Charge It to Me
051-00759 Philemon 1-25
I. Brian’s Story.
A. I was just twelve when my Boy Scout troop planned a father-son campout. I was thrilled and could hardly wait to rush home and give my father all the information. I wanted so much to show him all I’d learned in scouting, and I was so proud when he said he’d go with me.
1. The Friday of the campout finally came, and I had all my gear out on the porch, ready to stuff it in his car the moment he arrived. We were to meet at the local school at 5 p.m. car pool to the campground.
2. But Dad didn’t get home from work until 7 p.m. as frantic, but he explained how things had gone wrong at work and told me not to worry. We could still get up first thing in the morning and join the others. After all, we had a map. I was disappointed, of course, but decided to just make the best of it.
B. First thing in the morning, I was up and had everything in his car while it was still getting light, all ready for us to catch up with my friends and their fathers at the campground. He had said we’d leave around 7 a.m., and I was ready a half hour before that. But he never came out of his room until 9 a.m.
1. When he saw me standing out front with the camping gear, he finally explained that he had a bad back and couldn’t sleep on the ground. He hoped I’d understand and that I’d be a “big boy” about it … but could I please get my things out of his car, because he had several commitments he had to keep.
2. Just about the hardest thing I’ve ever done was to go to the car and take out my sleeping bag, cooking stove, pup tent, and supplies. And then, while I was putting my stuff away in the storage shed and he thought I couldn’t see, I watched my father carry his golf clubs out and throw them in his trunk and drive away to keep his “commitment.”
C. That’s when I realized my dad never meant to go with me to the campout. I didn’t matter to him, but his golfing buddies did. Men’s Ministry Leadership Seminar, p. 18 - 10,000 Sermon Illustrations, electronic ed. (Dallas: Biblical Studies Press, 2000).
II. The story I want to tell you today is not at all like that. It is a story of an amazing father, a father I could only hope to be.
A. The story begins in the ancient town of Colossae.
1. In that town there lived a prosperous man who was a Christian.
2. Being successful in that day meant you probably had a number of slaves.
3. I know that this word raises the anxiety of some people but that’s just what they were, slaves. Property owned by someone. And no matter how you want to look at it, humans cannot really be the property of other humans.
4. Even though this man was a Christian, it is apparent that he still lived in many ways like he was not. His slave ran away.
B. Now there was another man who was currently in a minimum security prison in the great city of Rome.
1. What I mean by minimum security is this – he was imprisoned but was free to move about where he was kept and he was allowed to have friends stay with him and others meet him.
2. This man knew the man who lived in Colossae, in fact they knew each other very well, so well that they were like brothers. The man in Rome was a Christian as well and in a way he was the Spiritual father of the man in Colossae.
3. Now knowing his friend in Colossae he also knew the slave. And somehow when the runaway managed to get to Rome, a good city to get lost in, the two somehow bumped into each other.
4. I can’t tell you all the details about what happened there because I don’t know. But I do know the result. This runaway slave became a Christian due to this Roman prisoner.
C. Now, before I get to the rest of the story, I want to point out that this man who was already accused of crimes against Rome took a great risk with this runaway slave.
1. The man, of course was the Apostle Paul and the slave was a man named Onesimus.
2. Paul was an important man in certain circles.
a) He had been a great Pharisee, knowledgeable about the Jewish Scriptures and zealous for the Jewish faith.
b) But through what we would call a miracle, Paul had become a Christian with the same zeal for his new found faith in Jesus Christ.
c) The Church in Jerusalem sent Paul out as a missionary and he was very effective.
d) To be honest, it was his success in planting churches all around the eastern side of the Roman Empire that was the reason for his imprisonment for the Jews who once loved him grew to hate him because of his love for Jesus.
3. So Paul and Onesimus somehow met in Rome.
a) The proper thing to do would be to turn Onesimus in as a runaway slave to be returned to his master.
(1) But Paul chose not to do the proper thing.
b) The expedient thing to do would to have contacted his friend in Colossae, whose name was Philemon, and let him know where his slave was.
(1) But Paul chose not to do the expedient thing.
c) The easiest thing to do would to have let Onesimus be on his way for Paul was a busy man, preparing his defense while also keeping tabs on all of the Churches he had planted.
(1) But Paul chose not to do the easiest thing.
d) Instead, what Paul did was the Fatherly thing.
III. The Fatherly Thing.
A. Paul made Onesimus his son.
1. Now we are not given any real details concerning how he did this.
2. But when Paul writes to Philemon, he clearly states the fact, “He became my son.”
3. There are some clues which might provide us with more than mere conjecture in this regard, though.
B. If you have your Bibles open to the letter of Paul to Philemon we can take note of these clues.
1. The letter opens with a typical greeting by Paul: “Grace to you.”
2. And it closes with the same, “The grace of the Lord Jesus be with your spirit.”
3. In between this “grace sandwich” is a lot more of grace:
a) V. 6 every good thing we have in Christ.
b) Vv. 8-9 although I could…order you…I appeal to you.
c) V. 11 Formerly he was useless to you, but now he has become useful.
d) V. 12 I am sending him, who is my very heart, back to you.
e) V.14 I did not want to do anything without your consent, so that any favor you do will [not] be…forced.
f) V. 17 welcome him.
g) V. 18 If he has done you any wrong or owes you anything, chare it to me.
4. If you will notice, Paul writes in grace, sending grace, explaining of the grace he has shown Onesimus and the grace he has shown Philemon.
5. You may also notice that Paul in all of his grace is giving Philemon an opportunity to demonstrate grace by receiving Onesimus back as a brother and not human property.
6. And Paul gives Onesimus an opportunity to demonstrate grace by taking the risk to actually go back to Philemon from whom he had run away in the first place.
C. If there is anything about this letter from Paul to Philemon that should captivate us it is the prevalence and power of grace.
1. Paul has been gracious to Philemon.
2. Paul has been gracious to Onesimus.
3. Paul, who has greater status than either one of them lowers himself below both of them to be gracious to them.
IV. The fatherly thing is the thing called grace.
A. Face it, Paul could only act in grace because Paul himself had been a slave released by grace to become a son.
1. Grace is not something that natural humanity normally knows how to do.
2. The natural man, says Paul in another place, is at enmity with God.
3. Grace is a fatherly thing because the originator of Grace is our Father in heaven.
a) Our Father who chose not to do the “proper” thing.
b) Our Father who chose not to do the “expedient” thing.
c) Our Father who chose not to do the “easiest” thing.
d) Our Father is the ultimate source of the Fatherly Thing.
e) And the Fatherly thing is Grace.
B. In truth, Paul does the fatherly thing because God did the fatherly thing with him. He confesses this to be true when he writes, “For it is by Grace you have been saved.”
1. The best fathers know what it is to be sons.
2. And sons grow up to be fathers.
3. The glory of the Father is in the son as Jesus made so clear. And the glory of the son is from the Father.
4. Grace generates grace.
C. Paul reflected the grace of God his Father when dealing with Onesimus and Philemon his sons.
1. And such grace gives opportunity for grace.
2. Have you ever looked into one of those mirrors that has lights around it and it seems like it goes on and on forever? This is the path of grace, though with grace there is no illusion.
D. So Paul reflects the Grace of God and Paul reflects the Grace of Jesus Christ who said to his Father, if they have done anything wrong and if they owe you anything, charge it to me.
V. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your Spirit.