in the Christian Library
Misc. Texts in Philemon
John L. Kachelman, Jr.
I. We discuss a topic that is marvelous in design, eternal in scope,
and centuries in practice conversion! Of all possible definitions
of conversion, perhaps this one will provide the best understanding. "Conversion
is no repairing of the old building; but it takes all down and erects a
new structure. It is not the putting in a patch, or sewing on a list of
holiness; but, with the true convert, holiness is woven into all his powers,
principles, and practice. The sincere Christian is quite a new fabric
from the foundation to the top, all new! He is a new man, a new creature.
All things have become new. Conversion is a deep work, a heart work; it
turns all up-side down and makes a man be in a new world. It goes throughout
the mind, throughout the members, throughout the motions of the whole life.
II. Spanning the existence and civilization of mortals, the overwhelming
desire of God was to provide for man's conversion (Ep 1:4-7). There is
no insight in the loving character of God that is more revealing than His
desire for the conversion of His creation.
III. The runaway slave, Onesimus, provided us with an excellent lesson
on this marvelous topic. In this vagabond Phrygian slave we are able to
see a sketch of conversion.
I. Conversion SOUGHT.
A. The whole of Scripture is devoted to unfolding the divine drama of
1. From the beginning God desire companionship with the souls He had created (Ep 1:4-7). In the beauty of Eden's bliss the purity of fellowship between God and mortals was found. But that fellowship was too quickly lost to sin's ransom.
2. Throughout man's history God sought to reveal His desire for the
lost fellowship to be restored. He prepared the means for man's conversion
and the restoration of fellowship.
B. A survey of Scriptures impresses the reader with the earnest desire
of God for the conversion of erring mankind.
1. The prophets spoke of the conversion that God longed for Is
1:16,17; 42:16; Jere 3l:31-34; Ez 18:23,31; 36:26,27; etc.
2. The "Forerunner" boldly announced the conversion sought by God
3. The conversion so urgently sought by God moved Him to sacrifice Jesus
Christ (Jn 3:16). The Son of God came to earth and revealed for all the
divine compassion (Lk 14:23).
4. It was the dark day of Calvary that provided the means by which God's
desire for converting wayward man was achieved (Hb 9:11,12; 2 Co 5:15,19).
C. These facts are crystal clear God SOUGHT a way in which man
could be converted. He was not obligated or forced to do so. He had created
all things "good" and man had botched it up. God could have washed His
hands of the whole mess the frustrations of being patient with mortals
dedicated to Self; the exasperation of constantly repeating basic commands;
the deep pain of heartbreak of an unrequited love. God did not have to
seek the conversion of man but He did! (Jn 3:16).
II. Conversion SIGHTED
A. Onesimus provides an excellent look at the conversion that God has
1. He is the picture of degradation a fleeing slave whose wanderings
had brought him to the vile streets of Rome. He had sacrificed his position
as Phlm's slave and found himself in the lowest depths of humanity.
2. He is the picture of hopelessness what lay ahead for him? He
had chosen for himself a path that led only to greater trouble and turmoil.
No inner-peace, no haven of shelter, no hope (Ep 2:12).
3. But things changed for Onesimus in a dramatic manner. Simply stated,
Onesimus was converted! (Phlm 10). And when this transpired all things
changed! (Is 42:16; Jere 33:6).
4. The one who had gone to the Imperial City to escape his past found
no escape! He who had left in prospect of promise found nothing of substance!
In the teeming multitudes of Rome, Onesimus was all alone. Life was dark
and hopeless until he heard the gospel preached by Paul!
B. What message would Paul have spoken to Onesimus to cause the slave
to be "begotten"? Perhaps it was similar to Ep 2 which was written at the
same time. This chapter is a great message to those struggling with the
hopelessness of sin.
1. 2:1-10 : There is the unbelievably "good news" of the gospel. God's
grace is found through obedient faith.
2. 2:11-18: Those who respond and are converted by the gospel are objects
of God's great love.
3. 2:19-22: Those converted become significant, they are important,
they have value! "So then ye are no more ..."
