Summary: The Intercessor does not say, " I’m such a nice guy that you aught to heed my appeal" nor does He say, "The sinners obeyed sometimes in some things so remember those times". The cost for sine is mandatory death (Rom. 6:23). That was the required price Jes
Theme: Pauline’s imitation of Jesus’ intercession
Scripture: Philemon 1:17
By: Nche Sam Takoh
Paul as an example or figure of Jesus Christ is considered as an advocate, and intercessor who pleads on behalf of his kindred. This is typical in the case of Onesimus in Philemon 1:17, a representative of all men.
Paul, an apostle, puts himself at Philemon’s level (verse 1) to plead on behalf of Onesimus. Paul had the authority to command Philemon’s obedience. Because of his care and respect for him, he appeals to show how Philemon can willingly act out of love.
Similarly, Jesus’ appeal as an equal to the Father. His appeal is meant to glorify the Father who He entreats, knowing that His Father’s mercy displays His willing love too. (John 17:4,23,24; I Peter 3:9).
Paul ask Philemon to receive Onesimus as if he were Paul himself (verse 12, 17). This is compared with Jesus’ prayer in John 17:25 and I John 1:3. Here Jesus Christ is identified as He intercedes for those God had given Him (Heb. 2:17). This identification also matches the basis for expecting God to accept the sinner for whom Jesus pleads, namely as Jesus standing in the place of His own people (II Corinthians 5:21).
Paul’s appeal on behalf of Onesimus is based not on works of the law but on love (verse 9). The Law is no help before God (Rom 3:20). Our only hope is in the unmerited love and grace of God for which Jesus Christ pleads to the father (John 3:16, 17:23, Rom 5:8). Paul begat Onesimus in his bonds (verse 10). Paul is referring to the personal sacrifices he made as he brought the Gospel (I Corinthians 4:11-15). This is similar to Christ’s big task of bringing salvation (Lk. 4:18), which was accomplished in bonds (John 18:24). However, in Jesus’ case, His bonds included His experience of enduring Hell. (Jonah 2:5-6) so that sinners might be born again. He was the salvation that He proclaimed.
Paul ask Philemon to receive Onesimus willingly (verse 14). This is same as God’s willingness to save those for whom Jesus died.
Paul willingly bears the cost of any wrong done by Onesimus (verse 18). This is similar to the substitutionary burden laid upon Jesus Christ (I Peter 2:24). The Intercessor does not say, " I’m such a nice guy that you aught to heed my appeal" nor does He say, "The sinners obeyed sometimes in some things so remember those times". The cost for sine is mandatory death (Rom. 6:23). That was the required price Jesus willingly paid.
Paul seals his appeal in writing (verse 19). This is a picture of the fact that the guarantee of salvation is based upon the written word of God (I Corin. 15:3-4). The assurance of salvation is based upon the promised word of God (Titus 1:2, Heb. 6:18). The power of salvation is found in the proclaimed word of God (Rom. 1:16; 10:17).
Paul is confident of Philemon’s mercy (verse 19). The words "thou wilt also do more than I say" are an echo of the measure of God’s grace expressed in Eph. 3:20. Christ knows that His intercessors will succeed (Heb. 7:22,25).
The words in verse 22 "prepare for me a lodging" are, in parable form, a statement that Jesus’ final place is with the father (John 16:28).
In conclusion, after cross examining the intercessory part Paul played on behalf of the runaway slave Onesimus from his master Philemon, just as Jesus did for sinners to His Father, we can conclude that the book of Philemon in verses 17 - 22 portrays him (Paul) as an imitator of Jesus’ intercession.