Thursday Devotion, 8/7/21
Today’s passage: Philemon1:1-16
Philemon is Paul’s shortest and most personal letter, written during Paul’s first imprisonment in Rome. Philemon, the main recipient of the letter, was possibly a wealthy man from Colossae. Doubtless, one of Philemon’s slaves was named Onesimus. He was a runaway, had stolen from his master, Philemon and under a capital offense.
So, Paul made a request. He wanted Philemon to forgive Onesimus, to accept the slave as a brother in Christ, and to consider sending Onesimus back to Paul, as the apostle found him useful in God’s service (1:11–14). Paul did not minimize Onesimus’s sin. His letter to Philemon presents in full color the beautiful and majestic transition from slavery to kinship that comes as a result of Christian love and forgiveness. He wanted Onesimus, to be accepted not as a second-class citizen, but as a beloved brother in Christ (Vs 8, 10).
PUT ON THE NEW MAN IN CHRIST
Do you remember what was Paul before He met Jesus? When the Jews stoned the innocent Stephen, Paul watched this gruesome spectacle in hearty agreement (Acts 8:1) He was “breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord” (Acts 9:1). He describes himself during this time as being “a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor” (1 Tim. 1:13). Now he speaks on the ‘basis of love’(Vs 9), as a prisoner of Jesus Christ.
What is our life like after we met Christ? We probably had a reputation for having a short fuse, being snotty, and more. But, as we learn to walk in the Spirit, not the flesh, others should see “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Gal. 5:22-23) in us. You and I learn to put off the sinful ways of the old man and put on the godly ways of the new man in Christ.
Now, let’s look at Onesimus. The gospel made a difference in his life too. Formerly, he had grudgingly served Philemon, doing only the bare minimum, and stealing everything he could as he looked for an opportunity to escape. But now in submission to the Lord, he returns to his master, ready and willing to render whatever service is required of him. Formerly, Paul says that Onesimus, whose name means “useful,” was useless to Philemon (v. 11) This can only mean that God had changed Onesimus’ attitude. He hated his master and he hated his master’s God. But now, he was in submission to God to the extent that he was willing to give up his freedom, go back and place himself under his master’s authority.
What is our attitude towards work and submission to authority? Colossians 3:23 And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men.
EMBRACING FORGIVENESS AND RESTORING RELATIONSHIPS
When Onesimus absconded with Philemon and Apphia’s money and some of their personal belongings, they were no doubt angry. How can a relationship as strained as that ever be reconciled? Only by the power of God through the transformation of the gospel. One key evidence that a person is born again is when he wants to repair broken relationships and to make restitution for past wrongs. Jesus emphasized this in the Sermon on (Matt. 5:23-24).
Forgiveness does not come easy, yet as believers, we have to recognize that our ability and willingness to offer it are the result of Christ’s saving work on the cross. Because of that fact, forgiveness serves as a determining factor in who we say we are and how we hope to live our lives. When we do not forgive, bitterness takes root in our hearts and chokes the vitality out of us.
In what ways has forgiveness been a struggle for you since you accepted Christ’s forgiveness? Allow Paul’s letter to Philemon to encourage forgiveness in your own life, and trust God to foster renewed life in your heart and your relationships. Reconciled and restored relationships are a big deal to God! They should be a big deal to us, also!
Dear heavenly Father,
Change me so completely that I will reflect Christ at all times today. Help me to bless those who have hurt me, walk in peace and joy, demonstrating Your love and life. In Jesus name. Amen.