Above a Servant
Not now as a servant, but above a servant, a brother beloved, specially to me, but how much more unto thee, both in the flesh, and in the Lord? ~Philemon 1:16
The epistle to Philemon is one of the most touching letters that Paul wrote. It teaches us how God works in marvelous ways through a willing servant in touching lives. It teaches us about the doctrine of imputation and how our sins were placed on the account of our Lord Jesus Christ. It teaches us about the power of forgiveness and real Christianity. It also teaches us about the change that Christ makes in the life of a forgiven sinner. This morning, let us see “above a servant.”
We see a co-laborer.
Paul is writing a personal letter to his good friend and co-laborer in the gospel, Philemon. Philemon, his wife Apphia, and their son Archippus were influential members of the church of Colossae. Paul commends him for opening his home up for the church to assemble there. He is commended for being a great soulwinner and for being a blessing to the members of the church. Paul described Philemon’s ministry as refreshing the bowels of the saints. Philemon loved our Lord, and he loved the brethren in his church.
We see a captive.
Onesimus was the bond slave of Philemon. Onesimus was bought out of the slave market and became the personal property of Philemon. As a bond slave, Onesimus had no personal rights. His life was under the control and desires of his master. Even though Philemon was a good Christian, having a bond slave gave him someone who would do work tasks at all hours of the day and who would do whatever was demanded of him. It was hard and difficult to be a slave.
We see a criminal.
Onesimus ran away from his master. A runaway slave was a criminal. The owner could demand capital punishment against a slave. Onesimus knew this, and he ran away as far away as he could. Onesimus was a criminal under Roman law, but he was also a sinner under God’s law. As a sinner, he was under the condemnation of God’s law. The Bible says that “the wages of sin is death.” Onesimus faced both an earthly and an eternal dilemma.
We see a convert.
Of all things, Onesimus ran away to the place where Paul was imprisoned. He came under Paul’s influence. Paul led him to Christ and describes his conversion: “my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my bonds.” Onesimus got saved many hundreds of miles away from home. He was discipled by Paul and ministered to Paul in “the bonds of the gospel.” Onesimus had a changed life and became very close to Paul.
We see the conciliator.
Paul discovered that Onesimus was the runaway slave of his good friend Philemon. He immediately wrote a letter to Philemon about Onesimus’ conversion and to appeal to him to accept Onesimus back “not now as a servant, but above a servant, a brother beloved.” Paul advised Philemon that this once-runaway slave was a fellow believer. He exhorted Philemon to forgive Onesimus of his crime and to see Onesimus as being profitable to both himself and Paul. He did not coerce Philemon, but he appealed to him to do it willingly. Paul had confidence that Philemon would do more than what was being requested of him. Paul was a peacemaker. Paul also told him that he would assume the debt that Onesimus owed Philemon. Paul told him that Onesimus would be profitable to him and to receive him as a partner, as he would receive Paul himself. Let us have the mind of Paul towards other Christians that they are “above a servant, a brother beloved.”
Have a gracious God Morning!
Bible Reading Schedule: Romans 1-3