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Philemon

Philemon

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Sermon: Philemon

I. Philemon

1. Most likely, Philemon was a member of the church at Colossae
2. He was a wealthy businessman, most likely met Apostle Paul during his travel (verse 19)
3. On one such meeting, Philemon must have become a Christian through Paul’s sharing of the Gospel
4. Philemon and Paul became friends/“partners” (verse 1 “dear friend” and “co-laborer”)
5. Philemon was a man of hospitality (verses 4-5, 7)
6. Colossian Church was meeting in his house (verse 2)

II. Onesimus the Runaway Slave (verse 10)

1. Onesimus worked in Philemon’s house as a slave (verse 16)
2. As a slave-member of Philemon’s family, Onesimus was part of the Colossian community (cf. Col 4:9)—“one of yourselves” (verse 10)
3. Onesimus ran from Colossae to Rome
4. Runaway slaves caused economic damage  to their masters (verse 11, 18)

a. Runaway slaves were treated as criminals
b. Their owners could issue a warrant against them
c. It looks like that Onesimus was not apprehended by Roman authorities

5. For reasons unknown, Onesimus meets Paul in his prison

a. When Onesimus met Paul, he was not a believer
b. Paul leads Onesimus to Christ “whose father I have become in my imprisonment” (verse 10)

III. Onesimus a Believer

1. When Onesimus was coming back to Colossae (when he was sent back), he was a different person

a. “A faithful and beloved brother” (cf. Col 4:9)
b. “Son, whose father I have become” (verse 10), “very heart” (verse 12)
c. Formerly, he was useless to Philemon (verse 11), but now he has become more useful both to Philemon and Paul (verse 11)
d. Paul wanted him to be his associate with Philemon’s approval (verse 13)
e. Paul views Onesimus’ running away from Philemon as part of God’s sovereign plan (verse 15)

2. Paul asks Philemon to treat Onesimus not as a slave, but as a “dear” brother (verse 16)

a. A slaveowner is asked to give up a slave for Christian service!
b. Treat the person with the Kingdom value,
c. Paul wants Philemon to treat Onesimus just as he would treat Apostle Paul (verses 17-18)

3. According to one of the apostolic fathers, Ignatius of Antioch (AD 110), Onesimus became the Bishop of Ephesus (Ignatius, Eph 1:3, 6:2).
4. Paul seeks to get both Philemon and the Colossian congregation to treat Onesimus with faith, hope, joy, and love
5. He teaches how relationship should be between a Christian master and his Christian employee

IV. Lessons

1. The Gospel transforms wealthy and poor equally, i.e., the Gospel that transformed Philemon also transformed Onesimus
2. Just as Philemon bore fruits of salvation, Onesimus also brought fruits of salvation
3. Every believer is capable of making Gospel impact on others
4. Every sinner who turns to Christ has an immense human and spiritual potential
5. God brings Onesimuses in believers’ lives

a. Those who run away from problems, people, troubles, etc.
b. Those who don’t fit in society, issues with law, character flaws, chemistry issues, etc.
c. God brings Onesimuses to believers so that they will share the Gospel, disciple, and prepare them for ministry

6. Every believer is capable of bringing value to Onesimuses

a. Your Onesimuses may become your spiritual “daughter,” “son,” “co-worker,” “more useful” etc.
b. You can become a spiritual legacy builder: believer, disciple, and fruit bearer

7. When you negotiate between economics and spirituality, choose spirituality

a. Slavery or Christian spirituality (Philemon most likely accepted Onesimus as a brother in Christ)
b. Slave—useful, but a believer—most useful

8. For a believer, the greatest joy comes from when others thrive spiritually and bear fruits

Take Away:

Identify your “Onesimuses” and make Gospel investments in their lives (leave the result to God)

Speaker: William J. Subash

Born and raised in south India, William J. Subash became a follower of Jesus Christ in 1983 at the age of nineteen. After a brief career in a tea and coffee plantation, Subash decided to spend rest of his life to preach about Jesus and his life-transforming message of God, which is popularly known as “the Gospel.” Subash teaches New Testament Studies at two institutions: SAIACS in India and Liberty University Online, VA, USA. Currently, Subash serves as the chief point person for GROW Gospel Initiatives and the Lead Pastor of the Crossroad Church, Bangalore. Write to him at wjsubash@crossroadbangalore.org