Summary: Part 3 of a study through Philemon
The Activity of Forgiveness
A successful Irish boxer was converted and became a preacher. He happened to be in a new town setting up his evangelistic tent when a couple of thugs noticed what he was doing. Knowing nothing of his background, they made a few insulting remarks. The preacher turned and looked at them, not saying a word. Pressing his luck one of the thugs took a swing and struck a glancing blow on one side of the ex-boxer’s jaw. The preacher shook it off and said nothing again as he stuck out his jaw. The fellow took another glancing blow on the other side. At that point the preacher took off his coat, rolled up his sleeves, and said, “The Lord gave me no other instructions.”
I pray I never find myself in that situation…again.
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.
Philemon 1:8; “For this reason, although I have great boldness in Christ to command you to do what is right,”
But it is the appeal of love to which these principles are to be applied.
Philemon 1:9; “I appeal, instead, on the basis of love.”
· Cold indifference that mechanically work the principles is not what God has in mind when we are called upon to forgive.
· Forgiveness is “sacred” ground for it is God’s most astonishing response to human sin.
· In His love for us He sent His son to die for us in order that He might forgive us.
· Forgiveness cannot be forced … it must come by way of love.
Paul again reminds Philemon of his status ... a prisoner of Jesus Christ. Not a prisoner of 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.
I. The Activity of Forgiveness brings Reception
Philemon 10-14 “I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten while in my chains, who once was unprofitable to you, but now is profitable to you and me. I am sending him back. You therefore receive him, that is, my own heart.”
· To "receive" means to take to oneself ... open your life ... take the person back in.
· In this instance 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 between these two now brothers in Christ.
2 Corinthians 5:18-19 “Now everything is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that is, in Christ, God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed the message of reconciliation to us.”
Why should Philemon receive Onesimus back?
· Onesimus was Repentant ... he was there seeking forgiveness from his master.\
· Onesimus was Transformed ... saved and now a brother in Christ.
· Onesimus was now Useful ... Onesimus (nickname "useful")
We must understand that not everyone that sins against us will be repentant and you cannot force anyone to repent or receive your forgiveness. In these instances we can either stop forgiving or proceed with the course of forgiveness.
We also need to be reminded Christ went on without us … “while we were still sinners Christ died for us!” Romans 5:8)
II. The Activity of Forgiveness brings Restoration
Philemon 15-17; “For perhaps he departed for a while for this purpose, that you might receive him forever, 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. 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."
· Forgiveness is not about putting someone on probation.
· Paul is verifying the truth that Onesimus can be trusted. That’s why Paul says to receive Onesimus as you would me.
Paul suggests that in all that has taken place, God is at work behind the scene of it all. Do you believe that? By that I am not suggesting that God caused Onesimus to steal and run away.
But think about the events that took place; after running away to Rome Onesimus runs into Paul and is led to salvation in Jesus Christ.