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Sep 05, 2021



Passage: Philemon 1:1

Speaker: Matt Petty

Series: Little Letters, Big Truths

Category: Sunday Sermons

Keywords: sermon, christian living, philemon, bible study, power of the gospel, what is truth, little letters big truths, bondservant in bible, what does the bible say about slavery, letters in the bible, how to be generous, demanding faith, teaching on generosity, become generous

Little Letters, Big Truths | Philemon We begin a new sermon series where we explore tiny books in the bible that carry big truths. Take Philemon, where seemingly the bible is condoning slavery, and it may seem like a weird book to include in the New Testament. Well, the term bondservant in this instance of the Bible is not what we in America things of as a slave. Rather than proclaiming a seemingly powerless political mandate, Jesus ultimately shows it is only the power of the gospel that could conquer evil systems such as slavery, and we see that God’s desire is for all of Philemons’ to become radically generous in their participation in the mission of God. What are some specific things you could change in the area of your giving and serving? What kind of generosity is your faith demanding? If you’ve got questions or want to know more about Jesus, then connect with us –

I bring a big old Hello from almost 300 students and leaders that are at fall retreat. We had an incredible night, last night of worship. They've been there for about 24 hours. So, I know the middle schoolers are really ripe by now. And the high schoolers are groggy. Amen. I know a lot of you guys have family, have kids that are there, and you are just enjoying your weekend. I do want to ask you something though. Would you do me a big favor and tonight from 7:00 to 8:30pm tonight, would you just pray I'm heading back up after I get done here. And I'm going to be speaking to them again tonight. And tonight, we are going to put out the call for them to ask the Lord to do a mighty work in their lives tonight. So, I love the paint ball. I love the rafting. I love the smelliness and tearing up of the dorms. But really, it's about Jesus. And tonight, we're going to draw that net tonight. So y'all pray with us tonight that that would be an incredible, incredible movement. The lesson today, we're launching a new series, as you just saw from the new intro called Little Letters, Big Truths. And here's what we're going to do over the next couple of weeks. What we're going to do is we're going to show some love and spend some time in those books in the New Testament that are kind of forgotten about, that are left out a lot, that we kind of skipped by them. Or maybe just when one page gets stuck to the other page, we forget about it. We're going to be looking into some of these little bitty letters that absolutely do have some big truths. But I want to tell you, before we even begin, there is no way that I'm going to be able to every single week walk through every truth in every letter, okay? I just can't do that in a 30-40ish minute talk. There's no possible way that I can get to all the truths.

So, here's your homework. Alright? When I introduce a book on Sunday, I want you just commit right now that for the rest of the week, you will go back and you'll look at that book, you'll study that book, you'll read that book, because here's what I know, if all you're getting in your faith is what I'm giving you on Sundays, we're all in trouble, Amen. We're all in trouble. My goal in teaching the Bible, is to allow it to transform you, of course, but I want you to fall in love with the Bible, reading the Bible, studying the Bible on your own. And if all you're getting is from this hack on Sundays, we're not going anywhere as the church. Okay, so study the book, study the Bible. If you got a copy of Scripture this morning, I want you to turn with me to Philemon. And as you're finding that little bitty book, I want to ask you a question. How many of you remember what we used to call Bible drill? Anybody remember that? When this be a good book to do that this morning? What if we just had a little Bible drill right now and the first person that could find it could stand up really quickly and win a prize? Well, maybe you're a little bit older, maybe when you were coming through is called sword drill, amen. That was a little bit farther back than Bible drill. Look, those of you that didn't grow up in church. Let me explain this phenomenon to you. Alright, just for a moment. Bible drill was a way to trick us into learning the books of the Bible. It was a way to give us a way to learn to find the books of the Bible.

