in the Christian Library
John L. Kachelman, Jr.
I. "The Godfather" was a movie that introduced a phrase that soon became
a common part of American English. "I'm gonna make you an offer you can't
refuse!" The unspoken threat was that one dared not refuse or else tragic
consequences would follow. In the present text we find Paul trying to persuade
Philemon to make a decision to accept Onesimus back. There was an urgent
desire of Paul to prompt unity. He spoke to Philemon about developing unity
and in the argument made Philemon an offer that could not be refused!
II. There are 2 possible ways by which we can accomplish behavior change
1. Stern commands - obedience is gained because of a strict adherence
to the commands (8).
2. Strong appeals - obedience is gained because one's will has volunteered
to follow the command (9).
III. God has always worked with man by appealing to his will (Is 1:18,19;
Rv 3:5; 22:17; etc.). As Christ walked taught upon the earth, He usually
sought to move men's decisions by appeals to love rather than compulsion
(Jn 14:15; 15:14-15). [In our text Paul follows suit uses a strong appeal
to persuade Philemon to accept Onesimus back as a brother in Christ - "wherefore"
- because of past demonstrations of his love (4-7) Paul now asks Philemon
to take Onesimus back.]
1. The issue was unity (fellowship) between brothers it was disrupted
needed to be restored. Bitter feelings emotions hindered the beauty of
fellowship. There was an urgent need to appeal for the immediate correction
of his problem.
2. Paul had the right to issue an undeniable command (Ro 1:1; 1 Co 5:3;
9:1; 2 Co 10:13; Gal 1:1; etc.), he waived this authority humbly requested
to change. It is a charming plea for Philemon to act of the highest level
of brotherhood (Jn 13:34); to accept from the heart not with only outward
3. Examine the paragraph observe how Paul's appeal to Philemon is an
appeal for unity which Philemon just cannot refuse!
I. The appeal upon 5 basic points.
A. Let all do what is "proper" (8).
1. "Proper" lit an ethic of action that presents the ideal; what is
fitting; one's duty; becoming to moral obligation.
2. Paul appeals to Philemon to look at his obligation as a Christian
to do what is proper.
B. Let "love" govern all things (9a).
1. Here is the fertile soil of healthy unity a love that controls
governs (Col 3:14). A principle of Christian action.
2. Philemon was to trust Onesimus with love. This grand sacred principle
is the standard by which the Master rules his slaves. It would abolish
the harsh hard attitudes that destroy unity (Col 3:13; 1 Co 13:13-14:1a).
3. "For love's sake" - such would eliminate divisions guarantee unity!
It would inspire to greater acceptance.
C. Let a consistent lifestyle back up the appeal (9b).
1. Paul could appeal for unity between Philemon Onesimus because of
his manner of living. He pled with Philemon as brother to brother.
a. "Aged" - his years had been spent in the hardest labors of spreading
the gospel he had gained a level of maturity that yielded respect.
b. "Prisoner " - he was a captive. Following the commands of Christ
could not possibly cost Philemon as much as it had Paul! (Ep 6:20: Col
2. Here was an appeal from one in prison one who understood the
marvelous greatness of "love" for a runaway slave; one who had every "right"
to be bitter resentful; but he urged love!
3. Whatever Philemon said about the appeal he could not fault Paul because
D. Let your concern for "others" dominate your thoughts (10).
1. "My child" a tender phrase referring to the fact Paul had converted
Onesimus; earnest lovingly.
2. The thoughts of Paul were of consideration kindness for Onesimus.
Onesimus was poor, ignorant, hated, repugnant because of past deeds status.
It may have startled Philemon to hear that his slave had obeyed the gospel.
But If he was truly concerned about the soul of another he would admit
that Christianity knows nothing of hopeless cases if there is a willingness
to listen to the gospel.
3. Previously Paul had been a bigot, self-righteous, exclusive in thinking
about unity with God's people he thought no Gentile was acceptable.
Such an attitude built walls so unity could not exist! But now he speaks
of a Gentile as "my child" the marvelous change in attitude was an
appeal to Philemon to likewise change!
E.. Let others know of positive results (11).
1. Paul wanted Philemon to know that Onesimus had truly changed. [Phrygian
slaves were infamous for laziness they were often called "Useful" ("Onesimus")
in hope of a change. Onesimus had failed to live up to his name until he
became a Christian] now he was transformed useful. (2 Co 5:17; Ro
2. Onesimus had run from Philemon only to run to Jesus what he once
was, he was no longer! (Cf. John Mark Col 4:10; 2 Ti 4:11).
3. Philemon was asked to consider this changed "Onesimus" accept him
he would prove the change!
III. The appeal applied to the church today.
Note: These apply to all relations where unity is hindered!
A. The Lord's church needs to hear this appeal of Paul for unity peace
among believers. Consider how each of the 5 points apply to us...
1. We need to conduct ourselves toward brethren in ways that are "proper."
Certain attitudes are essential we should be ever alert to look for understand
what is the proper course of action then do it. Is it "proper" to encourage,
receive, support? If so, let's do it! When differences arise act proper!
2. We need to yield to the attitude of "love" in dealing with brethren
we will not find unity destroyed (Col 3:12-14). "For love's sake"
3. We need to live a lifestyle that will help us appeal to others to
join in unity spread harmony (Ep 4:22-32).
4. We need to focus our concern on "others" around us less on "Self."
When we become concerned with helping others we will accomplish much for
unity (Philip 2:4).
5. We should point out the positive changes in others. Too many are
unwilling to forget the past recognize that in Christ we are "new" - "Once
a thief always a thief!" Not necessarily true with Onesimus!
B. The strong appeal for unity among brethren must not miss its application
to the present church. How are YOU responding to the appeal to establish
maintain unity brotherly love? 3 ways to respond...
1. Are you ignoring Or refusing this appeal? The ostrich has wings but
never uses them and some people have God appealing to them to establish
maintain unity but never acknowledges such!
2. Are you accepting it grudgingly? A small girl was in the car with
her father refused to sit down put on her seatbelt. "If you do not sit
down now, you are in trouble!" The little girl sat down put it on. A few
minutes later she said "I'm still standing in my mind."
3. Are you accepting it happily? (Philemon 21).
I. The prospect of unity with all brethren of a like precious faith
is God's great dream (Jn 17:20-23). Yet this is often hindered. We need
to listen to Paul's appeal it is truly an offer we cannot refuse!
May we all respond in a positive way to contribute to peace harmony of
the brotherhood (Hb 13:1).
II. A loving decision must be invited, not compelled. Let all realize
how much we need to obey the appeal of Paul maintain unity the consequences
of failing to do so are just too great. Obedience to God's will must be
demonstrated. If a boy at school is told to do math and he chooses to do
writing, the correctness of his writing will not save him from censure.
We must obey whether we see the reason or not.
III. Let all see the urgency to respond to God's dream of unity. By
looking at the 5 basic points noted by Paul, we, as Philemon, will see
an offer we cannot refuse!
Copyright 1998 by John
L. Kachelman, Jr. may be reproducted for non-commercial purposes
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