It was a big ask. Paul knew it was a big ask. A slave owner had no obligation to go easy on an AWOL slave. And a slave who had deserted his master had no expectation that returning to his master would be without great consequence. But still Paul asked, “Receive him as you would receive me.” And Onesimus the slave returned, not just as a repentant bondservant, but now “as a beloved brother.” And Philemon, the man of means and a fellow worker in the gospel with Paul, took Onesimus back into his home . . . because of every good thing in us.
. . . and I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ.
(Philemon 1:6 ESV)
Philemon had the opportunity to play out the gospel.
That he was already a new creation in Christ was evident to all. He had opened his home as a meeting place for the local band of believers (1:2b). He had brought great joy to the apostle Paul as his reputation for loving God’s people had made it’s way even to Rome. Paul had “derived much joy and comfort” as he heard repeatedly that “the hearts of the saints had been refreshed” through Philemon’s hospitality and generosity (1:7). And so, the ask, “Refresh my heart in Christ” (1:20b).
Paul got to play the Christ part as he identified himself fully with the fallen slave and would willingly take upon himself his debt, just as Christ did ours. “Receive him as you would receive me,” Pauls asks of Philemon, “If he has wronged you at all, or owes you anything, charge that to my account” (1:17b-18).
Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us
(Galatians 3:13a ESV)
And Philemon too would have opportunity to play the Christ part as he takes again this rebellious slave into his home. Though once he was lost, now he was found. But now as much more than just a worker to be commanded but instead as a “beloved brother” in the Lord (1:16).
“No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends . . .” ~ Jesus
(John 15:15a ESV)
And all this gospel “play acting” made possible through, and motivated by, every good thing in us.
Beyond our souls having been rescued from destruction, as believers we have been infused with the very nature of Christ. His righteousness credited to our account, His authority given us through His word, His likeness being formed in us by the indwelling Spirit. If we could see inside all that Christ has wrought within us through His saving work we would cry out, “I will praise You! For not only have I been fearfully and wonderfully made, but I have been fearfully and wonderfully re-made, as well!”
And the Savior’s desire for us, as was Paul’s desire for Philemon, is that what is in us would flow out from us. That the sharing of our faith, in word and in deed, would testify and bring to light the new person we have become because of the finished work of the cross through the power that raised Christ from the dead. And this, for the sake of Christ.
Every good thing in us. There by His grace. There for His glory.
Let it shine! Let it shine!