Home > Christianity, Faith > What Was Paul’s Appeal To Philemon?

What Was Paul’s Appeal To Philemon?

Today we reach the halfway point of our jaunt through Philemon.  We finally get to the question, the request, which Paul makes of Philemon.

Paul actually tells Philemon that he is confident enough in the Lord that he doesn’t feel like he has to ask him.  He could actually command him to do what he wants. Accordingly, though I am bold enough in Christ to command you to do what is required.

I believe that this would be extremely foreign to us, especially those of us who are Americans who follow Christ.  We are so independent that would bristle at the though of someone commanding us to do something.  After all, when was the last time your pastor commanded you to do something?  Yet Paul feels comfortable enough to believe that he could do this.

So why doesn’t he?  Why doesn’t Paul simply command Philemon to do what is required, rather than simply appeal to him?  Yet for love’s sake I prefer to appeal to you.  As we have already seen in the previous two weeks, Paul loves this man, Philemon.  He considers him a great friend and worker in the faith.  He understands what commanding him would do to their relationship.

So, what is it that Paul is appealing to Philemon to do?  I, Paul, an old man and now a prisoner also for Christ Jesus – I appeal to you for my child, Onesimus, whose father I became in my imprisonment.

Finally, we’re getting somewhere.  We’re getting down to why Paul is writing to Philemon in the first place.  He is appealing on behalf of Onesimus.  Onesimus has been led to the Lord by Paul while in prison and he happens to be an escaped slave of Philemon.  What a coincidence that a slave of Philemon’s would end up in Paul’s company.

Paul loves this man, Onesimus, as much as he loves Philemon.  (Formerly he was useless to you, but now he is indeed useful to you and me.)  I am sending him back to you, sending my very heart.  I would have been glad to keep him with me, in order that he might serve on your behalf during my imprisonment for the gospel. 

Paul is saying that before coming to Christ, Onesimus was just another slave, of no particular use to Philemon.  Now, though, he was of use to Paul and Philemon.  He is so valuable to Paul that he is sending his heart back to Philemon.  He would have loved to have kept him to help in the work of the gospel while he was imprisoned.

Instead, he sent Onesimus back to Philemon, who had the ability to do whatever he wanted with him.  Why?  But I preferred to do nothing without your consent in order that your goodness might not be by compulsion, but of your own accord.  Paul knew Philemon to be a good man.  He believed that he could order Philemon to do the right thing, but preferred to let him do the right thing so that Christ might be glorified.

Paul sees the bigger picture of this entire series of events.  For this perhaps is why he was parted from you for awhile, that you might have him back forever, no longer as a bondservant but more than a bondservant, as a beloved brother – especially to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.

We finally get to the heart of what Paul is asking.  He is asking Philemon to take Onesimus back as more than simply a slave. He is asking him to take Onesimus back as a brother and fellow worker for the gospel and kingdom of God.

What are our takeaways from these verses of scripture?

1. Paul does not view people differently based on their social standing.  He is comfortable with the rich and the poor.

2. The Gospel is powerful.  It makes the lowly and the powerful family.

3. The social ramifications of this act are incredible.



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