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Bible Commentaries

Wells of Living Water Commentary
Philemon 1

 

 

Verse 1

A Christian Home

The Book of Philemon

INTRODUCTORY WORDS

It is a wonderful thing to be privileged to enter a home of the first century and see into its workings, at least in part. The home to which we now have access is the home of Philemon at Colosse.

Philemon was converted through Paul's ministry, as also was Archippus, his son, and Apphia his wife.

The letter which Paul, in the Holy Spirit, wrote to Philemon was not given for the purpose of revealing the homelife of his friend, Philemon, and yet inadvertently some things at least about this home are plainly set before us.

We wish, by way of introduction, to speak of "home" in general.

1. The home is the fountainhead of the state. When the homes of the nation are depleted and broken up, the morals of the nation, and, in fact, the continuance of the nation are in danger. As we see it, our own country has neglected the home. We have talked a great deal of monetary conditions. We have discussed the present sweep and sway of the liquor traffic. We have given much space in our great dailies to the present-hour holdups, and the sweep of lawlessness. We have said but little either in the pulpit, or in the press, about the home. Families have dwindled in size, and the small families which we have are giving themselves, for the most part, to the follies on the one hand, or, to the cares of business on the other hand. The old-time gathering of the family around the fireside is almost past. The homes of our early national life, where eight or ten children gathered around the table are gone. Families today scarcely know father and mother in any intimate, at home relationships. The quiet and rest of home life, with hours of meditation and deepening thought have passed away. The people of America, outside of working hours, live in their automobiles, or at the movies, or the beaches, or the bleachers. Great numbers of families live in flats and hotels where the spirit of home life and contact is practically lost.

The harvest of this demolition of the American home is bound to be reaped. We are already feeling the result. Young people who should be under the wings of parental authority, and restful home life, are developing the spirit of pleasure seekers and world mixers. Physically they cannot but lose much of the vigor and strength of their sires. Mentally they cannot but lose the depth and dignity of profound thinking. Morally they cannot but fall in ever increasing numbers as derelicts by the wayside.

2. The home is the great feeder of the church. God said of Abraham: "I know [Abraham], that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment." In the Word of God the home is exalted and the father is made the priest of his family.

It was of the father that God said, "Thou shalt teach them (these Words) diligently unto thy children." The father of old was to talk of things Divine when he entered into his home, when he sat down, when he rose up, and when he went forth by the way. It was thus that he was to instruct his sons and his daughters that they might fear the Lord their God and keep His Statutes and His Commandments which He had commanded them. Paul, in writing to Timothy, said that from "thy youth thou hast known the Holy Scriptures." He spoke of the faith that was in his mother, and in his grandmother before him, although his father, as far as we know, was an unbeliever.

The great pillar of home life has ever been the family altar with the children gathered around as the father, as head of the home, reads the Scripture and prays. A missionary returning to this country after many years on the mission field said, "I miss the family altar more than any other one thing."

In most sections of our country, in fact, in all countries, the family altar has been crowded out by the rush and the push of twentieth century hurry. "There is no time for family devotions," they tell us. "We cannot get our children up before father leaves for work; while at night there are too many engagements, too many places to go."

The radio does its part in drowning out the spirit of prayer. The home, and its teaching, has been supplanted. What teaching the children get along educational lines is left to the school; and what they get along spiritual lines is left to the Sunday School, as very few, comparatively, ever stay to church. The Prophet said: "Ask for the old paths" and the old ways. At least in one thing the old paths and old ways of home life were far better than they are now.

I. A FIRST CENTURY CHRISTIAN HOME (Mark 5:19-20 )

Let us slip quietly into the village of Colosse and wend our way through its narrow streets to the home where Paul used to be an honored guest, and where the Gospel was loved and upheld in its purity.

Do you remember the expression which Joshua uttered, "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord"? Do you remember a little insight into the family life of David? One of his sons, who became heir to his kingdom, wrote that he was his "father's son, tender and only beloved in the sight of [his] mother." Of his father, he said: "He taught me also, and said unto me, Let thine heart retain my words: keep my commandments, and live."

