As promised in today's service, here are a few questions designed to help you dig a bit deeper into the message from the book of Philemon. Feel free to print these out and work through them on your own time.
The final question asks, "Are you the same person today that you were a year ago?" We'd love to hear from you; leave a comment below and share any thoughts you might have.
Paul’s Letter to Philemon
Philemon was a prominent Christian, probably a member of the church at Colossae, and the owner of a slave named Onesimus. This slave had run away from his master, and then somehow he had come in contact with Paul, who was then in prison. Through Paul, Onesimus became a Christian. Paul’s letter to Philemon is an appeal to Philemon to be reconciled to his slave, whom Paul is sending back to him, and to welcome him not only as a forgiven slave but as a Christian brother.
“Once a _____, always a _____!”
Have you ever used the above expression, or heard someone say, “Once a thief, always a thief?” In the book of Philemon, we read an interesting story involving three people. Each one had an encounter with Jesus and they were never the same. You can fill in the blanks above a number of ways, and we find that whatever we write, we are confirming how society labels people by what they have done, not by who they are.
Person #1: Philemon
Philemon was a businessman, slave owner, and a respected member of his community when he encountered Christ. He became a very prominent Christian who even had the church at Colossae meeting at his house.
Person #2: Paul
Paul was a member of the Jewish high priesthood whose main objective was to persecute Christians and stop the growth of the New Testament church. He not only persecuted them, but put to death those people for their religious beliefs. On his way to Damascus he encountered Jesus Christ (Acts 9). Christ changed his mind, his heart, his soul, and even his name, from Saul to Paul. Paul went on to become the very first missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ. He also became famous as the writer of over 2/3 of the New Testament in the Bible.
Person #3: Onesimus
Onesimus was a slave. Philemon was his master, and once Onesimus had run away from Colossae and found his way to Rome, he was now charged with stealing his master’s property…himself! He was thrown into prison, where he encountered Paul. After spending much time with Paul, Onesimus learned about Christ and became a new creature.
When the time came for Onesimus to be released from prison and returned to Philemon, his master, Paul wrote a letter on his behalf. In the letter he told Philemon that Onesimus had accepted Christ, and he asked Philemon to accept Onesimus back, not only as his slave, but as his Christian brother.
Think about it!
1. Have you ever been labeled a thief, a liar, or anything else based on something you did? If so, how did you feel about it? How did you overcome it?
2. Is there anyone in your life (family, friend, co-worker, church-goer, etc.) whom you have labeled, and they are now dealing with the consequences of that labeling? If so, how do you feel about that, now that you’ve read the story of Philemon and Onesimus? What will you do about it?
This week as you read Philemon, ask the Lord to show you how to overcome being labeled, and help those that you have labeled to find who they are in Christ.
If you’ve encountered Christ, it should show by the love you have for one another and your own story on how Christ took you from what you were to what you are today. Are you the same person today that you were a year ago?