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Paul's Appeal

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Delivered By
Jordan Hines
Delivered On
February 18, 2024 at 9:30 AM
Central Passage
Philemon 1:8-16
Attached Document
Paul's Appeal Notes

Today, Jordan Hines shares how we are like Onesimus.
We are like slaves who are worthless and needing Christ.

Paul's Appeal
Philemon 1:8-16
By Jordan Hines

So we're in week three of our five part series. The first week that we were together, we talked about the introduction to the book. We talked about the big concepts, the big ideas of the book of Philemon.

They were things like slavery was the big one that we talked about and how that is different from modern day slavery. We talked about a reconciliation and love and grace, and we talked about how God was working in the life of Philemon. Then last week, we talked about Paul's prayer to Philemon, the relationship that had been formed and how important that was, how foundational that was.

For this week, for the plea. We're in the meat of what Paul is doing here. He's making a plea for Onesimus.

He's declaring to Philemon what he wants to happen. So we're going to review. We're going to start in verse one, Philemon, verse one, and just go down through verse 16, through our passage today, Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy, our brother, to Philemon, our beloved friend and fellow laborer, to the beloved Aphea, Archipus, our fellow soldier, and to the church in your house.

Grace to you and peace from God our father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God, making mention of you always in my prayers, hearing of your love and faith which you have toward Lord Jesus and toward all the saints, that the sharing of your faith may become effective by the acknowledgment of every good thing that is in you, in Christ Jesus. For we have great joy and consolation in your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed by you, brother.

Verse eight. Therefore, though I might be very bold in Christ, to command you what is fitting, 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, I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten while in my chains, who once was unprofitable to you, but now is profitable to you and to me. I am sending him back.

You therefore receive him, that is my own heart, whom I wish to keep with me, that on your behalf he might minister to me in my chains for the gospel, but without your consent. I wanted to do nothing. That your good deed might not be by compulsion, as it were, but voluntary.

For perhaps he departed for a while for this purpose, that you might receive him forever and no longer as a slave, but as much more. But much more than a slave, a beloved brother, especially to me. But how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord, I'm not sure if any of your parent of your children have godparents, but I'm sure when you selected godparents for those children, you selected them very carefully.

I'm sure you looked for character qualities like trustworthiness, being dependable, being loving. I'm sure you had a relationship with those people. And I'm sure that as Paul here is speaking to Philemon, he's speaking to them, to him.

With that relationship in mind of someone who he trusts to do the right thing, Paul here is asking Philemon to take on a huge task, to forgive, to restore and accept a runaway slave into his home after breaking every social and political law between them. Paul could only ask this because of the deep and abiding kinship that he had with Philemon. Let's not lose this in the weeds.

What Paul is doing is not socially acceptable here. It's not something that would have been commonplace. The common thing would have been for the slave to be beaten or killed.

The big idea we're looking at today is that Paul pleads for the acceptance of Onesimus as a slave again and as a brother in Christ. We're going to see that through looking at who the apostle is in verse eight and nine, the appeal that Paul makes and the purpose of the appeal. But first, look with me at the apostle.

It's very foundational here. Therefore, verse eight. Though I might be very bold in Christ to command you what is fitting, 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.

That first phrase is very important. Therefore, though I might be very bold in Christ to command you what is fitting. And yet through that there's a motivation that is for love's sake.

See, Paul could have commanded Philemon to do this. Paul could have told him, you have to do this. Instead, he does this for a different reason.

He does this for love's sake. To appeal here is to exhort to earnestly support and encourage a response or action. He wants Philemon to do this.

It's like when you watch a family member make a big decision. Maybe you're a parent who's watching their child look at colleges and you're earnestly contending. You need to look at all the options and all the costs and all the programs that you can go towards and everything that is out there, because I want you to make the right decision, because ultimately that child has a huge part in that decision.

But you want them to make the right decision. You want them to do these things for the right reasons. Another interesting thing to note here is that there are a couple of different options for what this for love's sake phrase means.

It could mean for the sake of the love that they have received by God and by Paul, the sake of the grace that they've received from God. Or it could mean for the sake of the love that they have for Onesimus. I tend to believe that it's both that because of what God has done for them, they are now able to love Onesimus.

They're able to extend that grace and love to Onesimus. He is noted here as motivated by love, and his decision is motivated not for himself, it's for love. Our decisions ought to be motivated by love of God, love for others.

And that is what Paul was pleading for here. He also mentions his age. It's very interesting.

