Bible Topics
in the Christian Library
3 Challenges of Philemon

Misc. Texts From Book of Philemon

John L. Kachelman, Jr. 


I. There is something about a challenge that stirs within our hearts fervor and action. The challenge to know the unknown, to scale the highest heights or descend to the lowest canyons of the sea has spurred explorers to marvels of wonder. In 1987 the world carefully followed the two aviators as they circled the glove non-stop. It was a feat never before performed ­ the challenge was too great to ignore. 

1. Without challenges life would be so mundane and dull. Not a few are bored with life because they have become callous to challenges.

2. Those who remain unchallenged are isolated in a ho-hum, hum-drum existence ­ it is sad. 

II. It is interesting to note that the principle of challenges exist also in the spiritual realm. 

1. Those who look at the clear challenges of living for Christ in the midst of a godless society are motivated and zealous (Tit 2:11-14). 

2. Christians who are indifferent, bored, and inactive have lost the focus of biblical challenges. Believers who have become mechanical in devotion and ritualistic in practice have turned their eyes away from the challenges of Christianity. 

III. The small letter of Philemon brings our attention to focus upon 3 challenges. If the student of God's Book would accept these 3 challenges, Christianity would become real, exciting, and very rewarding. 

1. If your Christianity has become "ho-hum" and if you seem to lack satisfaction in living your faith, you need to accept these 3 challenges. 

2. Examine these challenges and observe how important they are for the believer. 


I. The Challenges PERSONALIZED 

Three people sharpen the focus of these challenges and help us see how to accept and live them. 

A. Become as Paul.

1. As you study Philemon there is one overpowering picture of Paul ­ he is a peacemaker! (v. 8-11). 

2. This lovely attribute is a trait expected in all of God's children (Hb 12:14,15; Jas 3:17; Mt 5:9). 

3. This challenge is often ignored ­ it is spurned in favor of retaliation and side taking. Too often we lack peacemakers and find the sad situations as Philip 4:2; 1 Co 3:3. 

4. May we be challenged with Paul's example ­ be active in helping differences be resolved. If you are aware of those who re at odds, do whatever you can to help them be united again (Ro 14:19). 

B. Become as Onesimus.

1. In studying Philemon we see that this man was truly penitent; sensitive to sin in his life; anxious to make restitution; eager to serve. Such endeared him to Paul (v. 16). 

2. Onesiumus wanted to do God's will regardless of the cost. He knew what was right and he could not do otherwise. 

3. May all of us be challenged to develop and maintain this sensitivity to God's will in our lives. How easy it is to excuse wrong-doing and push aside this challenge from our eyes. 

4. Sensitivity to God's will is mandatory ­ Mt 5:4; Ac 19:18-20; 1 Ths 1:7-10; 2:13; Ps 24:3-6. 

5. Accept this challenge of Onesimus ­ become sensitive to God's rule in your life; be anxious to set all wrongs right; be eager to serve. 

C. Become as Philemon.

1. This man was the object of the short letter. He was a wealthy citizen and conducted himself so as to provide a great example of Christianity to others. 

a. Christianity controlled his house (v.2). 

b. Christianity dictated his friends (v.2, 5). 

c. Christianity directed his energies (v. 1). 

2. All who knew this man would testify to his practical faith, hospitality, and brotherly love. 

3. We find in Philemon a man whose life challenges us to imitate him in every aspect. We are called to possess the elements of Christianity exactly as Philemon did. 

4. How are you accepting this challenge? (Gal 6:14; Mt 5:13-16; 1 Pt 4:15). How practical is Christianity to your daily life? 

IV. The Challenges SUMMARIZED 

A. Each of these challenges calls for the believer to develop and maintain a quality of "love." It is love for God and His gospel that prompts us to dedicated service portrayed by the lives of Paul, Onesimus and Philemon. 

B. It is the quality of love that sums up all requirements of God (Jn 14:15; 1 Co 13:13; 1 Ti 1:5). The first and greatest command focuses upon these challenges from Philemon (Mt 22:37,38). It was this challenge which faced Peter (Jn 21:15ff) and which should motivate believers today. 

C. Stated simply ­ Philemon's three challenges unite to ask, "Do you really love God?" If so you will demonstrate that love just as Paul, Philemon and Onesimus. 

III. The Challenges BLESSINGS. 

Those who discipline themselves to accept these three challenges will find four wonderful blessings. 

A. There will be discovered the great joy and comfort that exists in Christian fellowship (v.7). 

B. There will be a genuine and free acceptance of all who have been accepted by God (v.17). 

C. There will be an inner-peace which results when one trusts in God's Providential care (v. 15; Ps 119:165). 

D. All who follow these challenges will become "beneficial" (v. 20). 


I. Flying around the world non-stop was a challenge that had to be accepted. It was hard and the temptation to give up was present. The two pilots even thought at times they would never make it ­ but they did! 

II. The challenges of living a dedicated Christian life often appear too great, the way is too tough, and the prospects of crossing the finish line are hopeless. But God is confident about our strength and as long as our faith rests upon Him we will be strong enough to overcome. 

1. Be motivated with these three challenges of Philemon. 

a. Peacemaker 

b. Sensitive to God 

c. Faith that is practical 

2. Resolve that you will not live a "ho-hum" Christian life. 

3. The clear challenge ­ love God! Show this love in all you do!

Copyright 1998 by John L. Kachelman, Jr. may be reproducted for non-commercial purposes at no cost to others.

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