Lesson 2 - Chapter 1:8-16

Lesson 2 - Chapter 1:8-16

Lesson for November 22, 2015

The Book of Philemon

Chapter 1:8-16

Verses 8-9

“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.”

Philemon was about to make a decision that would impact his spiritual life. If he accepted Onesimus as a brother in Christ and forgave him (which would be the proper thing to do as a believer) Philemon would continue to have a ministry to the church at Colossae. Paul wanted Philemon to be operating on his own spiritual self-confidence and the doctrine stored in his soul. Therefore Paul hesitated to use his apostolic authority to command Philemon to do the right thing. If he ordered Philemon, then Philemon would merely be acting under Paul’s orders without making a decision of his own. Therefore he would lose his own ability to function in grace. This was a case where the believer must be spiritually self-sustaining or spiritually independent. For the mature believer his authority is in his soul, which means he takes orders from his own doctrine-filled soul. This means he is spiritually self-sustaining. Paul had taught Philemon doctrine, now Philemon had to use his own free will in this grace crisis. Through doctrine Philemon was prepared for this crisis. He must use his own spiritual resources to make a decision. Every believer must resolve the grace crisis on the basis of doctrine resident in his own soul. He must not lean on another believer, whether it is a pastor, a friend, or an alleged or apparent “spiritual giant.” In other words, each believer must live his own life as unto the Lord.

Philemon must operate on his own motivation as well as his own inner resources or he would destroy his motivation and neutralize his own resources. If Paul commanded him then Paul was living Philemon’s life. So Philemon had to pass the grace crisis on the basis of doctrine resident in his own soul on the basis of his own motivation. He was a believer-priest, he was a member of the Royal Family of God, and he had free will (could not use someone else’s). We cannot afford to lose the use of our free will. When a believer must constantly rely on someone else to make his decisions he is obviously not advanced in the Christian Way of Life. Failure to use his inner resources means he has neglected them and/or loss interest in Bible doctrine.

In verse 9 Paul demonstrated confidence in the doctrine in the soul of Philemon. As a mature believer, Philemon was occupied with Christ, he had maximum doctrine in his soul, and he was able to choose grace over his right as a Roman citizen. Paul appealed to the proper motivation which was occupation with Christ. The Greek word for aged is “presbutes” meaning an ambassador or to be far advanced so as to be a proper representative. Paul was not standing on his rank as an apostle. Paul put himself on the same level as Philemon. Every believer is an ambassador for Christ and therefore Paul, being an ambassador and Philemon being an ambassador, set aside rank in order to avoid any pressure from Paul’s authority. Instead this was the common meeting ground of equality between Paul and Philemon as they are both ambassadors for Christ. For Paul to use his rank would destroy the issue of grace. Instead he allowed Philemon to make his own decision on the basis of his own inner resources based on the Bible doctrine Paul had taught him. Every believer must live his own life before the Lord. In a very gracious sense Paul had delegated his authority to Philemon to deal with the problem of the runaway slave, Onesimus. Paul had done all he could do for Onesimus in his present condition as a prisoner so he leaves the rest to Philemon.

The Doctrine of Ambassadorship

  1. Definition:An ambassador is a high-ranking minister of state or a member of royalty sent to another nation to represent his sovereign. The Church Age believer is an ambassador for Christ. He is Royal Family of God and he represents his sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, Jesus Christ. He is sent by the Lord Jesus Christ to the world to represent Him. Ambassadorship is used to emphasize the fact that each believer is in full time Christian service.
  2. The profile of an ambassador:
    1. An ambassador does not appoint himself. We have been appointed by God, we are not self-appointed.
    2. An ambassador does not support himself. The canon of scripture forms the information for our support and sustenance.
    3. His instructions are in written form. Of course, so are ours.
    4. An ambassador does not belong to the country to which he is sent. We belong to God and we are citizens of Heaven.
    5. An ambassador does not live in a foreign country for his own personal interest. We are here for the interest of the Lord Jesus Christ.
    6. An ambassador does not treat any insult to himself as personal. This indicates something of our function. In this life we are the recipients of antagonism from Satan, his demons and his world system.
    7. An ambassador’s recall to his home country is tantamount to a declaration of war, and the removal of the Church is the declaration of war for the final great stage of the Angelic Conflict — the Tribulation.
  3. Ambassadorship is also related to witnessing for Christ. (II Corinthians 5:20) Ours is the responsibility of witnessing and our witnessing is a part of our ambassadorship. Our ambassadorship is fulfilled to the unbelieving world, we entreat them to be reconciled to God. (Ephesians 6:20)
  4. Not all ambassadors are effective. (Proverbs 13:16-17) Effectiveness in the Royal Family of God on earth depends on whether the believer is positive or negative toward Bible doctrine. The spiritually mature believer is an effective ambassador, but the reversionist is a poor ambassador.
  5. A believer is the personal representative of the Lord Jesus Christ on the earth. This means that every believer is in the plan of God, lives under the concept of full-time Christian service, and carries the title of ambassador.

Verses 10-12

“I appeal to you for my child Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my imprisonment, who formerly was useless to you, but now is useful both to you and to me. I have sent him back to you in person, that is, sending my very heart.”