I've never seen this reference in scripture anywhere else. He says, paul the aged, an old man. Now, obviously this is referencing some physical aspect of Paul's life, but also I think it's referencing a spiritual maturity, the culture in which they're coming from.

Respected authority, respected wisdom. It respected the acknowledgment this person has been there and done, that they have experienced life and they have wisdom. I think if we are wise, we will see that as well in our life and culture, that the older, more mature spiritual people in our lives should speak into our lives.

And likewise, if we are those people for younger people, we ought to be speaking into other people's lives. Paul chooses to appeal to them as an old man. He speaks to a younger man in discipleship.

And it's fitting, because Philemon is a disciple of his and Onesimus is a disciple of his. And this church has great influence from the ministry of Paul in Ephesus. And the place that Paul is coming from is a place of love.

This old man loves them. And where is this old man? He is in prison. His position is in prison.

He is in chains. He's experiencing the physical calamities of prison. He's not free.

He's suffering. He's not having the best of meals. His life is not his own.

It's very obvious to him right now that he can't control much. That's nothing compared to him being in chains, a prisoner, a bond servant, as he puts it elsewhere in Christ Jesus, he is held captive not only by these chains, but also by the cause of Christ. He is bonded to this cause of Christ so much that it is his identity.

He cannot go outside of the cause of Christ because that is his purpose. That is why he exists. That is why you and I exist.

This is a self humbling description. It's not about what Paul has accomplished in ministry or what he knows theologically. It is about his love for these people.

There are certain passages in scripture where you can see someone's heart, where you can see someone's desire. And Paul is very clear that he's coming at them. He's coming towards these people in love to exhort and to admonish these people so that they might make the right decision to accept and receive and reconcile with Onesimus.

That brings us to verses ten through twelve, and that is the appeal, the meat of this text. I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten well in my chains, who once was unprofitable to you, but now is profitable to you and to me. I am sending him back.

You therefore receive him. That is my own heart. I want to look at that last phrase just for a moment.

Then we'll go through the text. But my own heart receive him. He is my own heart.

I think what Paul's saying is that there is a kindred spirit there of love for Christ and of ministry. I think that Paul wants to be there with him to share in this reconciliation. Paul is earnestly contending here.

This section is like a personal letter of recommendation or character reference for Onesimus. So Paul here is the respected authority that you ask for the letter from. Onesimus is the young, unproven child in the faith who needs this letter of recommendation.

And Philemon is the questioning employer. Like, why are we doing this? He wants to know what's going on. But in this appeal, we see a couple of things.

We see the power of the gospel in verse ten. You see that Philemon here, or Onesimus, is Paul's child in the faith. He was converted by Paul in prison.

There are a couple of questions here to ask. Now, this is Onesimus's gospel testimony. This is how he was transformed by the Gospel ministry of Paul.

Do you have this kind of testimony where someone came into your life, proclaimed the gospel, and you were changed not because of that person, but because of the message they were sharing? Have you placed your trust in Jesus Christ to pay the penalty for your sins? If you were to die today, would you go to heaven or hell? Because this is the identity of the person we're talking about. This is who Onesimus is now. He is redeemed.

He is saved for all that he was before, a slave, a rebel, a sinner against God. Now he is above all, redeemed. So, christian today, are you telling people about this Jesus and what he has done for you? Christian today, are you so convinced that God can do what he's done in your life and the life of others? Paul was even in prison, even in chains.

He was more chained to Christ than he was to the chains. In prison, you and I are commanded to be evangelizing and making disciples of all nations, every nation, every people, tribe and tongue. The gospel here has power to transforms lives.

It transforms lives in social context and political context. And that includes today. Even though this culture was very different, the gospel is still the same.

The gospel is still transforming Onesimus, because in verse eleven, we see that he was unprofitable before. He was useless. He had no benefit or function for Philemon or for Paul.

He was not working for Philemon. He was a runaway slave. He was a sinner against God.

He was useless. And that's a hard thing to say about a person, but that's what the text says. He was useless, unprofitable for you.

But now something has changed. What is different? The gospel was introduced. The gospel transformed his life.

And now he is useful. He is useful for service. And now he is returning, not just as this faithful slave, this faithful employee, but he is a brother in Christ, which means so much more.

There's an interesting Greek wordplay going on here that we don't get in English. The name Onesimus is actually a common name for a slave of the time. So formally, Onesimus a slave was named useful, even though he was practically useless to Philemon as a runaway slave.