In the happy home at Colosse, the father, the mother, and the son were devoted servants of God. As we see it, there is nothing under Heaven that is more fragrant and wholesome than a Christian home, We spoke to an infidel one day. He wanted to argue. We quietly stopped him, and asked, "Did you have a Christian, mother?" The tears came into his eyes, as he responded, "That is the one thing I cannot argue against. If ever there was a Christian my mother was one." Thus it was that her life stood before him, and could not be forgotten. The boy or girl raised in a Christian home can never lose either the memory or the power of that home.

"'Mid pleasures and palaces though we may roam,

Be it ever so humble, there's no place like home;

A charm from the skies seems to hallow us there,

Which seek thro' the world, is ne'er met with elsewhere.

"Home, home, sweet, sweet home,

Be it ever so humble, there's no place like home."

II. A FIRST CENTURY CHRISTIAN FATHER (Philemon 1:1 )

Philemon is addressed by Paul as "our dearly beloved, * * and fellow labourer."

Throughout the little Epistle certain things are said of him.

In Philemon 1:5 the Apostle speaks of his love and his faith which he had toward the Lord Jesus and toward all the saints.

In Philemon 1:6 the Apostle speaks of how his faith had been communicated, and had become effectual in every good thing which was in him in Christ Jesus.

In Philemon 1:7 the Apostle emphasizes that Philemon had refreshed the saints with needed physical things, by disbursing his goods. Thus, we are right in saying that Philemon was a real Christian father.

We wonder if the fathers who live among us realize that the highest and best heritage they can leave their sons is the heritage of a holy life. Men, today, are too busy here and there to be busy for God. My mother used to sing me a little song which went like this:

"I should like to die," said Willie,

"If my papa could die, too,

But he says he isn't ready

'Cause he has so much to do:

And I'll have to tell the angels

When I meet them at the door,

That they'll have to 'cuse my papa

'Cause he could not leave the store."

A good woman who had some splendid stalwart sons said to me one day, "I am trying to raise my boys for the Lord, but they idolize their father, and he refuses to join with us in family prayers." God give us fathers who are true to Christ, and who are faithful at home. A little lad called out to his father, "Daddy, I's acomin' in your tracks!" God help fathers to walk aright.

III. A FIRST CENTURY CHRISTIAN MOTHER (Philemon 1:2 , f.c.)

The expression here is but brief "to our beloved Apphia." That expression, however, is full of meaning. Apphia was, no doubt, a very choice spirit, and a woman who knew and loved the Lord.

There are other things, however, besides this brief salutation which lead us to our conclusion. Particularly is this statement suggestive: "The Church in thy house."

No woman of the world would have been willing to have had the trouble and worry of holding the church in her house.

Salutation for a Real Christian Godly Mother

There is nothing under Heaven so precious as a Christian mother. The family altar, where my father used to pray; along with the consistent life, wholesome walk, and the tender love of my mother, has been a blessing unspeakable to me, the preacher son.

Here is a little ode which I wrote to my own mother; think of it in relation to yours:

She was the first who ever cared for me,

She was the one who ever shared with me,

All things she ever dared for me,

That mother, mine.

What patient love she e'er bestowed on me;

Her loving eyes, what light they glowed on me,

She lived as though all things she owed to me,

That mother, mine.

Her prayers were breathings of her heart for me,

Her faith in God she did impart to me,

In ev'ry way she did her part for me,

That mother, mine.

And now she waits beyond the blue for me,

That precious mother who was ever true to me,

There's nothing that she did not do for me,

That mother, mine.

We do not crown our mothers because they are mighty in the world of business, or of social life; we crown them because they exemplify the life of Christ, and manifest those gracious and beautiful characteristics which make life really worth remembering.

It is the sacrificial, patient, considerate love of mother that we delight to honor. It is her piety and truth, her fidelity and never wearying service for her children that we hold so dear.

It is the unfeigned faith that dwelt in mother, that impresses us as children. Others came and others went, but mother clung on forever. Some live for wealth, some live for pleasure, but mother lives for God and her children.

Some have lost their mothers, but her love and her faith and faithfulness call her children to follow in her steps of righteousness, and true holiness.

