Summary: Sermon based upon the book of Philemon. Illustrates the plight of Philemon to forgive Onesimus and how Paul aided in the process.

Read the Book of Philemon

I Onesimus

A. Name means "Useful" - But wasn’t very useful

B. Slave of Philemon

1. Unlike slaves in America

2. Slaves were more like employees

3. Often were paid

C. Caused Philemon to lose some money

1. Criminal intent - Money Stolen

2. On Accident - Incompetence or improper business practices

D. For whatever reason, Onesimus ran away

1. Had to travel 900 - 1500 miles to Rome

II Paul

A. Imprisoned in Rome

B. House arrest - People allowed to come and go, but Paul could not leave the house.

C. Paul - a man of integrity

1. Somehow meets up with Onesimus

2. Paul does what Paul does best: Shares with him the Gospel

a. Vs. 10 - I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, who became my son while I was in chains.

3. When Paul learns of his master and status of Slave, Paul knows that he must return Onesimus to Philemon

a. A runaway slave is very serious charge

b. Same as a military person being AWOL.

4. Sends Onesimus back.

a. Wants him to stay, but since God wants a cheerful giver, lets Philemon decide whether or not to send him back.

D. Paul - Son of Encouragement

1. Barnabas , whose name means "Son of Encouragement" must have rubbed off on Paul

2. Paul becomes a great encouragement to Onesimus

3. Writes this letter to Philemon on behalf of Onesimus.

a. Tells of the conversion

b. Onesimus finally lives up to his name

(1) Vs. 11 - Formerly he was useless to you, but now he has become useful both to you and to me.

c. I am sending him - Who is my very heart - back to you.

III Philemon

A. Philemon has a choice to make

1. Accept Onesimus Back

2. Punish him as a runaway slave

B. Philemon has been hurt by Onesimus

1. Onesimus has cost him dearly

2. Now Philemon is being asked to welcome him back not only as a slave, but as a Brother in the Lord.

C. Paul knew Philemon would have a hard time forgiving

1. Charge it to my tab

2. And don’t forget that you still owe me.

D. Forgiveness is difficult

1. We must put others in front of ourselves and we don’t like that

2. We like to harbor grudges. As long as there is no forgiveness, we have a logical reason to treat the other party poorly.

3. ILLUSTRATION: Corrie Ten Boom

Corrie ten Boom likenened forgiveness to letting go of a bell rope. If you have ever seen a country church with a bell in the steeple, you will remember that to get the bell ringing you have to tug awhile.

Once it has begun to ring, you merely maintain the momentum. As long as you keep pulling, the bell keeps ringing. Miss ten Boom said forgiveness is letting go of the rope. It is just that simple. But when you do so, the bell keeps ringing. Momentum is still at work.

However, if you keep your hands off the rope, the bell will begin to slow and eventually stop.

It is like that with forgiveness. When you decided to forgive, the old feelings of unforgiveness may continue to assert themselves. After all, they have lots of momentum. But if you affirm your decision to forgive, that unforgiving spirit will begin to slow and will eventually be still. Forgiveness is not something you feel, it is something you do. It is letting go of the rope of retribution.

4. ILLUSTRATION: The Forgiveness Flower

One day when Stan Mooneyham was walking along a trail in East Africa with some friends, he became aware of a delightful odor that filled the air. He looked up in the trees and around at the bushes in an effort to discover where it was coming from. Then his friends told him to look down at the small blue flower growing along the path. Each time they crushed the tiny blossoms under their feet, more of its sweet perfume was released into the air. Then his friends said, "We call it the forgiveness flower."

This forgiveness flower does not wait until we ask forgiveness for crushing it. It does not release its fragrance in measured doses or hold us to a reciprocal arrangement. It does not ask for an apology; it merely lives up to its name and forgives-freely, fully, richly.

What a touching example of outrageous forgiveness!

E. Forgiveness is Necessary

1. Sin separates us from God and from each other

2. God has called us to be One body. Jesus prayed for it in John 17.

3. When hurts are left unforgiven, we cease to be one body and become divided.

F. Whether or not Philemon forgave Onesimus is not known

G. Whether or not Philemon returned Onesimus to Paul is not known.

H. What is known is that Paul Promised Philemon a visit when he was released from prison

1. Accountability is an added incentive to forgive

IV What about you?

A. Have you rung your church bell yet? Or is someone still waiting for you to forgive them?

B. Illustration:

Joseph Bradford was for some years the traveling companion of Mr. John Wesley, founder of the methodist church, for whom he would have sacrificed health and even life, but to whom his will would never bend. "Joseph," said Mr. Wesley one day, "take these letters to the post office." Bradford replied, "I will take them after your preaching, sir." Wesley again said, "Take them now, Joseph."

Bradford turned to Mr. Wesley and said, "I wish to hear you preach, sir; and there will be sufficient time for the post office after the service." Wesley was not at all pleased and said, "I insist upon your going now, Joseph." Bradford rather angrily replied, "I will not go at present." "You will not!" "No, sir." "Then you and I must part," said Wesley. "Very well, sir," was Mr. Bradford’s quick response. The good men slept over it. Both were early risers. At four o’clock the next morning, Wesley said to Bradford, "Joseph, have you considered what I said-that we must part?" "Yes, sir," was the reply. "And must we part?" "Please yourself, sir," Then Wesley said, "Will you ask my pardon, Joseph?" "No, sir," came the quick reply from Bradford. "You will not?" "No, sir," Bradford said again. "Then," answered Wesley, "I will ask yours, Joseph." That is what a Christian should do-be willing to ask forgiveness instead of expecting others to ask forgiveness of him.

C. Poem

Jesus came our debt to pay,

Saved our soul in grace one day;

So in love we all should live,

Ready always to forgive.