A Faithful Saint
We spent the last few weeks in the Book of Titus. For the next few weeks we’re going to look at a letter to one man about another man. We are going to learn about a man named Philemon and his Onesimus. But really we are going to learn about Christ and ourselves.
This letter seems like a simple act by Paul to intercede for one who had made some mistakes and wanted to make it right. However, this letter is so much more. Paul is perhaps at his best in this little correspondence. Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he shows us some beautiful truths.
Paul led an amazing life for Christ in the short time of service to God. he had a clear mission to take the Gospel to the Gentile world and he made use of every opportunity, good and bad, all modes of travel, citizenship, education, experience, as well as his Spiritual Gifts to take the Gospel to the world. He led people Christ, planted churches, spoke before crowds, and to Kings and Emperors. His mission and travels took him to Ephesus. He led people to Christ and planted churches there. He also developed close relationships with some of the people he led to Christ and worked alongside. When you have that kind of relationship, you become concerned for their families and lives and your opinions, words, and instructions have weight. That is true of nearly every pastor. And of course there is a unique bond with your 1st Spiritual leader, even if they have moved on. So, is the case here with Paul and Philemon. Philemon had most likely come to faith during Paul’s ministry in Ephesus in Acts 19 which tells us that his work there caused the gospel to be spread throughout the whole province of Asia, which is the area around Turkey today.
Philemon was living in Colossae. He became the host home for the church. Their first pastor was probably Epaphras, who is mentioned later in the letter when we find out that he is with Paul in Rome where he was under house arrest.
Philemon and his wife Apphia hosted the church meetings in their homes and perhaps their son was Archippus who had become the pastor or at least an elder/leader of the church.
We will learn about these men as we go along, but realize that Paul is under house arrest. He is chained to a Roman guard every day but has some freedom to entertain visitors, write letters and minister while he awaits his trial.
From Rome, Paul sends two letters to Colossae. One is to the whole church, the book of Colossians, and the other letter is much more personal to Philemon. These letters come by two messengers according to Colossians 4:7-9, Tychicus (too-khee-kos) and Onesimus. Onesimus is a central character to this letter and Philemon knew him well. We’ll learn more about him later. But for today let’s learn what we can about Philemon. Begin reading with me
READ vv 1-7
Outside of what I have already told you, we know little to nothing much of this man Philemon. Some things we know we may not like.
Legends or Traditions tell us he became a Pastor in Gaza. We are also told by tradition that he was martyred by Nero with his wife and son. But none of that is for certain.
What we DO know, he was a man of influence and thus probably of wealth. He came to faith in Christ under the preaching of Paul. He was a leader of the church in Colossae which met in his house. However, we ALSO know that he had slaves in his household, like much of the Roman empire. To say that slavery was widespread is a vast understatement as millions of slaves were in the region. Italy alone in the first Century was estimated to have 2 million slaves in a population of 6 million people.
Why would a Christian have slaves? Sometimes when we come to Christ, it takes a while to go from where we are to where we should be in Christ. The practice of slavery is central to this story. Some wonder why the Bible didn’t speak directly to abolition of such practices. But the Bible IS very clear on many passages about the treatment of slaves, but Jesus Christ didn’t have a political message nor did the Apostles but the principles in their teachings laid the groundwork for political change and human rights.
We will get to the rest of the story, by and by … but, let’s see what kind of man Philemon had become and what we can copy from him to be what God wants us to be.
Paul was about to drop a heavy challenge in Philemon’s life. He was about to give him a chance to show who he had become in Christ and go against the normal reaction to life and what is wrong and right.
Let me tell you that your next assignment from God may be directly connected to who you are now and the character God has developed in you.
So who was Philemon? You would interested to know that The Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod actually recognizes Philemon and Onesimus as “Saints” and celebrate them in the month of February.
While we don’t recognize special saints, Philemon was a Faithful Saint and shows us what one is, 4 things quickly that a faithful saint has
1. Faith in The Lord
The first two qualities of a faithful saint, we sometimes get out of order and it creates problems. Paul says Philemon is commended because he has a reputation for faith in the Lord and a love for all the saints.
Can I say that often we admit that we love Jesus and then we use people or maybe I can say that we love Jesus but we place our faith in people.
I’m not completely sure why that is but it is a sign of spiritual immaturity. We place our faith in people, leaders, friends, pastors, etc. Yet then when they don’t do what we want or need, we are crushed or discouraged. Could it be that we are angry with ourselves for not doing what we should. Or could we be angry with God for not doing what we wanted. Or, perhaps, we feel that God let us down because he had a different plan than we?
