INTRO: Among the letters written by the apostle Paul, the little book of Philemon is the shortest ... and, in some ways, the most personal. Rarely is this book of the New Testament quoted. In fact, it really does not deal with church matters. It is, as I said, very personal. Because of the reference to Onesimus in the book of Colossians (Col 4:9), it is believed that Philemon was a very faithful member of the Lords church at Colosse. There is some conjecture which suggests that Philemon may have lived in Laodicea and that because the two cities were in close proximity to each other Christians from both cities were well known to and involved with each other. The purpose of this letter seems to involve Pauls asking a favor of Philemon ... a favor involving Onesimus, a runaway slave.
1. Some things to observe about the greeting - Philm 1:1-3
a. Paul does not refer to himself as an apostle - no appeal to that authority
b. three people are mentioned: father, mother, son? perhaps so
c. the warmth of the language - our dearly beloved
d. expressions: fellow laborer & fellow soldier - we work, we serve!
2. Pauls recollections of Philemon - Philm 1:4-7
a. first, Philemon is mentioned in always in my prayers - Pauls prayer life!
b. he recalls Philemons love & faith ... toward the Lord and all saints
aa. love and faith are words deeply imbedded in the Christian faith
bb. these are very much words of constancy ... and of action
c. the sharing of Philemons faith grew out of Christs presence in Him ... if the Lord dwells in us, it is manifested by ones giving himself to others
d. v. 7 tells us clearly the Philemon was a truly generous man
3. Paul comes to the primary point of his letter - Philm 1:8-14
a. at v. 8 he notes he could have boldly enjoined his request of Philemon
b. but his request appeals to Philemons love for him and his for Philemon - the older is asking of the younger ... the prisoner is asking of the free man
c. it is not for himself - it is for Onesimus whom he is seeking favor
aa. beseech is an entreaty - a prayer ... Pauls is a strong plea
bb. notice how he refers to Onesimus - my son ... whom I have begotten in my bonds
cc. apparently, Paul had met and taught Onesimus while Paul is a prisoner of Rome - I need this inspiration from Pauls life ... in no circumstance did he seem unable to influence and teach others
d. now, he does recognize that Onesimus was - in time past unprofitable
aa. Paul makes not excuses for Onesimus - he had been worthless
bb. now, however, he is useful to both Paul and Philemon
cc. the gospel had made the useless useful - a bad man good (Paul knew this by his own experience!)
e. but Paul is sending the slave back to his owner
aa. still, Pauls appeal is that Philemon should receive him as he would Paul himself ... in fact, Paul says that Onesimus is very much part of him
bb. he could have kept Onesimus with him - to serve and work ... and that could have been viewed as a way in which Philemon ministered unto me
cc. but Onesimus had to face up to his responsibilities!
dd. further, Paul wanted Philemon to be a willing participant in permitting Onesimus to serve the apostle - he could have used his authority - but there are times when a humble request is far more effective!
4. No longer only a slave ... but a brother - Philm 1:15-19
a. I especially love the expression of v. 15 - a positive way of seeing things
b. Paul urges him to see Onesimus as a brother beloved - one in whom Philemon could now find cause for joy ... a brother in the Lord!
c. another appeal: receive him as myself - what a compliment to Onesimus
d. ah, but there is a practical matter: Onesimus may have stolen from Philemon when he ran ... and Paul says, Put that on mine account
5. Lesson? Welcome the penitent brother who has made a mistake!
a. is it possible that we make it very, very difficult for a penitents return?
b. the little book of Philemon sets out such a wonderful example
6. Another lesson? Expect the best of others
a. note v. 21 - I wrote ... knowing...
b. here is one of the greatest of lessons for all of us ... expect the best of others; cynical people too often fail in this ... and fail others in the process
CLOSE: As this letter closes, we hear Pauls confidence in prayer - v. 22. There are times, I confess to you, that I long for the kind of confidence this godly man had in prayer. His trust and belief in Gods will was magnificent. Here is a goal toward which to grow.
Cecil A. Hutson
25 January 2004
You Must Hear the Gospel
You must hear the gospel and then understand and recognize that you are lost without Jesus Christ no matter who you are and no matter what your background is. The Bible tells us that “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) Before you can be saved, you must understand that you are lost and that the only way to be saved is by obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ. (2 Thessalonians 1:8) Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6) “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12) "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." (Romans 10:17)
You Must Believe
You must believe and have faith in God because “without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6) But neither belief alone nor faith alone is sufficient to save. (James 2:19; James 2:24; Matthew 7:21)
You Must Repent
You must repent of your sins. (Acts 3:19) But repentance alone is not enough. The so-called “Sinner’s Prayer” that you hear so much about today from denominational preachers does not appear anywhere in the Bible. Indeed, nowhere in the Bible was anyone ever told to pray the “Sinner’s Prayer” to be saved. By contrast, there are numerous examples showing that prayer alone does not save. Saul, for example, prayed following his meeting with Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:11), but Saul was still in his sins when Ananias met him three days later (Acts 22:16). Cornelius prayed to God always, and yet there was something else he needed to do to be saved (Acts 10:2, 6, 33, 48). If prayer alone did not save Saul or Cornelius, prayer alone will not save you. You must obey the gospel. (2 Thess. 1:8)
You Must Confess
You must confess that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. (Romans 10:9-10) Note that you do NOT need to make Jesus “Lord of your life.” Why? Because Jesus is already Lord of your life whether or not you have obeyed his gospel. Indeed, we obey him, not to make him Lord, but because he already is Lord. (Acts 2:36) Also, no one in the Bible was ever told to just “accept Jesus as your personal savior.” We must confess that Jesus is the Son of God, but, as with faith and repentance, confession alone does not save. (Matthew 7:21)
You Must Be Baptized
Having believed, repented, and confessed that Jesus is the Son of God, you must be baptized for the remission of your sins. (Acts 2:38) It is at this point (and not before) that your sins are forgiven. (Acts 22:16) It is impossible to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ without teaching the absolute necessity of baptism for salvation. (Acts 8:35-36; Romans 6:3-4; 1 Peter 3:21) Anyone who responds to the question in Acts 2:37 with an answer that contradicts Acts 2:38 is NOT proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ!
You Must Be Faithful Unto Death
Once you are saved, God adds you to his church and writes your name in the Book of Life. (Acts 2:47; Philippians 4:3) To continue in God’s grace, you must continue to serve God faithfully until death. Unless they remain faithful, those who are in God’s grace will fall from grace, and those whose names are in the Book of Life will have their names blotted out of that book. (Revelation 2:10; Revelation 3:5; Galatians 5:4)