THE GOSPEL OF EMANCIPATION
1. To teach the story of redemption.
2. To teach the power of a righteous man's intercession.
3. To teach the blessing of Christ's salvation even in our environment.
4. To teach the responsibility of prayer for each other.
5. To teach the blessing that a godly life is to others.
6. To teach the profitableness of individuals following their conversion.
7. To teach the duty of Christians to have a forgiving nature.
The book was written as a letter by the apostle Paul, probably around 62 AD, while he was in Rome. Slavery was very prevalent in the Roman Empire. Gibbon estimated that one-half the population were slaves. A slave's life was very cheap and because of this many slave owners were incredibly brutal. Roman law declared that slaves had no rights. Thus for a slave to run away was acrime punishable even by death. For such a transgresssor the law held but one hope -- for him to find someone to intercede for his reinstatement. A letter of such intercession is the epistle of Philemon.
Philemon was a slave owner in Colossae. Colossians 4:9. Onesimus was a runaway slave who was saved in Rome through Paul's ministry. Verse 10. The story is a parable of redemptioin through Christ. Philemon pictures God the Father, who demands death for sin. Romans 6:23. Onesimus pictures all of humanity who are lost and condemned because of their sin. Paul pictures Jesus Christ who is our Mediator, I Timothy 2:5, and our Intercessor, Hebrews 7:25. This short personal letter of less than 350 words is a literary masterpiece and contains many lessons of proper Christian conduct. We see in this letter, Paul as a superb Christian gentleman.
I. The Apostolic Greeting.
Vs. 1 -- Paul (the little one) calls himself a prisoner as he writes to Philemon about this matter. Philemon (the loving one) was a Christian and an outstanding laborer for the Lord. He was probably quite wealthy.
Vs. 2 -- Apphia was probably his wife for it is a feminine name. Archippus was probably Philemon,s son and was a Christian. Philemon's home was dedicated to God. The local church in the area met in his home.
Vs. 3 -- This is the customary apostolic salutation uniting those of the Gentiles who said "Grace" and the Jews who said "Peace" in ordinary greetings. Both are united in Christ.
II. The Character of Philemon.
Vs. 4 -- no doubt it was a blessing to Philemin to know that Paul remembered him in prayer. Many of us have people praying for us that we do not know of.
Vs. 5 -- Paul commends philemon for all his good Christian conduct and acknowledges that he (Philemon) has love and faith toward all saints. This is Philemon's record. Surely when Paul tells him later of Onesimus being saved he will also have a good record before men and maintain that record.
Vs. 6 -- Paul here is stating that he prays that those helped by Philemon might acknowledge Philemon's good deeds as done from Christ Jesus.
Vs. 7. -- It is a great blessing to God's servants to see others who are refreshed and blessed by the love and faith manifested by a Christian saint such as Philemon. Bowels means hearts.
III. The Intercession for Onesimus.
Vs.8 -- Paul says, because of my God-appointed position, I could demand that you do as I request about Onesimus. But Paul would rather rely upon the persuasive power of love.
Vs. 9 -- Three personal reasons Paul gives for why Phelemon should grant his request.
(l) For love's sake; (2) Because Paul was aged; (3) Because Paul was also a prisoner of Jesus Christ and in bonds. Herein are three good personal reasons why the intercession of Jesus is so effective for us as saints:
l. God loves His Son.
2. Jesus Christ is from Everlasting (Micah 5:2), Unchanging (Hebrews 13:8), Sinless (II Corinthians 5:21).
3. Jesus Christ became a prisoner in order for redemptions plan to be effectual.
He suffered for this end that people might be saved.
Vs. 10-- 0nesimus means profitable, Paul begs and pleads on behalf of this one who was saved as result of Paul's bonds.
Vs. 11 -- Paul makes a play on words. Onesimus who was before un-0nesinus or unprofitable but now is saved and will now be profitable or truly Onesimus. Onesimus had probably stolen money from Philemon before he ran away and herein further pictures sinners who by being out of fellowship with God and unsaved, steal time from God and are unprofitable to God. After one is saved he becomes a profitable individual to God.
Vs. I2 -- 0nesimus was very dear to Paul's heart.
Vs. 13 -- Philemon even owed his salvation at least in part to Paul who had led him to the Lord, Vs. 19. So Paul informs Philemon that Onesimus' labor with him was even a part payment for what Philemon even owed him.
Vs. 14 -- But Paul wouldn't do this unless Philemon was wllling. Cf. II Cor. 8:12; 9:7.
Vs. 15 -- It is as if Paul said, "Perhaps he took a brief vacation that you might take him back for good."
Vs. 16 -- This shows us what great change Christianity was workng already in the early church. The one-time slave was now to be recognized as a beloved brother in the Lord.
Vs. 17 -- What a beautiful picture this is of our acceptance in Christ. In the case of every saved sinner it is as though our Lord presents him to the Father saying, "If Thou count me as a partner, receive him as I myself. We are complete in Him. Cf. Colossians 2:10; I John 4:17; John17:23. How foolish Onesimus would have been to have thrown away this letter and tried to plead his own case before Philemon.
Vs. 18 -- This, in essence, is what Christ had done for us when He was crucified. The wrongs we had done before God, were put on Him end He bore our punishment. Isaiah. 53:5,6.
Vs 19 -- Paul reminds Philemon that even his spiritual well being was due to him (Paul).
Vs. 20 -- Loving compliance on the part of Philemon would gladden Paul's heart.
Vs. 21 -- Paul had confidence that the loving heart of Philenon would cause his to fully accept Onesimus back into a right standing under these conditions. Even so are we as sinners accepted by our heavenly Father when we accept his Son and His sacrifice for us.
III. Salutations and Conclusions.
Vs. 22 -- Paul hoped to soon come and see Philemon.
Vs. 23 & 24 -- Tell hello and give my regards to these fellows who are my fellow laborers for Christ. When we labor for our Lord, what a joy it is to know that we are a fellow laborer with such men as the apostle Paul. What a great work we are in.
Through Onesimus finding Christ, he was raised in standing from that of a lowly slave to that of a beloved brother in Christ. Christ is still emancipating those who are slaves in this world to the exalted position of being heirs of God and joint-heirs with Jesus Christ. Romans 8:17.
Back to Lessons | Back to Home