Summary: Forgiveness in Philemon
In this study of forgiveness we have seen with scriptural support the 3 principles of forgiveness ...
1. Forgive those who sin against you.
2. Forgive and be forgiven.
3. If you don’t forgive you won’t be forgiven.
At first glance these rules can seem cold and hard ... because scriptures show that forgiveness is mandated.
But it is the appeal of love to which the principles are to be applied. Cold indifference to mechanically work the principles is not what God has in mind when we are called upon to forgive.
Love is to the bases for these principles ... for it is through love God forgives us.
Philemon 1:8-18 Therefore, though I might be very bold in Christ to command you what is fitting, 9 yet for love’s sake I rather appeal to you; being such a one as Paul, the aged, and now also a prisoner of Jesus Christ;
Paul takes the higher ground of love rather than compulsion and mechanical keeping of the Law. He speaks to the Spirit life of love. Forgiveness cannot be forced … it must come by way of love.
Paul reminded Philemon of his status ... a prisoner of Jesus Christ. Not Rome ... who would be most unforgiving ... but a prisoner a Jesus Christ ... the One who had forgiven him. The reception, restoration, and restitution of forgiveness was made possible through the life action of Jesus Christ.
1. The Action of Forgiveness: Reception (10-14)
Philemon 10-14 I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten while in my chains, 11 who once was unprofitable to you, but now is profitable to you and to me. 12 I am sending him back. You therefore receive him, that is, my own heart, 13 whom I wished to keep with me, that on your behalf he might minister to me in my chains for the gospel. 14 But without your consent I wanted to do nothing, that your good deed might not be by compulsion, as it were, but voluntary.
§ To "receive" means to take to oneself ... open your life ... take the person back in.
§ Receive takes on the terms of fellowship.
§ Paul was asking Philemon to do more than just put up with Onesimus.
§ Paul was asking Philemon to close the gap, heal the wound ... through forgiveness.
§ Reconciliation was needed.
2 Corinthians 5:18-19 Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, 19 that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.
§ Why receive Onesimus back?
1. Repentant ... he was there seeking forgiveness from his master.
2. Transformed ... saved and now a brother in Christ.
3. Useful ... Onesimus (nickname "useful") (Paul & John Mark ... Acts 15:37-39,
Paul knew the indifference that can separate ... He and Barnabus went their separate ways over a young man named "John Mark." (Acts 15:37-38) It was later that Paul was reconciled to John Mark and found him useful in friendship and ministry.
Colossians 4:10-11 Aristarchus my fellow prisoner greets you, with Mark the cousin of Barnabas (about whom you received instructions: if he comes to you, welcome him), 11 and Jesus who is called Justus. These are my only fellow workers for the kingdom of God who are of the circumcision; they have proved to be a comfort to me.
2 Timothy 4:11 Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for ministry.
I understand that not all who sin against you will be repentant and transformed ... and may never prove useful to you. However we are to be people who have received forgiveness and in turn those who give forgiveness. After all did God wait until we were repentant, transformed, and useful to Him before forgiving us? No! The Cross is His statement of forgiveness ... while we were still sinners Christ died for us! (Rom 5:8)
Let us receive those who have sinned against us in the form of forgiveness.
2. The Action of Forgiveness: Restoration (15-17)
Philemon 15-17 For perhaps he departed for a while for this purpose, that you might receive him forever, 16 no longer as a slave but more than a slave; a beloved brother, especially to me but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord. 17 If then you count me as a partner, receive him as you would me.
§ From reconciliation we go onto restoration.
§ To restore means to put back into service.
§ It calls for "trust."
§ Paul is verifying the truth that Onesimus can be trusted ... that’s why Paul says to receive as you would me.