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Philemon #03 - He Took My Place

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Philemon #3

Philemon 16-25

He Took My Place

Today we take one more look this beautiful letter of intercession from Paul to Philemon

But sometimes when we receive news, we need to put it in perspective


“Dear Mom and Dad, I’m sorry to be so long in writing, but all my writing paper was lost the night the dormitory burned down. I’m out of the hospital now, and the doctor says my eyesight should be back to normal sooner or later. The wonderful boy, Bill, who rescued me from the fire, kindly offered to share his little apartment with me until the dorm is rebuilt. He comes from a good family, so you won’t be surprised when I tell you we are going to be married. In fact you always wanted a grandchild, so you will be glad to know you will be grandparents early next year.” Then she added this postscript: “Please disregard the above practice in English composition. There was no fire. I haven’t been in the hospital. I’m not pregnant. And I don’t have a steady boyfriend. But I did get a ‘D’ in French and an ‘F’ in chemistry, and I wanted to be sure you received the news in proper perspective. Love, Mary.”

Perspective … Well Paul didn’t go to that extreme but while placing a life changing decision in front of Philemon he finishes by putting things in perspective.

In this last part of the letter, Paul teaches us the most important perspective in Forgiveness. He also reminds us that we have ALL be forgiven and when we remember that, we can also forgive.

If we can keep Christ in front of us … then we should be able to see our way clear to forgive others when they request our forgiveness.

So, look at the beautiful gesture that Paul makes to Philemon on behalf of Onesimus. Before I read it, let me say something about forgiveness: Forgiveness is MORE than just overlooking an offence. When there is a debt, then forgiveness involves bearing the weight of the offense. In order to forgive … someone must bear the weight of the offense. If you owe me $1000 and I “forgive” the debt. I can’t just FORGET or OVERLOOK the debt but I choose to bear the weight of the debt.

Now, if you owe me $1000 and a 3rd Party agrees to pay the debt you owe on your behalf. They are agreeing to bear the weight of the debt. You must choose to accept their gesture, and I must choose to receive their gesture on your behalf to satisfy the debt.

So, let’s read and see the forgiveness enjoined by Paul as well as the forgiveness enjoyed by all who know Christ and thus know God’s forgiveness

READ 17-25

Remember last week, we saw that Paul was interceding for Onesimus asking Philemon to forgive him. Paul reveals that Onesimus has come to salvation and has started growing in the faith and become a servant to Paul.

As if sensing the questions that would be going through Philemon’s mind … Paul answers those questions. Questions like: (1) How should I respond to this runaway slave? (2) Who’s going to pay back what he owes me? (3) How do I know this request really came from Paul?

And Paul responds … receive him like you would me, I’ll pay the debt, and I wrote this myself …

Let’s look more closely at his response, because there is a good offer and argument for forgiveness. But Paul was talking about more than what is on the surface

I want you to see two things now as you listen. (1) Realize today as we journey that every one of us today is Onesimus. We are all people who are slaves to sin. We all run far away from God. We are all guilty and worthy of Punishment.

We want to be right with God but we can’t be. We can’t pay back our debt and we can’t buy our freedom. Unless someone intercedes for us, we are doomed. So, see yourself today as Onesimus and see what Jesus did for you or what he offers you if you haven’t received it …

“Because he Loved Me

He Took My Place”

But also today, (2) I want you to realize that we all are or have been Philemon. Someone, sometime has wronged us. When we are faced with the question of forgiveness … we need to remember what has been done for US and for the one we are asked to forgive

Remember last week, we saw the deeper picture here. This is one man writing a letter of intercession for another. But also, imagine Christ going before the Father for you.

Paul says “Receive him …”

1. As You Would Receive Me

The NIV says “Welcome Him as you would welcome me” … Paul is clear and gives several parameters

A. If We Are Partners

The word is koinonos = companion, associate, partners … One writer offers a bit of conjecture … Could it be that in their friendship, Paul and Philemon had become business associates? This writer offers that perhaps Philemon or his scon Archippus had taken the place of Priscilla and Aquila as partners in Paul’s tent making business. It is an interesting thought. But certainly as fellow believers and laborers in the gospel they were partners in the business of the Gospel.

Paul says “if we are partners and I know we are … then ..”

B. Receive Him / Welcome Him

Proslambano – to take to one’s self; draw close; to lead aside

But he wasn’t saying pull him aside to do harm or to impart justice but he says “welcome him …”

C. AS you would Welcome Me

This word for welcome understands that the intent behind it is for kindness and warmth

Paul says “if you are wondering what to do with Onesimus … out of respect for our partnership in life and for the gospel, when you see him, see me and treat him like you would treat me

Folks Onesimus had no right to stand before Philemon and we have no right to stand before God. But Paul was placing HIMSELF between Onesimus and Philemon.

