Bible Topics
in the Christian Library
The Gospel of Practicality

The book of Philemon

John L. Kachelman, Jr. 


I. In 1889 there was discovered a piece of literature that contained a remarkable comment regarding behavior of Christians c.130 A.D. "Now the Christians, O king...They know and believe in God, the Maker of heaven and earth, in whom are all things and from whom are all things...They do not commit adultery or fornication, they do not bear false witness, they do not deny a deposit, nor covet what is not theirs; they honor father and mother; they do good to those who are their neighbors, and when they are judges the judge uprightly...and those who grieve them they comfort, and make them their friends; and they do good to their enemies; and their wives, O King, are pure as virgins and their daughters modest; and their men abstain from all unlawful wedlock and from all impurity, in the hope of recompense that is to come in another world; but as for their servants or handmaids, or their children, if they have any, they persuade them to become Christians for the love they have towards them; and when they have become so they call them without distinction brethren" (Texts And Studies; The apology of Aristides, Cambridge, 1891, p. 49). 

Do you see the point ­ Christianity for our brethren in 130 A.D. was for real! It was practical. It was just as useful on Tuesday AM as on Sunday AM. It was a life-style. It touched everything from worship, to family, to job, to pots and pans! To our brethren then there was just nothing more practical than the gospel. No mere intellectual faith divorced from practice! No mechanical rituals left in the dark shadows of a cathedral. No theological debates about issues of no concern. To them the gospel was real! 

II. The tiny book of Philemon provides an amazing insight to the lifestyle of the gospel's practicality. The basic message of Philemon is that of restoring peace between people ­ how much more practical can it get? 

1. Several observe that Philemon contains no eloquent doctrinal discussions (cf. John 1: Philip 2:5ff). The book deal with the nitty-gritty facts of Christianity. It applies the gospel to Tuesday AM! 

2. Philemon is a gem ­ tucked between Titus and Hebrews most pass over its single page and 25 verses. But it is a strong and lovely letter about how real Christianity is in day-to-day living. 

3. When you read Philemon you are forced to lay aside theological jargon and stuffy discussions. Here you come face-to-face with basic facts, simple terms, and practical application. The great doctrines of inspiration, the Godhead, the incarnation, and redemption are vital and must be understood ­ but Philemon shows us how to practice these in life and this is where the small book's value is found. 

4. If you really want to know what it means to be a Christian or Tuesday morning as well as on Sunday morning, the book of Philemon is for you! 

5. Consider the following which shows that the gospel of practicality must be practiced in our lives. 


I. From the Book of Philemon we are able to see that practical Christianity involves the following (9) living habits: 

A. Practical Christianity practices CHRISTIAN LOVE. 

1. Repeated throughout this book is an emphasis on love. 

2. There are at least three specifics regarding love: 

a. It ties us together in fellowship (1,2,12,16). Love is the unalterable tie that binds godly hearts together (Jn 13:35; Ro 12:15; Col 2:2). Such gives strength, joy, and solace. 

b. It edifies brethren (7-9). "Refreshed" lit. "Rested." The tired hearts of the poor and persecuted found a wonderful respite, cheer, and gladness in Philemon's presence (cf. 1 Sa 23:16: 1 Ths 5:11-14). 

c. It accepts unconditionally (17,22). "Accept" refers to a special interest and full acceptance, of on welcoming another. Brethren will take special interest in one another due to this quality. 

3. This 3-fold practice of love will no doubt mark brethren as followers of God. It requires effort and energy but it must be practiced! 

B. Practical Christianity practices SERVICE (9,14). 

1. The Upper Room revealed this critical aspect of Christianity (Lk 22:24-27). 

2. The Great Servant founded a Kingdom whose citizens were willing to assume the lowest positions of servants, whose power was to be found in humility, and whose success was to be measured not in the control of others but in the submission of self to others (Philip 2:3-8). 

3. Paul and Philemon practiced serving others and Christianity became real in their lives. 

C. Practical Christianity practices FORGIVENESS (17-19). 

1. Philemon had just rights to prosecute Onesimus to the fullest extent of the law. He had been wronged, embarrassed, and robbed. The very thought of the runaway slave must have stirred ill-feelings. 

2. But he was asked to forgive! And evidently his character was known to be forgiving (21). 

3. To forgive is to remember that we also suffer failings. Those who are aware of their personal faults know better than to be too hard on Onesimus! 

