Faithlife Sermons

Philemon: Welcome to the Family

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Philemon 15–16 NKJV
15 For perhaps he departed for a while for this purpose, that you might receive him forever, 16 no longer as a slave but more than a slave—a beloved brother, especially to me but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.
Philemon 15–16 NKJV
15 For perhaps he departed for a while for this purpose, that you might receive him forever, 16 no longer as a slave but more than a slave—a beloved brother, especially to me but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.
Tonight, I want to go through the book of Philemon. The title of my message is, [Welcome to the Family].
When Bekah and I married, there were many adjustments we had to make. One that came to my mind as I prepared this message was when we said I Do, we joined to families.
I prayed again for direction, and I went to decided to spend two weeks discussing Paul’s conversion. One thing led to another and I spent nearly six months in Acts, studying every chapter that dealt with Paul.
Bekah joined the Tidmore Family and I joined the Russell Family. I am just glad I got to keep my last name! We do not necessarily think we have two families, but we have two sides of our family.
I decided I liked that guy Paul, and determined we should read one of his letters. We went through Philippians,
The Tidmore side and the Russell Side do things different. It is not to say that one is right and the other is wrong, they are just different. We especially notice this around the holidays.
Get together on Christmas Eve
Do not stay very long
Not many gifts exchanged
Get together on Christmas Day
Plan to stay most of the day
Everybody gets everybody a gift
In four years, we have meshed our family cultures. There are things I do the “Russell” way now, and there are things Bekah does the “Tidmore” way.
It has taken a little time, but I would say we are both accepted in both sides of the family. Both sides seems to get along with their son/daughter-in-law. And we appreciate both sides of our family.
As I read the book of Philemon, I thought about joining a new family. Every family has their own dynamics. I used to look at other families and think, “man they have it all together. If only our family was like that.”
However, when it comes to being family, forgiveness
I have since learned every family has their share of problems. And every family has to give their fair share of forgiveness.
However, the more I g
Of the books Paul wrote, Philemon is the shortest. At first glance it seems out of place. Unlike his other writings, this book is a personal letter written by Paul to a man named Philemon.
Philemon 1–3 NKJV
1 Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, To Philemon our beloved friend and fellow laborer, 2 to the beloved Apphia, Archippus our fellow soldier, and to the church in your house: 3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Paul wrote to Philemon during his first Roman imprisonment. It was deeply personal. We see that Philemon was not a stranger, he was a beloved friend of Paul.
He lived in Colosse. The Colossian Christians met in his home for worship. He was not a nominal church attender, he was a church leader.
Before we study the content of the letter, we see that Paul considered Philemon a friend. The letter to the Colossians would have been delivered at the same time Philemon recieved his letter.
When we come to Christ, we join a new family. We may not be blood related, but the blood of Jesus unites us into one family. We have a Heavenly Father, who loves us and makes us His children!
Through this brief letter, we will see how we are to treat each other in the family of God. I have three points, [Personal Appreciation], [Personal Appeal], and [Personal Acceptance].
Let’s begin
1. Personal Appreciation
Philemon 4–7 NKJV
4 I thank my God, making mention of you always in my prayers, 5 hearing of your love and faith which you have toward the Lord Jesus and toward all the saints, 6 that the sharing of your faith may become effective by the acknowledgment of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus. 7 For we have great joy and consolation in your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed by you, brother.
Paul had a habit of praying for the churches he started.
2 Corinthians 11:28 NKJV
28 besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches.
He was concerned about their spiritual well-being. There were places and people that caused him great sorrow. Then there we places and people that encouraged him.
Though we do not know Paul’s connection with Philemon or his family, they were dear to Paul. So much so, merely mentioning his name caused Paul to thank God.
He appreciated Philemon for his faith in Christ and his love for the saints. It could be that Philemon was a pastor in Colosse. Whether this is the case, he showed concern for the Colossian Christians by opening his home to them.
When he prayed for Philemon, he asked God to strengthen his faith and help him grow in Christ. He already was a great witness and an encouragement.
