Purpose: To see a real life picture of forgiveness.
Aim: I want the listener to repent of any un-forgiveness and humbly extend forgiveness.
INTRODUCTION: Philemon was led to Christ by Paul, probably at Ephesus. He must have been wealthy because his home was big enough for the church to meet in and he owned slaves. Onesimus was a slave of his who robbed him and then ran away to Rome (to get lost in the crowds?). Somehow he met Paul (or sought him out) and was won to Christ.
Now what should he do? Should he stay and help Paul? Should he return and risk the death sentence? If Philemon forgave Onesimus what would the other slaves think? If he punished him what would other people think about his testimony as a Christian?
Let’s notice how Paul gently led Philemon down the path of forgiveness.
Vs.1-7 I. Philemon’s Qualities
Vs.1-3 A. His calling in Christ “beloved…worker…grace…peace”
In verse 1 Paul reminds his friend that he himself is a prisoner, a worse situation than being a slave, and yet he shows more concern for the slave than himself. Then Paul reminds Philemon of their friendship and the team work they did together.
Then in verse 2 Paul is pointing out other believers that Philemon was accountable to. Apphia was his wife.
Vs.3 Grace: live realizing everything good comes from God “grace to you” This would be a Greek greeting.
Peace: live realizing everything is controlled by God “peace from God”This would be the traditional Hebrew greeting.
Vs.4-5, 7 B. His love for the Lord and His followers “love…faith…refreshed”
When you have to address a problem, start with a compliment if you can.
1 John 1:7 but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another…. (NAU)
Matthew 24:44, 46 44 “For this reason you also must be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will. 46 “Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes. (NAU)
Vs.6 C. His need for more growth “faith may become effective”
I.e. that it would have an effect! What effect? FELLOWSHIP Literally means “Sharing or generosity.” Then Paul explains what we should share: OF YOUR FAITH.
Ephesians 6:19 and pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, (NAU)
2 Thessalonians 3:1 Finally, brethren, pray for us that the word of the Lord will spread rapidly and be glorified, just as it did also with you; (NAU)
We should pray for our fellow believers with motives that are pure and selfless. 1 Timothy 2:8 Therefore I want the men in every place to pray, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and dissension. (NAU)
2 Thessalonians 1:11-12 11 To this end also we pray for you always, that our God will count you worthy of your calling, and fulfill every desire for goodness and the work of faith with power, 12 so that the name of our Lord Jesus will be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ. (NAU)
Jesus told us that doing right is not enough: “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).
Paul points out that the effectiveness of Philemon’s work for Christ is directly related to his awareness of what Christ has done for him: “the knowledge of every good thing which is in you for Christ’s sake” i.e. give God the credit for everything good He does in you!
In other words, Paul is exhorting Philemon to learn more about the grace of God. James reminds us “Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow ” (James 1:17).
The best gift we have is the Gospel. “keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life” (Jude 21).
If you depend on your Master (and not your Master Card) for your needs and for the joy of your salvation then you will have something good to share with those who don’t know Christ. As David prayed: “Restore to me the joy of Your salvation… ” (Psalm 51:12).
Vs.8-16 II. Reasons Philemon should forgive
There were about 60 million slaves in the Roman Empire. Runaway slaves were a common problem, but Paul’s goal wasn’t just to return a slave to his master. He wanted Philemon to forgive and fully accept this man back into his life.
When we want to influence others to be more godly, we need to learn how to APPEAL to them without commanding them or being condescending.
Paul refused to throw his weight around as an Apostle Hebrews 13:17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you. (NAU)
Paul now proceeds to give five reasons why Philemon should forgive this man.
Vs.8 A. He should consider his testimony “do what is proper”
Compare with verse 7. He has been blessing many Christians so now he has an opportunity to bless one more. “If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well” (James 2:8).
Vs.9 B. He should consider his motives “for love’s sake”
Paul could have been about 60 years of age, which was very old in those days.
i.e. don’t act with revenge or a desire for justice. Paul, for example, considered himself a prisoner of Christ, not Rome. Rome was not really in control. It is impossible to be bitter or unhappy in a bad situation when you know that God is in control of it.