4. There is no practice more practical to Christianity that forgiveness! (Lk 23:34). 

D. Practical Christianity practices ASSEMBLING WITH BRETHREN (2). 

1. In Philemon's home the assembly of saints in worship provided the encouragement and acknowledgment of God that is vital (Hb 10:19-25). 

2. Assemblies help us to encourage and edify one another. They help us to study God's Holy Word. 

E. Practical Christianity practices PROVIDENCE (15). 

1. "For perhaps" ­ refers to God's plans and maneuvers of accomplishing His will on earth (Philip 1:12; 2:13). 

2. Christians ought to be aware that God's presence is in all aspects of life and His will should be considered. The practicality of the Christian faith is summed up in the concept of providence (Ac 21:14; Jas 4:15). 

3. A proper understanding of Providence will cause us to constantly thank God for His care and guidance. 

F. Practical Christianity practices RESPECT TOWARD ALL (11,16). 

1. Whether a slave or free man, Onesimus deserved respect s a human being (Ac 10:28,34). 

2. Pride, leading to prejudice and derogatory remarks about others is foreign to practical Christianity! (Phil 2:3). 

3. To believers ALL men are to be treated with respect and especially fellow saints (Gal 6:10). 

G. Practical Christianity practices EVANGELISM (6). 

1. Paul's prayer was that Philemon's faith be shared with other. Philemon was not to keep it to himself. Philemon possessed a "knowledge" of all spiritual blessings that obligated him to inform others about the wonderful spiritual blessings. 

2. The practical exercise of Christianity is to share our knowledge of Faith with others. How wonderful and effective it is to see saints practice this aspect of Christianity (Ac 8:4). 

H. Practical Christianity practices PRAYING (4,5). 

1. Central in any believer's faith is the practice of praying. Such feeds the soul and gains access to Heaven's Throne where answers are found. 

2. Far too few practice a habit of praying and not the reality of praying! Trite expressions, thoughtless phrases, and wandering thoughts will never provide the genuine joys of sincere praying! (Lk 18:1). 

I. Practical Christianity practices PEACEMAKING (10). 

1. You cannot get more practical than this! (Ep 2:14). 

2. Christians are to be ever alert for opportunities to create peace and terminate friction (mt 5:9). 

II. From these general observations I want to briefly focus on one vital fact ­ in order for Christianity to be profitable it mustbepracticed! (Mt. 23:3) 

A. God's gospel cannot be cloistered within our minds, it must be practiced! As eagerly as you practice it on Sunday AM you must practice it on Tuesday AM! This must be done if Christianity is to be a blessing to us!

B. How practical is your practice of Christianity? Suppose a man should sail all the boiling and blazing day in a dingy, round and round an old Dutch ship in the harbor, and the next day you should see him creeping up and down the masts and spars and examining the rigging, and you should ask him what he is doing, and he should answer, "I have heard that this ship is a dull sailer and I want to look at it and see." Could he ever find out in this way? No. Let him weigh anchor, and spread the canvass, and take the wind, and bear away, if he would know how she sails. So, if a Christian would learn his true state, let him not row round and round the hull and creep up and down the masts and spars of feelings; but let him spread the sails of resolution, and bear away on the ocean of duty. Then he should know whether he be a dull or fast sailor. 


I. One came out of the meetinghouse and met a passing friend who asked, "What, is the sermon done?" "Done," said the other, "no: it is ended but it is not done!" and such is the case with the gospel of practicality ­ it is ended, the message is completed but it is not done! 

II. Will you look and examine your practice of Faith? Is this sermon "done" in your life? 

The church grew stronger and won out over the other religions for a number of reasons: because of what the Christians believed and wrote down in the NT about Christ and the apostles; because of the way the Christians showed the power of the risen Christ in their midst. Those who formerly had forsaken their wives now lived with them faithfully. Those who had valued riches above all else now shared their goods. Those who had murdered and would not live with men of another tribe now prayed for their enemies. Earnings were placed in a common fund to care for the widows, the orphans, the aged, and the shipwrecked. Above all else the heathen were moved by the courage with which the Christians died for their faith. "Among us, " said one of the early Christians "You will find uneducated persons, workingmen, old women who are not able to explain in words the good of our teaching, but they show it in deeds. They do not make speeches but do good works. When struck, they do not strike again. When robbed, they do not go to law. They give to those who ask of them and love their neighbors as themselves." (The Church of Our Fathers, Roland H. Bainton, p. 26,27). 

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

Top of Page