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!!!

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