Summary: Paul was good at knowing how to talk to people. He was wise in how he chose his words. The letter he wrote to his friend Philemon is a great example of that. Let’s take a look at how Paul sought to influence his friend to do the right thing.
HOW TO INFLUENCE SOMEONE TO DO THE RIGHT THING
INTRODUCTION: Book-“How to gain friends and influence people”. Paul was good at knowing how to talk to people. He was wise in how he chose his words. The book of Philemon is a great example of that. Paul writes a letter to his friend Philemon addressing a situation that had developed between him and his runaway slave Onesimus. [Read intro to book] Let’s take a look at how Paul sought to influence his friend to do the right thing.
1) The introduction. Vs. 1-Paul highlights himself as a prisoner of Jesus. Not sure if Philemon knew this or not but whether it is new news or a reminder of Paul’s current situation the point is clear-“I am in chains for the cause of Christ so keep this in mind as you consider what I’m asking you to consider.” Paul mentions his situation five times in this short letter (vs. 1, 9, 10, 13, 23). In doing this Paul is vying for Philemon’s sympathy. Not that he wants Philemon to feel sorry for him, but for the purpose of responding favorably to what he will eventually ask him to do.
We see that Paul connects Timothy to the letter. This could be for the purpose of saying, “What follows is not just my consensus but Timothy’s also. We are in agreement regarding the content of this letter.
Then he addresses Philemon as his friend and fellow worker. I’m appealing to you on a personal level as a friend and on a spiritual level as a fellow Christian. Both would be important to highlight in addressing what follows.
Vs. 2-Paul includes others in this letter also. Apphia could have been Philemon’s wife (not a bad idea to appeal to the spouse). Also Archippus, a fellow Christian. It has been suggested that he was Philemon’s son. These people, especially if they were his family, could lend wise perspective as to the contents of this letter.
Included with these two people is the rest of the church that met at his house. There was a church in Colosse and no doubt Philemon was a part of that church. This would represent a separate gathering of believers; perhaps like a mid-week bible study. But we see that Paul wanted them included in hearing the contents of this letter also. No doubt the situation would’ve already been known to them so Paul wanted all of them to know what he thought about the matter. It would hopefully be a learning experience for everyone involved.
Vs. 3-Paul highlights the two things that he would like to see Philemon extend toward Onesimus. Paul wanted grace and peace to be bestowed upon Philemon but he would also later want Philemon to bestow these things toward Onesimus.
2) The compliments. Vs. 4-7. Vs. 4-Paul starts his letter out with a compliment. He wanted Philemon to know that he was someone he thanked God for and he was someone he prayed for. How inspiring. If you have someone who says these things to you you’re going to be deeply moved. This is the first thing he wanted Philemon to know.
In verse five Paul explains the reason for his gratitude. Paul points to Philemon’s faith and love. Vs. 5-“Because I hear about…” How did Paul hear about Philemon’s faith? Probably from Onesimus! As Philemon would later see Onesimus mentioned in the letter he would no doubt deduce that he most likely was the source of these wonderful things that were being said about him. Paul mentioning this would help to set the stage for Onesimus gaining favor from Philemon.
Vs. 6-Paul challenges Philemon to be active in sharing his faith. Perhaps Onesimus hadn’t heard the gospel until he met up with Paul so Paul may have wondered why this was so. I like how Paul frames his challenge to Philemon to share his faith between two compliments. This would help Philemon to accept the challenge.
In presenting this challenge Paul wants him to realize he’s missing out by not being active in sharing his faith. If we are going to encourage people to share their faith more we need to show them what they’re missing out on when they don’t. Sharing our faith allows us to recognize the blessings we have in Christ. One reason for this is because when we are sharing our faith we are no doubt talking about all that Christ has done for us. In actively doing so we are constantly reminded of all that we have in Jesus.
Vs. 7-Paul commends Philemon again. He points out that he is an encouragement to him because he does such a good job at refreshing the saints. He needed to do a better job at ministering to the lost but it was very clear that he was doing a great job ministering to fellow Christians. Paul mentions Philemon’s love a second time. Paul uses word play, appealing to Philemon on the basis of the meaning of his name-“loving”. Paul wants to emphasize this characteristic as he gets ready to make his appeal for Onesimus.