Summary: Exposition of Philemon 17-25 about the final thoughts that Paul wanted Philemon to think on before he made his decision
Text: Philemon 17-25, Title: Refreshing the Heart of the Apostle, Date/Place: NRBC, 11/25/07, AM
A. Opening illustration: Seeing that little girl at Camp Jubilee one year get saved after a week’s worth of praying and witnessing refreshed the heart of the entire camp.
B. Background to passage: After introducing Philemon as a godly man and making a request for him to forgive Onesimus seeing the outcome that now has happened, Paul closes out this brief letter with some clarifying remarks. He lays his final commitment, request, and prayer for Philemon to think on as he makes his decision about what to do with Onesimus. All these things he says in hopes that Philemon will refresh his heart by acting according to the faith, and then even beyond.
C. Main thought: In the text we see Paul’s three final statements to Philemon to refresh his heart.
A. Substitution and Restoration (v. 17-19)
1. Again we see the deep commitment and relationship that Paul and Onesimus have formed. And Paul tells Philemon to receive or welcome Onesimus as he would Paul. Paul sticks his neck out for Onesimus, and commends him back to Philemon with the highest of endorsements. He makes it clear that forgiveness is what is sought. And “receiving” Onesimus would have been an indication of that forgiveness. And not only that, but he tells Philemon that if Onesimus owed Philemon anything, Paul would repay it. Paul new that there was a financial burden put upon Philemon because of Onesimus’ actions. And he knew that we you become a Christian you try to make right the wrongs caused. But Onesimus probably had no resources (but like many other resourceless situations, God provided), and Paul said, whatever he owes you, I will repay it. A personal IOU from Paul.
2. Rom 15:7, 2 Cor 7:11, Matt 5:9,
3. Illustration: Author and teacher, Dr. Howard Hendricks tells the story of a young man who strayed from the Lord but was finally brought back by the help of a friend who really loved him. When there was full repentance and restoration, Dr. Hendricks asked this Christian how it felt away from the Lord. The young man said it seemed like he was out at sea, in deep water, deep trouble, and all his friends were on the shore hurling biblical accusations at him about justice, penalty, and wrong. “But, there was one Christian brother who actually swam out to get me and would not let me go. I fought him, but he pushed aside my fighting, grasped me, put a life jacket around me, and took me to shore. By the grace of God, he was the reason I was restored. He would not let me go.”
4. The ministry of hospitality is not completely lost yet here in the Deep South, but it is on its way out. The receiving of other brethren is not as common as it used to be. This is an indicator of three things: first that our relationships tend to be shallow, and second that our common bond of Jesus Christ isn’t enough to offer fellowship, and third that we are all fairly self-centered people. These are also the primary reasons that we withhold forgiveness and reconciliation. We should all serve as agents of reconciliation. You and I should be willing to stick out our necks for fellow believers in Christ. You and I should be like a healing balm to difficult situations pointing all parties to trust in Christ. Sometimes it may even cost us financially, emotionally, or physically, but this is our example from Christ. The gospel is always the answer to, and the backdrop for forgiveness, reconciliation, and restoration. This is the best counsel, the most leveling thought, and the basis for our being able to forgive.
B. Release and Return (v. 20-21)
1. From here we get the title for the message, where Paul says to Philemon (who has already been noted as being good at refreshing the hearts of the saints, v. 7) “refresh my heart.” He also pleads with Philemon to allow Paul to have joy in the Lord through him. He also says, I know that you will do as I ask. He was saying that it would be a great joy to Him to hear of Philemon’s gracious forgiveness toward Onesimus. Then he added a little something, and said that he was not only sure of his obedience to forgive, but his willingness to go above and beyond the call of duty. Here he was asking for Philemon to send Onesimus back to Paul to refresh him there as well.
3. Illustration: When Lincoln was finally elected president, he did not forget about Mr. Stanton. When the time came for him to choose his cabinet, Lincoln decided that the best man for the job of Secretary of War was Edwin Stanton. With that choice many of Lincoln’s advisors raised a hue and a cry. They told him: “Mr. Lincoln, are you a fool? Finally Tom McGee was released from prison, but he had no place to go. So Jack & Elizabeth Morris invited him into their home, & gave him a place to stay. They provided the means by which he could receive an education, & helped him find a job. They were members of a Church of Christ in Tulsa, so they took him to church with them, where Tom McGee accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord & Savior, & was baptized for the remission of his sins. Just recently, the news has come out that Jack & Elizabeth Morris have formally adopted Tom McGee & made him their son. When Jack & Elizabeth Morris die, Tom McGee will inherit whatever they have accumulated in this life. Now that’s forgiveness - an incredible story of forgiveness.