Part of the problem with our consumer mentality is that we want the church to hand feed us, meet every one of our felt needs and relational needs. We want them to raise our children, fix our marriage, give us entertainment, and we want to know how it will all work out.
First of all, folks, if your faith is in this Pastor, I will let you down. If you have faith in this church, its leaders, or ministries, we will let you down.
Secondly, if you can see it, touch it, explain it, or understand it, then it is not faith.
Third, and most importantly, you should place your faith in the Lord! If your faith is in God and you know he has called you to this body of believers then you can follow this Pastor and serve the Lord in this body and trust your leaders. If they don’t live up to your complete expectations it is OK because you’re faith is in the Lord.
One more thing, it is more, than just believing something is factual or right. the Biblical word for Believe and Faith are really inextricable and often just a translating of the same word. You cannot have Biblical Belief without putting the full weight of your faith into it.
If I stretched a cable on the roof of our building and ran it to the roof of the Grocery Store across the street; if I then told you stories of the years I spent in the circus as a tightrope walker; if I then walked from here to there 100 times and you saw it; and then I put 200 pounds on my back and carried it across, then I carried a person over and back; if you had heard stories from all the people who had done it and you can KNOW even BELIEVE that I can, it is not REAL belief unless you join me. Until you get on my back and walk with me, you don’t believe. Until your faith is fully vested in me you don’t really believe. And I would even say that if you pile up marshmallows on the ground or a parachute on your back in case I let you down, you don’t have faith.
My point is HAVE FAITH IN GOD … don’t trust me, don’t have a back-up plan. Trust his plan, trust the church he has placed you in, because ultimately you are trusting God … we used to sing
Have faith in God, He’s on his throne
Have faith in God, He watches o’r his own
He cannot fail, He must prevail
Have faith in God, have faith in God
If you have faith in the Lord, fully weighted in him, then you can face any trial and you can
2. Love All the Saints
Could it be that the biggest barrier to us loving one another is our faith isn’t fully weighted on the Lord? Perhaps you trusted someone and they let you down and your love for them wanes. Then you are afraid to trust someone else and your giving of love is based on your level of faith.
People wonder sometimes, “how can you keep on loving people who have wronged you?” “ How can you take a chance on loving others?”
It is because of two things. FIRST, my faith is fully placed on the Lord and he has never failed me. Oh I fail him and sometimes I fail to understand his purposes, plans, and procedures but my faith is still IN the Lord
SECOND, I can LOVE when I understand the depth of his love for me. Think about his love. In order for me to love you, I have to first know how much I am Loved by God
Wow! Think about his Love
Psalm 86:13 (NIV84) For great is your love toward me;
you have delivered me from the depths of the grave.
Romans 8:39 (NIV84) neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
1 John 3:1 (NIV84) How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him
1 John 4:10 (NIV84) This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.
Meditate on the love of God for you and then you will know how to love yourself. Because, if you do not have a healthy love for yourself, you can’t love others
Mark 12:30–31 (NIV84) Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
Jesus said we have to love others AS we love ourselves, so you can’t love someone else until you love yourself.
Loving yourself goes to understanding God’s love for you, having faith in his plan and his love, trusting who he has made you to be.
Some people do not love themselves because they don’t have faith in whom God has made and is making them to be. As I have faith in him and my love for him, “heart, soul, mind, and strength” enables me to love myself. That gives me the courage, desire, and ability to love others. And Philemon was credited for loving the saints.
B. All the Saints
Part of the challenge for loving others is the practice among some churches to idolize and pedestal-ize other believers. Some churches have placed a class system in the church by calling some Christians “saints” and others “NOT”. But the biblical truth is that ALL the chosen, all the elect, every true follower of Christ IS a Saint! That means YOU and Me
When I realize that we are ALL saints, that, in Christ, no one is greater than me and no one is less than me, I can love ALL the saints.
“LOVE” - agape = fellowship meal, love, affection, esteem
“Saint” – hagios = holy, dedicated, prepared for God
People, if you are the foreknown, predestined, called, justified, glorified, receivers of God, children of God, joint-heirs with Jesus, if that is YOU then YOU are a Saint.
If that is you, say “I am a saint” … look to someone next to you and say “if that is you, YOU are a saint.”
Why thank you, yes I am and so are you
So, I can love you as an expression of love for God who has loved me completely. So, if I can love him who I have not seen … then I can love you who I can see
2 Peter 1:8–9 (NIV84) For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.
1 John 4:20–21 (NIV84) If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. 21 And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.
