The Letter to Philemon (2 Studies) Laindon Bible Study 17th November 2011
The shape of our two studiesBackground, The first The last Conclusions themes eleven fourteen and and shape verses verses lessons
Part 1 – A quick recap• A remarkable little letter – a highly personal and moving appeal• ‘The Book of Reconciliation’ – Master <> Mediator <> Servant• Parallels with Jesus’ parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke ch. 15)• A letter from Paul’s first Rome imprisonment, “Paul, a prisoner”• Philemon probably a member of the Colossian ecclesia• A series of contrasts used by Paul to emphasise his points• At least 16 angles to his appeal to Philemon, from start to finish• Philemon an active believer, renowned for love of the brethren• The ecclesia, including his wife and son(?), met in his house• Paul beseeched on Onesimus’ behalf, did not force acceptance• A 445 word letter that could have been 7/8 words, but it wasn’t!
The sequence of events The Letters to Philemon and the Colossians... • How readest thou? Option 1one of you’ means already a member ‘Who is Colossians chapter 4 verses 7-9 of the ecclesia at Colossae If so, sequence might be: 7 All my state shall Tychicus declare 1. Onesimus sent from Rome Colossae with unto you, who is a beloved brother, Philemon letter, is accepted back by Master 2. Onesimus sent back Colossae Rome and a faithful minister and 3. Onesimus/Tychicus travel Rome Colossae with fellowservant in the Lord: Colossian letter Probably Option 2 most likely, 8 Whom I have sent unto you for the same purpose, that he might know because in Philemon Paul your estate, and comfort your hearts; Option 2 implies imminent release* 9 With Onesimus, a faithful and ‘Who is one of you’ means he had been a beloved brother, who is one of resident of Colossae and was now a fellow brother in Christ you. They shall make known unto If so, sequence might be: you all things which are done here. 1. Onesimus/Tychicus travel Rome Colossae withA public declaration both Philemon letter and Colossian letterof Onesimus’ faith * 22 But withal prepare me also a lodging: for I trust that through your prayers I shall be given unto you.
Masters and Servants/Slaves• A frequent topic in Paul’s Epistles (esp. those to Colossians, Ephesians)• Particularly used to draw out a broader allegory, never to judge the rights/wrongs• Key point is that in whatever situation one find’s oneself it can be used to glorify God (1 Corinthians 10 v 31)• We shouldn’t question our situation, rather we should trust in God and His providence
Onesimus sent by Paul reluctantlyPhilemon verses 12-14 • “that is, mine own bowels” (for Jews, seat of12 tender affections) shows the strength of Whom I have sent relationship that had developed betweenagain: thou thereforereceive him, that is, Paul and Onesimus. NET “who is my verymine own bowels: heart”; Weymouth “I send part of myself”13 Whom I would have • “I would have retained” Gk. boulomai =retained with me, that intended, minded, be disposed. Indecision?in thy stead he might • “in thy stead”, Paul indicates that althoughhave ministered unto Philemon was not being served byme in the bonds of the Onesimus, he was (i.e. Onesimus was stillgospel: performing his duty, just toward another)14 But without thy mindwould I do nothing; that • v.14 (RSV) “but I preferred to do nothingthy benefit should not without your consent in order that yourbe as it were of goodness might not be by compulsion butnecessity, but willingly. of your own free will.” Two key principles
To be received willingly by PhilemonPhilemon verses 15-17 • “departed for a season” – suggests that15 God’s providential hand had been at work. For perhaps he Compare case of Joseph: “Now thereforetherefore departed for a be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves,season, that thou that ye sold me hither: for God did send meshouldest receive him forever; before you to preserve life.” (Gen. 45v5)16 Not now as a servant, • “shouldest receive him for ever” unlike thebut above a servant, a Master-Slave relationship, which dissolvedbrother beloved, at death, now was an abiding relationshipspecially to me, but how • “both in the flesh, and in the Lord”much more unto thee, suggests that Onesimus would remain aboth in the flesh, and in slave, but would also now be a belovedthe Lord? brother (see 1 Cor. 7v20-22)17 If thou count metherefore a partner, • “partner” = Gk. koinonos = fellow, sharerreceive him as myself. • “receive him as myself” – connect back v.12
