The Appeal part I
We briefly looked at the parable of the Prodigal Son and how the son wished to return to his father, not as a son, for he felt unworthy to be considered a son, but desired only to return as a servant (see Luke 15:11-32).
We are not told why Onesimus decided to return to Philemon, his lord and master. Perhaps it was the urging of Paul to have Onesimus make things right between himself and his lord. Perhaps Onesimus concluded on his own, but in this life, we need an advocate, one who will plead our case before the one who holds our fate in the balance.
When we are accused of a crime, we hire a Lawyer to be our advocate. Our advocate works on our behalf to assure that there will be ample opportunity to have our side of the case heard and will look out for our rights. He pleads our case before judge and jury. Then we await the verdict.
I have chosen to use the Old Authorized King James version, because for me it gives a better, clearer understanding of what is happening and the appeal Paul is making.
Verse 9: “For loves sake I rather beseech thee being such an one as Paul the aged, and now also a prisoner of Jesus Christ.”
Paul has always been a freeman. He is a Roman citizen and so had certain rights and privileges that Onesimus did not have. But Paul is here saying that now he too is in chains, unable to move about in freedom subject to the law and to others, similar to some degree, that Onesimus must have felt. For Onesimus was chained to a system of slavery that limited his movements, limited his freedom and limits his ability to act on his own.
Having a better understanding of the conditions in which Onesimus lived, he can now become a fitting advocate. Paul continues his letter in verse 10 – 12. “I beseech thee for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my bonds; which in time past was to thee unprofitable, but now profitable to thee and to me: Whom I have sent again; thou therefore receive him, that is mine own bowels.”
Paul is saying, I as a fellow prisoner I can understand the condition of Onesimus and by living as and living under the same conditions as him, I can fully identify myself with him. So much so that old King James uses the world bowels to signify that he has become one like me and I like him. We are of the same heart
Did not Christ take upon himself humanity? Yes, he certainly did. Did he have to do this? No, he certainly didn’t have to take on humanity. But, if he wanted to fully understand us and to become our advocate, He then had to take on the same conditions, the same characteristics that you and I have. In other words, for Christ to fully understand the problem of sin, he had to live as you and I did and be tempted in all points like we are tempted. If he had not, then how could he be our substitute? How could he possibly be our advocate if he doesn’t fully understand what it is like to live like one of us to be temped like one of us?
Paul by way of his friendship with Philemon and that both he and Philemon were freemen having the same rights and privileges could understand each other. Paul could appreciate the reason for the laws the governed society and thus could sympathize with Philemon and understand Philemon’s responsibility to uphold the law. He understood that transgressing the law of society meant death.
But Paul was also a prisoner, who had his freedoms taken away. He better understood the conditions in which Onesimus himself lived under and so he could also sympathize with Onesimus and thus plead his case to Philemon.
In our next post, Paul will continue his appeal to Philemon on behalf of Onesimus.