In verse 10 we have the beginning of the appeal from Paul to Philemon to take Onesimus back as a fellow believer not as a slave. To Paul, Onesimus was his spiritual child, a student in Paul’s “travelling seminary.” Paul both evangelized and taught Onesimus. Onesimus came to Rome as an unbelieving slave, but he would leave as a mature believer. He mentioned the name last to prepare Philemon for the shock. His runaway slave was now a believer and had been a student of Paul’s. The uselessness of Onesimus to Philemon in his previous life as his slave is a reference to being spiritually useless. Now that Onesimus was a mature believer, he would be useful to Philemon, spiritually, as he was already to Paul. Paul obviously had a great love for Onesimus from his statement in verse 12 that he was sending his very heart.

Impersonal Love and Personal Love

  1. Personal love emphasizes the attractiveness of the object. Impersonal love emphasizes the virtue of the subject.
  2. Personal love is optional in the Christian life; it is not commanded. Impersonal love is the imperative of the Christian life, the divine mandate for the function of the protocol plan. It is better to advance to spiritual maturity before you even try to have a personal love relationship.
  3. Personal love emphasizes rapport with an object; impersonal love emphasizes the virtue, and the integrity of the subject. Personal love emphasizes the desirability of the object.
  4. Impersonal love means that no merit is assigned to the object. No characteristic of the object, whether attractiveness, rapport, or worthiness, is the motivation for impersonal love.
  5. Personal love is virtue-dependent for its effectiveness; impersonal love is doctrine dependent for its effectiveness. The effectiveness of impersonal love in the spiritual life is dependent on personal love for God. Impersonal love is sustained by personal love for God the Father and Bible doctrine in the soul. Personal love is sustained by rapport and mutual admiration. Personal love is directed toward a few; impersonal love is directed toward all mankind.
  6. Impersonal love is a virtue from God.
  7. Impersonal love is manufactured inside God’s power system from metabolized doctrine. Personal love is manufactured from the mentality, emotion, and self-consciousness of mankind.
  8. Impersonal love is a virtue directed toward the entire human race, friend or enemy, known or unknown. Personal love is directed toward a few.
  9. Impersonal love is a problem-solving device as well as the basis for great human relationships. Personal love is often a problem-making device.
  10. Impersonal love is a relaxed mental attitude toward all mankind. Personal love is an intense and possessive attitude toward a few.
  11. Impersonal love is the function of spiritual autonomy. This means it is unconditional toward the object. This means you drop all prejudices toward others’ race, culture, I.Q., background. One of the great functions of impersonal love is tolerance. And once you have spiritual self-esteem, you’ll drop all former standards of superiority or inferiority regarding people and yourself. And with spiritual autonomy, you’ll discover in your impersonal love a great tolerance, having no prejudice, no arrogance, no possessiveness, no meddling in other’s business, no further attempts to smother, mother, or control everyone around you. You will be courteous and objective in the face of hostility and antagonism.
  12. While personal love for people can be a distraction to your relationship with God, impersonal love for all mankind is a manifestation of your personal love for God the Father, and your occupation with the Person of Jesus Christ as the highest motivation in life.

As a Royal Ambassador of Christ, you represent God before the world. Therefore, as royalty, you are to conduct your life accordingly. This calls for high standards of excellence in every area of your life. It calls for honor in your dealings with your fellow-believers and with unbelievers alike. With Jesus Christ as our example, we are to exhibit the same kind of love that He exhibited. This kind of love can be accomplished only by a believer with Bible doctrine in the soul, who is being controlled by the Holy Spirit. (I Corinthians 13:1-8)

Verses 13-14

“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.”

Paul did not really want to part with Onesimus because he was such a blessing to Paul. Every day Paul kept Onesimus after he reached spiritual maturity he was keeping him from his own spiritual destiny; his grace destiny could never be resolved as long as Paul retained him. If Philemon had come to Rome, he could not have done more for Paul than Onesimus did. Therefore Paul suggests that Onesimus was “on loan” from Philemon (so that he might minister to me). But Paul was confident that Philemon would do the right thing by forgiving Onesimus and accepting him as a brother in Christ. And Paul reemphasized the fact that he was not commanding anything from Philemon, but simply making a plea on the behalf of a fellow believer.

Verses 15-16

“For perhaps it was for this reason that he was 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.”

The issue in the book of Philemon is a grace (divine viewpoint) solution versus a legal (human viewpoint) solution. For a while is a reference to the two years Onesimus was away. Regardless of the extent of time, grace makes it short in duration when a person goes from unbeliever to believer to spiritual maturity. Time is meaningless to the Lord - He counts a day as a thousand years. There was a benefit to Onesimus running away which became evident when he met Paul and trusted Christ as his Savoir. The man who had stolen from Philemon was not the same man that would return to him.

Though still a slave, Onesimus was equal to Philemon in spiritual matters. Whether Onesimus remained a slave or was given his freedom, he was still a fellow believer, a member of the Royal Family of God, and spiritually mature. Paul stated in this verse his admiration for Onesimus and he wanted Philemon to share in this admiration. Onesimus was a person who was down and out when Paul met him, but through the grace of God he was no longer. Now he was beneficial to everyone. The phrases in the flesh and in the Lord mean that Onesimus would be useful to Philemon if he remained a slave or if he was set free as a brother in Christ. Either way Paul left the choice of what to do with Onesimus in Philemon’s hands.