Paul the ‘Good Samaritan’Philemon verses • “If he hath wronged thee” – it is highly likely that18-19 Paul would have known this if true, although his18 style is to leave the matter open If he hathwronged thee, or • “put that on mine account” Paul acting as theoweth thee ought, mediator/intercessor. Gk. ellogeo = impute,put that on mine reckon i.e. to keep a record of somethingaccount; (Romans 5v13 s.w.). “And on the morrow when19 I Paul have he departed, he took out two pence, and gavewritten it with them to the host, and said unto him, Take care ofmine own hand, I him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, whenwill repay it: albeit I come again, I will repay thee.” (Luke 10v35)I do not say to • v.19 (CEV) “With my own hand I write: I, PAUL,thee how thou WILL PAY YOU BACK...” (translation’s emphasis)owest unto meeven thine own • “repay it” = Gk. apotino = ‘to pay in full’ (Strong)self besides. • “I do not say” – Paul reminds, does not force
The final impassioned appealPhilemon verses 20-22 • “let me have joy of thee” Gk. oninemi = ‘to be useful, to profit, help’ (Thayer) related to20 Yea, brother, let me adjective Onesimus = profitable, helpful (playhave joy of thee in the on words, frequent style employed by Paul)Lord: refresh my • “refresh my bowels” – as Philemon hadbowels in the Lord. refreshed the bowels of all of the saints (see21 Having confidence in v.7). Paul was just asking Philemon to do forthy obedience I wrote him what he had so often done for othersunto thee, knowing • “withal” = RSV ‘at the same time’ i.e. at thethat thou wilt also domore than I say. same time as accepting back Onesimus!22 But withal prepare • “through your prayers”, the importance ofme also a lodging: for I prayer in God’s purpose. “Confess your faultstrust that through your one to another, and pray one for another...prayers I shall be given The effectual fervent prayer of a righteousunto you. man availeth much.” (James 5v16)
The concluding salutationPhilemon verses Colossians 4 v 10,12,1423-25 “Aristarchus my fellowprisoner saluteth you, and Marcus, sisters son to Barnabas, (touching whom ye received23 There salute commandments: if he come unto you, receive him;)...thee Epaphras, Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ, saluteth you,my always labouring fervently for you in prayers, that ye may standfellowprisoner in perfect and complete in all the will of God.... Luke, the belovedChrist Jesus; physician, and Demas, greet you.”24 Marcus, • “Epaphras” previously instrumental in ecclesia atAristarchus, Colossae, as Col. 1v7 (“for you... faithful minister”)Demas, Lucas, my • “Marcus” = John Mark, who became “profitable”fellowlabourers.25 The grace of (2 Timothy 4v11), despite earlier disagreementour Lord Jesus • “Aristarchus... Lucas” clearly both present withChrist be with Paul when he went Caesarea Rome (Acts 27v2)your spirit. • “Demas” fell away “having loved this presentAmen. world” (2 Timothy 4v10), written 5-7 years later
The importance of mercy“For he shall have judgmentwithout mercy, that hath shewedno mercy; and mercy rejoicethagainst judgment.” (James 2 v 13)
The right way to appeal“And the servant of the Lord must notstrive; but be gentle unto all men, aptto teach, patient, In meeknessinstructing those that opposethemselves; if God peradventure willgive them repentance to theacknowledging of the truth;”(2 Timothy 2 v 24-25)
Other lessons• The work of our mediator, interceding for ‘criminals’• The importance of our prayer, working out God’s purpose• Obedience through choice always to be preferred to obedience through compulsion• In whatever situation we find ourselves there is opportunity to give God glory• We must continue to hold fast until the end