David Pawson "Unlocking the Bible" Philippians Pt 2 & Philemon
Thoughtful Thoughts 13.1.17
The message of Philemon is one of forgiveness and putting the past right.
This blog is on the second half of the video which is on Philemon.
Philemon is at the end of the epistles of Paul, because compilers of the Bible put Paul’s letters in the order of their length. The story line would make for a movie backdrop. A slave had run away from his master and found Paul, who led him to the Lord. After his conversion Paul sends the slave back to his master.
The situation then was that if a slave ran away, he would normally be crucified if they were found. The lightest sentence would be a permanent mark somewhere on the head, so everyone knew he had been a runaway slave. So, it’s difficult to imagine the fear experienced by the slave when Paul tells him he has to go back to his master, as his master had the right under Roman law to have him crucified. Because Paul is sending Onesimus back, does not mean Paul approves of slavery. Paul condemns slavery in another epistle as one of the sins that leads to hell. However, Paul is trying to make the best he can of a bad job, because as it happens, Paul knows who the owner is, and he’s confident he can get the slave off pretty lightly. The slave’s master, Philemon, was one of Paul’s converts at Colossi, and so he sends this letter back to Philemon with the slave, in order to ask to have the slave forgiven, without incurring any punishment, as payment for a debt that Philemon owes Paul.
What God had done for Paul, Paul now does for this slave. He writes to Philemon offering to pay whatever the slave may owe, v.18. In fact Paul lays the appeal on as thickly as possible. Paul says he is an old man now v. 9, and that Philemon owes him a huge debt, even that of his life, v.19. Paul says he would command Philemon to do what he is now only asking, but chose to make it voluntary, v. 8 & 14. He is effectively saying; ‘What you owe me, (because of what I did for you Philemon), please now do for this slave of yours, Onesimus, by forgiving him’. He adds, ‘Onesimus is now your Christian brother, and doubly useful, so please do even more than is being asked of you. And by the way, I am coming to visit you soon’. Well, after an appeal like that, Philemon would lose face if he didn’t obey.
We might ask why this letter is in the Bible. Well, it’s a picture of what Jesus Christ did for us. We were on the run from God and Jesus paid our debt so that we could return to God.
Now, what Jesus did for us, we must do for others. We too must forgive as God has forgiven us. We need to learn from what Paul is saying to Philemon, as it is one of the laws by which we are forgiven. So your homework this week is to read this tiny little letter!
I’m John Dunning and that’s “Thoughtful Thoughts” for another week.