Day 334 – Thru the Bible
Today we read Philemon. Here’s the overview video.
Video – Read Scripture: Philemon
How does this video help you understand Philemon?
Philemon 1 – This opening greeting of Paul is full of thanksgiving and praise for what God has done in Philemon’s life. Because of the work of Jesus in his life, Philemon has become not only a “beloved fellow worker” of the apostle but also a gracious host for the church that was meeting in his home. Paul recognizes this and prays that the love, faith, witness, and hospitality that Philemon has already displayed will continue to grow and bear more fruit.
While details are sparse, it is clear that Philemon’s life has changed radically because of the gospel. He now uses his time, talents, and treasures to serve his new Master, the Lord Jesus Christ, by ministering to others. The “hearts of the saints have been refreshed through” Philemon. This is what the gospel does—the love of Jesus flows through us onto others.
Paul builds upon the gospel foundation he started in the opening greeting. Based on the transformation that Philemon experienced through faith in Jesus, Paul appeals to Philemon regarding his runaway slave Onesimus.
Paul begins his plea by reminding Philemon of the status they both share as “prisoners . . . for Christ.” He tells Philemon that Onesimus has now become a fellow prisoner of grace through Paul’s ministry in Rome. He wants Philemon now to view Onesimus through the lens of the gospel—as a sinner who has turned to Jesus in faith and whose faithful service to Paul was evidence of this transformation. With tender language, Paul petitions Philemon to consider Onesimus no longer as a runaway slave with a debt to repay, but as a “beloved brother” who will serve the Lord alongside him.
In essence, Paul is appealing to Philemon from the inside out. While Paul could demand that Philemon do what the apostle says, he appeals in love instead. This is a profound gospel pattern; rather than coercing us against our will, the gospel transforms us from the inside out. As a peacemaker transformed by the reconciling power of the gospel, Paul’s goal is that Philemon express “goodness” toward Onesimus not by “compulsion” but by “consent” based on the apostle’s own love and Onesimus’s new status as a Christian “brother”.
Note how Paul models the transforming love of the gospel as he asks Philemon to “charge that to my account” since Jesus already paid the price for all of them. This gospel paradigm reminds us of the “charge it to my account” that Jesus Himself has said to us. Likewise, when Paul asks Philemon to “receive him as you would receive me,” this request that Philemon regard Onesimus as he would Paul himself draws our minds to the gospel. For in the gospel, God regards us as He would His own Son. God receives us as He would receive Jesus.
Ever so gently and subtly, then, Paul’s words undermine the cultural norms that are contrary to the gospel by transforming worldly perspectives with the realities of grace. This grace is so powerful that it makes a slave not only a brother (v. 16) and a partner (v. 17) without debt (v. 18); the slave even becomes one to whom a master becomes indebted by the relational ties of the gospel (v. 19).
Paul concludes the letter in a confident tone, knowing that Philemon will receive Onesimus back unconditionally and wholeheartedly. Paul can do this because he knows that the unconditional and wholehearted love of God in Jesus that has so transformed him has also transformed Philemon. Jesus has not only paid the penalty for our sins; he now gives us the power, through grace supplied by his Spirit, to live changed lives—lives of reconciliation and peace, of unity and mutual servanthood.
How has the Gospel transformed your life and your relationships with others?
What other thoughts or questions does today’s video and reading bring up?
Some of these notes are from the ESV Gospel Transformation Bible study notes. We highly recommend this study Bible.
Videos produced by www.TheGospelProject.com.
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