Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Tuesday is Philemon Day!

Yesterday I checked Titus off my list, today I can check off Philemon as well! Tomorrow is 1 John Day. If you want to see the remainder of my week (I'm reading one short book a day) check out my first blog entry stating my need for some motivation: Read the Bible in a Year Plan.
Author: Paul and Timothy, however it's pretty obvious that Paul is the main author because it's from his point of view, using the pronoun "I". Also, Paul states that he is a prisoner for Christ Jesus (vs 1), I put a little "Where?" above prisoner and looked it up in Kyle's study Bible and e-Sword. Both agreed that the date for this letter was around AD 62, which would mean he was a prisoner in Rome.

Audience: Philemon, Apphia, Archippus, and the Church in your house. I'm going to assume that Philemon, Apphia, and Archippus live together (perhaps family?) because they host meetings in their home. So Paul wants everyone to read this letter. I love study Bibles, Bible Dictionaries, and study guides because the historical aspects of each book aid in my understanding three fold. Philemon was apparently a wealthy slave owner who lived in a town called Colossae, according to historical documents Philemon became a believer during Paul's 3 year stay in Ephesus (AD 52-55).

Purpose: The whole reason why Paul is writing this letter to Philemon and all those in his house is to ask mercy on Onesimus and show him love as a fellow believer, who (I remembered from a sermon some time ago...) was a runaway slave and became a believer because of Paul's teaching. I'm not sure on a specific verse here, I've read it 2 or 3 times but I'm thinking verse 10? "I appeal to you for my child, Onesimus, whose father I became in my imprisonment." But do not quote me on that.

Observations and Applications:
  • I love how Paul begins the letter kind of sucking up to Philemon. I hate using sucking up, but honestly couldn't think of any other way to put it. I mean it's brilliant really, you don't want to ask for something like this without an understanding from your audience how much they are appreciated. Paul tells them he's thankful for them, he remembers them in his prayers, and he finds joy and comfort in them because of the love they have given to other believers (saints). I seriously doubt he's writing those compliments just to "suck up" ... the words fail me ... but hopefully you know what I mean.
  • I admire Paul's persuasiveness! I mean who could say no to his plea?
  • I love the play on words when it comes to Onesimus and his name. I think back to myself before I was a believer and how utterly useless I was (not that I'm useful now) but my entire purpose on earth is to glorify God. Onesimus literally means useful and Paul writes to this in verse 11, "Formerly he was useless to you, but now he is indeed useful to you and to me." God's sovereignty in this book amazed me. I mean, Onesimus ran away (obviously to Rome) and just happens to "run into" Paul? No. God planned this and Paul is well aware of it (read verse 15-16). After Onesimus "runs into" Paul he hears his teaching and becomes a believer! So yes, of course Onesimus is that much more valuable to Philemon, because he is now a brother in Christ!
  • Paul wanted to keep him around because Onesimus was obviously living up to his name. :) Remember that in the discipleship process your ultimate goal is to become Christ-like. What was Jesus' purpose here on earth? To be a servant! He became the ultimate servant in giving His life for our sins. So it's obvious that Onesimus became Paul's disciple and was truly becoming a useful servant. Paul knew that Onesimus ran away for some wrong committed while he was with Philemon, so Paul is doing the right thing by sending him back (read verse 14) but what amazes me most is that Paul is willing to pay Onesimus' debt! (Read verse 18-19.)
  • Paul is asking Philemon give the same treatment (of love and refreshment), that he gives other Christians on a daily basis, be given to Onesimus. That concept of Christ's love and forgiveness comes to play here. Remember that story where Peter asks Jesus if someone wrongs him how many times he should forgive him, and Jesus says seventy seven times? (Matthew 18:21) I think back to my own sinful self and am thankful that Jesus is able to forgive that many times. I sin daily. I forget him daily. I do something stupid daily, because I am human. Yet I know that because Jesus died on the cross once for my sins, and because I believe in my heart and confess with my mouth he is God, I do not have to worry about tomorrow or today, or the next hour because I am forgiven! I'm not expected to be perfect, I strive for perfection, but I'm a sinner by nature. I'm guessing that because Philemon heard Paul's teaching (thus becoming a believer) he knows this as well. Paul, in not so many words, is asking for that kind of treatment for Onesimus. This book is a reminder of our need to forgive and accept others in love, offering them refreshment through Jesus Christ our Lord, no matter what wrongs have been committed against us. That's what Paul is calling Philemon to do with a runaway slave who probably wronged him, how much more should we do that with each other?
  • I found this book interesting on many historical levels. Did you know that certain pieces of this letter helped abolish slavery? (It was a side note in Kyle's study Bible.) That was the end of the statement, but I'm guessing some of the verses that may have been used as an arguement against slavery is 15-17. Onesimus ran away, Paul was pleading for a welcome return, he even mentions freedom in vs 15-16 "For this perhaps is why he was parted from you for a while, that you might have him back forever, no longer as a slave, but more than a slave, as a beloved brother - especially to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord." Paul also asks him to "... receive him as you would receive me." (vs 17) Hm. Interesting.
I'm excited that you're doing this with me! Tomorrow we'll read 1 John, which is the longest of the 5 books chosen this week. My prayer is that God opens your eyes to His word so that you can worship Him as you get to know Him better through this week of study.

Links to help you follow along!

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