In our prior lesson we briefly introduced the book of Philemon. Let's now continue in the text.
Paul Expresses His Appreciation for Philemon (Philemon 4-7)
"I thank my God, making mention of you always in my prayers, hearing of your love and faith which you have toward the Lord Jesus and toward all the saints, that the sharing of your faith may become effective by the acknowledgment of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus. For we have great joy and consolation in your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed by you, brother."
Paul mentions his thanks for Philemon. He states that in his prayers he always expresses his thanks to God for Philemon. This is a powerful example. Do we pray and give thanks for our brethren daily? Paul was thankful because of Philemon's love and faith were being manifested toward the Lord and toward all Christians. Let's chew on that for a moment. Clearly, Philemon was a great Christian. How can we today have love and faith toward God? By trusting and obeying Him! "Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding" (Prov. 3:5). "If you love Me, keep My commandments" (John 14:15). How can we have love and faith toward the saints? By considering others before ourselves and treating them as we would want to be treated (cf. Phil. 2:3; Matt. 7:12), by striving to be united as followers of Christ, and by humbly serving one another dependably!
Paul prayed that the "sharing" of Philemon's faith would promote the knowledge of all the good to be had in Christ. As Christians, we must share our faith by word and by deed. Our influence is a powerful thing - "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven" (Matt. 5:16).
Paul mentions that he had found great joy and comfort in Philemon's love. His love had evidently been refreshing to the hearts of many saints. Friends, are we refreshing to one another? Does your presence bring joy to your fellow brethren? It ought to be a pleasure to get together with each other; it ought never to be a burden to share, work, and worship with those who are like-minded. If the thought of spending time with brethren is not refreshing to you, then there's a problem somewhere!
Paul States His Purpose in Writing and Expresses His Feelings About Onesimus (Philemon 8-16)
"Therefore, though I might be very bold in Christ to command you what is fitting, 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--I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten while in my chains, who once was unprofitable to you, but now is profitable to you and to me. I am sending him back. You therefore receive him, that is, my own heart, whom I wished to keep with me, that on your behalf he might minister to me in my chains for the gospel. But without your consent I wanted to do nothing, that your good deed might not be by compulsion, as it were, but voluntary. For perhaps he departed for a while for this purpose, that you might receive him forever, 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."
Paul claims that he has the authority in Christ to command Philemon to do what was proper. But, because of Paul's love, he would not command Philemon to do this. Rather, he would appeal to him in a strong manner-- almost like begging in the Greek. He is saying: "Philemon, I want you to do what is proper; I can't make you do it because I'm an old man and also a prisoner, but I hope that you will do as I ask." Can't you almost hear Philemon saying, "Well Paul, what do you want me to do?"
Paul's response: "I want you to receive Onesimus back. Receive him back as my own heart for I have begotten him." Notice that Paul doesn't command him to do this; Philemon has to make up his own mind on this subject and decide to do what was right on a voluntary basis. Philemon would know what the right thing is to do, but he would have to choose whether or not he would actually do it. This is the same with us today. We can show people from the Scriptures what the correct thing is for them to do, but when all is said, the choice is up to them. We can't force them to obey the Lord.
We will continue this study in our next lesson.