Monday, October 26, 2020

Onesimus & Philemon

 Prelude to the Message:


(1)  Ancient World::  slavery was practiced by EVERY ancient culture that we have records of.  (was common and accepted)

(2)  Among the Jews OR According to the Mosaic Law you could become a slave by...
      (a)  being captured as an enemy in war
      (b)  punishment for criminal conduct
      (c)  voluntary indenturement  ("debt slavery") - sold 'self into slavery.  Had to be released in the 7th. year an and to be provided for by the owner.   Deut. 15:12-18

Slaves were to be treated humanely  - Ex. 23:9 - "you know what it's like!"
They were to spend the Sabbath in rest (Ex. 20:8-11)

On one hand you could punish your slave, However, if you knocked out and eye, or a tooth, the slave was to be set free!  If punished and dies... the offender was punished!!!   Ex. 21:20-21

According to Ex. 21:16 was a capital offense to kidnap and sell a person as a slave!  (contrast with slave trade of America)
If you married a captive woman and then divorced her, cannot sell!!  She was to be set free! because owner dishonored her.  Were NO sex slaves in Hebrew law because no sex outside of marriage!!!

Also... cannot sell a female slave - she can be redeemed by her family!  The Law allowed protection for a runaway slave!  Deut. 23:15-16

(3)  Slavery among Romans  estimated 35% in Italy were slaves, 20% across the empire were slaves.  Treatment ranged from hard labor and abuse (mines, military, arena - gladiators) to near members of the household.. Inequality was an accepted Norm!  Freedom was not a general right, but a select privilege!!  (Acts 22:26-28)  Not until the Christian message came along was this changed.  It ended slavery.
Slaves had no legal rights.
However, often (not always) were laws for treatment and a slave could purchase his freedom, get citizenship, public office!  1 Emperor (Basil) was born a slave - 2 Emperors were sons of a former slave  (Pertinax and Diocletion)

Slavery in Rome was NOT a Racial issue.  Not necessarily menial labor.   Many were doctors, accountants, tutors, etc.   On the street, slaves looked like anyone else!!

(4)  New Testament/Christian View
On one hand, is never explicitly condemned! 
However, was never condoned (never offered up as part of God's will)

Masters were to treat slaves kindly - Eph. 6:5-9
Slaves were to serve masters well - Col. 3:2-4:1

Paul encourages slaves to seek freedom - 1 Cor. 7:21, but not to run away!!  Example:  Philemon, Onesimus
(question:  would Paul's view differ in pre-civil war south?)

Note:  1 Tim. 1:8-11 - "slave traders" - unlawful, sinful.  God does not FAVOR free OR slave!  Gal. 3:28

In the early church, slaves had total equal rights!!  membership, leadership, office holding!!  Example:  deacon.  Was no distinction between slave and free people.

The Purpose of the church was not to abolish slavery!  It was to convert owners which led to changed hearts which led to changed world!!  Hence, evangelical Christians led abolition movements!!  Christian is too seldom recognized as THE PRIMARY FACTOR in abolition.  Christianity changed hearts and minds and established "Imago Dei" - mindset  (in the image of God)

Must distinguish between people identified as Christian and practiced/condoned slavery... AND the New Testament Christian view of slavery!!!

NOW ... the Story of Onesimus and Philemon.

Are 3 Primary Players
       Paul - an Apostle, in Roman prison (probably 1st imprisonment)
       Onesimus - runaway slave from Colosse
       Philemon - Onesimus' master, prominent Christian, close friend of Paul

The Story Onesismus flees to Rome, meets Paul somehow who is under house arrest, is soundly converted, returns home with a letter from Paul to Philemon (accompanied by Tychicus)

The Letter - Phil. 1-25

Notes:  (1)  this is not doctrinal, instructive
Is a personal letter ot a personal friend concerning personal matter.  Therefore,  we see Christianity at work!  Practical ... in home, work place.

(2)  This short (obscure) letter has had tremendous impact on the world .. concerning the issue of slavery!!  Then.... slavery = Universal, accepted, Now... very little slavery in the world.  Great public outcry against it.

