Faithlife Sermons

Thanksgiving, Fellowship, and Love

Philemon  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Paul expresses is thanksgiving to God for Philemon's love, but he prays for his spiritual growth to be evidenced through the common-sharing of faith.



The introduction to this letter has expressed the intricate and intimate relationships that exist between believers in Jesus Christ.
We really should reexamine a biblical view of what it means to be a believer in Jesus Christ.
Does the Bible teach that we are islands of faith unto ourselves?
Is knowing Christ just a private matter between us and God?
At a time when our generation already struggles with aloneness, we should look to the Scriptures for God’s clarity on what we are part of as believers.
Paul’s letter to Philemon, written some time between 57-64 AD, shows us that following Christ cannot be done isolation.

Paul’s Prayer of Thanksgiving:

Paul assumes a more pastoral tone in this letter.
There is something very intimate about his word choices.
He often begins his letters with expressions of thanksgiving, but we should not doubt his sincerity.
Note that Paul informs Philemon (note the singular pronoun) that he directs his thanksgiving to God.
Philemon has exhibited godly characteristics in his life, and Paul is thankful to God for that.
Philemon 5 states the foundation/basis for Paul’s thanksgiving.
“Making mention” explains when Paul gives thanks but also anticipates Philemon 6 where Paul will explain why he mentions Philemon in his prayers.
Paul does give thanks, but he also prays for something specific for Philemon.

Evidences of Philemon’s Spiritual Progress (vs. 5-6)

Most likely, Paul had not traveled to Colosse, and according to that letter, he had not met those in that congregation face to face.
Nevertheless, news of Philemon’s love and faith had made it to Paul, and that news had caused Paul to make a habit of thanking God for Philemon.
The objects of Philemon’s love and faith were:
The Lord Jesus
All the holy ones
He had proven to love both, and he had proven trustworthy to both.
Biblical faith has two sides:
Trust in someone who has proven trustworthy.
Loyalty in the relationship
Philemon had apparently proven loyal to other believers whom Paul does not name.
While it is clear that Philemon was loving and faithful, Paul wanted to see the sharing of his faith become operative or active.
Perhaps something had happened that dissuaded Philemon from the formal sharing of his faith.
Paul must mean the living out of a commonly shared life with others (Onesimus his slave in particular).
Withholding from living consistently with the faith from the brothers breaks the mutual trust and level of expectation we have with one another.
No doubt this is why Paul is also writing the letter.
A full-knowledge is what enables this sharing of the faith.
Notice again that knowledge in Christ isn’t just about personal feeling. Biblical faith isn’t a feeling. It also isn’t just a set of ideas we try to hold in our heads and conjure consent to.
It is a complete yielding of the self to God that leads to living in obedience to him by exhibiting his characteristics toward others.
This requires maturity.

Paul’s Confidence in Philemon’s Past Actions:

In this verse, Paul answers why he prays for the fellowship of Philemon’s faith.
He already has joy and encouragement in Philemon’s love.
Philemon had helped the brothers in some way providing them relief from their angst, and perhaps financial assistance as well.
Note the intimacy of his conclusion of this section.

Conclusion: How do we really live out the claims to believe in Christ that we make? How has knowing him changed our thinking? How has knowing him affected our love and concern for our brothers in Christ? Do we know Christ selfishly for ourselves, or do we know Him in full submission permitting him to transform us into people who live out a common faith together and show mutual love and concern for one another?

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