For those of us who are a little bit stubborn, it was a way to get us to love the Bible. Amen. It was a great, great deal. So, I wasn't good in many things in life, but I was pretty dang good at Bible drill. I really was. And here's how Bible drill kind of worked. Somebody in the front, the judge of the Bible drill, because you have to have a judge in these things would call out a book of the Bible, would call out a passage of scripture, or would call out a verse and as the student that is standing on the stage, if you knew the book, if you knew the Bible, if you knew the book before it after it, whatever you would step forward in the line and they may call on you to prove that you knew it in front of God and everybody in the crowd, right? That was Bible drill. And the person that was the best at it would win the prize, would go on to this state meet and become the state champion of all Bible drill. Well, listen, we had Bible drill in my church, and I was pretty dang good at it. I really was. There are a couple reasons. Number one, my parents made me be good at it. I'm just going to be honest; I didn't have a choice in the matter and I'm really glad they did. Because I can still to this day, recall those Kings James versus out of that blue Bible. I really do all the time they pop back into my mind. And I was blessed to have it. I think I was pretty good at it. Number two, because God just gave me the ability to memorize things. I don't know why that is, it just was. And so, every year when the 50, new verses came out, when the 20 passages came out, when it came to knowing the books of the Bible, frontwards and backwards, for some reason I could just memorize it. I'm not near as good at it today as I was then. But it was just there. The third reason I think I was good at Bible drill is because I'm just competitive. And I don't care what it is. I just want to smash you in it. It's just kind of who I am. Don't judge me because I've played some games with some of you. And you're right there with me. You know, I don't know, if it's tiddlywinks or chess, I don't care. I want to beat you into the ground. Right? It was the same for Bible drills. I'm not sure if that's a sin, but it worked. Alright? The fourth reason I feel like I was good at Bible drill is because I learned the system and listen, I need to confess this because I've just carried this from my childhood. And I lied a lot. I lied a lot at Bible drill and I'm not really sure what the consequences in heaven are going to be of that one day, but I feel like this confession can help that I don't know. But I learned in Bible drill that if they called on you in question A, they would not turn around and call on you in question B they would never call on you twice in a row. Therefore, if I had just answered a question, I was stepping forward and I did not care that next time up and I cheated my way through Bible drill. I'm just going to tell you right now. I cheated my way through it.

Well, listen, the book of Philemon would be one of those books that you always dreaded to have to find in that five second or whatever it was. The Book of Philemon is tiny. In fact, it's only one chapter, 335 Greek words somewhere around based on what version you're in, around just under 500 words. But the book of Philemon is an amazing, amazing story of God's redemption of mankind, and how God has set us apart to live a life of generosity that points toward the mission of God. The Book of Philemon not only rolls into us that we have been enslaved and that we are all sinners. But it also shows us that once we are set free by the power of Jesus that we are to be used in His Kingdom. In fact, let me tell you the story of the book of Philemon before we read the story. Alright? Philemon was a Roman nobleman. All right, first century AD Rome was here. He was an incredibly wealthy, incredibly influential man in Rome, he would have had multiple estates, multiple homes, multiple vineyards and enterprises under his household. Therefore, during this time, Philemon was not only wealthy in stuff, but he would also have had a lot of servants, he would have had a lot of slaves, a lot of people serving him and his family. Well, one day, the apostle Paul heads to this little town called Colossae where we get the book of Colossians from. He heads into this town on a mission trip one day and the Apostle Paul leads Philemon to the Lord on this mission trip. Leads this Roman, incredibly influential person in this town to the Lord. He gives His life to Jesus, the church of Colossae is birthed in the town, but quite literally birthed in Philemon's home. It is meeting in his home; he is hosting the church in his house. Well, one day, one of Philemon’s servants, a guy by the name of Onesimus. Alright, stay with the story.