Vs.10 C. He should consider the miracle of God’s forgiveness “my child”
Galatians 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (NAU)
Paul used to be a strict Pharisee and they had nothing to do with Gentiles, but now he is begging for the life of a Gentile slave (the very lowest of all Gentiles) and calls him his child. What a difference the grace of God makes.
Vs.11-14 D. He should consider the potential in others “useful both to you and me”
“The name Onesimus means “profitable,” so there is a play on words in Philemon 11. (The name Philemon means “affectionate” or “one who is kind.” If the slave was expected to live up to his name, then what about the master?)”
Can people change? “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).
Vs.15-16 E. He should consider the bond between believers “for this reason”
“We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love abides in death” (1 John 3:14).
“We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1 John 3:16).
Vs.17-25 III. The Results if Philemon did Forgive
Vs.17-19 A. A stronger relationship with Paul “If then you regard me a partner”
PARTNER “to have in common.” Onesimus and Philemon were now equals.
Vs.20-22 B. Paul would be encouraged “let me benefit…refresh my heart”
Do you want to encourage your pastor? Obey Christ. “make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves” (Philippians 2:2–3).
Vs.23-25 C. Other believers would be encouraged “Christ be with your spirit”
Paul reminds Philemon that there are five other Christian leaders who are watching. Sadly, two of these five men turned their backs on the Lord at some point in time.
IV. Pictures of our forgiveness
Now that we have finished looking at the story, let’s look again and see some pictures of forgiveness.
A. Paul pictures Christ
Vs.9-10, 17 1. Christ pursues us
Matthew 11:28 “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. (NAU) Matthew 23:37 “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her!How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling. (NAU)
Vs.18-19 2. Christ pays for us
Jesus was treated on the cross the way I should have been treated, so now I am covered with the pure righteousness of Christ Himself.
2 Corinthians 5:21 He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (NAU)
Ephesians 2:8-9 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. (NAU)
B. Onesimus pictures our need of forgiveness
Vs.11a 1. We are slaves of sin
He had no rights, and no power to free himself, he was even a bad slave.
Ephesians 2:1-3 1 And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, 2 in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. 3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. (NAU)
Vs.11b 2. We are changed by the gospel
Galatians 6:14-15 14 But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. 15 For neither is circumcision anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. (NAU)
2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. (NAU)
Vs.16-17 3. We are established by grace
Just as Philemon was asked to accept Onesimus back, so we are accepted by Jesus.
Ephesians 1:6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. (NAU)
Romans 8:32-33 32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? 33 Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; (NAU)
Vs.17 ACCEPT “to receive into one’s family circle”
Psalm 101:6 My eyes shall be upon the faithful of the land, that they may dwell with me;
He who walks in a blameless way is the one who will minister to me. (NAU)
C. Philemon pictures our need to forgive
Vs.15 1. See God at work in the failures of others “for this reason”
His slave left for the wrong reason, but in God’s plan it was so he could find the Lord.
As Joseph told his wicked brothers: “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive” (Genesis 50:20).
He left for Rome as a slave, he returned to Ephesus as a brother. He left so he could be free; he found spiritual freedom so now he came back willing to be a slave.
“but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God. ” (1 Corinthians 1:27–29).
Vs.5, 16-17 2. Forgive all those Christ has forgiven “beloved brother”
“But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors” (James 2:9).
“And masters, do the same things to them, and give up threatening, knowing that both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no partiality with Him” (Ephesians 6:9).
Vs.3, 19 3. Forgive because you have been forgiven “you owe…your own self”
“bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you” (Colossians 3:13).
“If our greatest need had been information, God would have sent us an educator;
If our greatest need had been technology, God would have sent us a scientist;
If our greatest need had been money, God would have sent us an economist;
If our greatest need had been pleasure, God would have sent us an entertainer;
But our greatest need was forgiveness, so God sent us a Savior.”
Your greatest need is forgiveness. A church’s greatest need are members who forgive each other. Is there anyone you need to forgive?
“Imagine a slave entering his master’s family! But imagine a guilty sinner entering God’s family” Warren Wiersbe.