When I remember, mother, mine,

Thy tender love and care,

Those arms which round me did entwine,

Those eyes of love so genuine,

The heart for me laid bare

This vow I now forswear:

I'll seek to please thee evermore,

And serve the God thou didst adore.

IV. A FIRST CENTURY CHRISTIAN SON (Philemon 1:2 , s.c)

Here is an expression which carries a world of meaning. Archippus "our fellowsoldier." We see by this that Archippus was not only a soldier of Jesus Christ, but he was a fellow soldier; that is, he was a comrade with Paul in his preaching tours.

We can even now imagine them, as they went forth together. The stalwart Paul, the mighty preacher, profound theologian, great evangelist; and Archippus, the youthful believer, the young man enduring hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ, and fellow helper of the Apostle.

Together they walked down the way; together they labored wherever opportunity opened.

The Apostle Paul on one occasion wrote to young men: "Quit you like men, be strong."

The Apostle John wrote: "I have written unto you, young men, because ye are strong," and "have overcome the wicked one."

In the Old Testament is the expression! "Be of good courage, and let us play the men for our people, and for the cities of our God." It was Lord Nelson who said, "England expects every man to do his duty."

Would that our churches possessed more youths of the Archippus, fellow soldier type. The old men will soon be passing on, and the younger men will be called into the ranks to bear the burdens. Young man, we appeal to you today to present your body as "a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service."

There is a song that is apropos just here:

"Young men in Christ, behold

The world before you lies

Enslaved in sin!

Make haste to swell the mission band,

Prepared to go at His command

To save lost men in every land

At any sacrifice.

"Young men in Christ the Son,

In Him we all are one;

For this He prayed.

Then let us join the Heavenly throng,

To sound His praise in endless song,

For all we have and are belong

To Christ, our Lord Divine."

V. A FIRST CENTURY CHURCH (Philemon 1:2 , l.c.)

In Philemon 1:2 there is a closing statement which is most significant. Here are the words: "The Church in thy house." Thus in the home of Philemon, where Philemon was the head, Apphia was the beloved wife, and mother, and Archippus, the son and fellow soldier, there was a Church. In those days the synagogue belonged to the Jewish religion. Now and again Paul would go into these synagogues and preach, but the Churches which were formed could never be housed under such a roof. They had no buildings, and therefore they often met in the homes of some of the saints. At Colosse it was the home of Philemon and Apphia where the Church held its gatherings.

Here was something wonderful. Some of the sweetest experiences we have ever had have been in church gatherings held under the roof of some private family. In our journey-ings in South America this was particularly wholesome to us. It was there we met and preached the Word. It was there we broke bread. It was there we poured forth the cup, and it was there we saw souls saved, and the saved instructed in the things of God. There we extended our greetings one to another, and there we lifted our praises to the Most High.

Great cathedrals upon which thousands and millions have been expended have no power in themselves to create or to carry on the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ. Sometimes church buildings with their spires, their stained glass windows, their carpeted auditoriums hinder instead of help the ministry which God gave to His Church.

The Church is far more than brick and mortar.

"The Church's one foundation is Jesus Christ her Lord;

She is His new creation by water and the Word:

From Heaven He came and sought her to be His holy Bride;

With His own Blood He bought her, and for her life He died.

"Elect from ev'ry nation, yet one o'er all the earth,

Her charter of salvation one Lord, one faith, one birth;

One holy Name she blesses, partakes one holy food;

And to one hope she presses, with ev'ry grace endued."

VI. A FIRST CENTURY SERVANT (Philemon 1:10-11 )

In the home of Philemon there was a young man, a servant to Philemon, whose name was Onesimus. Of him we would speak for a few moments. Will you observe first of all that Christian surroundings do not by any means insure salvation? Onesimus was not only a servant, but was evidently a trusted servant. A profitable servant he is called here. He evidently had charge of his master's goods for he ran away with his master's money. He came regularly under the influence of the father and mother and the son who were over him, and yet he never learned to know their God, or to trust their Christ.

He was in attendance at the Church which was held in their home. He heard the masterful messages of the Apostle Paul, and yet with the best of preaching, the most earnest and the most heart searching plea is often refused.

