The Gospel Observer
"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations...teaching them
to observe all that I commanded you, and lo, I am with you always,
even to the end of the age" (Matt. 28:19,20).
October 2, 2011
1) Philemon 1:8-22 (Tom Edwards)
2) News & Notes
by Tom Edwards
In Philemon 1:8-10, Paul says, "Therefore, though I have enough
confidence in Christ to order you to do what is proper, yet for
love's sake I rather appeal to you -- since I am such a person as
Paul, the aged, and now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus -- I appeal
to you for my child Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my
Paul could have simply commanded Philemon to do the right thing, and
surely he would have obeyed; but instead Paul appeals to him as a
brother to a brother.
Notice how Paul refers to himself in verse 9 -- "Paul, the
aged." It has been estimated that Paul was about 60 years old
at this time. That doesn't seem old in our time with longer
life-spans, but it was old for Paul's day. Plus, when you add
to that all the hardships, scourgings, and other physical distresses
Paul endured, that probably all had a toll on his body.
Notice, too, how Paul refers to Onesimus: "my child Onesimus."
Why? Because Paul helped him to become a Christian, as the
same verse indicates: "whom I have begotten in my imprisonment."
It was the power of God's word in the apostle Paul that brought this
about. As Peter writes in 1 Peter 1:23-25, Christians have
been born again not through a perishable seed but by one that is
"imperishable" -- "the living and enduring word of God...."
Think, too, of how Paul's identifying with Onesimus as his "child"
would also make more of a tender appeal toward Philemon to do the
right thing. According to the Jewish Talmud, if a person were
to teach the law to his neighbor's son, this would be viewed as if
the one teaching begot the one who was taught.
There had been a good change in Onesimus' life. For Paul now
refers to him in Philemon 1:11 as being one "who formerly was
useless to you, but now is useful both to you and to me."
There was probably no pun intended in this; but, rather, a sincere
remark from the apostle Paul about the usefulness of Onesimus'
changed life. However, it does sound as if it is a play on words,
for the name Onesimus literally means "profitable or useful," as
Thayer defines it. So now it appears that Onesimus is truly living
up to his name, and Paul is giving Philemon another reason for
receiving Onesimus back. For now he would be more useful than
before. We would think, too, that Onesimus would also be
better in the sense that now he will be serving his earthly master
as unto the Lord, which would also make a great improvement in
his person. For abiding in the commandments of the Lord will improve
In a similar manner, we, as Christians, have made ourselves useful
for our Lord by turning from sin and turning to His word, as Paul
speaks of in 2 Timothy 2:19-22. So if we want to be useful to
our Master in heaven, we have the responsibility toward becoming
Note, however, what is said of those who turn to the world -- rather
than to God -- in Romans 3:10-12: "...There is none righteous, not
even one; There is none who understands, there is none who seeks for
God; All have turned aside, together they have become useless...."
We can then see more of the emotional and brotherly attachment that
Paul has to Onesimus in Philemon 1:12-14. Here, Paul refers to
his sending of Onesimus back to Philemon as "sending my very
heart." Paul wished for Onesimus to remain with him, but he
knew this could not be done without the consent of Philemon.
So Paul sends Onesimus back, and so that the goodness of Philemon
might be of his own free will, rather than under compulsion.
Though not mentioned in Paul's letter to Philemon, Colossians 4:7-9
shows that Tychicus had accompanied Onesimus in this journey.
One reason for that might have been for Tychicus to be able to
protect Onesimus. For it would have been much more dangerous
for him to have gone alone because of the "constant danger of
falling into the hands of the slave-catchers," as James Coffman
Paul, instead of describing the time of Onesimus' absence from his
master in a negative or futile way, speaks of it, rather, as a time
that led to his positive reform, which would result in even
something better for Philemon: "For perhaps he was for this reason
separated from you for a while [which sounds like an allusion to the
providence of God], that you would have him back forever, no longer
as a slave, but more than a slave, a beloved brother, especially to
me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord"
(Phm. 1:15-16). In this passage, "forever" is from the
same Greek word that is often used to refer to "eternal" life in the
NT. Therefore, this can imply that not only would there be a
permanence in the earthly relationship that Philemon would have with
Onesimus, but also one that would be forever more in heaven itself.
Notice what Paul then writes in Philemon 1:17: "If then you regard
me a partner, accept him as you would me." Isn't that an
impartial concern? Being impartial, or not showing favoritism,
is a characteristic of God; and one that we are also to have.
For instance, Romans 2:11 states, "For there is no partiality with
God." Christians, therefore, are exhorted to be impartial: "I
solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and
of His chosen angels, to maintain these principles without bias,
doing nothing in a spirit of partiality" (1 Tim. 5:21).
Notice, too, the severity expressed toward those who would not
develop that: "But if you show partiality, you are committing sin
and are convicted by the law as transgressors" (Jms. 2:9).
In Philemon 1:18, Paul declares, "...if he has wronged you in any
way or owes you anything, charge that to my account." Paul
reminds us, here, of the good Samaritan in Luke 10:30-37. For
after taking the man to the Inn, who had been attacked by robbers
and left half dead, the good Samaritan did what he could for the
man; and then the next day he gave two denarii to the innkeeper and
told him in verse 35 to "Take care of him; and whatever more you
spend, when I return I will repay you." Paul is saying a
similar thing to Philemon. This willingness of Paul to pay
another person's debt could very well be a willingness instilled
within him from the Great Teacher Himself who was willing to pay all
of our debts of sin on that torturous cross at Calvary.
