Philemon: The Letter, God, Christ and Mankind

WritingGod, Christ and Mankind

Earlier in this series, I made the statement that Christ is our advocate and God is our judge. There is some truth to this, but I fear it leaves the wrong impression. Yes, Christ is our advocate, acting as our defense attorney, but the concept of God being the harsh and cruel judge is a false teaching, left over from paganism and the dark ages.

Let me ask you a question. What does John 3:16 tell us. Remember, this is the most often quoted text in scriptures. Yet we really fail to comprehend what Jesus was telling Nicodemus.

Let’s quickly look at this text. I shouldn’t have to write it out for it is so well known, but I will so we can all begin at the same spot. The text reads, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes on Him should not parish, but have everlasting life.”

The first part of the first phrase which concludes at the first comma, states the follow: “For God so loved the world.” If God the Father is this mean vengeful God, would the opening statement of this text be “For God so loved the world.” He loved the world so much that he did what? He gave His only begotten son.

This begs us to ask the question. Have you ever heard of anyone that is mean and vengeful ever giving up their most prized possession? Willingly and lovingly giving away their greatest possession to save a people that they do not like? No, this just does not happen. But the text states, that; “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.”

The Bible is all about relationships and one of the strongest relationships in ancient times is kinship, family ties, and how binding they are. Even in many cultures today you see the same with strong family ties. The relationship between God the Father and Jesus Christ are presented in this way so that we can gain a better understanding of kinship and the relationship between God the Father, Jesus Christ, and you and me.

The truth is the Christian community is all about kinship. Don’t we often call each other brothers and sisters in Christ? If so then if Christ is our brother, by birth from Mary His mother, and Christ is God’s son, by way of kinship relation, then wouldn’t God the Father be our heavenly Father too? And if He is our heavenly Father, would He not treat us with the same love and as he treated and still treats Jesus with. Therefore, Christ standing as our advocate is less about him pleading our case before the Father, who already loves us as a son or daughter, rather it is about Christ being our advocate before the angels and if there are unfallen worlds before those that have never tasted sin.

Christ is saying, I understand their trials, their tribulations, for I lived through it. I see how easy it is for them to fall to sin, but they have placed their faith in my saving grace, and each of my faithful brothers and sisters that are seeking to reflect my character, which is the same character as God the Father’s to them, I stand in their place, for them my sacrifice on the cross is sufficient, count them guiltless, as I am guiltless. They stand before you guiltless, for I have paid the price, I have redeemed them.

This does not mean we are once saved always saved, this means that daily we are seeking, striving to become more Christ like. This can only happen when we have a relationship, a daily relationship with Christ. A relationship that grows daily as we pray and study his word and ask for Christ’s spirit to live in our hearts.

It has always amazed me at how married couples who have been married for 60 years know so little about the small things about each other, but they think alike, act alike and talk for one another. They take on the character of each other. This is what is supposed to happen in our Christian experience. As we spend time with Christ, in prayer and study of His word, that we begin to take on or become like his character. Reflecting his character.

Paul appealed to Philemon at a kinship level stating that as a brother of Paul through Christ that he should accept Onesimus back as a brother as Paul had accepted Onesimus as a brother.   Therefore, if we are all brothers and sisters in Christ, then it is profitable for us to accept each other, no matter our past sins as God the Father has accepted us back, not as servants, but as sons and daughters.

Paul said, “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” (see vs 10, 11).

Christ is saying, “They have sinned, they have stolen from you and I will repay what is owed. I appeal to the unfallen cosmos for my brothers and sisters whom I begotten when I was in chains and brought to the cross to die. They once were unprofitable to you, but now are profitable to you and to me. Therefore, I am sending my brothers and sisters to you whom I have repaid that which they took from you that you may receive them. I love them so much I wish to keep them for myself, but I send My brothers and sisters to you that they might minister for you.”

Paul continues the appeal, if you count me as a partner, receive him (Onesimus) as you would me. God the Father and Jesus Christ are partners in the plan of salvation, and they enlist all the angelic host and the Holy Spirit, in the restoration of mankind as brothers and sisters in Christ. Paul says, “But if he has wronged you, I will repay.” Christ says, “I have repaid in full what is owed!”

We all owe God for we have all fallen short and robbed him of time, service and money. But what we owe we cannot repay on our own. It is only through Christ, that the debt can be repaid. It is only through Christ, that we can be accepted back as sons and daughters of God.

The letter of Philemon does not give us an ending. It does not indicate if Philemon accepted the letter of Paul or if he accepted back Onesimus, more as a brother than a servant. Perhaps this is because in our lives the story is yet unfinished.

Perhaps this short letter to Philemon on behalf of Onesimus serves as an illustration of the plan of salvation and remains unfinished because if we are alive our story is still being written.

You see, Paul had Onesimus himself carry the letter to Philemon. Christ has paid the debt and is willing to help in any way He can, but it is up to us to walk along the path to the throne of God. It is up to us, to ask for forgiveness from the father. It is up to us to seek a relationship with God, as the son sought to come back to his father as a servant, but was accepted back as a son, we come before him as servants, but he welcomes us back not as servants, but as sons and daughters of God.

This concludes our study into the book of Philemon.  It is my prayer that you have received a blessing from studying this little book.


Pastor Lester

Published by The Bible In Your Hand

Hi, I am Pastor Lester Bentley, a devoted husband, father, and Pastor for the Northeastern Wyoming District of the Rocky Mountain Conference of Seventh-day Adventist. I am committed to the great gospel commission as stated in Matthew 28:19, 20.

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