(3)  What about the 3 players
      Paul (probably) released, re-imprisoned, executed
      Onesimus?  (according to tradition) - was freed, became a Bishop, was martyred for his faith
      Philemon?  (according to tradition) he and wife (Apphia) both martyred for their faith.

3 Important Themes (illustrated) in Philemon:  

#1.  Forgiveness - vs. 17 & 18
Definition = erasing (eliminating) a debt (example - Christ and the Christian)
We are called to (A)  Accept forgiveness and (B) practice forgiveness. 
"forgive as Christ has forgiven you"

#2.  The Transforming Power of Christ (or conversion to Christ)
      Examples:  Paul = persecutor to champion promoter,
                       Philemon - pagan to Christina leader, influencer
                       Onesimus - rebel runaway to Bishop
All three martyred for their faith.

See not only their personal transformation .. but also the transformation of many others ... because of them!!!

#3.  The Providence of God - (way God provides) - vs. 15 - 16
Is it a co-incidence that Onesimus flees 1,000 miles to hide and comes in contact with Paul ... is convertedreturns? etc.   Or, is this the hand of God.  Rom. 8:28

NOTE:  God is faithful to Provide  Nevertheless, you must decide whether you will accept His provision!!!

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Typical Christian Profile (cont.)

Last week = 'Typical Christian Profile' = wish I had more confidence" (ie:  in my faith, in my daily walk)

We cited some of the Christian giants (Abraham, Moses, Elijah, Daniel, etc.) and said "I wish I had their confidence!"

Clarify:  What we MEAN is ... "I wish I FELT more confident" (in my faith, in my walk)
What we ASSUME si ... that they Felt confident! (that they didn't have the same doubts and concerns that we have)

BUT - because the giants Acted in faith doesn't necessarily mean they FELT CONFIDENT!! 


MOSES - while conversing with God Audibly!  at the burning bush... Ex. 3:11, 13, 4:1, 10, 13 - He didn't feel confident at all.  Question:  'who am I?', 'I can't do that.'  He has no confidence n himself!  

ELIJAH - immediately After all the miracles on Mt. Carmel - He lost his confidence.  1 Kings. 19:1-5 

DAVID - after going from shepherd to King - Psm. 13:1-3 (lament)

JEREMIAH - Jer. 15:10, 17-18, 20:1-2, 7, 8 - he's ready to quit.

PAUL - who'd seen the Risen Christ, received countless revelations, worked many miracles... 1 Cor. 2:1-3 - came in fear and trembling.

POINT:  We (rightly) see these men as Giants of the Faith ... BUT .. that assessment is based on the ACTIONS (not their feelings!)  Compare:  Heb. 11 "roll call of Faith" - cited for deeds (not feelings)

There is a difference in exuding confidence and having internal confidence.

Consider the feelings of Noah, Shadrach, Abednigo, Meschach, Daniel before lion's den, Abraham when offering Isaac, disciples feeding 5000.
We assume they felt confident, because they acted confident.  

POINT:  We are called to live by faith.... with confidence in God, Christ
But... we are flawed beings ... with a natural tendency to trust what we can SEE!! - (hence the 5 senses and experiential reasoning)

So,, you will sometimes doubt, struggle, question, Resist!! - You are not alone.  This is also Universal.


(1)  Feelings matter - (a)  we're created feeling beings.
                                 (b)  this is more than physical!! - emotional, psycological - examples:  love, depression, anger, etc.                 (c)  (we assume) this = part of "in His Image"

But  (2)  Feelings are not Lord!!  We're not to obey feelings!
So... when feeligns align with God's revealed will... go with them!!
But.. when feelings contrary to God's revealed will .. ignore, stifle, combat them

Feelings can be incredibly powerful adn persistent .. hence

(3)  True faith is sometimes acting in spite of or contrary to your feelings.  - example:  Luke 5:1-7

(4)  Acting in faith (outwardly) results in the Appearance of  (inner) confidence.    We see the outward response, we don't see the inner turmoil, but it's there!!!   1 Cor. 10:13

Christian life begins with trusting Jesus as your SAVIOR.
Christian life continues with trusting Jesus as your LORD

You won't get it Perfect!! (Rom. 3:23)

BUT .. you can still DO IT!!  Compare in marriage, parenting, your job.  Won't always get it perfect, but can do it!