Job 9:33-35 - If only there were someone to arbitrate between us, to lay his hand upon us both, 34 someone to remove God’s rod from me, so that his terror would frighten me no more. 35Then I would speak up without fear of him, but as it now stands with me, I cannot.

We need someone to mediate between us and God the Father. And Jesus, when we come to him … he says, to the Father, “if we are business associates … since together we created this world. Since together we have always known the fate of every man, woman, boy and girl. Since we purposed in our hearts from the beginning to redeem those we foreknew and choose; then Father, this one comes guilty as charged but since they have come through me, and because we are partners …. Draw them close, welcome them, show them the same hospitality that you would show me.”

Oh People when God sees us he sees JESUS

“Because he Loved Me

He took my place”

What a beautiful request that Paul makes to Philemon for Onesimus and what an overwhelming request Jesus makes for us with God the father when we come to God through Christ. And through Christ IS the ONLY WAY to Come

John 14:6 – /I am the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father, but by me”

Jesus is our ONLY way to God. /

Now, that’s a nice gesture you may say, but what about the debt we owe?

I don’t know what Onesimus owed Philemon, but there WAS a debt and Paul addresses that need and says

2. Charge it to My Account

He begins … “If he has …”

A. Done You Wrong

This phrase is worded in such a way as it is assuming there HAS been wrong. The reality of wrong is implied

“done any wrong” is the word adikeo (ad-ee-keh-o) = to act unjustly, wickedly, to sin

How had Onesimus “wronged” Philemon? Forget for a minute the issue of slavery. The offense was that he offended Philemon by leaving him. Philemon had provided for him by giving him home and provision. Perhaps as a christian Master he had treated him more like one of the family.

But Paul says “no matter HOW he has offended you, … OR …

B. If he Owes you Anything

Opheilo (of-i-lo) = to owe money, be in debt

Obviously Philemon had taken money from Philemon and so there was a debt. In order for Forgiveness to take place, someone would have to bear the weight of the offense. And so Paul offers

C. Charge it to Me

ellogeo (el-log-eh-o) = reckon in, set to one’s account

Again there is an undertanding in the writing that the offense, the debt IS reality … so Satisfaction is demanded, it’s just a matter of WHOM will bear the weight. If the debt must be paid, Onesimus is unable so Paul says, “I am able and I will pay the price.”

In Like Manner, Jesus Christ takes up our case before Almighty God. he says “Father if Jim Has wronged you …”

Romans 3:23 All (Jim included) have sinned and come short of the glory of God

If you want to know what we have done, how we have wronged, Read Romans 1:18-32 … but let me summarize …we were godless and wicked. We failed to glorify or be grateful to God for what he has done for us. We claim wisdom when in fact we are fools and we worshipped things we have created. We exchange truth for a lie. We are filled with every form of wickedness, evil, greed, and depravity. And we are senseless, faithless, heartless, and ruthless

And what do we OWE?

Romans 1:32 those who do such things deserve death

Romans 6:23 the wages of sin is death …

And in response to that, Jesus says “Charge it to MY ACCOUNT”

OH, do you see what Jesus did for us?

Oh and by the way do you see how Old Testament Saints experienced Salvation?

They were saved and made right with God by the Promised Coming of Christ. Their sins were charged to his account. He was the one who would take away their sins. The promised Messiah was coming who would defeat Satan … So Adam and Eve, Enoch and Noah, Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca, Moses, Joshua, Rahab, Ruth, David, Solomon, Esther, Daniel, to Malachi, all of their sins were Charged to Christ’s Account with the knowledge that one day he would settle the account with the Father.

So, Jesus … promised to settle the account as Paul here promised to settle the account

“Because he Loved Me

He took my place”

And so Paul to verify his promise says

3. I Write With My Own Hand

Now besides saying “this was his own writing” … how would Philemon KNOW that Paul this?

I have many autographed items. Some I got myself others someone else got. I have some certificates of authenticity or other provenance that guarantees the authenticity of the items I have.

Paul, most often, dictated his letters and others actually wrote his words down. Jacob limped his whole life after wrestling with God as a reminder of his encounter with God. In the same manner, many Biblical scholars believe that after being blinded on the road to Damascus that perhaps Paul had eyesight issues the rest of his life. Whatever Paul’s illness it was given him by God to keep him grounded and focused on God’s power. And so, whenever Paul wrote, his poor sight required him to write in larger letters as referenced in Galatians 6:11. So, it was difficult for Paul to write without the aid of a scribe. Yet this was so important that he wrote it himself. This was a serious commitment.

Also, Paul entered into a legal promissory note when he wrote this with his own hand.

