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How to become useful

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How to Become Useful

A Bible Study in  Philemon

Bristol Road Baptist Wed. 13 May 1998

            The Background realities

                        Fellowship in Jesus

                        the transformation of Paul and Philemon & Onesimus   v1 v5 v6

                        the only sure hope of usefulness, purpose and value.

                        Fellowship in the Gospel

                        v1 Fellow-worker

                        v6 sharing your faith

                        v7 giving joy and encouragement

                             refreshing the hearts of the saints

                        So Paul can expect Philemon to 1. understand  2. obey  3 do even more

                        In Col 4 9 we know that Onesimus too was part of that fellowship.

                        A Debt v19 "not to mention that you owe me your very self"

                        Usefulness is a matter of indebtedness to Christ & to those by whom the                                        gospel reached us.

                        We owe Him a debt of worship and service.


            The Changing Circumstances

            Both Onesimus and Philemon must have viewed these changes with initial dismay,

            but dismay that turned to joy.

                        Was yours - is now mine                                                                     v10

                        Was alone - is now a member of the family "my son...a dear brother" v10 v16

                        Was useless - is now useful                                                                 v11

                        Was afraid - is now obedient                                                  vv 12,15,16

                        Was away - is now welcome                                                               v17


            The Present Challenge

            Such usefulness challenges Paul - to send him back, Philemon to welcome, and                              Onesimus to obey!  Underlying this challenge are these reasons:

                        A reason for separation           v 15 

                        Grace provides an insight into our experiences. Denials are hard to face!

                        God delights to turn debits into credits, and pays dividends as well.

                        A reason for receiving             v 16                                                                                                     It is the FAMILY RELATIONSHIP that transforms the way we are received and                                               should receive others!

                        A reason for settling the debt  v18 

                        How will you do that Paul? You are in chains! Yes I am - with you in Christ.

                        "Owing nothing save the debt of love".


Whether to Paul, or to Philemon, or to Onesimus - the challenge to BE USEFUL

You are His - therefore useful, - therefore obey.


No doubt we all feel useless from time to time. Perhaps we have attempted a

task that has proved too difficult for us - or perhaps because of age or whatever

we cannot easily do the things that once we did.

Imagine then how the runaway slave Onesimus must have felt

after absconding with his master's property.

He arrives at Rome. He is not the only runaway to seek

the anonymity of the great city.

how FEARFUL he must have been ! How worried for his life!

How many times must he have looked back over his shoulder

and wondered if anyone recognised him - or realised what he was doing!

If God had not been at work on his behalf he would have become

another of history's forgotten and nameless runaways -

not just useless but utterly hopeless.

Yet God was at work. Onesimus did not realise it.

God had plans for this useless slave.

This wonderful little letter so full of Paul's caring heart and

desire for Onesimus and Philemon is not just a trivial note -

like those  sent regularly with children to school excusing an absence

or asking a favour - it is a lesson in

how to become useful.

It is dedicated to any who feel lost or useless.

Here is the secret of SUCCESSFUL USEFULNESS.


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