I know, it's kind of cool. And it's a lot of names, but it's going to make a point. A guy by the name of Onesimus, one day one of his servants decides that he had had enough, he decides I'm going to take as much stuff as I can carry, as much stuff as I can load up into old Philemon's G wagon and I'm stealing it all. I'm going to Rome. Alright, I'm leaving this place. And he does, he steals from his master. He goes all the way to Rome. And here's where the story gets even better. During that time in Rome, Paul had left Colossae and now Paul is in a minimum-security prison in Rome. And guess where old Onesimus ends up? He ends up in the same place in the same city. And he ends up meeting this guy by the name Paul. And Paul leads the runaway slave Onesimus to Jesus. Now are you seeing how crazy the story really is? It's incredibly crazy on one end, but on the other end, isn't that just like God? Isn't that what God does to us sometimes? Isn't it funny how sometimes when we find ourselves running away from a problem, God puts someone right in our path who has the exact answer for what we need and Onesimus meets Paul? Paul leads Onesimus to the Lord and then Onesimus tells him oh. Paul says, "Hey, where are you from? Well, I'm from Colossae." "Oh, really? I've been to Colossae. Where do you live?" "Oh, I was a servant of Philemon. Paul's like, "Oh, Phil? I know Phil, I lead Phil to the Lord." And Onesimus is like, "Oh, no. Oh, no." So, what did Paul do? Paul says, "Well, Onesimus, you got to make this right. You got to go turn yourself back in. You got to make this right. But I'm going to, I'm going to help you in the calls because I led, Philemon to the Lord and he basically owes me his life." So, Paul sends Onesimus back to Colossae with this little bitty handwritten letter, and with the book of Colossians, I might add, and he takes it back and Philemon receives the letter from Onesimus and what we're getting to read this morning is we're looking over the shoulder into this private little letter. Go with me, Philemon, chapter 1, because there's only one chapter, verse 6, this is Paul talking.

"I pray, that your partnership with us in the faith may be effective in deepening your understanding of every good thing that we share for the sake of Christ. Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you brother Philemon, have refreshed the hearts of the Lord's people." Now, put your finger there cause here that's what he's saying. In other words, Philemon, you're faithful, the church has meaning in your home, you're the real deal. You are believer, and I'm thankful for your partnership. Look at verse 8. Paul says, "Therefore, although in Christ, I could be bold and order you to do what you ought to do, yet I prefer to appeal to you on the basis of love. It is I none other than Paul an old man, now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus, that I appeal to you for my son Onesimus." Now why does Paul call him his son? He calls him his son, because he just led him to the Lord. That's just a fancy way of saying he is my son in the Lord, I led him to the Lord. "I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, who became my son while I was in chains." Verse 11, "Formally, he was useless to you, but now he has become useful," put your finger there because we got to talk about that. The word of Onesimus literally translated out of the Greek means useful. It means useful. If you were to say in Greek, the word useful it would be the word Onesimus. Now look at the play on word that God is showing us in Scripture. He's looking at Philemon going, hey, useful has become useless to you, because he stole from you. But now he's become useful to me because he's useful to the kingdom. Did you get that? That's exactly what he's saying right there. And he says, basically, more than just being a servant to you. Now he's a kingdom servant. Keep reading, "Formerly he was useless to you, but now he's become useful. I'm sending him-who is my very heart-back to you. I would have liked to keep him here with me so that he could take your place in helping me while I'm in chains, with the gospel.

