to the bond of Christian love between himself and Philemon. He now speaks of Onesimus for the first time. Paul makes no excuses for Onesimus, admitting there may be some problems with him. He who had at one time been useless is now useful. Onesimus was at least a runaway slave who while in prison with Paul through Christ became useful again. Barclay says that Paul presented himself to Philemon not as an apostle or as we said earlier one of authority, but as a man “who has lived hard and is now lonely and tired.” Knowing Christ does make a bad person good. Many things come to light here. Onesimus’ time with Paul had opened his eyes and heart to Christ. Even though his mind was now on heavenly things, he was once again useful on this earth. Paul is asking a lot of Philemon for it is certain Onesimus must have stolen some money or goods from him to get to Rome. It is the power of forgiveness through Christ that enables those of the Christian faith and family to forgive.
It is a very short letter that Paul wrote so long ago but carries to this day a powerful message. Paul through his dealing with this situation reveals a list of things we as Christians should recognize and practice.
-power of Christian fellowship and the reaching out to the Christian community
-good deeds can increase our knowledge of good things and bring us closer to Christ.
-sympathy and love
-We can also believe that joy and encouragement are the fruits of such behavior for ourselves and those around us.
-bond of Christian love
-Knowing Christ does make a bad person good.
-Even though our mind is on heavenly things, we can be useful on this earth.
-It is the power of forgiveness through Christ that enables those of the Christian faith and family to forgive.
How powerful is Christ in us when we summit to his will. Thanks for being here in the pew this week, hope you come back. jk