Summary: In today's sermon we examine the actions of one who forgives.
Two weeks ago I started a short series of sermons called “Forgiveness and Reconciliation” from Paul’s letter to Philemon.
Part of the reason I am preaching this series is because I want to learn how, when I sin (and I do sin all the time), to repent well, and to seek forgiveness from and reconciliation with those against whom I have sinned. I fail in many of my relationships, and I want to learn how the gospel enables me to repent, seek forgiveness, and achieve reconciliation with those whom I have hurt.
Philemon was a wealthy, godly Christian who lived in the city of Colossae. He had a slave named Onesimus. Some conflict arose between them, although we don’t know the nature of the conflict. Onesimus fled from Philemon, perhaps stealing money from him in the process, and went to Rome. While in Rome Onesimus met Paul, who was in prison. Paul shared the gospel with Onesimus, who became a Christian. He served Paul very well, but Paul knew that Onesimus had to return to Philemon. Paul wrote a personal letter to Philemon asking him to forgive Onesimus and to be reconciled to him.
Last week we examined the character of one who forgives. Today, I would like to look at the actions of one who forgives.
So, let’s read the entire letter of Paul to Philemon, although my text for today is verses 8-18:
1 Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother,
To Philemon our beloved fellow worker 2 and Apphia our sister and Archippus our fellow soldier, and the church in your house:
3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
4 I thank my God always when I remember you in my prayers, 5 because I hear of your love and of the faith that you have toward the Lord Jesus and for all the saints, 6 and I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ. 7 For I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you.
8 Accordingly, though I am bold enough in Christ to command you to do what is required, 9 yet for love’s sake I prefer to appeal to you—I, Paul, an old man and now a prisoner also for Christ Jesus— 10 I appeal to you for my child, Onesimus, whose father I became in my imprisonment. 11 (Formerly he was useless to you, but now he is indeed useful to you and to me.) 12 I am sending him back to you, sending my very heart. 13 I would have been glad to keep him with me, in order that he might serve me on your behalf during my imprisonment for the gospel, 14 but I preferred to do nothing without your consent in order that your goodness might not be by compulsion but of your own accord. 15 For this perhaps is why he was parted from you for a while, that you might have him back forever, 16 no longer as a slave but more than a slave, as a beloved brother—especially to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.
17 So if you consider me your partner, receive him as you would receive me. 18 If he has wronged you at all, or owes you anything, charge that to my account. 19 I, Paul, write this with my own hand: I will repay it—to say nothing of your owing me even your own self. 20 Yes, brother, I want some benefit from you in the Lord. Refresh my heart in Christ.
21 Confident of your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I say. 22 At the same time, prepare a guest room for me, for I am hoping that through your prayers I will be graciously given to you.
23 Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends greetings to you, 24 and so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke, my fellow workers.
25 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. (Philemon 8-18)
Dr. Billy Graham once said, “Perhaps the most glorious word in the English language is ‘forgiveness.’ ” Christians who have experienced the forgiveness of God know how wonderful it is to have our debt of sin paid by Jesus Christ and to be reconciled with a holy God. And when we receive the forgiveness of others, we are reconciled with them and the relationship is restored.
Interestingly, while Paul’s letter to Philemon is about forgiveness, the word “forgiveness” does not appear in the letter. Nevertheless, Paul implicitly asked Philemon to forgive Onesimus and to be reconciled to him. Paul based his request on love, as he said in verses 8-10, “Accordingly, though I am bold enough in Christ to command you to do what is required, yet for love’s sake I prefer to appeal to you—I, Paul, an old man and now a prisoner also for Christ Jesus—I appeal to you for my child, Onesimus, whose father I became in my imprisonment.”