Mar 26, 2013. Philemon 1:1-16

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CHAINS NO MORE. Philemon 1:1-16. 3/26/2023. #1.

1 Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother,

To Philemon our beloved friend and fellow laborer, 2 to the beloved Apphia, Archippus our fellow soldier, and to the church in your house: 3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 4 I thank my God, making mention of you always in my prayers, 5 hearing of your love and faith which you have toward the Lord Jesus and toward all the saints, 6 that the sharing of your faith may become effective by the acknowledgment of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus. 7 For we have great joy and consolation in your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed by you, brother. 8 Therefore, though I might be very bold in Christ to command you what is fitting, 9 yet for love’s sake I rather appeal to you—being such a one as Paul, the aged, and now also a prisoner of Jesus Christ— 10 I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten while in my chains, 11 who once was unprofitable to you, but now is profitable to you and to me. 12 I am sending him back. You therefore receive him, that is, my own heart, 13 whom I wished to keep with me, that on your behalf he might minister to me in my chains for the gospel. 14 But without your consent I wanted to do nothing, that your good deed might not be by compulsion, as it were, but voluntary. 15 For perhaps he departed for a while for this purpose, that you might receive him forever, 16 no longer as a slave but more than a slave—a beloved brother, especially to me but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.

1.  A delicate situation

                a. This is a personal letter from Paul to Philemon

                                a1. This is not a letter of doctrine or command

                                a2. Paul is making a personal appeal

                b. Paul spends a much time building rapport with Philemon and his household (Apphia; Archippus)

                                a1. Beloved friend, fellow laborer, fellow soldier…

                                a2. Philemon is faithful, loving, prayerful, a faithful witness, effective, refreshing…

                c. Philemon hosted the church in Colosse

                                a1. Apparently, his son, Archippus, was the pastor of the church (Col. 4:17)

                                a2. Paul commends him for his faithful witness

                d. Onesimus, Philemon’s slave had run away

                                a1. Apparently, he had stolen from his master

                                a2. The penalty for this crime was death

                e. Onesimus ran into Paul, who led him to Christ

                                a1. The letter is sent from Rome (Paul mentions that he is chains)

                                a2. Paul pleads for clemency

2. A case for mercy

                a. Slavery was a common reality in ancient world

                                a1. Abraham owned slaves and many of the prophets had bonded servants

                                a2. Can’t be judged by modern standards

                b. Paul does 4 things:

                                a1. He pleads that Philemon forgive Onesimus

                                a2. He wants Philemon to receive him as a brother

                                a3. He wants Philemon to release On. from his servitude

                                a4. He refuses to command Philemon to do this, even though as an apostle, he could do so

                c. Paul adds some spiritual pressure to his appeal

                                a1. He would have liked to have kept Ones. with him to help him in the gospel ministry

                                a2. Since Philemon owned Ones., Paul could not keep him without his permission

                                a3. It is “fitting” (proper; lit., to come up to standard) for Philemon to release Ones.

                                                b1. Paul implies that it would be inappropriate not to comply

                                                b2. Ones. would be more profitable serving the Lord than a slave

3. Paul’s personal appeal

                a. Paul states that he needs workers to help him while he is in chains in Rome

                                a1. Ones. would be a big benefit to Paul

                                a2. Paul needed more help than Philemon

                b. Paul wants Philemon to release Ones. voluntarily

                                a1. I Corinthians 9:19-27 God does not force us to serve him, but wants us to do so out of love

                                a2. Paul wants Philemon to give up his servant for the kingdom’s sake (service costs us)

                c. Providence: Paul states that these things may have providentially occurred to further the kingdom

                                a1. Ones. had not come to the Lord in Colosse

                                a2. Now Ones. returns as a brother in the Lord

                d. A transition from worldly culture to Christian grace

                e. Social change did not occur overnight (centuries)

Key verse: I Corinthians 9:19-2719 For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; 20 and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law; 21 to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law; 22 to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. 23 Now this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I may be partaker of it with you. 24 Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. 25 And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. 26 Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. 27 But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.