The text for this lesson is Book of Philemon
- God commands us to be content in all things. Through faith in Jesus, God gives me forgiveness and freedom from slavery to sin.
- Law: Onesimus was not content to be a slave, so he ran away, perhaps taking with him something that belonged to his master, Philemon. Contentment is a challenge for me, too, as I sinfully resent God for not giving me everything that I want and instead covet what belongs to others.
- Gospel: Paul’s willingness to cover the expense of releasing Onesimus, I see the redeeming work of Jesus Christ, who died on the cross so that I would no longer be a bondservant to sin, but rather a child of my heavenly Father.
- Having heard Jesus’ Great Commission, the disciples took the Gospel of Jesus Christ into the world. One of those disciples was Paul, the former Pharisee who persecuted the Christian Church before meeting the Lord on the road to Damascus. During his ministry, Paul encounters a runaway bondservant named Onesimus. As we learn from the text, Paul becomes his father in Christ while in prison for the Gospel. Philemon, Onesimus’s master, is also a Christian and a friend of Paul’s. Paul entreats Philemon not to harm Onesimus but to accept him back as a brother in Christ.
Paul provides an astounding example of Christian contentment. As a Pharisee, Paul enjoyed wealth, comfort, prestige, and authority. He was educated and had a position of influence and respect in the Jewish community. This all changed when the Lord introduced Himself to Paul on the road to Damascus. With the comfort and peace of the Gospel also came the loss of all the comforts and privileges Paul had enjoyed. He was rejected by former Jewish colleagues, was reduced to earning a living as a tentmaker, and endured frequent beatings and imprisonment. Nevertheless, Paul embraced the Lord’s calling, accepting his circumstances.
Paul desires that Philemon will accept the change that the Lord has made in Onesimus’s life and receive his former bondservant as a brother in Christ and fellow servant. This is a substantial request, as Philemon had a financial investment in Onesimus. In writing to Philemon, the apostle enjoins him to consider the larger picture. Onesimus is now a Christian, and as we read in the letter, this former bondservant has assisted Paul in his ministry. Paul’s prayer is that Philemon will see the Lord’s hand in this situation and release his bondservant into the Lord’s ministry.
As sinners, we struggle with the same challenge. We often allow our covetous desires for the things of this world to lead us into sin and away from a relationship with our heavenly Father. God graciously gives us all that we need. In fact, God does this even for unbelievers. What’s more, God enjoins us to pray to Him as a child speaks to a father, asking for the things we want. There is no sin in making efforts to achieve goals in this life: education, friends, marriage, children, career, and the like. However, when we desire these things more than we love God, or when we pursue them with a willingness to disobey our heavenly Father, we sin.
Paul’s willingness to pay the price of Onesimus’s freedom points us to the work of Jesus Christ. Like Paul, Jesus was not legally or morally obliged to pay the price of our freedom. He chose to do so in grace. Paul knew that Onesimus would never be able to purchase his own freedom. As sinners, we could never free ourselves. Jesus came into the world as a human being and took our debt upon Himself. Going to the cross, He paid it in full, setting us free from the slavery of sin and death and making us children of the heavenly Father forever.