Notice verse six, thinking of the good things Philemon did refreshed Paul and those who were with him. Paul understood Philemon was part of the family of God, and he wanted to show his appreciation.
I appreciate that Paul did not focus on Philemon’s mistakes, and I am sure he made them because he was human. Instead, Paul extended appreciation to him.
Paul sets a marvelous example for us to follow. Human nature tends to focus on the negative. We notice when something is wrong. We pay attention when someone does something wrong.
What would happen if we extended personal appreciation. Be it in our marriages, our families, our friendships, or our work in God’s house, we hear from someone when we did the wrong thing at the wrong time!
Imagine would could happen if every child of God sought to show appreciation the way Paul did to Philemon. We would be a family people would want to join!
2. Personal Appeal
Philemon 8–11 NKJV
8 Therefore, though I might be very bold in Christ to command you what is fitting, 9 yet for love’s sake I rather appeal to you—being such a one as Paul, the aged, and now also a prisoner of Jesus Christ—10 I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten while in my chains, 11 who once was unprofitable to you, but now is profitable to you and to me.
After extending his appreciation to Philemon, Paul get’s to the point of his letter. During Paul’s imprisonment in Rome, he met someone named Onesimus.
Onesimus was a runaway slave from the home of Philemon. At that time in the Roman Empire, anywhere from 25-40% of the population were slaves, that is somewhere between 45-60 million people.
It is likely that Onesimus ran away from Philemon’s home, taking with him some money or goods. When he arrived to Rome he met Paul.
Paul introduced him to Jesus and Onesimus was born again. Now Paul has the task of speaking to Philemon about it, should they welcome Onesimus as part of the family?
Paul trusted Philemon to make the right decision. He began his letter with appreciation. Not because he wanted to butter up Philemon by stroking his ego. Paul believed everything he wrote.
As an apostle, he has spiritual authority to say, “Philemon, Onesimus is coming home, you WILL accept him.” Instead of pulling rank, he came to him like we should in the family of God, with humility.
Philemon 11–14 NKJV
11 who once was unprofitable to you, but now is profitable to you and to me. 12 I am sending him back. You therefore receive him, that is, my own heart, 13 whom I wished to keep with me, that on your behalf he might minister to me in my chains for the gospel. 14 But without your consent I wanted to do nothing, that your good deed might not be by compulsion, as it were, but voluntary.
Paul already established Onesimus was useless when he was last with Philemon. However, with the great change God did in his life, he was now useful to both Paul and Philemon.
Calling Onesimus “useful” was a play on words. The name Onesimus literally means “useful.” Before he accepted Christ as Savior, he was not useful, obviously, he stole from his master.
One author explains, “Onesimus obviously hadn’t lived up to the meaning of his name. It would be like a woman named Grace who holds a grudge, or a man named Earnest who can’t tell the truth!”
Paul knew his past, but he wanted Philemon to know Onesimus was redeemed by God. He went on to say, I thought about keeping him with me, but in the family of God we need reconciliation and forgiveness.
Philemon 15–16 NKJV
15 For perhaps he departed for a while for this purpose, that you might receive him forever, 16 no longer as a slave but more than a slave—a beloved brother, especially to me but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.
Philemon 15–16 NKJV
15 For perhaps he departed for a while for this purpose, that you might receive him forever, 16 no longer as a slave but more than a slave—a beloved brother, especially to me but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.
It seems Paul asked a lot from Philemon. Onesimus deserted Philemon. In those days, runaway slaves could be punished by death.
Some have asked the question, why didn’t Paul confront the evils of slavery in this letter? Was it harsh to send him back to his master, knowing the penalty for his crime?
Dr. David Jeremiah explains, “Paul’s goal was not to overturn the Roman institution of slavery, but to see individual hearts changed by the gospel of Christ… He wanted to change the relationship between slave and master.... In this particular situation, Paul knew the heart of Philemon—he could be trusted to do what was right.”
Paul now asks the question, could it be that Onesimus left for a reason? Could it be that God used this to change his life and that you might receive him back as a brother, not as a slave?
