in the Christian Library
Philemon 21 and 22
John L. Kachelman, Jr.
I. "As face answers face reflected in water, so one man's heart answers
another" (Pr 27:19, NEB). This proverb speaks of the beauty of intimate
friendship -- there is a tie that binds friends with a unique closeness.
Think back to the best friend you had in school -- it was not uncommon
for you two to dress alike, talk with the same expressions, and wear your
hair in the same style. Friendship is a "reflective" process -- two become
very much alike!
II. The principle of reflective traits in human friendship also applies
to the friendship we share with Christ.
1. Friendship with Christ is a blessing we should never take for granted.
"Doctor, what shall I do?" asked a patient, "My friends are all out of
town." "You have one Friend who is never out of the way, but ever near,
and ever true. Jesus is the best friend for heaven or earth." An aged saint
was on his deathbed and his last words were, "Now, where is Jesus of Nazareth,
my true and never-failing friend?"
2. Those who know Jesus as a true Friend will reflect some essential
qualities which Jesus possessed.
3. Philemon was a friend of Christ's and his friendship resulted in
Philemon displaying four key traits of our Lord.
III. As Paul closes this short letter, he mentions a number of requests.
These petitions are asked of one whose character had proven open to solicitation
of Christian benevolence. The requests reveal four fruits in Philemon's
life that had resulted from his intimate friendship with the Lord.
I. Factors of friendship with Christ.
A. There are several texts that reveal to us the conditions that qualify
us a "friend" of Christ's.
1. Jn 15:14--there must be obedience to God's commands.
2. Amos 3:3--there is the necessity of agreement with God's will.
3. Jas 4:4--there is the duty to keep separated from the world.
B. In simple terms, God has told us that we must choose friendship in
a careful manner. We must look and obey His divine will if we truly desire
friendship with the risen Lord. Philemon had made this choice. Having obeyed
the gospel, Philemon was God's friend (1,5). Such friendship brought great
blessings to Philemon (3).
II. Fruits of friendship with Christ.
As mentioned in verse 3, Philemon enjoyed the fruits of peace and grace
when he became a friend of God. But there were other fruits that resulted
and these would become evident in his association and dealing with others.
The "reflective" traits of friendship with Christ would produce visible
fruits all could notice (cf. Ac.4:13).
A. OBEDIENCE (21a).
1. The Greek word does not refer to conforming to a command -- Paul
has not issued one. The word refers to an attitude of positive response
(Ro 1:5; Philip 2:12). It refers to an act that goes beyond hearing and
doing, it speaks of one's greatest desire.
2. The call here is to accept the duty because of one's love for God
(Jn 14:15). Paul is confident that Philemon will not refuse Onesimus because
Philemon has the attitude that responds from eager love.
3. Such was a key trait of our Lord (Hb 10:5-7).
4. Friendship with Christ enables us to reflect this wonderful desire
to obey. In fact, obedience becomes easy and delightful when it is in response
to truth and love.
B. GENEROSITY (21b).
1. Paul said that Philemon would go further than he was required --
"the second mile." Some debate exactly what was meant -- certainly Philemon
would receive Onesimus back and cancel his debt, but how could he go "beyond"?
a. Some say Paul wished for Onesimus to come back to Rome.
b. Some say Paul wanted Onesimus set free.
c. Probably Paul was encouraging Philemon to be most kind in all dealings
2. Generosity was always a trait of our Lord (Ac 20:35b). The Lord was
generous in His deeds of kindness and benevolence, in words of cheer and
encouragement, and in patience when dealing with others (Lk 6:38).
3. As a friend of Jesus, Philemon was going to do everything he possibly
could for his brethren. In all of Christ's friends, there is a need to
reflect His generosity! "A heart truly touched by the love of Jesus will
not seek to know the lowest limit of duty, but the highest possibility
4. The true friend of Christ's does not content himself to do enough
to just get by; no, he goes "beyond" and does much more!
C. HOSPITALITY (22a).
1. Paul had enjoyed the domestic love of Philemon as had many others
(v. 4-7) and he was eager to return. The duty of hospitality was a strong
command to New Testament Christians -- Ro 12:13; 1 Ti 3:2; Tit 1:8; 1 Pt
2. The joys of earthly hospitality are but a small taste of the heavenly
joys of being entertained with divine hospitality (Jn 14:2,3).
3. The friends of Christ who exercise hospitality will be blessed because
He will provide us room in those splendid heavenly mansions (Jn 14:2,3).
D. FAITHFUL, URGENT PRAYING (22b).
1. One cannot be a friend of Christ's and not become an enthusiastic
participant in praying! "Your prayers" is plural and indicates that not
only was Philemon praying, but all around him were! Although removed by
hundred of miles, Paul knew Philemon was praying for him.
2. The practice of praying for another was a definite trait of Our Lord
(Lk 22:32). Philemon reflected this admirable quality.
3. Today we can ask no greater service from anyone than that they pray
for us; and in like manner, we can offer no greater service to them than
to pray for them! (2 Ths 3:1).
I. Jn 15:15 -- "I have called you friends." This phrase is so full of
comfort! Imagine this! Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is our best friend!
We must be careful to reflect the traits of our "best Friend" just as Philemon
II. One spring morning two youths were walking through the woods. "Let
us try," said one, "to find the image of our friendship in the nature around
us." They looked and finally decided upon an ivy vine and a young oak.
"Look, the ivy clings to the oak. The tree grows in beauty and vigor and
the vine clings and also grows. The two seem as one; but if it were not
for the oak, the vine would remain in the dirt."
III. One who is a "friend" of the Lord's will be lifted to greatness.
When we are united with the Lord, we will find many blessings. Are you
a "friend" of Christ's? (Jn 15:14; Ac 4:13). Are you reflecting the fruits
of that friendship? Close friends resemble one another in so many unique
ways -- and they delight in pointing to these similarities. This "reflective"
friendship is a heart-warming, cheer-bringing sight. Especially is this
the case when we "reflect" the fruits of our friendship with Jesus Christ!
Copyright 1998 by John
L. Kachelman, Jr. may be reproducted for non-commercial purposes
at no cost to others.