As we embark on Holy Week, it is appropriate we remember Christ’s death and resurrection. In doing so, we should come to the realization the gospel not only is what saves us; the gospel also forms us. What does being formed by the gospel mean? It means living out the implications of the gospel. One implication worth looking at is forgiveness. Paul addresses this topic in his letter to Philemon. Paul makes an appeal to Philemon, asking him to receive back a former slave of his, Onesimus. Before even making his appeal, though, Paul wants to commend Philemon for transforming power of the gospel seen in his life. To put it in other words, what is occurring in Philemon’s life is due to the fact that the gospel produces godly affections. Look at the relationship between Paul and Philemon, for example. Paul calls Philemon his “beloved fellow worker” (v. 1). He sees him as a partner in the gospel. There is a sense of fellowship here as they are a part of God’s family. Furthermore, not only do we see how Paul refers to Philemon. We see the impact of Philemon on Paul’s life. Paul is refreshed by the gospel’s work in Philemon’s life (vv. 4-7). This is displayed in three ways. First, Paul thanks God in prayer for Philemon’s love for God and for God’s people (vv. 4-5). Secondly, he prays to God that Philemon’s witness, or sharing of faith, may be effective for the purpose of growth and service (v. 6). Last but certainly not least, Paul remarks to Philemon that his Christlike love to them has refreshed them with joy and comfort. The reception Paul and other Christians have received from Philemon has been refreshing. That is why Paul gives thanks to God and encourages Philemon. A refreshing reception by Philemon is truly a gospel reception. The gospel not only saves but also forms our Christian lives. May we, like Philemon, have a Christlike love for God and for His people that we refresh others and give them a gospel reception.
- Who has been a Christlike example to you that can you give thanks to God for? How can you refresh another brother or sister in Christ this week as you reflect on what Christ has done for you?