In a day when there is so much conflict, division, and brokenness in all our relationships with one another, Paul’s personal appeal to Philemon on behalf of Onesimus still rings so true as a guide and model for redemption, reconciliation, and restoration.
He didn’t attempt to re-engineer, re-tool, or re-package the Gospel. He just called on Philemon to live out and act out the Gospel as he had received and learned it from Paul / verse 19.
Paul appeals to THE GOSPEL, not only in his instructions to Philemon, but also in his very advocacy for Onesimus. Paul directs Philemon’s attention to the Gospel they both believed and preached [verses 1, 17], and he also embodies the Gospel in himself as he exhorts Philemon:
“So if you consider me your partner, receive him as you would receive me. If he has wronged you at all, or owes you anything, charge that to my account. I, Paul, write this with my own hand: I will repay it…” / verses 17-19
THAT is the Gospel of what God has done for us IN CHRIST! [see Colossians 2.13-15]
And not only did Paul know that the Gospel would instruct Philemon in what he should do [verse 8], but he also had the confidence that the same Gospel would work the will and response in Philemon’s heart to respond by the power the Gospel supplies:
“Confident of your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I say.” / verse 21
As Paul wrote in the accompanying letter of Colossians, the Gospel is the message and the means that God has given us to redeem, reconcile, and restore us all to the image of the ‘new man’ that Christ has created us to be…
Here are the Lesson Notes to a study of Philemon that we conducted in our church’s Sunday School.