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The 'Gospel' of Philemon


Returning to Listooder for the first time since being a regular attendee, John Hanna opened the Word of God in the book of Philemon. John began by considering the overall content of the book, indicating that Philemon is an account of the ministry of Christ as well as being an epistle, a letter, from the apostle Paul.

From this small, often overlooked, book in the New Testament we understand that a servant called Onesimus had run away from his master, a believer in the church of Colosse. Onesimus, having now found Christ for himself, had come into contact with Paul, and it was Paul who was now writing this letter to his friend, Philemon, to request reconciliation for Onesimus.

However, it was more than a simple restoration of the master-slave relationship that Paul requested. Knowing that Onesimus had put his trust in the Lord Jesus Christ for Salvation, Paul was requesting that he now be received as a brother in Christ, rather than a servant. He also requested that any wrong that had been done, any money that was owed, would be held to Paul's account and no longer held against Onesimus.

This is a beautiful picture of what Christ has done for us. Just as Paul identifies himself with the guilty party, Onesimus, so Christ has identified Himself with you and I, the sinner. Just as Paul was willing to take upon himself the wrong-doing on the part of Onesimus, so Christ, who owed us nothing, was willing to take upon Himself, as the ultimate sacrifice, the sins of the world.

Philemon had been the target of Onesimus' wrong-doing. Philemon had faced the suffering of having this wrong done against him. Just as man, created perfect by God and placed in the Garden of Eden, turned against the Creator, sinning constantly against Him and wandering far from His love. Yet through the willing sacrifice of Christ, we who were far off, can be brought back into the fold and family of God. This was Paul's hope for Onesimus, that through his willingness to take on the 'wages', the punishment for Onesimus' transgression against Philemon, Onesimus could be accepted into both the home and family of Philemon.

Paul now considered Onesimus to be his own son, and expected Philemon to treat him as such. This is a perfect picture of the sinner who accepts Christ, and so is given the adoption of sons, is brought into the family of God and considered an heir of God and joint-heir with Jesus Christ. Just as for Onesimus, every debt could be wiped clean, and a relationship not only restored, but transformed forever. This is the glorious reward of the sinner who repents of their sin, turns to Christ for salvation, and receives a full pardon. Justified freely forever.

If you don't have that privilege, if you don't know the Saviour, come to Christ today and be reconciled with God for all eternity.