“If then you regard me a partner, accept him as you would me. But if he has wronged you in any way or owes you anything, charge that to my account; I, Paul, am writing this with my own hand, I will repay it (not to mention to you that you owe to me even your own self as well). Yes, brother, let me benefit from you in the Lord; refresh my heart in Christ. Having confidence in your obedience, I write to you, since I know that you will do even more than I say.”
In these verses we have the confirmation that Onesimus had stolen and had an obligation to repay Philemon. Philemon would most likely do anything for Paul, since he owed Paul his very life (eternal and spiritual), thus the appeal to do the right thing. Accept him as you would me means forgive as Christ forgave. Instead of branding Onesimus as a fugitive, do the right thing by him; accept him as a brother in Christ which would glorify God.
So Philemon’s crisis of grace could only be resolved by his function of grace (forgiveness and restoration). The results would then be that Philemon’s ministry of refreshment (encouragement) would be directed toward Onesimus just as Paul’s ministry of refreshment (encouragement) was directed towards Philemon. Paul had always had a great love for Philemon; so he ask Philemon to encourage his heart by making the proper application of the doctrine Paul had taught him.
The grace function of the Royal Family of God stimulates encouragement from others in the royal family. No one ever loses with grace. Grace function is based on maximum doctrine resident in the soul. Grace function produces admiration, respect and increased capacity for love. Philemon’s ministry of refreshment could properly function by his grace treatment of Onesimus and this brought admiration from Paul knowing that Philemon would do the right thing. It would also increase his love for Philemon.
When a person has maximum doctrine in his soul you have confidence in that person with the result that you have confidence in their doctrine. You will also have confidence in their decisions and their judgment. Paul had confidence in the doctrine resident in Philemon’s soul and therefore in Philemon’s decision making. Philemon’s “command post in the soul” made it possible for him to obey and made it possible for Paul to have confidence in him.
This brings us to the point where Paul anticipated that Philemon would free Onesimus and forgive him (you will do more than I ask). The impression of some is that slavery and emancipation is the issue in this epistle. However, grace is the real issue. For spiritually mature believers, social problems are resolved by proper application of Bible doctrine. They are never solved by legislature or by civil disobedience. This passage anticipates the spiritually mature response of Philemon in facing a grace crisis. We know that there was a perfect solution, and Philemon was free to forgive and to free Onesimus.
“At the same time also prepare me a lodging, for I hope that through your prayers I will be given to you. Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus greets you, as do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, Luke, my fellow workers. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.”
Every believer is in full-time Christian service and never before in the history of the world has the believer in Christ had the privilege and the opportunity that is afforded him today. The Church Age in which we live is an unparalleled dispensation with numerous advantages for the believer. The privileges and opportunities that we have been given are not only unique, they are “above and beyond all that we could ever think or imagine.” (Ephesians 3:13-21)
Jesus Christ has secured forever the strategic victory (the skillful planning and management in getting the better of the adversary) over Satan. At salvation this victory places the believer in a place of maximum strength with the potential to win the tactical victory (the procedure for gaining advantage or success over the adversary) over Satan, the World (Cosmic) System and the Sin Nature. Our union with Christ (Positional Sanctification) guarantees the opportunity to overcome the obstacles that are placed before us (or that we place before ourselves) in order to execute the Christian Way of Life and glorify God while we are on earth.
Many privileges are given to the believer at the moment of salvation and many are given after salvation. However, opportunities must be seized by personal volition. As a believer, you are the most privileged person on the face of the earth, but at the same time you may be missing the opportunities for fantastic blessing by not executing God’s plan, purpose and will for your life. Tactical victory comes over a period of time as the believer makes thousands of right decisions regarding God, himself, others and circumstances. Winning the tactical victory is done by the believer who is being empowered by God the Holy Spirit as he organizes his life around right priorities: Jesus Christ must be the most important person in your life, learning and applying accurate Bible doctrine must be placed above personal pleasure or your career, and virtue (a strict adherence to the truth) must drive every decision you make in life. (Ephesians 4:14-15)
Privilege in life is always accompanied by responsibility. This is also true with the Royal Family of God. Our first responsibility, of course, is to God as Royal Priests, and our second responsibility is to others as Royal Ambassadors. Christ’s strategic victory secured only potential for the tactical victory. As believers, we all have equal privilege and equal opportunity to execute the Christian Way of Life. Some believers will choose to do so and some will not. Those who fail in their responsibility to God will experience a life of misery and unhappiness. Those who choose to embrace and fulfill their responsibility to God will experience a life of peace and happiness.
There are two types of believers: winners and losers. Winners are the believers who win the strategic and the tactical victory. Losers are the believers who win only the strategic victory. Winning the strategic victory is done by a single decision to believe in Christ as Savior. Winning the strategic and tactical victories is done by a single act of faith in Christ and many additional decisions thereafter to obey God’s Word and execute the Christian Way of Life. (John 3:36; Ephesians 5:15-18)
The winner-believer, after trusting Christ as Savior, makes many right decisions that glorify Christ. Therefore, he glorifies God both in time and in eternity. The winner-believer has won the strategic victory and possesses the righteousness of God and is advancing to spiritual maturity where he will win the tactical victory. The winner-believer does suffer, but it is for divine blessing and he shares the happiness of God. He lives in God’s “power system” and constantly makes right decisions from a position of strength. The winner-believer makes God number one priority in his or her life.
The loser-believer makes a single decision to trust Christ as Savior and this brings God glory. Even though the loser-believer has won the strategic victory and possesses the righteousness of God, he will suffer divine discipline and self-induced misery because of his failure to win the tactical victory. He lives in Satan’s “cosmic system” and constantly makes wrong decisions from a position of weakness. The loser-believer makes himself number one priority in his or her life.
Being a winner or loser believer is determined by personal volition. You make the choice to be a winner or a loser. God does not force anyone to trust Christ as Savior, or to obey His mandates after salvation. God is not a “puppet-master” manipulating the believer’s every thought and action and He is not a “magician” with a magic wand to wave in order to fix your problems. However, God has designed the Christian Way of Life in a way in which all believers can become winners. By following God’s predesigned plan for you as outlined in His Word, any believer can be a success. It begins with making the right decision, as a believer, to learn, believe and apply Bible doctrine. If you’re waiting for God to make you do something or to make you think a certain way, you’re waiting in vain. God is actually waiting on each of us to grow up spiritually and take control of our own spiritual lives.