The short book of Philemon was written by Paul from prison to persuade Philemon to receive back his runaway and now converted slave Onesimus in the spirit of forgiveness and Christian brotherhood. The themes of forgiveness and reconciliation are featured within the complex social dynamic of first century slavery. The grace of Jesus Christ which we have freely received must also be freely extended towards others.
Christian forgiveness and reconciliation cuts across all economic classes as we extend love and grace to one another in the spirit of true brotherhood.
Philemon 15 “That you would have him back forever“
I. (:1-7) ATMOSPHERE FOR FORGIVENESS AND RECONCILIATION –
EFFECTIVE FAITH SHOWS ITSELF IN PRACTICAL LOVE
II. (:8-16) APPEAL FOR FORGIVENESS AND RECONCILIATION —
BROKEN HUMAN RELATIONSHIPS CAN BE TRANSFORMED BY OUR NEW FAMILY RELATIONSHIP IN CHRIST
III. (:17-25) APPLICATION OF RECONCILIATION –
THE GRACE OF JESUS CHRIST PROVIDES THE MOTIVATION FOR CHRISTIAN RECONCILIATION
WHY STUDY THIS BOOK?
• To gain a biblical understanding of relational forgiveness and reconciliation
• To wrestle with how the NT writers treated the social and economic issue of slavery
• To appreciate the detailed working of the providence of God
• To see how Christian brotherhood cuts across all economic classes and diversity of individuals
• To deepen our ethical convictions regarding doing what is right regardless of the unknown consequences
• To see the art of persuasion in operation
David Malick: Being encouraged by the reports of spiritual effectiveness in Philemon’s life, Paul requests of him to graciously receive his runaway slave, Onesimus, as a fellow believer and partner in the gospel ministry in accordance with the love that he has shown to other believers and the grace which he has received from Christ.
Chuck Swindoll: Paul’s message to Philemon was a simple one: based on the work of love and forgiveness that had been wrought in Philemon’s heart by God, show the same to the escaped and now-believing slave Onesimus. The apostle’s message would have had extra force behind it because he knew Philemon personally. Paul had explained the gospel to Philemon and had witnessed the profound result: new life blossoming in a once-dead heart (Philemon 1:19). Paul knew that conversion is nothing to trifle with, but that it should be honored and fostered.
So Paul made a request. He wanted Philemon to forgive Onesimus, to accept the slave as a brother in Christ, and to consider sending Onesimus back to Paul, as the apostle found him useful in God’s service (1:11–14). Paul did not minimize Onesimus’s sin. This was not some kind of cheap grace that Paul asked Philemon to offer. No, there was sacrifice required in this request, and because of that, Paul approached the topic with gentleness and care (1:21). His letter to Philemon presents in full color the beautiful and majestic transition from slavery to kinship that comes as a result of Christian love and forgiveness.
John MacArthur: Outline
I. Greeting (1-3)
II. The Character of One Who Forgives (4-7)
III. The Actions of One Who Forgives (:8-18)
IV. The Motives of One Who Forgives (:19-25)
Warren Wiersbe: Outline – Christian Forgiveness
I. APPRECIATION (1-7) (“I thank my God”)
A. Paul’s love – 1-3
B. Paul’s thanksgiving – 4-5, 7
C. Paul’s prayer – 6
II. APPEAL (8-16) (“I beseech thee”)
A. Philemon’s character – 8-9
B. Onesimus’s conversion – 10-14
C. God’s providence – 15-16
III. ASSURANCE (17-25) (“I will repay”)
A. Paul’s partnership – 17-19
B. Paul’s confidence – 20-22
C. Paul’s greeting – 23-25