This little one chapter epistle was one of
Paul’s Prison epistles. While in a Roman prison he was blessed to
see a run away slave saved whom his dear friend Philemon owned.
Paul instructs Onesimus the slave that he must return to Philemon
and make things right. Onesimus not knowing what his master
Philemon would do returned to Colosse. Paul gives him this letter
as a buffer at his time of return.
I have chosen a phrase from verse
18 and the title of a song, which a dear preacher friend of mine
wrote as the theme of our study. The phrase is “Put That On Mine
Account”. We too were slaves to sin and knew not what the
eternal God and Father of all creation would do with us, but the Son
of God stepped forth and said ‘Put That On Mine Account’.
I desire to look at verses 1-3 of
our text this week which says, “Paul, a
prisoner of Jesus Christ, and Timothy our brother, unto Philemon our
dearly beloved, and fellow-labourer, And to our beloved Apphia, and
Archippus our fellow-soldier, and to the church in thy house: Grace
to you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
I have called this section “An
Abased Approach”. I notice in verse 1 there is an ‘Intimate
Approach’. Paul doesn’t approach Philemon as an apostle but as
a prison of Jesus Christ. Many believed Philemon knew Paul and
Timothy from Ephesus. He may have heard of the great revivals going
on there and went to check them out. While looking on he may have
been gloriously converted. We find later in the epistle that he
owes the news of the gospel to Paul’s ministry.
It is very clear that Paul is in a
Roman prison but he is not a prisoner of Rome. He has settled long
ago that he is a captive to his redeemer’s will. It is for the
gospel’s sake he is a slave to the Lord.
Here he calls Timothy, ‘our
brother’. He will call several in this epistle ‘our brother’
including Philemon. The word means, of the same womb of the
Father. This speaks of a like spiritual birth and not physical. He
calls Philemon his ‘dearly beloved’. The phrase means dearly
loved ones. He calls him a ‘fellow-labourer’. Paul is a
master at making all true believers to feel an intimate part of his
gospel ministry. He is laying the groundwork for Philemon to have
the chains of the Lord about his hands in dealing with Onesimus as
our redeemer would have it to be.
In verse 2 we find an ‘Individual
Approach’. It is in this verse that Paul introduces by divine
inspiration three individuals. Apphia was Philemon’s wife.
He calls her ‘our beloved’. Paul uses the word ‘our’
on numerous occasions in this text. It is a word that binds
individuals to him in a firm hold. Paul was a master at this work.
The word ‘beloved’ is the word ‘sister’. The word
keeps the woman at a guarded position in the life of a man. He also
addresses Archippus who was the son of Philemon and the
Pastor of the Colosse Church. Paul calls him a dearly beloved and
fellow-soldier. He had the church in his house. These terms are
masterful in drawing people into a close relationship with Paul.
In verse 3 we have an ‘Inspiring
Approach’. Paul continues to put the shackles of Lordship on
the hands of Philemon with the mention of ‘grace’ and ‘peace’.
Grace is God’s unmerited favor of giving us what we do not deserve.
Peace means the war is over. This grace and peace comes from our
God and Father. This is the spiritual womb from which all of God’s
children are birthed. The name ‘Lord’ is His title of ‘power’.
The name ‘Jesus’ is the name for His title of a ‘personal’
relationship. The name ‘Christ’ is His title for a royal ‘position’.
In Paul’s approach to this family he has with great inspiration
prepared the way to have them forgive Onesimus, the run away slave.
Surely we can approach God the Father through the Lord Jesus Christ
and find forgiveness and freedom from sin. We find this to be true
because of Christ who said, ‘Put that on mine account’.