By some people, church and the message of the Gospel is accused of not being relevant to the modern situation.
Paul’s Letter to Philemon crushes that viewpoint. What Paul, Philemon, and Onesimus did demonstrates how the Gospel of Jesus Christ changes lives and brings us to do things that many–maybe most–people think is impossible.
Yesterday we looked at how all three of these men swallowed their pride in order to let the truth of the Gospel play out in their lives. You can read that here and read the first post about Philemon here.
Something is shown to be truth when we see it causing people to do things they normally wouldn’t do. That is what the Epistle to Philemon shows us.
Let’s look at two of those unnatural reactions.
First, notice what Paul is doing. He is imprisoned for the Gospel. He is not a health and wealth theologian. He suffered for Christ and risked everything for the Gospel. In prison, he did not throw up his hands and quit. He continued to minister and to labor for the Gospel. He wrote four of his letters of the New Testament while under stress and persecution. Instead of emphasizing the persecution, he showed by his actions how the Gospel applies to our lives.
It changes us, and it changes our actions and attitudes.
Second, notice how the Gospel changed Philemon and Onesimus. We should assume Philemon responded as Paul requested by receiving Onesimus back as a brother. Paul asked Philemon to put whatever Onesimus might owe on Paul’s account. We should not expect that happened.
Even this statement points to the Gospel. Paul and Philemon both knew they had been “ransomed” by Christ. Now Paul and Philemon simply did for Onesimus as Christ had done for them.
We know from history that there was an Onesimus who became the bishop at Ephesus. Could it be the same man? Could it be anyone else? One of the second century church fathers affirmed his identity.
God works in people. He takes our hurts and pains and turns them into testimonies of faith when we trust and obey Him. The story of these men shows how the Gospel works in life.