This young man, Onesimus, took his master's money and fled to Rome. In the city of Rome he must have wasted his stolen gain in riotous living. Before many moons he was arrested and cast into the Roman prison. With him "come easy" had been "go easy." Like the prodigal son he had wasted everything. However, instead of being in a swine herd he was in a Roman jail. It was there that Paul saw him. The young man who had refused the message in the days of affluence, now crushed and broken accepted the Lord. Paul said, "Whom I have begotten in my bonds."

VII. A FIRST CENTURY PROOF OF CHRISTIANITY (Philemon 1:12 ; Philemon 1:18 )

When the jail term of Onesimus was completed he evidently desired to remain in Rome that he might minister unto Paul in his bonds of the Gospel. To this, however, Paul objected, urging that the young man return to his master that he might as far as possible atone for his perfidy toward Philemon. It was the return of Onesimus which was the cause of the writing of the Epistle which is now before us.

The runaway slave stood at the door of Philemon and, as Philemon began to read the Letter written in the familiar handwriting of the Apostle, we can imagine the emotions which filled his breast. As he read of the conversion of the runaway, and how Paul urged him to receive him even as he would receive one who had been born in his own home his son. He was even more astonished, perhaps, when he read how Paul would have been delighted to retain him to minister to him. Again he was startled as the Apostle urged upon him that he should not now receive Onesimus as a servant, but above a servant a brother beloved both in the flesh and in the Lord. The Apostle, however, reached the climax of Christian love and courtesy when he said, "If thou count me therefore a partner, receive him as myself. If he hath wronged thee, or oweth thee ought, put that on mine account."

This whole message breathes the spirit of Christ, and the true Christian ethics which should pervade every life. Christ received His enemies, and loved them. He seemed to say unto the Father, "Receive this enemy as Myself." He seemed to say, "If he hath wronged Thee, put it to My account." Let us forgive as we have been forgiven, love as we have been loved, and may the message of the Gospel not only be a creed, but be lived in the conduct of its devotees.

AN ILLUSTRATION

I can see the Apostle as he sits down by Onesimus and says, "Onesimus, hear me, my boy. Do you remember when you heard me preach in your master's home? Of course you do. You hardened your heart, you would not accept the Lord. Who knows but that all of this, your running away from your master, your getting into trouble in Rome, your being arrested all has happened to break your will and lead you to the Saviour." Then, in Paul's own beautiful way he preached the Gospel message to that jailbird. I thank God he did not say, "There is no hope for such a sinner." If the biggest sinner in Chicago is here tonight, I want to tell you that Jesus Christ can save you, if you will receive Him. Think of Sam Hadley. He was a regular demijohn with a head on it; he was soaked in whisky. Sam Hadley was so low down, the devil would not stomach him; he was ashamed of him; he was not fit for any society at all. One day the Lord Jesus touched his heart. I saw Sam Hadley once after he was saved. Did you ever see a patent medicine picture, "before and after taking"? Well, I did not see Hadley before taking, but I saw him after taking.

When D. L. Moody was preaching in St. Louis, there was a fellow named Burke. He was in jail, and a copy of the St. Louis "Globe Democrat" fell into his hands. His picture was in the rogues' gallery and it was tough enough. He had all the marks of the criminal. He read Moody's sermon and was saved by the grace of God. I saw Burke's picture "before and after" he was saved. Oh, what a change! I was at Moody's grave at Round Top, when Hadley, with his cane, looking as fine as you please, turned around and began to sing,

"Oh, it is wonderful, very, very wonderful,

All His love and grace so free;

Oh, it is wonderful, very, very wonderful

All of His love and grace to me."

R. E. N.


Verses 1-25

Onesimus

Philemon 1:1-25

INTRODUCTORY WORDS

1. The march of the Gospel in the early years. The Early Church gave itself very definitely to the propaganda of the Gospel. This had been the command of God, and this was the leading of the Holy Spirit, who had come to make the Church His Habitation.

On the Day of Pentecost there were about three thousand saved. Shortly after, the number of disciples reached five thousand. So mightily did the Word of God increase and prevail.

