Philemon Lesson

Helping Those In Need

INTRODUCTION TO THE BOOK OF PHILEMON

The book of Philemon was written in AD 57-62 by the Apostle Paul.  

It is one of four “Prison Epistles” (Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians being the other three) written by Paul while he was in jail.  

Philemon was a convert of Paul’s and Paul commends him for his faith throughout the book.  

Philemon’s story is a story about:

  1. Brotherly love,
  2. Helping those in need.

COMPARING WHAT PAUL DID FOR ONESIMUS AND WHAT JESUS DID FOR US 

Today’s lesson highlights three similarities between what Paul did for Onesimus and what Jesus did for us.

These similarities are as follows:

  1. Paul advocated for Onesimus the same way Jesus will advocate for His followers on the Day of Judgment. Paul: “For perhaps he was for this reason separated from you for a while, 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.” - Philemon 15-16.   Paul: “But if he has wronged you in any way or owes you anything, charge that to my account.” – Philemon 18.   Jesus: “And if anyone sins, we have an Advocatewith the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” - 1 John 2:1 .   Jesus: “Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in Heaven.” – Mathew 10:32 .   As we read Paul’s comments about Onesimus, you can feel the love that he had for him.   Greater yet is the love of Jesus!
  2. Onesimus was condemned by law but saved by grace.As followers of Jesus, we too are saved by grace.   “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” – Ephesians 2:8-9,
  3. Paul requested that Philemon show Onesimus mercy in the same way that Jesus shows us mercy. “For perhaps he was for this reason separated from you for a while, 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.” – Philemon 15-16.  “He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit ” - Titus 3:5 .  “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” - 1 Peter 1:3,

THE STORY OF ONESIMUS

Onesimus was a runaway slave that had fled from his owner, Philemon. 

Slaves leaving their masters was considered a serious crime under Roman law, and Onesimus could have faced severe punishment, or even death if he were caught.

Paul had gotten to know Onesimus while in prison and liked him very much. 

Paul did not see Onesimus as a runaway slave, but as a brother in Christ.  

Paul wrote to Philemon offering to pay him any debts that Onesimus owed him.

FIVE WAYS PAUL HELPED ONESIMUS

  1. Paul embraced that Onesimus came to him and did not judge him.  He showed compassion and not judgment. He referred to Onesimus as his own child.  “I appeal to you for my child Onesimus.” – Philemon 10,
  2. He saw Onesimus’ worth.   “Who formerly was useless to you, but now is useful both to you and to me.” – Philemon 11.   Four of the most powerful and impactful words that we can say to somebody are, “I believe in you!”   That is something that we all need to hear,
  3. He sent Onesimus back where he needed to be, despite selfishly wanting to keep him close by.  “I have sent him back to you in person, that is, sending my very heart, whom I wished to keep with me, so that on your behalf he might minister to me in my imprisonment for the gospel; but without your consent I did not want to do anything, so that your goodness would not be, in effect, by compulsion but of your own free will.” – Philemon 12-14,
  4. Paul advocated for Onesimus. – Philemon 11-21,
  5. Paul had confidence and trust in God that others would do their part to execute God’s plans for Onesimus.  “Having confidence in your obedience, I write to you, since I know that you will do even more than what I say.” – Philemon 21.

THE IMPORTANCE OF HELPING OTHERS

The more we study the Bible, the more we realize that our time on earth is to be spent doing two things:

  1. Glorifying God,
  2. Serving others.

Everything that we do, from the moment we wake up until we go to sleep, should be spent doing one of these two things. 

Of course, there are practical matters that need to be taken care of as well, however, the point is that these two items are to be our focus. 

When we see somebody in need and we can help them, we are supposed to help them. 

That is what Christians do!

Nowhere is this sentiment more beautifully articulated than in the Book of James:

  • “What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, 'Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,' and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.  But someone may well say, 'You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.'” – James 2:14-18.

CONCLUSION

Paul’s letter to Philemon is a fantastic example of the importance of helping others. 

All of us need people like Paul in our lives!

People that will be in our corner and help us through life's difficulties.

Similarly, we all need to be like Paul and help others through their struggles. 

That is God’s plan and that is what we are commanded to do!

Paul believed in Onesimus.  

He was willing to put himself out there for him and to advocate for him.   His belief in Onesimus no doubt changed Onesimus’ life forever.

As great an advocate as Paul was, we have an advocate that is even greater in Jesus!

Jesus loves us and wants to advocate to His Father on our behalf.  

All that He asks of us is that we:

  1. Love Him,
  2. Believe in Him,
  3. Follow Him.

We will end today’s lesson with the following scripture taken from the Book of Acts:

  • “In everything I showed you that by working hard in this manner you must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” - Acts 20:35.

Comments

Virtual Bible Study™

1) What did today’s Bible study make you think or feel?
2) What questions do you have?
3) How can you apply what you have learned to something specific in your life?

***PLEASE POST YOUR QUESTIONS OR COMMENTS HERE***

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Virtual Bible Study™

1) What did today’s Bible study make you think or feel?
2) What questions do you have?
3) How can you apply what you have learned to something specific in your life?

***PLEASE POST YOUR QUESTIONS OR COMMENTS HERE***

Reply
John

If we look for the good in people, we bring out the best in them, and ourselves.

Reply
Mustang

We all need someone like Paul to believe in us, advocate for us and help us to become the Christians that we are capable of being.

God created us in His own image which means that we are valuable. Not some of us, all of us.

And just like Paul helped out a person in need in Onesimus, we too should help out those that unexpectedly enter our lives and have needs. All for the glory of God.

Reply
James A Guillory
Mustang

Very good word Mustang!!
And you are right we all need someone like Paul to Believe in us and we all need to be somebody like Paul to believe in other Christians and to encourage them!!

Reply
Michael
James A Guillory

Amen!

Reply