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December 27, 2022
Today’s reading: Philemon 1:8-16
Lessons from Onesimus
We read in Philemon 1:8-16:
8 Therefore, though I might be very bold in Christ to command you what is fitting, 9 yet for love’s sake I rather appeal to you—being such a one as Paul, the aged, and now also a prisoner of Jesus Christ— 10 I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten while in my chains, 11 who once was unprofitable to you, but now is profitable to you and to me.
12 I am sending him back. You therefore receive him, that is, my own heart, 13 whom I wished to keep with me, that on your behalf he might minister to me in my chains for the gospel. 14 But without your consent I wanted to do nothing, that your good deed might not be by compulsion, as it were, but voluntary.
15 For perhaps he departed for a while for this purpose, that you might receive him forever, 16 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.
Onesimus was a runaway slave and his master was Philemon. From what we can read, Philemon seemed to be a good master who had been a pillar in the first-century church.
For some reason, Onesimus ran away from Philemon. Whether intentionally or unintentionally, Onesimus went to Rome where he met Paul. In the process, Onesimus became a profitable follower of Christ.
Onesimus means “profitable.” Upon his conversion, he now lived up to his name. He has become profitable for God.
Paul sent back Onesimus to Philemon with the letter he wrote. In it, Paul explained to Philemon what happened and how he should treat Onesimus.
The reconciliation of Onesimus and Philemon shows how God’s mercy and grace work. Under Roman law, Philemon has every right to punish Onesimus. He can even do whatever he wants to Onesimus.
Yet, we see the godly character of Philemon here. He didn’t require the penalty of the law but applied mercy and grace upon Onesimus.
We are all like Onesimus before we answered God’s calling. We were living for ourselves, not profitable for God’s work. Yet, once we become part of the Body of Christ, we become tools in God’s hands, doing His will and purpose in our lives.
We should also give God our grateful praise to Him. Although we were slaves to sin, He freed us and gave us a new life. Through His great love, mercy, and grace, He has given us a chance to become His child.
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