Philemon was a Faithful Saint and he showed it by his Faith in the Lord and his Love for ALL the Saints and that love for the joint-heirs in Christ moved him to
3. Be Active in Evangelism
The problem with some incomplete followers of Jesus Christ is that their growth in Christ is limited by their failure to fully develop as evangelist.
Some have a “club membership” view of Christianity. They love God. They love other members, but they think the membership is closed or exclusive. Or they have forgotten that they were once outside the membership or they think that enlarging the membership is the owner or president’s job.
Ephesians 2:13 (NIV84) But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.
Ephesians 5:8 (NIV84) For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light
Colossians 1:21 (NIV84) Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior.
1 Peter 2:10 (NIV84) Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
Matthew 28:19–20 (NIV84) Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
A faithful saint must personally embrace the command of Christ to share the gospel, and Paul prayed that Philemon would be
“Active” – energes (en-er-gace) = active, effective, powerful, able to cause
The expectation is that as followers of Jesus Christ will powerfully, effectively, actively, and intentionally …
B. Share Your Faith
“Share” – koinonia = communion, fellowship, willing contribution, participation
Do you have someone you are praying will come to Christ? Have you shared your faith WITH them? Well, are you waiting for them to stumble into it? Do you hope they will trip and fall into Jesus? Do you think if Jesus wants them he should go get them himself?
A faithful saint knows it depends on Christ but knows that he uses us to bring people to him and chooses to be active, participating, and willing contributor to sharing your faith. You should be sharing the one you have placed your full weight of faith with in with those who are still outside of God’s Blessed family that they might be included INSIDE the blessings of God.
How? There are many ways you can share your faith but you have to find a way that fits you and it needs to be active not just passive. It is not just something you show but something you TELL and then prove with what you show.
And Paul says the by-product for us in sharing our faith actively is a
C. Full Understanding of Grace
V6 “so that” – you will have “a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ”. When we don’t share our faith we fail to comprehend or simply forget what God has done for us. But as we share our faith we come to a better
“understanding” – epignosis = it means the active knowledge and understanding that only comes through experience.
There is a teaching that comes from sharing your faith. It completes the realization of what we have in Christ: Freedom from sin, it’s guilt, power, penalty, and finally the presence of sin; Inclusion in the family of God; An eternal inheritance; the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and spiritual gifts; and the promise of a resurrection like that of Jesus Christ.
If you don’t share your faith, you don’t really realize what god has done for you.
A faithful saint has faith in the Lord, love for all the saints, is active in Evangelism, and is busy
4. Encouraging One Another
From my perspective as Pastor, Paul even though he was currently in prison, going through great trials, he had joy and encouragement because of Philemon. Pastors are human, and we are prone to discouragement and depression, even in success, when we think we are doing it alone. But we can survive any challenge when we see you loving each other and taking an active part in sharing the gospel. I can survive anything if I see you being the saint you are called to be.
So you can encourage me that way and the last thing about Philemon that encouraged Paul while in chains was that he was active in refreshing the hearts of the saints.
If we truly LOVE each other we should be concerned that the ones we love are encouraged and recreated from the inside out. We should be concerned for their welfare over ours
- I heard about a guy who told his pastor, “my brother thinks he’s a chicken” – the Pastor asked “Why don’t you get him some help?” and the guy answered “Because I need the eggs”
Sometimes we leave people the way they are because it fits OUR agenda but we need to be refreshing one another not destroying each other
“refreshing” – anapauo (an-ap-ow-o) =cause to rest in order to recover and collect strength
“the heart” – splanchnon (splangkh-non) = bowels, seat of violent passions, seat of tender affections
We need to be refreshing deeply. It’s not just that we don’t tear each other down, nor is it that we just pay someone on the back every now and then. We are to REFRESH, ENCOURAGE, them from the depths of their emotions.
What would happen if we all tried to get under the surface and truly touch one another with deep encouragement?
Can we Try?
Can we Care?
Can we Love?
What will it take, who will you refresh?
This entire instruction is the result of who Philemon was becoming in Christ and though not complete yet, his faith was fully weighted in the Lord.
So, he dared to Love
He committed to Encourage
And he Actively shared his Faith
“Oh but Pastor, I’m not an evangelist” … Oh really? Yes you ARE!
Some of you are Cardinal Evangelists, Blues Evangelists, Musician Evangelists, Movie Evangelists, TV Show Evangelists, Scrapbook Evangelists, Collectible Evangelists, Political Evangelists, … you fill in the blank but you are an evangelists. Something puts a light in your eyes, raises your voice and makes you want to tell someone else about it. Everyone is an Evangelist for something.
Why not Jesus?
If your faith is fully weighted in the only thing that changes live, sets captives free, and gives eternal life, then
And you too will be a Faithful Saint!