Every Legal Right

Re:Verse reading–Philemon 1-25 (day seven)

Philemon had every legal right to tear Onesimus down.  Roman law even compelled Philemon to severely punish both Onesimus for his escape and Paul for harboring him.  But Paul appealed to something higher.  Just because you have a legal right to act or just because it is culturally acceptable to act, does not mean you should.  Under Christ we have a new order.  We are compelled to acknowledge the image of God in people, and in particular, we treat our sisters and brothers in Christ as our closet kin.

“Philemon’s culture had conditioned him to view slaves as less than full persons who were deservedly consigned to their lot by fate, and Philemon would have been expected to exact revenge on one who stole away. But what was culturally permissiblefor dealing with a runaway slave was at odds with what is fitting in Christ”-David E. Garland 1998

Actually, then, it is already a defeat for you, that you have lawsuits with one another. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be defrauded?  On the contrary, you yourselves wrong and defraud. You do this even to your brethren. 1 Corinthians 6:7-8


Re:Verse reading–Philemon 1-25 (day six)

Although slavery in the Roman Empire was not based on race, it was equally dehumanizing and reinforced extreme prejudice against slaves, even freed slaves. In that day, Philemon had complete authority over Onesimus’ life; he was nothing more than property to do with as he pleased.

The Gospel changed that kind of thinking. The Gospel did not upend (immediately) an evil system, but it did upend Philemon’s mind. The Gospel would not allow him to think of Onesimus as property, but led him to think of him as a neighbor, and then his brother.

The Gospel will always, always change the way you think about others. Jesus quoted the Old Testament saying, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Everyone is your neighbor. Does your thinking need to change too?


Re:Verse reading–Philemon 1-25 (day five)

vs 5 “because I hear of your love and of the faith which you have toward the Lord Jesus and toward all the saints;”

A question people often ask. Comes in different forms and phrases-  “How do I know I am getting stronger in my faith?”,  “How do I know I am closer to God?”

Are there indicators or evidences that point to real faith?  The scripture does point to several. One of those is a deep affection and love for God’s people (the church). In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians (chapter 5)  as he describes the love between a husband and wife, he uses the analogy of Christ’s love for the church.

Want a litmus for your faith?  Ask how much you love the church (more specifically, all the people in the church) – those that agree and disagree with you, those that encourage and are a challenge to you. It will be a deep and growing love for Christ that will produce a deep and growing love for His people. 

Of Course You Know What’s Right

Re:Verse reading–Philemon 1-25 (day four) 

Let’s be honest…Paul leaves no room for Philemon to do anything but the right thing.  Onesimus had run away from his master and was lost to Philemon.  God intervened though.  Onesimus had no clue how his life was about to change.  He had been on the run and to be caught as a runaway slave would have dire consequences.  The Gospel hijacked his life though…he met Paul and then met Christ and his life was forever changed.  He was redeemed!

Have you ever planned out your life and set off on a course that was apart from God’s plan? God has a way of capturing His own.  We may have left some Philemons behind us that we need to make amends with and ask forgiveness.  Paul was encouraging Onesimus to do the right thing, but he was also making sure Philemon did the same.  Redemption is in the hands of God…who are we to judge or stand in the way of others He has rescued?


Re:Verse reading–Philemon 1-25 (day three)

I appeal to you on the basis of love.

The modern Western mind might view the stakes in this way: A man who had temporarily clawed out a sliver of respite from life as a subject of human trafficking could end up disappearing into a system of forced servitude in which death is the only limiting factor.  Paul’s mind was not a modern Western one.  But his spiritual and intellectual brilliance led to the rise of that mind as he helped lay the foundation for what would become Western civilization.  How did that happen?  Paul concedes that he could force the issue by any means necessary: authority, position, coercion, shame, threat.  He rejects those means, discerning that regardless of the short-term outcome, they would produce only more of the same kind of world which gave us the present moment.  Love alone is transformative.

Useless No More

Re:Verse reading–Philemon 1-25 (day two) I appeal to you for my child Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my imprisonment, who formerly was useless to you, but now is useful both to you and to me. vs. 10-11

Do you remember when you were applying to college, for a scholarship, or even for a job and it required a letter of recommendation? When choosing who will write letters it is most critical to get people who will sing your praises. I’m not sure Onesimus would have wanted Paul to call him “fomerly useless” in his recommendation letter. Not really a ringing endorsement.

Paul, however, understood the nature of conversion. Prior to his own encounter with Jesus, he was ‘useless’ to the church. His hostility and anger were in opposition to the work of the Holy Spirit. Then God showed up.

This is your testimony too. God has given you value that is of heavenly worth. This is the only kind you need.


Re:Verse reading–Philemon 1-25 (day one)

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” (Matthew 5:9)

Sometimes to get forward we need to go back.  Back to a broken relationship.  Back to a past wrong that needs to be made right.

After coming to Christ, Onesimus knew that he had to go back to make things right with Philemon, his former master.  Roman law had a clear position on runaway slaves.  To stay a fugitive and a felon was not an option.

And Paul was no passive observer.  He got involved.  Coaching Onesimus.  Persuading Philemon.  Like Jesus, Paul began to intercede, to mediate.

The relationships in a church ARE your business.  When the disciples argued (Luke 9) Jesus confronted it.  When brothers were broken, Paul inserted himself.  “If you consider me a partner, accept him!”–v 17

When He prayed for the church to be one, the Lord knew that we would need to help each attend to broken relationships.

Fervent Prayer

Re:Verse reading–Acts 12:1-19 (day seven)

 So Peter was kept in the prison, but prayer for him was being made fervently by the church to God. Acts 12:5

…he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John who was also called Mark, where many were gathered together and were praying.  Acts 12:12

Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much. James 5:16

Prayer can indeed accomplish much.  The prayer of even one who is righteous or one who has the faith of a mustard seed can transform life, and when the church gathers together in unified prayer there is little that can stand in her way.  In our text this week the church is on her knees praying the night away, and God honors their faithfulness as I am certain God has honored the faithfulness of our praying church.  Your prayers have already made a lasting impact on my life.  All through this transition process I have felt your prayers encouraging me daily, and I know that God has already blessed our prayer together Friday night.  May God continue to bless you for being a praying church.

Gates Too

Re:Verse reading–Acts 12:1-19 (day six)

“[The gate] It opened for them of its own accord,…” Acts 12:10b

God is in the details. Can you imagine if Peter were left to pick the lock of the gate, after God had done everything else? Being Peter he probably could have figured it out, but that is not how God works. I like to think that this is a small way of God saying, “I do ALL of the rescuing; Peter you have no part in this other than to receive.”

There is no part in our own rescue story that was left to us to figure out; God did it all, even to the smallest detail. It is also a great reminder that God is in the daily details of the obstacles we face.

There is no gate he cannot open, or keep closed.

Pray First

Re:Verse reading–Acts 12:1-19 (day five)

Acts 12:5- prayer for him was being made fervently by the church to God.

What we know about that first New Testament Church is that there were a few activities and actions that were “non-negotiables” for them- worship, bible study, fellowship, and prayer. What if the rhythm and priority of prayer bathed a Pastoral Succession  and Transition?  What if we ALL were praying with desperation and expectation?  What if we continued to Pray First and ask the Lord to help our church complete this process?  Would we demonstrate our dependence and trust in the Living God?  Would God continue to help our church for His glory and the good of our city and the nations?  Please take opportunity this weekend to join other members of our church in ernest prayer for our church, the transition process, and our co-pastors. These are exciting and important moments in the life of our church. Pray First!