Paul then says, "I, Paul, am writing this with my own hand...." (v.
19). This was not always the case, for Paul often dictated his
message to someone else to write. Consider, for example,
Romans 16:22. The verse states, "I, Tertius, who write this
letter, greet you in the Lord." So in writing the Roman
letter, Paul was dictating it to Tertius.
Consider also Colossians 4:18: "I, Paul, write this greeting with my
own hand. Remember my imprisonment. Grace be with you." Here
it appears that only this closing remark was written by Paul's own
hand. This is also seen in 2 Thessalonians 3:17, where Paul
states, "I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand, and this is
a distinguishing mark in every letter; this is the way I
write." Paul doesn't say that he "writes this letter" with his
own hand, but that he writes "this greeting." Similarly, in 1
Corinthians 16:21, Paul includes in the closing of that
letter, "The greeting is in my own hand -- Paul."
Poor eyesight has been suggested as why Paul usually dictated his
message to someone else to write down, which has been inferred from
Galatians 6:11, where Paul says, "See with what large letters I am
writing to you with my own hand." So this is why some folks
believe that Paul's thorn in the flesh was poor eyesight; and that
the reason for his writing large letters was because he couldn't see
well. Another verse that is sometimes cited to strengthen that
idea is Galatians 4:15, where Paul says about the Galatians, "...For
I bear you witness that, if possible, you would have plucked out
your eyes and given them to me." But it would seem that Paul's
thorn in the flesh would have been more than poor eyesight.
Paul then says in Philemon 1:20, "Yes, brother, let me benefit from
you in the Lord; refresh my heart in Christ." The benefit Paul
alludes to is Philemon's compliance to Paul's request in receiving
Onesimus back the right way. The next verse also confirms
that: "Having confidence in your obedience, I write to you, since I
know that you will do even more than what I say" (Phm. 1:21).
Knowing that Philemon would do "even more than what" Paul said, does
not mean that Philemon would "go beyond the things that are
written"; but, rather, that he would comply with Paul's request to
an even fuller degree -- such as in being more thoughtful or more
kind than Paul had implied. This should also be true of every
Christian. For as J.W. Shepherd points out, "A heart truly
touched by the love of Christ never seeks to know the lowest limit
of duty, but the highest possibility of service."
Some have taken this phrase, "even more than what I say," to be
referring to Philemon setting Onesimus free from his slavery and
sending him back to Paul. It might include that; but that, of
course, is not stated.
Paul then makes another request of Philemon in Philemon 1:22, "At
the same time also prepare me a lodging, for I hope that through
your prayers I will be given to you." Paul had hopes of being
released from his first Roman imprisonment. Take a look, for
example, at Philippians 2:23,24, which is another of Paul's "prison
epistles": "Therefore I hope to send him [Timothy] immediately, as
soon as I see how things go with me; and I trust in the Lord that I
myself also will be coming shortly."
Knowing that Paul was coming might have also encouraged Philemon in
doing what would be right with regard to Onesimus.
Notice also what Paul would attribute his release to: "for I hope
that through your prayers I will be given to you." Much good
can be accomplished through prayer. In James 5:17,18, James
cites the example of Elijah who, though having a "nature like ours,"
"prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the
earth for three years and six months. Then he prayed again,
and the sky poured rain and the earth produced its fruit."
James cites this example to illustrate the fact, as he points out in
James 5:16, that, "The effective prayer of a righteous man can
Though we don't find Paul requesting prayer from Philemon, it was as
if Paul expected or knew that Philemon would be praying for him; and
Paul believed that prayer could make a great deal of
difference. For he knew that, in his case, it could result in
his being released from prison. May we also, who are
Christians, never forget how important and beneficial prayer can be.
(Concluded in our next Gospel Observer)
News & Notes
R.J. Evans is now 4 weeks
through his treatment for prostate cancer. As mentioned, it
involved an implanting of 83 radiation "seeds" that are
time-released. His doctors had told him that they think he
will be healed in two months; so he is now half way
there. He was also told, however, that after 4 weeks
into this, he might start feeling the effects of the radiation; and
he mentioned just last night that he was. It is making him
feel a little worn out. Let those of us who are Christians
continue to remember R.J. in our prayers.
Also, R.J.'s wife Jackie
was not able to be at church Wednesday evening, due to her back
giving her some terrible trouble. If that keeps up, it looks
like Jackie won't be able to wait two or three years before having
her back surgery.
Let us also be praying for Clyde
Jackson who recently had surgery due to lung cancer.
He is now recuperating from that.
Let us also be praying for Cheryl Crews who came down
with the flu, on top of all her other health
The Steps That Lead to Eternal Salvation
1) Hear the gospel,
for that is how faith comes (Rom. 10:17; John 20:30,31).
2) Believe in the
deity of Christ (John 8:24; John 3:18).
3) Repent of sins
(Luke 13:5; Acts 17:30).
4) Confess faith in
Christ (Rom. 10:9,10; Acts 8:36-38).
5) Be baptized in water
for the remission of sins (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:3,4;
Gal. 3:26,27; 1 Pet. 3:21).
6) Continue in the faith;
for, if not, salvation can be lost (Heb. 10:36-39; Rev. 2:10; 2 Pet.
CHURCH OF CHRIST
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Sunday services: 9:00 AM (Bible class); 10 AM & 6 PM (worship)
Tuesday: 7 PM (Bible class)
evangelist/editor: Tom Edwards (225) 667-4520
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