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Spiritual Profile

 Years ago we did a "Spiritual Profile" survey

Typical response = I'm saved, baptized, seldom doubt salvation

HOWEVER - typically NOT satisfied with Spiritual WALK and Spiritual GROWTH   

On a scale of 1 to 10, PART A = where I Am - average about a 7
                                  PART B = where I should be - average between a 3 & 5

In Spiritual life, tend to be haunted by FEELINGS of:
        1)  guilt - due to constant failures - in spite of good desires and good intentions - (not living up)

        2) unworthiness - secretly feel unfit to be called "Christian", much less teacher, leader, role model (even to children)

       3)  inadequacy - ie;  unable to consistently live the Christian life (beyond superficial appearances like church attendance, public prayer.)  Are talking about really living the Christian life on a daily basis.

This Christian feels like they don't ... pray as they should, witness as they should, have a consistent quiet time with God

Consequently .. resulting in (1)  more guilt,  (2)  more feelings of unworthiness,  (3) less confidence in self as a Christian!!

This 'typical Christian' wishes he/she had:
           (1)  more Bible knowledge (better understanding)
          (2) more discernment of God's will in everyday matters.  Not talking about cardinal sins like thou shalt not murder, commit adultery, etc.

He/she would like to experience more JOY, Excitement and Passion in their Christian walk ... but in fact their spiritual life is generally routine (hum drum))

This person says "I think I could do better IF ... (1) could only stay focused on Christ  (work, family get in the way)  and (2) be consistent in my walk  (not up and down all the time)

Biggest Problem = simply TRUSTING God more fully!  ie:  surrendering to His known will, practicing submission in practical, daily basis, really believing beyond with just the head!  (but believing with heart)

Question:  Do you know this person?
                 Are you this person?

I.)  This is typical Christian profile  (Almost the Universal Christian Profile!!)

Because of (1) our human nature - Rom. 3:23 - we come short, we fail, results in these feelings

                  (2)  our dual nature - Rom. 7:15, 18-19, 22-23 - as a Christina we have this tension

                  (3) our fallen world - Rom. 8:19-21 - the world is affected by sin.  Rom. 7:21
Life in a fallen world = Roller Coaster of Events and FEELINGS  This is Universal!!   Compare the Biblical giants - Abraham, Moses, Elijah, Jeremiah, Paul

Whether are Christian or non-Christian, life is still a Roller Coaster - 1 Cor. 10:13  Still going to have ups and downs   This is the bad news.  The good news is not alone.  Everybody has problems.

BUT  II)  God is not through with you! - Phil. 1:6
Illustration:  John 21:15-17 - lead up to this - Peter's denial.  He failed miserably."
How did Peter feel?  ashamed, terrible"
Hoe did Christ deal with him? - He recognized the failure, but wanted him to come on board, lead, represent

On one hand, must take Sin seriously"
However, must not let sin cripple, crush you!!  Example:  Elijah (post Carmel/Horeb) 1 Kings 19:15 a
Elijah failed miserably but God gave him a break and put him back to work.

AND III.  Your situation will improve - ie:  IF you continue on!!!
Clarifylife doesn't change .. but you can change!!
Illustration:  compare a green ship's captain with a seasoned Ship's captain.  The seas, storms, ship don't change.  But - the Captain does.  Much more confident, capable to go through these after doing it for a number of years.
Eph. 4:11-15 - text = blown about by doctrines, but broader application = blown about by life's storms!!!


(1)  The Christian life begins with a commitment to Christ.  

(2)  That commitment will be constantly tried, tested, challenged.  by your human nature, the fallen world, life's unpredictable fluctuations, Satan's onslaughts, etc.

(3)  You will (often) falter, fail, fall!  Consolation?  So will everyone else!!!  (But, you are aware of your feelings, not theirs)

(4)  Your options then are to GIVE UP or GET UP! - no third option.

(5)  God's will is that you get up!

