PHILEMON - Christ`s Life within develops Compassion.
This is a personal letter from Paul to Philemon. In the letter Paul intercedes with Philemon (who was an outstanding member of the church at Colosse), for a runaway slave by the name of Onesimus, who had stolen from his master and made his way to Rome.
In Rome he had been brought face to face with Paul, and had found Christ as his Saviour. Onesimus became endeared to the Apostle by his devoted service. But Paul knew that Onesimus was Philomen`s lawful slave and so could not think of keeping him permanently.
`...whom I wished to keep with me, that on your behalf he might minister to me in my chains for the gospel, but without your consent I wanted to do nothing, that your good deed might not be as it were by compulsion, but voluntary.` (Phil. 13 & 14)
So Paul sends him home and pleads with Philemon to take him back. He makes himself personally responsible for the debts that Onesimus owes, asking that they be charged to his (Paul`s) account. He wished to save the runaway slave from the severe and cruel punishment he deserved according to Roman law. Paul feels that the slave must not encounter his out raged master alone.
`If you then count me as a partner, receive him as you would me. But if he has wronged you or owes you anything, put that on my account.` (Phil. 17 & 18)
The sacrifice of personal rights for the sake of others is a Christ like characteristic which shines brightly in this case as emanating from the discomforts of a prison. It illustrates the Lord`s work on behalf of the sinner. Paul does not minimize the sin, but he pleads for forgiveness for the sinner on the ground of his own merit in the eyes of Philemon, his friend.
This is the message of the gospel. For Christ bore our sins in His own body on the tree. This is what Christ does - takes the sinner`s place.
`Therefore, though I might be very bold in Christ to command you to do what is fitting, yet for love`s sake I rather appeal to you - being such a person as Paul, the aged, and now a prisoner of Jesus Christ - I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten while in my chains.` (Phil. 8 - 10)
Oneismus, whose name means `profitable` had robbed his master, but now after becoming a believer, will be returned now `profitable.` Christ makes a man profitable to others.