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Summary: Amazing Grace Sunday

AMAZING GRACE

Philemon

When, in England, William Wilberforce initiated his long campaign to outlaw slavery in the British Empire, he did not act as a social reformer. He was moved by Christian compassion: he acted because he cared about those helpless chattels that the majority in his day viewed as scarcely human. In working for justice, in showing loving-kindness, in committing his health and fortune to the betterment of his oppressed fellowman, this man uniquely pleased and honored God. It is not some utopian dream but a practical concern for people that drives us to seek justice.

Onesimus was a slave that belonged to Philemon. He had left his master and on the way she became a Christian. The apostle Paul, a friend to both intercedes for Onesimus. He had understood the grace that was shown to him by Christ Jesus (1 Corinthians 5:10), and in a spirit of grace he writes to restore the relationship between Philemon and his runaway slave. Paul uses four things to appeal to Philemon:

I. Paul Appeals To Philemon’s Better Self (8-9)

“Therefore, although in Christ I could be bold and order you to do what you ought to do, yet I appeal to you on the basis of love. I then, as Paul—an old man and now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus” (Philemon 8-9a).

Paul knew Philemon full well. It is thought that he became a Christian as a result of Paul’s three-year ministry in Ephesus. He knew him well, and knew that he could trust in his love. The Lord Jesus summed up all of the Old Covenant Law in two commandments: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”" (Matthew 22:34-40, NIV). The second is the application of the first. Only when we love God with our entire being can we love our neighbor.

Paul was confident about the love of Philemon and that is why he could ask him to receive Onesimus: "no longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother. He is very dear to me but even dearer to you, both as a man and as a brother in the Lord." (Philemon 16, NIV)

{Next, Paul appeals to their friendship}

II. Paul Appeals To Their Friendship (17)

"So if you consider me a partner, welcome him as you would welcome me." (Philemon 17, NIV)

In the beginning of the letter Paul addressed Philemon as a “dear friend and fellow worker” (vs.1). He is asking to do a favor to him. In that time, if one escaped his master he would face terrible problems and possibly his execution. Paul is asking Philemon to be gracious to Onesimus. He should differ in the way he views him. In fact, in another letter sent to the church that met in his house (1), that we know as the letter to Colossians the imprisoned apostle wrote the following about the relationships between masters and slaves: “Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for his wrong, and there is no favoritism. Masters, provide your slaves with what is right and fair, because you know that you also have a Master in heaven.” (Colossians 3:22-4:1, NIV).

{Then, Paul Appeals to force, and will do some arm twisting}

III. Paul Appeals To Arm Twisting (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." (Philemon 19, NIV)

Paul first says that he would pay himself, and then he twists Philemon’s arm and says that you own myself. Philemon could not pay Paul for teaching him the gospel, but he could be kind enough to accept Onesimus and that would be the same.

The story is told of soldier in the time of Napoleon Bonaparte. He was looking at his pocketbook where he had written all his debts. In exasperation he wrote, “Who will pay my debts.” Napoleon was passing during the night checking on his soldiers. He saw within the tent of this soldier, and he had fallen asleep over his pocketbook. He entered in and read his note. Then he wrote: “I will!” and signed it: “Napoleon Bonaparte.” This is the grace of Christ. Philemon could do nothing to pay Paul. He stood in a position where his arms were twisted.

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