But I did not want to do anything without your consent Philemon so that any favor you would do would not seem forced but would seem voluntary." Verse 15, "Perhaps the reason that Onesimus was separated from you for a little while was that you might have him back forever-no longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother. Paul says, He is very dear to me, but even dearer to you both as a fellow man and a brother." Verse 17, Paul says, "So if you consider me a partner, welcome him back as you would welcome me. If he's done anything wrong, or owes you anything, charge it to me. I Paul, am writing this with my very own hand and I will pay it back-" watch this, not to mention you owe me your very self." You got to love the Bible. You got to love reading scripture. Okay, so what are we seeing here? Paul is really good at the guilt trip game. That's what I'm seeing. He's really, basically Paul says, okay, show Philemon, let's get this straight. While you're living in the lap of luxury over here with all your other servants. I, an old man of the gospel, am over here in Roman chains. I'm in chains. And I have led, little O, to know who Jesus is. I've led Onesimus to Christ God has put on his life a calling for his life, a calling to ministry and now I need his help. I'm chained up over here and I need Onesimus's help. Basically, Paul says, hey, if you really want to take him back, it's up to you or your if you really need him. I guess you can, by the way Philemon, did I remind you that I'm the only reason you're not going to hell. That's what Paul says. And then he keeps laying it on, right? He's like, Okay, look, Philemon if you can't find it in your heart, that's okay, that's okay, I got it. When I get out of prison, I'll come to you. And I will personally pay his debts. I'll do that. If you can't find it, really old friend, it's up to you. That's what he's saying. And just when you think Paul is done messing with Philemon, look at verse 22, it gets even better. Look at how Paul concludes this whole thing. And one thing more, prepare a guest room for me because I hope to be restored to you in answer to your prayers. In other words, oh, yeah, Philemon, I forgot to tell you, I know, you've been praying that I'm getting out and I'm probably going to get out. And when I do get out, I'm coming to your house. If you don't let Onesimus out, it's going to be really awkward. Really, really awkward. And by the way, fast forward, Paul would probably say this, this is just me talking for him, right? It's not the Bible. By the way, this is going to be in the Bible one day Philemon and if you don't do this, you will forever be known as that guy, right? Right, that guy. What are we seeing in this book? This book is an incredible message, an incredible story of this man named Onesimus going to stand before his master and being forgiven for everything that he has done, for everything that he is not done, for the things that he has stolen, and we are seeing Paul stand in the gap on his account for this man. We are seeing a beautiful picture of the gospel in this one little book. But before we place ourselves in the book, I think there's a topic here that I want to spend a few minutes talking on because the Bible in this case, this is one of those times that I feel like we need to lean into this moment. And if you've noticed in reading this, you've possibly even been asking yourself the question before we go any farther. Does the Bible condone slavery? Does the Bible endorse slavery, because it's quite obvious right here, that Onesimus is owned or is a servant of someone else? So, when we get to this text, it seems pretty clear that there's some kind of ownership here. But it also seems pretty clear in this moment that Paul is not making some big statement out of the blocks of condoning slavery. Is Paul legitimizing it? No. But I'll tell you this, there have been people throughout history who have tried to take this text and take this book, and try to prop it up to say, See, Paul did not say anything against it, Paul just swept it under the rug. He just didn't say anything against it. And sadly, throughout history, Christians have interpreted this book in an over simplistic way, and quite frankly, a wrong way to say that slavery was of God. But it's not. It has never been, nor will ever be. You say Matt, why do we look at that? Because it's one of the biggest skeptical questions that somebody is going to ask you, if they're pushing back against the Bible. It's there a lot. Let me give you three quick little things on it, though. Number one, I just want you to know, the bondservant that we're looking at right here is not what we think of in America as a slave.

It's not the same thing at all. You see, in America, American slavery, when Africans were kidnapped, when they were forced when they were moved, when they were taken into this land, they were forced into labor that is explicitly against God's plan. And, it is condoned in Scripture, and it is a stain that will forever be on the world. It just is. In fact, the Bible is clear in Exodus 21, verse 16, says, "Anyone who kidnaps someone is to be put to death, whether the victim has been sold, or is still in the kidnappers possession." It's really clear God's heart on this. You say Matt, that's Old Testament. Okay, let's play that. 1 Timothy chapter 1 says, "We know that the law is good if one uses it properly." This is Paul talking. We also know that the law is made not for the righteous but for," whom, watch this, "lawbreakers and rebels, ungodly and sinful," this is a list, "unholy and irreligious for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, for the sexually immoral, for those practicing homosexuality, for the slave traders, for the liars for the perjurers and all else, whoever else is contrary to sound doctrine." What are we seeing here? This is a grievous list of sins here that Paul says slavery exists inside of. So don't bring out this idea of Oh, well, that was slavery, you know, if slavery is of God, no, it is not. It is not of the Lord. And Onesimus wasn't this kind of slave though he was a bondservant. A bondservant would be somebody that ran into tough times, somebody that had financial obligations, somebody that needed a debt to be paid. And so, they brokered a deal with a wealthy person that if they worked for them for this amount of time, for this length of time, that they would have their debts on this day paid off. And then after so many years, they would be set free back into living a free life. The historians tell us a third to one half of all people living in Rome during this time period would have been some kind of servant to some kind of noble person. That's what we're seeing in Onesimus, that he brokered a deal with Philemon to pay his bills. And as a result, he would work for him. But I'm not saying that that's a good system. Not saying that at all. In fact, it's really not a good system, because God when He created us gave us dominion over the animals, but he never gave us dominion over people. We're all equal, is what he says. Which leads me to number two, the New Testament objects to any kind of servanthood. It objects to any kind of servanthood. In fact, you can summarize the whole New Testament with two different verses when it comes to our ethic of dealing with other people. Matthew chapter 7:12, says, "So in everything, do unto others as you would have them do unto you." Clear as day. The second one is the great commandment, right? Mark 12:30-31, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. The second is this: Love others as yourself. For there is no other commandment greater than these."

