We continue our study this week of Paul’s
Epistle to Philemon. The theme of the story is that Paul is in a
Roman prison where he has seen Onesimus, a run away slave,
gloriously saved. He has sent him back to Philemon, his master, who
is another of Paul’s converts. He sends this letter as a buffer of
forgiveness between Onesimus and Philemon. I have chosen as my
theme for this letter the phrase from verse 18 “Put That On Mine
Account”. This epistle is a great picture of a sinner and the
Lord, our redeeming Master.
We began looking at verses 1-7 last
week in what I called an ‘Abasing Approach’. We conclude this
section this week by looking at verses 4-7 which says, “I
thank my God, making mention of thee always in my prayers, Hearing
of thy love and faith, which thou hast toward the Lord Jesus, and
toward all saints; That the communication of thy faith may become
effectual by the acknowledging of every good thing which is in you
in Christ Jesus. For we have great joy and consolation in thy love,
because the bowels of the saints are refreshed by thee, brother.”
I notice in verse 4 there is a ‘Prayerful
Approach’. Paul tells Philemon that every time he thinks of
him, his heart wells up with gratitude. He assures Philemon that he
always makes mention of him in his prayers. Philemon, every time I
go the Lord in prayer I call your name to our heavenly Father. It
will be extremely hard for Philemon to deny Paul the request that he
is about to be making of him when he considers the prayer life of
the one who has approached him. I wonder if we would get further
with people in our sharing of the gospel story if we talk to the
Lord more about them than we talk to them about Him.
Let us consider in verse 5 there is
a ‘Perceptive Approach’. Paul begins to move the chessmen in
his approach into a position of ‘check mate’ of Philemon’s
feelings of forgiveness toward Onesimus. Paul tells Philemon that
he has heard of his ‘love’ and ‘faith’. I am
extremely interested in the order of love and faith. Love is
mentioned first because it is that which gives evidence that we know
the Lord Jesus. ‘If you love me, you will keep my commandments’.
The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost.
Faith gives the effect of our relationship with Him. Faith gives us
the power to act and react like Christ. Paul said that he had heard
that Philemon had exhibited this love and faith of Christ toward all
the saints. It is almost like you can read between the lines the
thought, if you were to hear the one who delivered this letter was a
saint you would show him the love and faith of Christ.
In verse 6 we see there is a ‘Prompting
Approach’. Paul was to be sure that Philemon’s good response
toward Onesimus has its origin totally from the indwelling Christ.
He doesn’t want it to come because of his regard of Philemon’s good
natural spirit. If it does Paul or Philemon would have reason to
glory. Paul wants to make sure the prompting has come from Christ
and He gets all the glory.
Last of all in verse 7 we see a ‘Powerful
Approach’ Paul will soon put this son of refreshment and love to
a grand test. Will he display true love and faith toward all saints
even a saved run away slave like Onesimus? “Thus Paul laid his
approaches to Philemon’s heart, mind, and will. His approach was
cautious but relentless.” (John Phillips)