2. Families which came to know God. The promise which had been made by the Apostle Paul to the jailer, seemed to have been a model with the Early Church. "Thou shalt be saved, and thy house." This word was in line with the ambition of Joshua, "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord."

There was Cornelius and his household, the jailer and his household, Lydia and her household. There was the household of Aristobulus, and also that of Narcissus. Should this not be our aim whole houses; that is, whole families, for God?

3. The qualities which marked early Christians. The saints of the first century numbered many stalwart sons and daughters, pioneers of a vital faith, and a noble life.

(1) Their love and faith. We read of Philemon, "Hearing of thy love and faith, which thou hast toward the Lord Jesus, and toward all saints." Love is the great call of God to saints, and it should be the outstanding manifestation of the new life in Christ Jesus. We love because He hath first loved us.

Faith is a second great factor in the believer's life. A great faith, undaunted, and unshaken, means a great service full of great undertakings, successfully wrought out. Both love and faith are manifested first toward the Lord Jesus, and then toward all saints.

(2) Their care for the needy. To Philemon Paul said: "The bowels of the saints are refreshed by thee, brother." It is still true that he who sees his brother in need, and shuts up his bowels of compassion against him, can scarcely have the love of God in him.

(3) Their labor and soldierhood. Archippus, who evidently was a son of Philemon, is spoken of as a fellow soldier. This soldier life bespeaks the arduous labors and painstaking service exemplified among the members of the early Churches. Paul wrote to Timothy that he should endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. He himself said, "So fight I," then he added, later in life, "I have fought a good fight." Let us join with the saints of old by placing ourselves among the soldiers of the Cross.

I. A SINNER SAVED IN A ROMAN JAIL (Philemon 1:10 )

1. Onesimus a rejecter of the Gospel. Onesimus had been a servant in the house of Philemon. He evidently was a man trusted with his master's goods. The Apostle Paul may, more than once, have been a guest in the home of Philemon. Onesimus had been in the home of Philemon, and, therefore, he had been, beyond a doubt, an attendant in the Church which was in his master's house. His life proves that a man may sit under the sound of the Gospel, and be connected with a vitally Christian home, without being saved.

2. Onesimus a runaway slave. The reading of the Epistle to Philemon shows, in Philemon 1:15 , that Onesimus had left his home; Philemon 1:18 shows that Onesimus had wronged his master, and Philemon 1:19 shows (along with Philemon 1:18 ) that he was in debt to his master. To us it is evident, therefore, that Onesimus had run away with his master's goods.

3. Onesimus saved in the time of his distress. The story of Onesimus, after he had departed from Colosse, was a story of his entrance into Rome, his wasting of his master's goods, his evident fast living, and his final arrest. All of this, however, brought him to himself. His extremity became God's opportunity. He had been arrested and placed in the Roman jail, where he met Paul, a prisoner of Jesus Christ.

The Apostle, with great tact, pointed him to Christ, and he was "begotten again" through Paul's ministration.

II. A LESSON IN SOUL-WINNING (Philemon 1:10 )

1. Paul a soul winner while in bonds. There are some of us, perhaps, who prefer to win souls in a public way. We like the big crowd, the influence of a public meeting, the preaching of a great sermon, and the altar call for penitents. We have no word to say against this.

We fear that some, if they were prisoners of Jesus Christ, might not press the message of salvation with their old-time fervor. Not so with Paul. He had begotten Onesimus while he was in bonds, chained to two Roman soldiers.

2. An opportunity made possible by man's extremity. This has already been suggested, but now it may be enforced. The Apostle was quick to realize the fact that Onesimus in jail, was Onesimus with a broken spirit and a contrite heart. He detected in Onesimus something that had not been there before. What Paul discovered was that Onesimus showed grief and sorrow over his sins. He had evidently come to realize his sin, and his sad behavior against his master.

3. Even jailbirds may be saved, and may become faithful saints. We are taking 3 and 4 together. Thank God, the chief of sinners may find salvation in the Chief of Saviours. In fact, there is no other saviour who can save to the uttermost. Not only that, but a great sinner may become a great soul winner; and also he may become a great and faithful follower of the Son of God, We cannot but feel that the return of Onesimus to Colosse proved everything we have just suggested.

