Communion of the Saints is Beautifully Taught in Paul’s Letter to Philemon
Recently while preparing a sermon based on the book of Philemon this thought struck me. Perhaps I should have waited to post this until a time when a series on the book of Philemon is posted. However, felt it couldn’t wait.
Paul in this short book acts as a type of Christ while Philemon plays the part of God the Father. Onesimus is typical of all sinners that have run away from God. In this book that bears the name of Philemon a fellow Christian and contemporary of Paul, Paul urges Philemon to receive him back (Onesimus) as a dear brother.
Verse 10-12 are this appeal by Paul to Philemon; I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, who became my son while I was in chains.
Onesimus who had heard the gospel message before and having run away to Rome comes in contact again with Paul. Paul who was a prisoner and suffering for his faith witnesses to Onesimus.
Onesimus through the suffering of Paul and the genuine love of Paul for his fellow mankind can see there is something different in Paul. He begins to long to know the Saviour that Paul knows and so gives his heart over to God. Onesimus becomes a changed man.
Paul continues by saying; “formally he (Onesimus) was useless to you, but now he has become useful both to you and me. I am sending him – who is my very heart – back to you.”
By the process of conversion, Onesimus had become a changed man. Instead of being useless in the work of the Lord, he was now counted worthy and useful. Paul is further stating that I am sending Onesimus and all fallen sinners that have repented and accepted Christ as their Saviour back to their heavenly Father. Not to be treated as a slave as they (fallen mankind) were before, but as a son and daughter of God.
Paul shares this with us in verses 15 and 16. Perhaps the reason he 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. He is very dear to me but even dearer to you, both as a fellow man and as a brother in the Lord.
Paul continues in a very touching appeal to Philemon. If you count me as a partner receive him as you would me. But if he has wronged you or owes anything put that on my account. I Paul am writing you with my own hand. I will repay.
As Paul spoke to Philemon Christ says to our Father in heaven. Accept them (fallen mankind) as your own for if anything is owed by them I have paid for them. I have lived, suffered and died with them that the debt they owe might be paid in full, so accept them back dear Father, not as a slave but as my brothers and sisters.
Paul became a type of Christ for Onesimus as Jesus is the ultimate Christ before all mankind. Christ is our Judge and our Advocate. When the Devil comes before the court of heaven pointing out our many sins and short comings, Christ says, I have paid the price. No more do they owe you for I have paid the price for them.
Paul concludes with these simple words from verse 21. Having confidence in your obedience, (God had promised Christ’s sacrifice was sufficient) I write to you knowing that you will do even more than I say. God has promised so much more to the repentant sinner, more than we can even imagine. He will open the riches of heaven and give all power to those that faithfully follow him.