C. This glorious message would have been eagerly received by Onesimus.
How do you think he felt? If he had asked, "How can I share in this great
salvation?" What would Paul have said? Probably he would have brought focus
upon the brief phrase, "in Christ" (13) for that is the factor distinguishing
between the "before" and the "after" of conversion. Until one is "in Christ"
he/she is not really converted. It is not hard to understand.
1. One would hear abt the glorious gospel.
2. One would believe in that message and Christ.
3. One would desire to follow God's way (repent).
4. One would want to obey the command of baptism for it is what places
one "in Christ" and enable one to be "born into" or "begotten" by God (cf.
Jn 3:5; 2 Co 5:17; Ac 22:16).
III. Conversion SUMMARIZED
Onesimus reveals to sincere seekers the basic facts abt biblical conversion.
A. It is TRANSFORMING.
1. He was transformed into a brother in Christ and an earnest helper
of Paul's (Phlm 11,13,16).
2. He was transformed into a son of God's. Now he could join with Paul
and claim that "God is our Father."
3. His whole life changed dramatically! He was transformed in
4. Any today who profess salvation with o a similar transformation are
deceived. There must be a drastic change! (Ep 5:7-11).
B. It is SINCERE.
1. He was willing to go back and face the uncertain reaction of Phlm.
He could expect any kind of punishment. But he was willing to return because
it was the just thing to do (Lk 19:8; EZ 33:14-16). Sincerity was shown
in his Restitution of wrong.
2. Any today who are not sincere in seeing that their conversion has
transformed all aspects of their lives are deceived abt salvation (Philip
C. It is SUDDEN.
1. How long did it take for Onesimus to be converted? We do not know.
But we can be sure it was not too long. Paul's imprisonment is usually
thought of as no longer than 2 yrs and it seems that Onesimus was converted
soon after Paul reached Rome.
2. How long would it take for a runaway slave with o any hope and with
out peace and with out God to seize all those things when they were offered?
An Indian and a white man, at worship together, were both stirred to obey
the gospel. The Indian was shortly after led to rejoice in God's pardon.
The white man, for a long time, was under distress of mind and at times
ready to despair; but he finally came to understand God's forgiveness of
his past. Some time after, meeting his red brother he asked, "How is it
that I struggled so long with accepting that all sin was washed away, and
you found comfort so soon?" The Indian explained in this manner, "There
comes along a rich prince. He purposes to give you a new coat. You look
at your coat and say, 'I don't know, my coat looks pretty good. I think
I'll wear it a little longer.' He then offers me a new coat. I look at
my old blanket and quickly throw it away to accept the beautiful garment.
In the same way bother, you try to cover up your sins and try to find a
solution for them yourself, but I, a poor Indian cannot do that: therefore
I gladly accept the forgiveness of God and trust in His Word for my salvation."
3. Anyone who is aware of their souls need should suddenly obey God
(2 Co 6:2).
D. It is POWERFUL.
1. Can you imagine the reaction of his old friends when they heard?
"Why him!? Wow! Who would have ever imagined that thief and rogue
would be saved!"
2. The genuine beauty of conversion is its surprise - one you would
never dream of obeys the gospel and transforms completely! Amazing!
3. Jesus Christ has the power to change lives (Ro 1:16,17). How sad
that so few realize this great power in their lives! (Lk 15:1,2).
4. Onesimus shows us that conversion of even the most rebellious is
possible. Christ's power is able to change the hearts and minds of the
stoutest rebel and bring him/her to serve God with an unselfish devotion.
5. May we guard against rejection of this power! (Ac 26:15).
I. The definition of "conversion" is generally misunderstood. An old
soldier said, "When I was a young fellow in the army, we used to receive
the command, 'About face!' And when I became a soldier of the cross, this
is the same command that my Captain gave. He called me to 'About face!'
From where I was before; and I love to obey that call." In general it is
"About face!" that conversion is all about, but the specifics of conversion
are illustrated so well by Onesimus.
1. Hear the gracious gospel message and by faith be baptized into Christ.
2. Begin to allow God's Word to transform every aspect of your life
as you sincerely serve Him.
II. Do no delay in obeying God's gospel. Become a child of His and begin
to transform your life according to His will (Col 3:10).
Copyright 1998 by John
L. Kachelman, Jr. may be reproducted for non-commercial purposes
at no cost to others.