(6) The growth you desire is found in getting up and going on!  The more you stay down, the slower you will grow and develop.  God will use you as you continue to get up and go on!

Closing Scripture:  Gal. 6:7-9

Monday, October 5, 2020

Closing Letter and Salutations

 Paul's letter - TO the church at Colosse FROM Roman prison

On one hand, Paul may have never visited this church!!
However, he was well acquainted with some of their people

So..... he closes this letter with greetings and personal salutations.

List of the people mentioned in this final closing:

Tychicus - bearer of this letter, the letter to Ephesus, and one to Laodecian church (which was never found) , as well as a letter to Philemon  ( Eph. 6:21 )
Was a traveling companion, trusted assistant.  Paul calls him "dear brother, faithful minister, fellow servant"

Onesimus - runaway slave, from Colosse, NOW a Christian!  (see more in letter to Philemon)

Aristarchus - traveling companion, "fellow prisoner" - arrested in the riot at Ephesus (Acts 19:29)

(John) Mark - author of Book of Mark - traveled with Paul and endeared himself to Peter - 1 Pet. 5:13

Justus - mentioned only here

Epaphras - likely founder of the church at Colosse - Col. 1:7 "one of you", "always wrestling in prayer for you"

Luke - "dear friend and physician" - Author of books of Luke and Acts

Nympha - (man or woman depends on accent mark) traditionally a woman who hosts a "house church" at Colosse

Archippus = from Colosse and "a worker for the Lord"

Demas - here and in Philemon 24, BUT "2 Tim. 4:9-10 - abandoned Paul and possibly the faith

(the stenographer who wrote this down as Paul dictated!)


Closing TEXT - Col. 4:7-18 

NOTE Paul's epistles = Personal letters to a church - Rome, Galatia, Ephesus, Colosse, Corinth, ..
                                                              to an individual - Timothy, Titus, Philemon

SO .. on one hand are specifics that may not apply to you and me.
But the principles behind the specifics WILL apply!!

Example:  Col. 4:16 - Laodecian letter applies to Colosse (and vice versa), or, 2 Tim. 1:6, 8 - Paul's advice to Timothy applies to you and I as well! - We should not be ashamed to testify about our Lord.

POINT = (1) Read letters in their historical context (setting)
 then         (2) look for personal application
                (3)  let the Holy Spirit speak to you through the text!!


#1.  Poor Circumstances cannot stop a good ministry.
Example = Paul = Roman Prison, 1,000 miles away, still ministering!! (in fact, FROM Prison - Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Philemon, 2 letters to Timothy.   Circumstances may change drastically, but don't stop ministry.
Compare:  John Bunyan (late 1600s, 12 years in prison, wrote "Pilgrim's Progress",  Joni Erikson, YoYo Collins 

#2.  We're better together - (popular phrase today)
Example:  Paul - Apostle, preacher, teacher, evangelist, church planter, etc.
Yet ... He worked as a team member!  (1 named in this book, 29 named in Romans)

Application:  "we're better together"!!  Sunday School, Congregation, Denomination
1 reason to be active part of local church!! - 2 things happen:  A)  the church is better  B)  you are better.

#3.  We Need One Another
Note:  Phil. 4:13 - "can do all things through Christ....."
Yet Paul gained comfort, courage, strength, support... from PEOPLE!!!  (fellow believers)
The 'One another's abound in the Scripture
Example:  2 Tim. 1:4

#4.  A primary part of any ministry is Encouragement
Example:  Paul  (a great theologian, etc.  ... was a constant Encourager!)
The Definition = Pour Courage into
The Need =  immense, all around us
The opportunity = nearly endless
The point = YOU CAN DO THIS!

#5.  A little person can make a big difference
Obviously not talking about Paul!!  But, we're not talking about eh other 10 people either!!
Last Verse - Col. 4:18  (compare with Rom. 16:22)
'The Unknown Stenographer' - who probably also wrote Ephesians adn Philemon!

Point:  A totally unknown ... quietly doing his/her part to assist .. has (in so doing) graced the world with immeasurably Scriptural riches!!!

So... for all the little people, the unknowns ... a closing scripture and prayer - 1 Cor. 15:58