III. THE UNPROFITABLE MADE PROFITABLE (Philemon 1:11 )

1. Sin destroys human possibilities for good. How many derelicts there are along the shores of time. There is no city, nor town, nor village, that does not have its castaways. Sin produces vagabonds, useless parasites on the populace.

Some one may argue that only a limited number of sinners are parasites, etc. We reply that the tendency of sin, with all men, is to rob them of their integrity, their mind, their heart, their service.

2. Salvation the greatest boon for the good of mankind. Too many preachers have left the best for the secondary. They have sidetracked regeneration for reformation. They have turned from preaching the Cross, to a social gospel which is not the Gospel. We say it, and we mean it, that a real old-fashioned revival is the best thing for the country, the city, the nation, that lies in the possibility of any preacher's service.

3, What we were in sin; what we are in grace. In sin we were destroyers, tearing down, disrupting, wrecking the higher altitudes of life. In grace we are helpers, builders, constructors, lifting up the whole populace to better things.

IV. THE NEW LIFE IN THE OLD PLACE (Philemon 1:12-15 )

1. "Whom I have sent again," Here is a very wholesome note. Onesimus, the sinner, was Onesimus running away; Onesimus, the saved, was Onesimus returning to his former place. There are two things suggested here.

(1) We must put a new life in the old place. Some men when they are saved have a desire to leave their former community, to get out of the old environment and associations of their sinful days. We are sure that what these men should do, is to shine their new light and live their new life, in the midst of the men of their former darkness and shame.

(2) We must make good that which we have undone. Onesimus was a runaway. Now that he had been born again, he had to restore his master's servant, and he had likewise to restore, so far as he could, his master's goods. Thinkest thou that the sinner must not rectify, so far as in him lies, the evil deeds of his past?

2. "Whom I would have retained with me." There is no doubt in our own mind that Onesimus would have liked to stay with Paul, and Paul plainly stated that he would like to have retained Onesimus, that he might have ministered unto him in his bonds. However, Paul knew that this could not so be. At least, it could not so be, without the consent of Philemon.

3. Whom thou shouldest receive forever. I am so glad Paul did not write, "I hope Onesimus will not backslide." When he said, forever, he meant that something had happened to Onesimus that would last. He expected no more runaway episodes.

V. RECEIVE HIM AS MYSELF (Philemon 1:16-17 )

1. Not as a servant, but a brother beloved. Paul recognized in Onesimus a similarity to himself. He had spoken of Timothy, in Philemon 1:1 , as a brother. He spoke of Philemon himself, in Philemon 1:7 and Philemon 1:20 , as a brother. Now he asks Philemon to receive Onesimus as a brother.

If Philemon was Paul's brother, and Paul was a brother to Philemon, then, in Christ, a runaway slave and robber immediately was lifted to the status of brotherhood, and became one along with Timothy, and Paul, and Philemon.

2. Not merely now, but forever. Brotherhood begins among men at regeneration. It begins simultaneously with sainthood, but it does not end now. It reaches on into the eternal ages. Onesimus was to be a brother to Philemon on earth. He was also to be a brother in Heaven. When we sing, "Blest be the tie that binds," our minds usually linger around some earthly scene, where saints stand, holding hands, and bound in one great spiritual fellowship.

Hereafter when we sing of the tie that binds, let us see what Paul saw a fellowship, a brotherhood, "For ever." If fellowship is sweet on earth, what will it be in Heaven?

3. As ye would receive me. When the Apostle said: "Receive him as myself," he seemed to say several things.

(1) He said in effect, In Christ Jesus there is no difference. The rich and the poor, the high and the low, the great and the weak, stand together on one level. It is written: "One is your Master, * * and all ye are brethren."

In the Book of James the Holy Spirit gives due warning when He says: "Have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of Glory, with respect of persons."

(2) He said in effect, If there is no difference in Christ Jesus, there should be no difference among ourselves. He wanted Onesimus to get the same cordial, heartfelt greetings as he knew he himself would receive at the hands of Philemon.

