Something To Think About The epistle to Philemon makes a fascinating and profitable study. All the elements of a good story are found here: love, drama, conflict, and suspense. In addition, the elements of a sound theology of salvation are present: The guilt of the sinner, the love of God, the substitutionary work of Christ, the act of repentance, and the forgiveness of God are all portrayed in the characters of this story. Philemon is a letter worthy of our study for several reasons. First, it is the only personal note from the pen of Paul we have. In fact, there are only two other examples of this genre in the Bible. They are Second and Third John. So in this brief epistle, we see the heart of Paul. It would undoubtedly help us all to personalize Scripture more. Second, it addresses the subject of social evil, in this case slavery. Third, it demonstrates the worth of a soul. Though Onesimus was simply a runaway slave, he was worth a great deal to Paul.
KEY VERSE Philemon 17 “If thou count me therefore a partner, receive him as myself”.
Lesson Objectives To examine the change brought about in the life of Onesimus by the gospel To love fellow Christians as brothers and sisters in Christ in spite of their economic or social standings To restore fallen humanity to righteousness
PERSONAL WORDS FOR A FRIEND IN THE FAITH Philemon 1-7 The Letter Opening (1-3) 2 Corinthians 5:14 Appreciation for Philemon (4-7) Galatians 6:6 Romans 15:27
Several characteristics seen here can serve as a challenge to believers to exemplify the honorable attitude toward one another expressed here. For instance, do we consider our Christian friends as fellowlaborers? One obvious prerequisite is that we must first be active in the work of God in order to have a fellowlaborer. Then, the very nature of the term would imply a sense of equality, camaraderie, and unity of purpose. Obviously, a person who is uninvolved in church ministry will not experience those feelings about others. The church was designed as a working body and apart from effective work, even fellowship, suffers. Paul’s expression of appreciation for the personal ministry of Philemon as well as his desire to see him grow spiritually is a good example for us. Often we neglect to express our appreciation to one another and verbalize our wishes for their spiritual prosperity.
A REQUEST ABOUT THE SERVANT ONESIMUS Philemon 8-21 Onesimus as a New Man (8-11) Luke 14:22 His Return to Philemon (12-14) Receiving Him as a Brother (15-16) Receiving Him as Paul (17-21) Philippians 1:6
Possibly the most important aspect of this epistle is the amazing parallel between the gracious attitude of Paul toward Onesimus and that of Christ toward us. Most prominent is the fact that Paul asked to have any debt owed by Onesimus to be charged to him. Nothing could portray the work of the cross where all the sin debt of humanity was charged to Jesus’ account any better (Isaiah 53:4-6). Also significant is the manner in which Paul identified himself with Onesimus. He called him his son (verse 10a), his own “bowels” or heart (verse 12b), and asked Philemon to receive him as he would receive the apostle himself. What a beautiful picture this is of the manner in which Christ identified with us, taking on the likeness of humanity (Philippians 2:5- 8), and through salvation has made us part of His body, so it can be said that we are “in Christ” (Romans 12:5).
The apostle Paul seems to have been a passionate man by nature. When he persecuted the Church before his conversion, he did so wholeheartedly and fervently. Subsequent to his conversion, he channeled his passion into the Lord’s work. When he preached, he preached boldly and forcefully. When he rebuked, his words were pointed. When he defended his own apostleship and ministry in general, his words were almost acidic. But when he loved, that same passion fanned the flame in his heart into a raging inferno of heartfelt affection. Such love is what sets apart the people of God. Is it part of your character?
QUESTIONS FOR STUDY AND DISCUSSION 1. How do you answer the charge that the Bible approved of slavery since Paul sent Onesimus back to Philemon? 2. Why did Paul deal with the slavery issue as he did? Why did he not rebuke Philemon for having slaves in the first place? 3. In regards to relationships, what did you learn about the early church from Philemon? 4. Why was Paul so thankful for Philemon? (See verse 5.) 5. How do you think Philemon responded to Paul’s letter? 6. Compare the attitude expressed by Paul in Philemon 17 and 18 to that of Christ in saving us. Do you exhibit that same attitude in dealing with others?
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Acknowledgements Applications taken from Bible Teacher Bible Studies for Adults—Fall Edition (2011) This power point slide presentation may be altered by additions or deletions to fit your own teaching style. There is more information in viewing Note Pages Click on View then Note Pages Presentation Compiled For Randall House By Earl Scroggins