PHILEMON 1    

 

 

The Apostle Paul wrote the following in Philemon verse 1, “Paul, a prisoner of Jesus Christ, and Timothy our brother, unto Philemon our dearly beloved, and fellowlabourer.” Paul identifies himself, includes Timothy, and then identifies to whom he is writing. Paul identifies himself as a prisoner of Jesus Christ. Paul was a prisoner. Perhaps Paul wanted to remind us that he was a prisoner so that we would be willing to follow his example. Of course, from a human standpoint, even in a decently run prison, your choices are taken away and your freedom is taken away. That is not good from a human standpoint. Perhaps Paul wanted to remind himself and his readers that what had happened to him was not bad luck or blind chance.

 

What had happened to Paul was the will of God through Christ. Paul was living by faith. To live by faith means that you believe, you know, you understand, and you accept that what happens to you is God’s will whether it be good or whether it be bad. You are following Christ, you have prayed about all things to Christ, and you know that Christ is all powerful. Therefore, if you become a prisoner, you are a prisoner of Jesus Christ, not of the Romans or anyone else.

 

Paul called Timothy “our brother.” Every Christian is your brother. The ideal brother has several characteristics. The goal should be to have every Christian follow the ideal in their relationships with other Christians. A brother is someone who is close to you. A brother is family, and no one should be closer to you than family. You have a lot in common with a brother. You have the same parents. You are members of the same household. You have experienced many of the same things. Many of your circumstances are similar. Of course, once you become a Christian, all other Christians become your brothers and sisters in Christ, and in many essential ways you will now have more in common with them than you even have with your human family. It is good to be a part of the family of God. Hopefully you will do the same thing that Paul did. Hopefully you will truly regard other Christians as brothers and sisters in Christ.    

 

When Paul called Timothy his brother, Paul was putting Timothy on an equal basis with himself. No wonder that God truly used Paul. Paul did not push anyone away by having a superior attitude. He did not think of himself as the “great Apostle Paul.” He thought of himself as an equal with all other Christians. He did not put on airs. He did not flaunt a superior status. It is too bad that the Christian leaders of our day have not learned from Paul in this regard. In our day many of the clergy purposefully create a superior status for themselves.

 

The person to whom Paul was writing was name Philemon, and Paul said two things about him. Paul said that Philemon was “beloved,” and Paul said that Philemon was a “fellowlabourer.” All Christians are beloved: beloved of the Father and of the Son. Of course, Paul was especially saying that he loved Philemon. Paul loved Philemon because he was a Christian. He also loved Philemon because they were fellowlabourers. They were not competitors. They were team-members. Surely a Christian would never regard another Christian as a competitor.

 

In Philemon verse 2 Paul identified others to whom he was writing. He wrote, “And to our beloved Apphia, and Archippus our fellowsoldier, and to the church in thy house.” Paul called Apphia, the “beloved” Apphia. Philemon was beloved, Apphia was beloved. You and I are beloved. Being a Christian is a wonderful thing because Jesus loves you, and every Christian who is rightly related to Christ loves you. Paul said that Archippus was a “fellowsoldier,” and Paul called Philemon a fellowlabourer. Paul believed in teamwork, and Paul regarded other Christians as his team members. Notice that Paul continually puts himself on an equal standing with other believers as fellowlabourers and fellowsoldiers. If you are a Christian, you are called to be a labourer, working for Christ. Every Christian is a worker, and there is only one master: Jesus Christ. Also, if you are a Christian you are called to be a soldier in an army, and there is only one general, one leader of the army: Jesus Christ.

 

Notice in Verse 2 that Paul said that he was writing to the church in the “house” of Philemon. That was very common for the churches of the first century. They did not have their own church buildings. They met in homes. Of course, this means that the congregations were quite small. That does not matter because Jesus said, “Wherever two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them

 

Paul continues with his greeting in verse 3 and says, “Grace to you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Every Christian needs grace and peace in this world that is characterized by human failure and human turmoil. I hope you realize just how much you are dependent upon the grace of God that is in Christ Jesus. You needed grace to get saved. “By grace are you saved through faith.” You will need a lot of grace in order to keep serving God through all the spiritual battles that will come your way. Some day when you have failed miserably and when everything seems to be against you, remember that as long as you continue to rely on the grace of God you will have a chance to continue serving the Lord. You will not be able to rely upon yourself because you will have nothing left to rely on. But if you rely upon the grace of God that is in Christ Jesus, you will always have hope because He has grace that is greater than all our sins. You can count on grace because He is the God of all grace. You can count on grace because grace refers to God giving to you and blessing you and doing for you when you absolutely deserve nothing. You cannot merit grace. When the day comes that you sit back and realize that you have no hope except for the grace of God, then realize that you are in a good situation after all because this God is the god of all grace.

