Summary: Sermon 2 of 3: Why We Should Forgive
For Love’s Sake
Woodlawn Baptist Church
September 25, 2005
When Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5 that God has given to us the ministry of reconciliation, I believe he primarily had in mind the privilege we have of introducing lost people to God through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. He said that we are ambassadors for Christ; it is our duty to find people who are at enmity with God and show them how they can be reconciled to Him. However, as I have studied this little letter Paul wrote to the slave-owner Philemon, I have broadened my view of that passage, so that when I read that God has given to us the ministry of reconciliation, I understand that it is more than introducing people to Jesus Christ. I believe that part of the ministries God has given us is to help people be reconciled one with another. Jesus Himself said in the Sermon on the Mount, “Blessed are the peacemakers…” What better way to demonstrate God’s love, forgiveness and desire for restitution than to live it out among ourselves. This is one reason why divorce is so devastating among believers: it sends a mixed message about what we believe. How can we preach one thing and fail to live it on the other hand?
If you will think back several weeks, I told you that what Paul is presenting to Philemon is really a test case. If Onesimus, the runaway slave can be reconciled to Philemon, then it will work for others as well. I also told you that if our faith; if Christianity cannot help us here on the level of our personal relationships, then I doubt it can help us much of anywhere.
In the first seven verses, remember that Paul is setting Philemon up. He points out these wonderful qualities Philemon possesses. Paul calls him a dearly beloved brother, a fellow laborer, a man of great love for God and others and a man of great faith. Paul says that Philemon’s love and joy is so great that other believers are encouraged by them.
I told you that Paul basically said to Philemon, “Philemon, you are a fine example of what a Christian ought to be. In fact, whenever I think about you in my prayers I thank God for you. I am constantly hearing about your great love for God’s people and about your great faith in Christ. You are exactly what a Christian ought to be! I am praying that what you have and what you know will be shared with others. You have this wonderful love and faith that others need to know about, so I want you to share that love: God’s love, and His grace with others.”
Having said all of that, and having mailed copies of his letter to Philemon’s church and close friends as well, Paul has put Philemon on the spot. He has done this to bring Philemon to a crisis point. He has been built up so high – what would everyone think if he refused? Now that everyone knew, how could escape his Christian responsibility? He couldn’t – and that’s the point.
Now, having laid the foundation by building up Philemon, Paul gets to the issue at hand beginning in verse 8. Verses 8-14 are one long sentence in the original letter, so that sentence is going to be the focus of our time together tonight.