The Bible says that there is no greater than these, and there is no way to justify ownership or servanthood. When you were treating someone else how you want to be treated, there's no way the Bible calls us all listen very closely to all be unified and equal in this planet. That's how He calls us. Can I just tell you this, the ground at the foot of the cross is extremely level? You say Matt, what does that mean? That means there is one race and it's the human race. There is one hope, and that is Jesus Christ and His righteousness, there is one class of people and that is that we are all sinners and deserving of death, but in need of a Savior, there is one gift, there is one fortune, and that is what we are gifted, as believers and heirs to the kingdom of God. And as a result, listen, when you come to Jesus, you are to leave all of your distinctions behind. All of them and clothe yourself in Him. Does that make sense? That's the unity that Christ has given us as the human race. Look at Galatians chapter 3, "So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. For all of you were baptized into Christ, you have closed yourself with Christ, and there is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, it says, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to His promise." You see, this is the unity of the gospel that is going to save this planet. This is the unity of the gospel that is going to cut through the mess, the junk, the stuff that we all live in every day., It’s not a law that's going to do that. It's the unity of the gospel, which leads me to number three. This one long. Rather than proclaiming a seemingly powerless political mandate, Jesus ultimately shows us that it is only the power of the gospel that can conquer the evil system such as slavery. Now, I know that's big, that's big boy language right there, right? But here's what that means. God knew at this moment that one guy making some big political statement about slavery was not going to be the thing that changed the world. What was going to change the world is when the church fell in love with Jesus learned the gospel, and they moved out into the world and began to saturate themselves and begin to love other people sacrificially like Jesus loved them. That's what that statement says. You see, a cup proclaimed eat it at this point in Rome, it wouldn't have gotten any traction, but God knew over time he was going to grow His church. He was going to grow His people the gospel was going to saturate into people's lives and hallelujah that years and years and years later, even though yes, there's 11 million Africans trafficked across into the West, there was two times that many trafficked into Arabia, there was slaves that were trading other slaves. This was a worldwide problem till one day something happened. It was the Great Awakening. When Jesus fell, at least in the west, and people like John Wesley and William Wilberforce began to preach the gospel of Jesus, what happened? The Gospel leveled the playing field, and said, we're all people saved by grace. That's the Bible's ethic on slavery. Alright, swap topics. All right, swapped out. Just had to get that in. I had to do it for the text. So, here's the question. What did Philemon do? That's the question, right? What did Onesimus do? How did Philemon respond to the letter? What does the Bible say after Philemon got this letter? How does it lead us? Well, good news, bad news. The bad news is the Bible doesn't say it.