 

If you are relying upon the grace of God that is in Christ Jesus, then you should have peace also. You have peace when you know that everything is going to be all right. You have peace when you know that God is in control, and His will is going to be done. Jesus is the Prince of Peace. He is Lord of heaven and earth. He can give you peace. Center your thoughts and heart on Him and you will have peace.

 

Paul had peace in his heart and he also had a thankful heart. Paul wrote in verse 4 of Philemon, “I thank my God, making mention of thee always in my prayers.” Paul was thankful to God for the good things that were happening in regards to the faith of Philemon and the other believers with Philemon. If anyone has true faith and is living by faith, the praise must go to God for it happening. Surely no one being would praise a human being for faith that anyone has, because faith is a gift from God. Christ is the author of faith and the finisher of it. If we see that someone has faith, we should be thankful for that fact. Evidently Paul realized that just because these individuals had faith did not mean that they would automatically always be living by faith. They still needed prayer, so Paul continued to pray for them. You might be strong today, but tomorrow an attack might come against you that could have never anticipated. Except for the grace of God the day will come when you will no longer live by faith.

 

In Philemon verse 5 Paul said that he was thankful because he had heard of “thy love and faith, which thou hast toward the Lord Jesus, and toward all saints.” True love and faith are closely associated. No human being will know what true love is without having faith in God. What the world calls love, they often confuse with selfishness. But when you have true faith in Christ, you put aside your selfishness in order to put your trust in Him. You turn from yourself and you turn toward Him. Also, you start loving Christ the more that you understand what He did for you on the cross and in saving your soul. “We love him because he first loved us.” Once you learn to love Christ, and once you learn about His love for you, then you will know something about loving other human beings. That is one of the reasons that you absolutely should not marry anyone unless they know Christ and unless they walk in close fellowship with Him. If they are not walking close to Christ, then they are walking according the principle of human selfishness, and they will be too self-centered to show you true love.

 

Of course, you will find many people who will say that they love Jesus Christ, but notice that Paul said that these believers showed love toward Christ “and toward all saints.” If anyway says that he loves God, but loves not his brother, he is a liar. Be very careful what your attitude is toward another believer. Your attitude toward any believer is what your attitude is toward Christ. If you want to please God, you had better love other believers. Notice that Paul said they had love toward “all” saints. It is not good enough just to love some and it is not good enough just to love those in your group. You do not have to join with inappropriate alliances in order to love. Love is an attitude. But you must love all the saints. You can love them because they are “saints.” They are holy, and they have been set aside by Christ because of His blood just as you have been. No matter what are their weaknesses or failures, you can still love them.

 

In this epistle to Philemon Paul is setting the stage to show to Philemon that there is a specific circumstance whereby Philemon needs to put into practice his love for other believers. Paul wrote to Philemon in verse 6 and said, “That the communication of thy faith may become effectual by the acknowledging of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus.” It is good to have faith, but one of the reasons to have faith is so that good actions will result that will have a good effect on those around us. That is what is meant by having faith that is “effectual.” Another way of putting this is, “Faith without works is dead

 

Notice the phrase in verse 6, “the acknowledging of every good thing.” The word that is translated “acknowledging” comes from a word that means to know something because of careful observance. A believer should carefully observe every good thing that ought to be done, and then make it his goal to put it into practice. In the verses that follow, Paul is going to give Philemon something to put into practice. It is not acceptable to be satisfied with what you have already accomplished. There are things that you still need to consider doing as a Christian. Perhaps there are levels of love and compassion that you have not yet entered into. It does say in this verse, “every good thing.” A great challenge has been set before you by Christ to follow His footsteps.

 

Being only human is not an excuse. It does not change what the goal must be: always doing the right thing. Doing the right thing must also be done for the right reason and for the right purpose. That also is indicated in verse 6 when it says at the end of the verse, “in Christ Jesus.” This means literally “unto Christ Jesus.” Only by doing the thing that a Christian ought to do can I properly serve the Lord Jesus Christ and bring glory to His name. That is my purpose. He died for me, so now I do what I do for Him. “Whatsoever you do in word or deed, do as unto the Lord and not unto men.” There are only two basic motivations: one is selfish in nature, but the other is “unto Jesus Christ.” If you have the right motivation, you will be trying to seek and accomplish the right thing in what comes your way. Paul is making sure that Philemon is thinking about this important principle so that Philemon will be prepared to do the right thing when Paul brings up the matter of Onesimus a bit later in this epistle. 

 

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Copyright; 2005 by Charles F. (Rick) Creech
All Rights Reserved