Summary: We see in Paul's prayer of thanksgiving for Philemon the reality of a forgiven childe of God. He was not only forgiven but Paul points out He is an agent of forgiveness.
Intro: Today across America there will probably be many sermons based around the theme of love. How appropriate that Paul in this personal letter to Philemon commends him for his love having feet and hands. If you remember from last week that Paul was calling Philemon to forgive his run away slave Onesimus. It was not based on Philemon’s ability but the reality of the indwelling Spirit of Jesus within Philemon.
Also remember that Paul in Galatians 2.20 says that the life he now lives is Christ living in Him. The Christ life was incarnated in the physical life of Paul. Now we see a prayer of thanksgiving where Paul is thanking God for the outworking of the life of Christ in Philemon. His prayer gives us insight into what happens when we surrender to the indwelling Holy Spirit and live as an agent of forgiveness.
I. Agents of forgiveness express love and forgiveness toward others (Phi 1.5)
Simply put an agent of forgiveness is one who has been forgiven by Christ and had the love of Christ poured into their heart. Romans 5.1-5 “By entering through faith into what God has always wanted to do for us—set us right with him, make us fit for him—we have it all together with God because of our Master Jesus. And that's not all: We throw open our doors to God and discover at the same moment that he has already thrown open his door to us. We find ourselves standing where we always hoped we might stand—out in the wide open spaces of God's grace and glory, standing tall and shouting our praise.
3-5There's more to come: We continue to shout our praise even when we're hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue(character) , keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we're never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary—we can't round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit!
Paul had heard of Philemon’s love for all God’s holy people. Paul had probably heard about Philemon’s practical faith from Epahrus. Paul was constantly getting reports from the churches that he planted or started by way of others such as Philemon. Epahrus reported of Philemons faith relationship to Jesus Christ that resulted in love for Christ and His fellow Christians.
The word used here is agape. This is not emotional love. In fact the literal translation is what God prefers. God prefers us. God prefers us to be close to him instead of separated from Him. This is willful love. As you travel through the Bible you see Jesus say I chose you, you are a chosen generation, chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world.
This was expressed in Philemon’s life and is expected to be expressed in the life of God’s forgiven.
A) In love we follow faith and not feelings
Faith is the process of bending our wills to the will of God. Philemon was allowing the Holy Spirit to make faith real in his relationships with all the saints. It was based on the reality of his relationships with Christ. Paul was reminding Philemon and us that forgiveness is a defining mark of the Christian life. When we like Philemon follow the direction and command of Jesus we follow our faith instead of our feelings. Remember grace is undeserved favor. U didn’t and don’t deserve God’s grace but He pours it on you every day. When we give an enemy food, drink, a hand of friendship, we do not excuse their sin, wrongdoing etc. We instead operate our faith to recognize, and forgive him or her loving them in spite of their actions against us just as Jesus did and does for us at salvation and every day.
B) In forgiveness we follow faith and not feelings
We all have at times feelings of anger, hatred, resentment, bitterness which come from a desire to get revenge against those who have harmed us. What you will find in life and scripture when we surrender to these explosive passionate feelings they often lead to destruction. The feelings are real and legitimate. We must realize that we are responsible for the choices we make we can choose to act on anger, resentment or bitterness or do as Paul says and incarnate forgiveness. Remember forgiveness is not an emotional response but a willful choice.
Remember that forgiveness doesn’t make the other person right it makes you free!
Forgiveness is contrary to the world’s pattern. The world teaches us to give into the primal passions and make others pay. The world says give them what they deserve Jesus says give them what they don’t forgiveness and love. This decision of the will has the Holy Spirit’s power behind it to result in the follow.