Well, let's go. No, we're not doing that. The good news is we can think critically about this. Because I want you to think about some even though the Bible doesn't say this, you've got to ask yourself, how did the book of Philemon get into scripture? Right? Don't think 2021 think per century. It wasn't like they sent a mass email out. They didn't go Holman and print a bunch of stuff sent over to Lifeway, and let's get this thing going. That's not how the Bible came into play. How did the Bible come into play? How many of these letters was there? One. Now catch this. Have you ever thought about the fact that, what if Philemon had never set Onesimus free? Do you really think Philemon would have circulated this letter to his church in Colossae and into the other church in Philippi? And then the other church ultimately in Rome and tourism? Do you think that Philemon would have done that? Or would Philemon be like you and me and bury this thing in the box somewhere, right? It's what he would have done. I mean, now Philemon wouldn't have been like, hey, here's a letter Paul wrote me, and I just disregarded all of it. But I thought you got to see it. No, he sent it to the rest of the churches, because ultimately, he allowed Onesimus to go free. And he wanted it to be used as a kingdom ethic of how we can be involved with the kingdom of God. It's a picture of how a life that has been saturated with the gospel has been living. And here's where it gets even more interesting. In 110 A.D., that would have been about 60 years later ish, alright? There was a church father by the name of Ignatius, you can read his letters, incredible. He was in Ephesus; he pastored the church of Ephesus for a long time. He refers to an elderly Bishop that was still in the church by the name of Onesimus. Historians have traced it now, have looked at it, have all agreed that yes, this church father is referring to the former slave useful that was now being used in the kingdom of God pastoring, the largest church of its time, the church of Ephesus. That's what we're seeing. That's what we're seeing in the Bible. So, what does the show us? Philemon being transformed into an incredible, generous person. It was a big deal to let somebody go free. But we're seeing Onesimus to become set free to become a leader in the church, which gives us two challenges. Alright? This is where we're going really quickly.

Number one, I want you to write this down. God's desire is for you and for me, it is for all the Philemon’s to become radically generous participants in the mission of God. That's what this book is telling us is for all the Philemon’s to become radically generous participants in the mission of God. Now don't push back and go, Now Matt, I don't own slaves. I get that. But you're a person of influence. You're a person of means, you're a person of wealth. No, I'm not. Okay, let's do the math on the planet. Yes, you are. God's will. It's for all the Philemon’s to become radically generous. You see, here's what I know. We have a whole lot of Philemon’s in this church. We got a whole lot of people who are sincere in your faith. Yeah, you're sincere who are regular here at church. You may even host things at your home like Philemon hosted the church in his home. You are people who are pretty regular here. You are people like Paul who knows Philemon's name. The pastors know your names in this church, you may have even been led to the Lord by one of the church leaders in this church, but you are like Philemon, and you have yet to ask yourself until today, my prayer is, how can I best use my life and my influence for the kingdom of God? That's the question of Philemon. I need this man to become a servant of the living God. And I know that's going to be a sacrifice to you. I know that's going to be something that you have to offer up. I'm going to ask you this morning. Are you asking yourself regularly? God, how can I best leverage who I am, what I have, the gifts you have given me to the kingdom of God? Two areas I want you to think about this week. Number one, I want you to think about it in your giving. Oh, no, here we go, every time we're at church, we talk about giving. No, we don't. Don't do that or go somewhere else if that’s you ask you. How are you leveraging what God has given you? How are you leveraging that? And number two, I want you to think about it in your serving. Are you, how are you leveraging the influence, the talents, the time, all of what you have? You see, the Philemon’s of the world are not evil people, they're just more about building their kingdom than they are building God's kingdom. That's what he did. Right? He was using Onesimus for himself. And at this point, it was a litmus test to what his faith and what his devotion to Yahweh, God that saved him look like. Can I tell you it's the same thing? When God asks us for our talents, our time and our treasure. It is an indicator of what God has done in your life. I think it's time for us to quit asking, what do I have to give and start asking how can I best leverage my life? How can I best leverage my talents, my resources for the kingdom of God? What do I have God that would be useful to you in your kingdom? I want you to see something here. Discipleship and sanctification are more than just about checking some box that you did something. I used to feel like this is what tithing was to me. God, I gave my 10% now get off my back.