“I will pay it” – apotino (ap-ot-ee-no) = to pay off, compensate, pay the damage

The Price for our SIN … also MUST be paid and Jesus Christ and we have already seen that the price is DEATH. The full price must be paid. And so Jesus Christ tells the Father, “I will pay it.”

The Prophets and scribes had written for generations about the seriousness of sin, the love of God and the opportunity for forgiveness. But THIS time, Jesus HIMSELF came and “WROTE” this message with his OWN HANDS.

His hands, his feet, his side, pierced for our sin, will for eternity remain the evidence for all to see that Christ has paid for our sin.

Remember the Apostle Thomas? Poor guy, Jesus shows up late on Resurrection Day and he was out at the store or something. He missed the Resurrected Christ. And when they told him, he said “unless I see the mark in his hands and put my fingers where the nailes were and my hand in his side, I will not believe” (John 20:25). Well, he had to wait a whole week. The following Sunday, Jesus stands before them again and says to Thomas, “Put your finger here, see my hands, reach out your hand and put it in my side, stop doubting and believe.”

Oh People, the hands of Jesus show that our debt is paid and Revelation 5:5-6 says that Jesus, the “Lion of the Tribe of Judah” will be seen by us “looking as if he had been slain”. For Eternity his hands will tell us that he has paid our debt.

“Because He Loved Me

He took My Place”

Precious One, on that Thursday Night, Jesus was arrested for claiming to be God. He was slapped, mocked, taken before High Priest, Governor, and King. He was beaten within an inch of his life with 39 lashes from the “cat of nine tails”. They put a crown of thorns on his head, draped a woolen robe over the open sores on his wounded back. They spit in his face and plucked his beard. Then before the Governor again, he was sentenced to die on a cross.

“Because He Loved Me

He took My Place”

They put that cross on his back and he carried through the streets of Jerusalem and up a hill called Golgotha because it was shaped like a skull. They led him down and affixed him to that cross with nails in his hands and feet. They raised him up for all to see. He hung there for 6 hours that Friday. He never complained. He even prayed for those executioners and promised Salvation to a repentant thief beside him.

“Because He Loved Me

He took My Place”

He paid our debt in full. He Satisfied God’s Requirement for death for our sin.

Why? So that God COULD Forgive us. Without the Cross, God cannot ignore our sin, but Christ BORE the weight of our sin

And so Paul, bearing the weight for Onesimus says that he is

4. Confident In Acceptance

Oh, I really need to close, people, but Paul was confident that Philemon would do the right thing and he DID.

But oh what Jesus did for us! That Friday afternoon at 3:00Jesus revealed HIS confidence and OURS.

He cried it out with a loud voice.

He didn’t say “I HOPE THIS WORKS!” … He didn’t say “I have done my part now you do the best you can!” NO NO NO … Jesus cried out in confidence “Tetelistei” – “Paid in full” “It Is FINISHED!”

Our sin atoned, God’s Law Satisfied, and Jesus, like Paul, is Confident, even MORE so …

We don’t just have freedom from punishment, though we need his mercy … we got his Grace too … We have the position as Adopted Sons in the Family with all the rights and inheritance … we have a home in heaven for eternity. We have the gift of the Holy Spirit living within us, power over sin, and peace within

“Because He Loved Me

He took My Place”

Why was Paul confident? It was because it wasn’t about Onesimus but about Paul and HIS provision and the acceptance of Philemon.

And when it comes to us, it isn’t about us either. The confidence we have is that Jesus has already DONE it All

“Jesus Paid it All

All to Him I Owe

Sin had left a crimson stain

He washed it white as snow”

When we realize who we are in Christ, then we can have all that we need in Christ Jesus.

We can know that we can and should forgive all who ask because of what Jesus has done for us.

What a change in Jesus Christ!

You know I told you that the name Onesimus was a slave title, not a proper name. As a slave title, you would never think of naming your child Onesimus. That is BEFORE GOD changed the story. Then everything changed. But AFTER Onesimus met Jesus and made things right with Philemon, he became well known throughout the late 1st Century Church. In just 40 years later, there was a Pastor in Ephesus named Onesimus. Then in the mid 2nd century we know of an influential layman in Sardis who was named Onesimus.

From Slave Title to an Honored Name that Christian parents gave their sons, what made the change?

Onesimus was a slave who tried to steal his freedom … and yet he found the freedom he sought in Jesus Christ and his name became one of honor.

And People … God is STILL in the BUSINESS of Changing Lives

<Brian Welch - Video Clip - former lead guitar player with KORN>

Because He loved me; he took my place

Because He loved me; I see God’s face

Because He loved me; forgave me

I am forgiven, He took my place

Because He loved me; I can forgive

Because He loved me; grace I can give

Because He loved me; forgave me

I am forgiven, He took my place

(Jim Goforth (c) 2011)

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