Last week we saw from the book of Philemon how the gospel produces godly affections. Godly affections bring a sense of refreshment to people who partner in the gospel. Yet, gospel production does not stop there. To have a gospel reception includes more than only affections; it must consist of action. This is exactly what we see throughout the rest of Philemon: the gospel produces godly actions. Notice how this is illustrated by Paul to Philemon in regards to Onesimus, Philemon’s former slave. First, the gospel affects how Paul approaches Philemon. Paul says he could command Philemon to do what he was about to call him to do, yet for the sake of love and the relationship they shared, he chose to appeal to him (vv. 8-9). This love only comes from the heart of the gospel. It is also this gospel that changes lives and, thereby, relationships. When the gospel produces godly actions, new relationships are formed. This is seen in the reality of Onesimus’ salvation through repentance and faith. Paul now considered Onesimus a son in the faith, thus, sharing another gospel relationship. Whereas Philemon was once useless, now he is useful (v. 11). Moreover, in Paul’s actual appeal, he pleads with Philemon to receive back Onesimus, but not in the same manner in which he once was. Onesimus had been Philemon’s slave but now he was more. With Onesimus now in Christ, he was a member of the family of God, a brother of Philemon (vv. 15-17). The action of the gospel causes us to see relationships in a new light. For the former drug addict, we now see them as a brother or sister in Christ, not defined by their past. We seek to encourage them and exhort them to grow in Christ. That is what a gospel reception is all about! Paul understood this. That is why he tells Philemon he will pay for any wrongdoing on Onesimus’ part and for Philemon to prepare for his arrival. Paul acted on the truth that the gospel produces a heart of forgiveness, especially when wrong has been done to you (vv. 18-19). The display of the gospel in one’s life is what refreshes the heart (vv. 7, 20). Indeed, we are refreshed because of the gospel and we are received through the gospel.
- Is there someone you need to forgive or ask for forgiveness from for some wrongdoing? How can you receive them as a faith family member and see them in that light?