VI. PUT IT ON MY ACCOUNT (Philemon 1:18-19 )

1. The doctrine of substitution. Onesimus must have owed Philemon a large sum. However, Paul said: "Put that on mine account." We owe the Lord Jesus Christ a far larger sum; yet He put all of our debt upon Himself.

How the words ring out, "He * * carried our sorrows"; "He hath borne our griefs"; "He was wounded for our transgressions"; "He was bruised for our iniquities."

Thank God that He bore the sin of many, even our sin.

2. He paid it all, all to Him I owe. Philemon was not requested to collect a part of what was due. Paul wanted him to put it all on his account. Neither does God ask Christ to pay a part of the debt we owe. When the Lord cried. "It is finished" there was nothing left to pay.

3. What we owe to God. When we think of what the Lord has done for us, do we not begin to wonder what we can do for Him? Think you that Onesimus, welcomed back again and forgiven his so great a debt, did not desire to serve his master with a new fervor?

To us it is absolutely impossible to know the depth of the goodness and grace of God in all that He has done for us, both on Calvary, in His empty tomb, and in His glorious present ministry, without being overwhelmed with a sense of our debt to Him. We can never love Him enough, praise Him enough, nor serve Him enough. The least that we can do is to bring to Him our little all and lay it at His feet, a willing sacrifice.

"Oh, my Friend, teach me to be Thine."

VII. THOU WILT DO MORE THAN I SAY (Philemon 1:20-25 )

1. The superabounding Christian life. The Apostle held a very high conception of Philemon's love and spiritual life, when he said: "Thou wilt also do more than I say."

To most masters with a runaway, but now returning, slave, what Paul had requested would have been a large sufficiency.

Paul had asked that Onesimus should be received as himself.

Paul had asked him to be received forever not for a season.

Paul had asked that he should now be received above a servant, even as a brother beloved.

Paul had asked that all Onesimus owed might be put to his account.

After this, Paul said: "I wrote unto thee, knowing that thou wilt also do more than I say."

It seems to me that one word should ring in our minds: "Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound." In this little Book of Philemon God seems to be saying that He found us fallen in Adam, but that He raised us far above the estate from which we fell. In other words, in Christ and His Blood, we are lifted far above what we were in sin, yea, far above what we were before sin had passed upon us.

The Garden of Eden was delightful. The fellowship which Adam and Eve had with God was wonderful. However, Heaven will be more delightful. To be forever with the Lord will be a fellowship far exceeding that which man had before the fall.

2. The grace of our Lord Jesus, which did all for us. Paul did not ask Philemon to act on any law basis. He carried Philemon into the realm of grace. When we think of grace, we think of the depths of sin to which we had fallen; then we think of the heights of glory to which we are destined to rise; and we see the hand of God lifting us out of the one and into the other.

3. Blest be the tie that binds. This expression from an old song to us is a fitting climax to the little Book of Philemon. Paul said: "Prepare me also a lodging," then he adds: "There salute thee, Epaphras, * * Marcus, Aristarchus, Demas, Lucas." These are called fellow-laborers. It seems to us that Paul put out his arms and gathered all the saints into one great bond of love. Thank God, in these bonds, even Onesimus was not excluded.

AN ILLUSTRATION

When we think of Onesimus, we see him seeking after the lure of the world until he is engulfed in its meshes. Had it not been for God's grace, he had never been recovered.

We are reminded of this story:

"A party of men were traveling in Tibet. One of them became very thirsty, but there was no water. As they went on they saw some pools surrounded by marshy ground, where the thirsty man determined to quench his thirst. Those who knew the nature of the country begged him to wait until they should reach a safe place, but he would not listen, and said he would take care. He plunged ahead towards a pool and filling his hands began to drink. He called to his friends to tell them he had got his heart's desire, and even as he spoke he began to sink in the morass. Soon he was half buried and no one could venture near to draw him out, and his companions looked helplessly on as he sank, and at length he disappeared, perishing as so many do who drink the water of a sinful life. There is but one Water of everlasting life (John 4:14 )."

 


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Bibliography Information
Neighbour, Robert E. "Wells of Living Water Commentary on Philemon 1:4". "Living Water". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/lwc/philemon-1.html.

Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, May 23rd, 2019
the Fifth Week after Easter
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