Summary: Introduction to the book of Philemon; examining the writer, recipient and reason for writing.
INTRODUCTION TO THE BOOK OF PHILEMON
Lessons of forgiveness from the life of Philemon
· A young man – who will remain nameless
o Grew up in a household where he was well taken care of. All of his needs were met.
o He was encouraged to become a doctor or maybe even an artist
o The primary source of his support was not a father, mother
o It was his master – our young man was a slave – and born into slavery
· Slavery was very different in our story
a. Living conditions the same
b. Food and clothing
c. Earned close to the same amount of money
d. Legal rights (slaves accused of crimes to be tried like free men)
e. Could be doctors, musicians, teachers, artists…
· Our young man had 5 years left (the average was 7-20) of service to his master
· Cleaning the room – nock over a box of jewels
· Debating in his mind over the precious stones
· The next day, wife finds out and the search was on
· Panicking for fear of being caught – he flees – therefore complicating his problem. Now, not only was a thief, he was also a fugitive (a runaway slave)
The Big City
· He makes a hasty decision to head to the biggest city in the area
· Our young man hides during the day and travels at night. Dodging the ever vigilant slave catchers – who do cruel things to runaways
· Upon arrival in the city he encounters an evangelist who shares with him the gospel. The young man is curious to the message as the weight of his sin so heavily hung upon him. The young man and evangelist talk (but the young man is careful to hide his true identity from the evangelist)
· “There is someone I would like you to meet” says the evangelist
· He is lead to a location (as he approaches a sinking feeling fills the bottom of his stomach – he is coming up on a prison. ‘I have been caught’ he thinks. ‘They have found me out’. Yet – something makes him continue on.
· The Evangelist leads the young man to a prison cell. As the doors open, expecting to find it empty and himself as the future resident. He sees a man in the later years of his life. “Grace to you and peace from God the Father of My Lord Jesus Christ”
· The young man immediately realizes that he is safe as the 2 men talk through the night (yet he is careful not to tell the prisoner of his crimes). By morning, the young man had given his life to Jesus Christ
· The young man returns daily to visit the prisoner and to be discipled by him
· The prisoner writes a lot. A lot of letters to different people and different churches. But he is never too busy for our young man.
· The young man is dear to the prisoner and he asks him to do various errand for him. The young man is glad to do so
· Then one day, the young man decides to let the cat out of the bag. He tells him of his former life…
· You must return and be reconciled to your master. Forgiveness
· “DO you know what he could do?” (explain). I do know the cost of being obedient to the will of God.
· Who is your master? (face lights up)
· You will return tonight, a friend and this letter will accompany you.
The story I have just told you (with some historical license) is true. And it is this story that will be front and center for us for the next 3 weeks. Please stand and open your bibles to the book of Philemon as we read this letter together.
Small Letter with a Big Lesson
· 335 Greek words
· Shortest of all Paul’s epistles
· Only personal note in Pauline corpus
Often gets overlooked
· How many of you had ever heard a sermon on a Sunday morning
· Trying to find articles. Out of 7 major evangelical theological journals, consisting of thousands upon thousands of work covering the past 100 years. I found 7 articles on Philemon
SET THE STAGE FOR OUR STUDY
Date: 61 AD
Place: Church at Colossae
I. THE WRITER (v.1)
“Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus”
Two reasons for the address ‘a prisoner of Christ Jesus’
(#1) Paul was a physical prisoner by the will of Jesus Christ
(#2) Paul uses the title as a leverage point in his plea for Onesimus
#1 Paul was a physical prisoner by the will of Christ