Philemon 1

Vs. 17, “So if you consider me a partner, welcome him as you would welcome me.”  Philemon was one of the early leaders in the church at Colosse and they met in his home (vs. 2).  The early New Testament churches did not have their own facilities, so they would meet in their homes.  Notice how Paul respected and honored Philemon in his introduction (vs. 1-7).  This was going to be an opportunity for Philemon to forgive as he was forgiven by Christ.  While Paul could have used his authority to demand forgiveness or even not return Onesimus, he wanted to give Philemon the opportunity to have his own rights.  We see a beautiful extension of love from Paul as he offers to pay back any loss incurred upon Philemon (vs. 18-25).  Notice too that Onesimus must have surely agreed upon this and repented of his actions.  He was willing to go back and suffer any consequences.

Regarding application…Price to Pay.  Vs. 19, “I, Paul, am writing this with my own hand. I will pay it back—not to mention that you owe me your very self.”  Someone was going to have to pay for the losses of this relationship.  Paul was willing to pay for it because Philemon had suffered loss.  Onesimus was willing to take any consequences and lose his life again as a slave.  Philemon would have to incur loss if he forgave Onesimus.  Bottom line; living a Christian life of forgiveness means someone is going to pay.  Ultimately, Jesus Christ paid the price on the cross for the forgiveness of sins.  Forgiveness is not cheap.  It can cost our grief, our money, our selfishness and even reputation among others.  But brothers and sisters, let us be people willing to pay the price.  We may not always get back what we feel we deserve.  I recall lending money to a few people over the years.  Rarely did they pay me back.  That wasn’t my money in the first place.  And besides, there were plenty of times when someone graciously lent me their time and money.  Let us love with grace each other.

Introduction – Philemon

The Apostle Paul wrote this letter to Philemon while he was in his first imprisonment in Rome.  This letter to Philemon is in close relationship with Paul’s letter to the Colossians.  Philemon resided in Colosse and probably was one of Paul’s converts at Ephesus.  This letter is a request from Paul directly to Philemon in dealing gracefully with Onesimus.  Onesimus, was a runaway slave who found his way to Rome.  In Rome, Paul evangelized Onesimus and they became close.  Paul sent Onesimus back to Philemon along with Tychicus who carried both the letters to the Colossians and Philemon’s letter.  Slavery during the Roman Empire was common and slaves comprised nearly 1/3 of the population.  It was not as cruel and inhumane as the slavery of the 1860’s in America.  While slaves were not considered civilians, they would learn many trades and skills that could profit them (doctors, musicians, teachers, artists, etc.).  The letter to Philemon is an example for us today to exercise grace.

Introduction – Philemon

From a prison in Rome, Paul would write this letter to Philemon, probably at the same time he wrote his letter to the Colossians.  Philemon was a believer from the city of Colosse and was converted by Paul himself.  Philemon happened to be a slave owner as well…one of his slaves, Onesimus, had apparantely stolen something from Philemon and also ran away.  Under Roman law, this was an act punishable by death!  But as Onesimus escaped to Rome, he too happened to meet Paul and also became a believer.  Paul would send Onesimus back to Philemon and make an appeal for Philemon to forgive and accept Onesimus back…not only as his slave, but also his brother in Christ.

QT – Philemon

Vs. 7, “Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the saints.”  This letter is almost like peering over Philemon’s shoulder as we read his letter from Paul.  Paul was a very wise & tactful man!  Instead of demanding or asking upfront for Onesimus’s life…Paul expressed sincere appreciation for Philemon.  In Paul’s compliments, it’s obvious to see Philemon was a Godly man.  Paul appeals to Philemon to consider saving Onesimus’s life and see what God has done for his slave.  It was obvious that Paul valued Onesimus and saw what kind of man he was.  In fact, Paul is willing to pay for any loss that Philemon might have occurred because of this.

Regarding application…Willing To Pay The Price.  Vs. 18, If he has done you any wrong or owes you anything, charge it to me.”  Paul was willing to take this disobedient slave and pay the price so that Onesimus would not endure shame or even death.  As great of a picture as this is…the letter to Philemon addresses a far bigger concept & application…We see in this a picture of Christ!  Christ came to save sinners & forgive them.  Philemon was a slave to sin and then was saved.  Philemon’s servant Onesimus was his slave and he too was saved.  Now Philemon had the choice to either punish & kill or save & accept.  While Philemon had the right…he could choose to forgive.  Jesus had the right to destroy all of us…but thankfully by His grace he too forgave.
Just as we were paid for and forgiven…this letter reminds us that we too must forgive!  Question: How can we hold grudges when God did not hold grudges against us?  We received a precious gift, now we must give that forgiveness to others!  It’s not just about witnessing…it’s also about forgiving.  Think of Jonah, he witnessed to the Ninevites, but did he really forgive them for what they did to his people?  That’s the position that Philemon found himself in.  This is the position that we too find ourselves in.  Think of the people right now in your life….Family, church family, friends…who in your life right now can you extend the hand of forgiveness?  We’ve been doing a four week study on “Dealing with Conflict” in the Youth group and we talked about forgiveness last night.  Let’s choose to pay the price and forgive!