But then all of a sudden, something hit me it was that God didn't tithe his blood for me. He gave every single bit of it to me. Therefore, it's all His. It's all His. Let me ask you, have you reached the point in your life where you've said, God, all of this is yours. You poured everything out for me. And here it is to you, God. Man, this is an incredible, incredible point that He's making here. You see, here's the thing. It's time for the Philemon’s to get engaged in the mission of God. In His mission, God did not save you to sideline you. He didn't save you to just call an eternal huddle all the time. And nobody ever goes to the line to play. That's what it means. I heard this old pastor say it like this one time, he said, "It's time for us to get off our blessed assurance and do something." It's time for us to quit sitting on the promises and moving out into God's presence. It starts with us. I don't know where you're at this morning Philemon. Maybe you just need to start giving more than just tipping God when you feel like it. Maybe you need to start actually giving 10% what God asks of us. Maybe if you're at that point, maybe God is looking at you as a Philemon in life going, hey, that is not where you are. You need to sacrificially give. Because I know this, God will bless it. Maybe yours is in the area of service, you need to step into serving, you need to step into a group, you need to step into doing life as God has called you. I love verse 6 in Philemon. In the new living testament, it says this, "I'm praying that you will put into action, the generosity that comes from your faith." Let me ask you a question. What kind of generosity does your faith demand of you? Have you ever thought about the fact that you didn't control where you were born? You didn't control when you were born? You didn't control the DNA that you have.

You didn't control how smart you are. You didn't control the fact that Christ has died for your sins. Now the question is this. In response to all of that, what am I offering? God's calling all the Philemon’s to become radically generous. But number two, this was quick. God's desire is for all the Onesimus’s, and I don't really know if that's the word, we're just going to go with it, alright? To be set free, and to become world changing leaders for the mission of God. That's where he's calling you. You see, slavery in the Bible is this picture of what sin does to us. You see, sin takes something that God created as useful, that's me. And it makes us useless. But what we've seen in Philemon is, Paul sent Onesimus back to Philemon to become his nature, which was use full. Do you know that when you stand before the king, and you say, hey, God, here I am. Use me? Do you know the only response that Jesus has to you? It's never no. It's never gotten away. It's never maybe tomorrow. It's Yes. Let's go. You see for many of us sin has destroyed us and made us useless. Listen to me, the gospel is the great liberator. The gospel is the liberator, it transforms us into what God has created us. It makes us useful in ways that we never thought we would be. Some of you have been putting limits on yourself your whole life. And I want you to see in Philemon what happened. What did Paul say to Philemon? Onesimus is now not just useful to labor for you, to serve you, to bring you your food, you are now called of God, and that's where He takes us. And what did he do? God called Onesimus and God had a plan for Onesimus, just like He has a plan for you and a plan for me. You see, God wants to set you free, into His service. And I hope you're feeling this book. I'm not getting to everything. But I hope you're feeling in this book that we're all Onesimus's, we're all Philemon’s. We've all been enslaved to sin and need to be set free. We're all people of means you needs to be generous, but it’s the gospel that transforms us. But here's the question. Will, we let it? Let me ask you a couple questions. And in closing, when you're thinking about your life as an Onesimus and a Philemon; question one, what do you need to make right? This week? What is it that you need to make right this week? You know, is there going to be consequences? Probably. There probably will be. But think about Onesimus. Paul said, you got to go make it right. You got to go. I'm with you. I'm for you. Just got to go make it right. You see Onesimus stood in front of his master, with a letter saying please accept me back. We stand in front of God with a cross that has made us right. Let me ask you, what do you need to make right this week? Onesimus could have been killed on the spot by law. We stand before people all the time and we just need to make some things right this week, to be useful and generous for the kingdom. Second question, who has wronged you that you need to set free this week? Who's wronged you, that you just need to say hey, I'm flushing that. That's done. It's gone. Because I guarantee you this until you do that you will never become generous. You will never become fully useful. You will always bury that in your soul. And it'll just drag you.

