A Gospel Reception, Part 2 (Philemon 8-25)

WW2015-wk14Last 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.

Reflection Question:

  • 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?

 

A Gospel Reception, Part 1 (Philemon 1-7)

WW2015-wk13As 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.

Reflection Time:

  • 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?