Philemon – Revealing Our Forgiveness

Written by Larry M. Jaynes:

The Epistle to Philemon is written with great heart, care, and concern to Philemon, because Paul is asking him to forgive and take back into his home the former servant Onesimus who had run away and caused some expense and grief to Philemon.

The Scriptures do not explain what Onesimus had done or how he ended up being with the Apostle Paul who was then in prison at Rome, yet our God seems to have a way of bringing people into our lives whom we can help with His healing Word.

Philemon lived in Colossea (the same area that the Epistle of Colossians was written, in Asia Minor), and Paul expresses with endearing and intimate words of encouragement for Philemon not only to forgive, but to take his servant back as a faithful brother in Christ. Onesimus hand-delivered the Epistle to Philemon, which shows us that Onesimus had lost whatever gave him the fear to leave in the first place, for he was returning endeared to Paul.

Often Christians can receive their own forgiveness and begin walking with God themselves, yet when it comes to forgiving other people who have wronged them in one way or another, allowing the mind freely to offer the hand of friendship may be difficult.

The Epistle of Philemon is one of my personal favorites in the Bible, and especially verse 21, which we will quote in this Byte. In Philemon we can see the love of Christ working in the life of Paul as he reaches out to Philemon with great passion that can only be fulfilled with a forgiving heart.

Philemon 10-21 (The Amplified Bible*):
-10: I appeal to you for my [own spiritual] child, Onesimus [meaning profitable], whom I have begotten [in the faith] while a captive in these chains.
-11: Once he was unprofitable to you, but now he is indeed profitable to you as well as to me.
-12: I am sending him back to you in his own person [and it is like sending] my very heart.
-13: I would have chosen to keep him with me, in order that he might minister to my needs in your stead during my imprisonment for the Gospel’s sake.
-14: But it has been my wish to do nothing about it without first consulting you and getting your consent, in order that your benevolence might not seem to be the result of compulsion or of pressure but might be voluntary [on your part].
-15: Perhaps it was for this reason that he was separated [from you] for a while, that you may have him back as yours forever.
-16: Not as a slave {servant} any longer but as [something] more than a slave {servant}, as a brother [Christian], especially dear to me but how much more to you, both in the flesh [as a servant] and in the Lord [as a fellow believer].
-17: If then you consider me a partner and a comrade in fellowship, welcome and receive him as you would [welcome and receive] me.
-18: And if he has done you any wrong in any way or owes anything [to you], charge that to my account.
-19: I, Paul, write it with my own hand, I promise to repay it [in full]– and that is to say nothing [of the fact] that you owe me your very self {his spiritual self, meaning that Paul showed him the way of salvation}!
-20: Yes, brother, let me have some profit from you in the Lord, Cheer and refresh my heart in Christ.
-21: I write to you [perfectly] confident of your obedient compliance, knowing that you will do even more than I ask.

The greatest compliment that Paul or anyone could ever make to an endeared friend is to say “I know that you will do even more than I would ask” and know in your heart that it is true.

Paul had no greater joy than to have believers around him like Philemon, whom Paul could simply suggest an idea and it would be done.

Do we have this kind of heart when God’s Word encourages us to forgive ourselves and/or others?  This indeed would most definitely be a blessing to God, our Father, for by doing so, we reap tremendous benefits.

Onesimus was not simply returning to his former job, but he was coming home, Colossians 4:9 records, “Onesimus, a faithful and beloved brother, who is one of you.” Sometimes we may feel that we cannot return from where we came from because people will remember us the way we were before our salvation; however, this is not always the case.

Sometimes when our families, old friends, and acquaintances recognize the gentleness of Christ within, this may lead them to Christ (or back to Christ). Remember Jesus told one man “Go home to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee, and hath had compassion on thee” (Mark 5:19).

Once we accept Our Forgiveness in Christ (Ephesians 4:32), then we can offer forgiveness to others who may have wronged us in some way. Like Philemon who had a choice to make in forgiving his friend Onesimus, we can present the forgiveness that is ours in Jesus Christ to others, which really can free our lives from the burden of carrying around an unforgiving heart towards others. As we realize the Book of Philemon is Revealing Our Forgiveness, we will find it effortless to recognize the spiritual inner joy and thankfulness that God gives when calling us into His household and family with complete forgiveness.

*Scripture taken from THE AMPLIFIED BIBLE.
The Amplified New Testament copyright (c) 1958, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation.
Used by permission.