Question three. Is God pursuing you right now? Think about the story, how crazy it is Onesimus jumps in the wagon. Heads, to Rome and God chased him all the way there. And he ends up in this little prison with this man named Paul speaking over his life. Let me tell you something, it's no accident that you're sitting where you're sitting right now. God has placed you in this moment. Is he pursuing you to a moment to where you need to say, here's my heart, Jesus? Here's my life Jesus. God, I accept you. I give you my heart make me into a useful tool of yours. Listen, it starts with receiving Jesus. It starts with receiving the gift and then it moves into a flourishing relationship with Jesus. Do you need to give your heart to Jesus? Well, Matt, I don't know if I need to? Well, if you don't know if you need to, then you need to. You need him, because He's the only way the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Him. Believer, for those of you that know Jesus, what's your next step of generosity? What is it? Even if it hurts.

Lord Jesus today, walk with us in these next couple of minutes of invitation. And God I just pray that one out of those questions today. God that you would do business in our souls with. God, we're praying for the Philemon’s of this church to be generous of a response of what you have done for them. But it's their choice. God, we're praying for them to be generous in their giving generous in their serving, generous in their forgiving. But God we're also praying that the Onesimus's come to you Jesus to be useful for Your Kingdom to the great Liberator, when we turn to You, you forgive, and You set us free for Your service. Lord move in our hearts in this next couple of minutes, Jesus. Thank you. It's in your name we pray. Amen. If you need to move today, if you need to give your life to Christ, I'll be right here off to the side. You can jump on the text, and you can hit on the next steps text. Maybe you want to join this church today. Maybe now you need to give. Maybe today, you want to say yes to Jesus, and step into that relationship. I'd love to talk to you about what that may look like today.

Let's stand and sing together.

Follow Along with the Message


September 5, 2021

Philemon 6–19
6 I pray that your partnership with us in the faith may be effective in deepening your understanding of every good thing we share for the sake of Christ. 7 Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the Lord’s people. 8 Therefore, although in Christ I could be bold and order you to do what you ought to do, 9 yet I prefer to appeal to you on the basis of love. It is as none other than Paul — an old man and now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus — 10 that I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, who became my son while I was in chains. 11 Formerly he was useless to you, but now he has become useful both to you and to me. 12 I am sending him — who is my very heart — back to you. 13 I would have liked to keep him with me so that he could take your place in helping me while I am in chains for the gospel. 14 But I did not want to do anything without your consent, so that any favor you do would not seem forced but would be voluntary. 15 Perhaps the reason he was separated from you for a little while was that you might have him back forever — 16 no longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother. He is very dear to me but even dearer to you, both as a fellow man and as a brother in the Lord. 17 So if you consider me a partner, welcome him as you would welcome me. 18 If he has done you any wrong or owes you anything, charge it to me. 19 I, Paul, am writing this with my own hand. I will pay it back — not to mention that you owe me your very self.
Philemon 22
And one thing more: Prepare a guest room for me, because I hope to be restored to you in answer to your prayers.

Does the Bible Endorse or Condone Slavery?

1. The here is not what we in America think of as a slave.

Exodus 21:16
“Anyone who kidnaps someone is to be put to death, whether the victim has been sold or is still in the kidnapper’s possession.”
1 Timothy 1:8–10
8 We know that the law is good if one uses it properly. 9 We also know that the law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, 10 for the sexually immoral, for those practicing homosexuality, for slave traders and liars and perjurers — and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine.

2. The New Testament to any kind of slavery or servanthood.

Matthew 7:12
So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.
Mark 12:30–31
30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
Galatians 3:26–29
26 So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

3. Rather than proclaiming a seemingly powerless political mandate, Jesus ultimately shows it is only the power of the that could conquer evil systems such as slavery.

Foundational Desires of God for His Mission

1. God’s desire is for all Philemons to become radically participants in the mission of God.

2 Specific Areas to Think About



QUESTION: What kind of generosity is your faith ?

2. God’s desire is for all Onesimuses to be set free to become world changing for the mission of God.

Romans 10:11–13
11 As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.” 12 For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, 13 for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
Philemon 15–16
15 Perhaps the reason he was separated from you for a little while was that you might have him back forever — 16 no longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother.

Additional Notes


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