And presently, Onesimus, a slave, is now useful to Philemon not only as a slave returned to his master, but as a brother restored in Christ. And Onesimus, whose name means useful, is now useful and profitable again. He has been restored in a greater way.

As you look at the life of Onesimus and the testimony of Onesimus, I want us to look in the mirror this morning and think, are we profitable and useful to the Lord? So if you think back in just a couple verses, Paul was saying, it would be profitable for me to keep Onesimus with me because he would be helpful for me in ministry. He would be helpful to minister to me. Are we profitable? Are we serving people and loving the church? Are we profitable to the church? Are you letting God get the most out of your life? Are we letting God use every part of our lives? What is your reputation? Because as Paul looks at Onesimus' life, he sees a man who has been radically changed and transformed so that he can be used not just as a slave, but as a man of God.

It's interesting that there are also several personal connections being made here in this verse. The relationship here is interesting between Paul and Philemon. Paul is sending Onesimus back to Philemon, and Onesimus is seemingly a pawn in this.

But Paul is sending him back. And Onesimus' relationship is interesting because Paul finds Onesimus now to be profitable and now to be a useful member of gospel ministry. He sees him as a brother.

He sees him as a fellow worker in Christ. And now think of Philemon, the one who is receiving Onesimus. Onesimus is being restored back to Philemon as a slave and as a brother in Christ.

And he's relying on a firm relationship that he has with Paul, trusting that Paul is telling the truth about Onesimus. Now zoom back theologically here between God's relationship with all three of them. You see, we see all these problems, we see all these weird relationships, but God is seeing Paul, Philemon, and Onesimus, and he sees children of God working together for the advancement of the gospel.

There is no one that we cannot work together with for the advancement of the gospel. There's no culture, no language, there's no distinction that we cannot work together with in the gospel, even if we look around and we see that, well, that person isn't like me, I don't have a lot in common with that person. As a church, we are called to work together for the advancement of the gospel.

As people of God, we are not to see these divisions, but we are to be united by our oneness in Christ. The appeal here is a gospel fueled reconciliation, which brings us from the apostle in verse eight and nine to the appeal in verses ten through twelve, the meat of what Paul is calling for, reconciliation. And now, why the purpose in verse 13 through 16, the text says, whom I wished to keep with me, that on your behalf, he might minister to me in my chains for the gospel, but without your consent, I wanted to do nothing, that your good deed might not be by compulsion, as it were, but voluntary.

For perhaps he departed for a while for this purpose, that you might receive him forever, 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? Paul here begins in verse 13 with sort of a selfish hypothetical, which is something we don't really expect of Paul. But he does mention it.

He says in verse 13, whom I wish to keep with me, that on your behalf, he might minister to me in my chains for the gospel, we are to do nothing. He's saying here that. He is saying that he wants to keep Onesimus with him, to minister to him while he is in prison because he has been a blessing to him.

That's not the first time we see the idea of blessing. In fact, later on we'll see that Philemon refreshed the saints. He was a refreshment to the saints.

This would benefit Paul the most. But I think what Paul does here is he says, this is what would help me the most. But instead of doing that, I'm going to do this for you.

And I think this is what you should do, because I want to have him serve you and the gospel ministry there. In verse 14 through 16, Paul shows his selfless preference for Philemon and for Onesimus. And he wants to do nothing without Philemon's consent.

He doesn't want to do this without Philemon's consent, not out of necessity. He doesn't want Philemon to feel like he has to do this, like he has no other option. Paul wants Philemon to look on Onesimus with christian brotherly love and be moved to reconciliation.

It's like being told and commanded to clean your room as a child versus seeing your room is dirty and cleaning it because you think it's the right thing to do. And we can think of adult illustrations as well. It's at work, seeing something needs done and not having to be told to go do that thing.

Instead, I see it needs done. I'm going to be a good employee. I'm going to go do it.

There's a motivation behind that. The motivation is to fulfill that responsibility, but with the right attitude. And Paul wants Philemon to do this with the right attitude, not out of compulsion, but voluntarily, not by force or not to be compelled.

Paul comes to Philemon as a brother in Christ, encouraging Philemon to do what is right. He comes alongside of him and says, brother, this is what you should do. And next we see that Onesimus here is to be reconciled to Philemon.

This is what he ought to be doing. What is the reason for running away? In verse 15, the reason that Philemon or that Onesimus ran away was so that he could be separated for a season. He was lost.