One the surface that sounds like a bold request, but is it? Didn’t we owe a debt to God? Didn’t we lie, cheat, and steal before we met Jesus?
But in His great love for us, He accepted us, not as slaves, but as sons of God! Paul appeals to Philemon, I know you will do the right thing. Please trust me that Onesimus really changed!
3. Personal Acceptance
Philemon 17–22 NKJV
17 If then you count me as a partner, receive him as you would me. 18 But if he has wronged you or owes anything, put that on my account. 19 I, Paul, am writing with my own hand. I will repay—not to mention to you that you owe me even your own self besides. 20 Yes, brother, let me have joy from you in the Lord; refresh my heart in the Lord. 21 Having confidence in your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I say. 22 But, meanwhile, also prepare a guest room for me, for I trust that through your prayers I shall be granted to you.
Paul refers to their friendship. They were partners in the ministry. At some point, God used them together, as brothers in Christ, to do something beneficial for the Kingdom of God.
He then shows compassion to both Philemon and Onesimus. He offers to pay back whatever Onesimus stole. Think of that, he was under house arrest in Rome. He never boasted in great wealth.
Yet he was willing to take from what he had and give it to Philemon. Paul takes it a step further. When Paul sent a letter, he had a secretary do the write as he spoke.
Now Paul takes the pen, read it in my own handwriting, I will pay it back to you in full. BUT, do not forget you own me your own soul.
This was not manipulation, but a subtle reminder of their relationship. It is likely Philemon accepted Christ under Paul’s ministry.
Once more Paul refers to Philemon as a brother. Now as brothers, Paul wanted them to accept Onesimus, welcoming him into the family.
Paul knew the character of Philemon, therefore, he had confidence that he would do the right thing. So much so, he asked Philemon to prepare a room for him in his house, because he planned to visit when the Romans released him from custody.
Philemon 23–25 NKJV
23 Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, greets you, 24 as do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, Luke, my fellow laborers. 25 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.
Sometimes these ancient names mean little to us, but they show us two things. First, we see Philemon was well respected by those who worked with Paul, specifically Mark and Luke.
Second, their greeting would show Philemon of their acceptance of Onesimus. Had they disagreed with Paul’s decision to write this letter, they would not have wanted their name associated at the end.
However, they knew of Onesimus’ conversion in Rome, therefore, they were eager to hear Philemon’s decision. Would he personally accept him or not?
I am continually amazed at the relevance of scripture. God speaks to us in our day, through a letter an ancient apostle wrote to a friend.
Through their correspondence, we see how we are to welcome others into the family of God.
Paul encouraged Philemon to extend the same grace to Onesimus God showed him. The question arises, did Philemon take Paul’s advice?
We assume he did for at least two reasons.
First, the fact that the Holy Spirit included this letter in scripture gives us an indication that he did. Why would God allow this story to stay if Philemon ignored Paul’s advice?
Second, church tradition tells us Onesimus became a leader at the church in Ephesus. Which leads me to ask, what would have happened if Philemon had not extended grace to Onesimus?
When we think of the church, we need to think of ourselves as a family.
Is our family perfect? No, because we are not perfect. However, if we focus on the grace, mercy, and love of God, there is nothing we cannot do!
As I thought of this book, I prayed, alright Lord, what do you want us to hear? Then the thought came, Welcome to the Family.
What would happen if Christians focused on personal appreciation. It is easy to point out the negative, but what would happen if expressed our thanks to each other?
Let’s commit to pray for each other more than we have before. If we come from the foundation of mutual appreciation and consistent prayer, we can approach situations from the standpoint of an appeal.
If we need something, we can come to each other and appeal on the others good nature. We both love God, we both appreciate each other, here is what is on my heart...
Then as we move forward, we have to accept one another, as well as new Christians. God keeps no record of wrongdoing after we’ve repented.
Lord, help me follow suit. Help me accept people, because you accepted me!
At some point, we were all like Onesimus, then there are times we will be like Paul and Philemon.
We may need to be a peacemaker like Paul.
We may need to extend grace like Philemon.
Let’s pray God help us welcome people into His family here at Vulcan Assembly!
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