Philemon lost the use of this slave in his household. Philemon and Onesimus' relationship was tarnished and separated. But now the contrast is great.

Instead, they are now united for eternity. Because when Onesimus left, he was nothing but a slave and not a brother in Christ. But now he returns he is a slave, and he may be forgiven if that is what is chosen to do.

But he is now a brother in Christ, which means a lot more than being a slave or an employee. He is now someone who shares commonality beyond the place that they live. He shares a common hope, who shares common sorrow, who shares common joy.

They have a relationship that they didn't have before. Perhaps you've come across this in your own life when a missionary comes to town, or you go travel out of town and you're on a vacation, and you have known nothing about these people, and yet you can go to a Baptist, bible believing church, and you can have commonality in Christ, and you can have fellowship with those people, even though you have known nothing about their town, nothing about their family. You can know that you have a common faith.

It is deeper than just where they are or what they are doing. It is who they are in Christ. There are new roles and responsibilities here as a bond servant, as a beloved brother, Onesimus is called to be faithful in these things.

There is a restoration that happens in verse 16 as well. And Paul says here that. He says, especially to me.

Let's look at verse 16. No longer is a slave, but much more than a slave, a beloved brother. Especially to me.

It's personal. He led him to the Lord. But how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord? You can sense that there's just a great love here between these men, that as Onesimus is being restored, Paul is looking at them and saying, I want these two guys to be close.

I want them to be more than just restored in the flesh as a slave and a slave owner. But I want them to be restored in Christ and to have sweet fellowship. A few years ago, I was working at a Culver's in this area, and I left that job for a three month internship out of state.

When I came back to that job, I was restored to my position. I was brought back at that position. In fact, there was more perks, more advancement in my career after I came back.

When I came back, when I was restored to that position, it was not just, he's back, it's fine. It was, thank you for coming back. We can now continue this relationship.

We can now build on this relationship. It was more than just simple restoration. It was restoration that went far beyond.

It was restoration that gave benefit. And as Onesimus is restored back to Philemon, there is great benefit, not just as a slave, but also as a brother in Christ, but also as a man of God. And I think that we have to look at this plea that Paul gives us to accept Onesimus as a slave and as a brother in Christ.

And we have to think through our own hearts. What does it look like for us to live this passage out today? Because the plea is simple. The plea is what we've been building to.

But I think we have to look at ourselves and see ourselves in the place of Onesimus. Because like Onesimus, we were enemies of God. We were actively sinning and running away from God.

And then something happened. We were transformed by the gospel. We were discipled.

Someone took interest in us and interceded for us in the passages we see here that Paul intercedes for Onesimus. But more importantly, Jesus Christ is his great high priest. Jesus Christ is his savior.

We have Jesus Christ. We have people in our lives who point us to Christ and disciple us. And now we have been reconciled.

If we are believers to God and we have this abiding hope in the gospel and this connection that goes beyond employee employer relationships, we are to be Christians living in that hope, sharing in that hope and friend, if you don't know that hope, if you don't know what it means to be a child of God, know this, that there is a God who sees you in your sin, that is separating you from him. He sent his only son, Jesus Christ, to die on a cross to pay for your sins. And all that you have to do is trust this Jesus as your personal lord and savior, and he will save you from a Christless eternity in hell and give you the free gift of salvation.

There's nothing you can do. There's nothing Onesimus could have done outside the grace of God to be reconciled to God. One of the miracles of this passage is that Onesimus was received.

He was sent by a godly man back to Philemon, and he was restored as a brother in Christ. What a turnaround from a runaway slave to a brother in Christ. It was undeserved.

It was gracious. It was merciful. Have you and I not received grace and mercy? Have you and I not received this overwhelming love of God? We have been transformed and changed.

And as we look through the rest of our study, we're going to see that Paul continues to give personal responsibility to himself. In the next passage, then we're going to see the conclusion and summary of the matter in the last week. But I want you to look back on this book, and I want you to see a runaway slave, but also I want you to see yourself.

I want you to see the gospel in action and be reminded of who we are in Christ and how little we have to do with that. Let's thank the Lord for everything he's done for us. God, you are gracious beyond imagining.

You have gifted us with the ability to come together as a united group of believers to love you and serve you and sing praise to you. And I pray that as we look at the life of Onesimus as he is restored, you would help us to look at our salvation and know that we are restored and share that salvation with others. And if there's someone who does not know Christ today, that they would ask the questions that need to be asked and get right with God today.

In your son's name, amen.
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