Onesimus and Deuteronomy

Thursday, March 30, 2017

I beseech thee for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my bonds: Which in time past was to thee unprofitable, but now profitable to thee and to me: Whom I have sent again: thou therefore receive him, that is, mine own bowels:…. For perhaps he therefore departed for a season, that thou shouldest receive him for ever; Not now as a servant, but above a servant, a brother beloved, specially to me, but how much more unto thee, both in the flesh, and in the Lord? (Philemon 10-12,15,16 KJV).

What did the Mosaic Law demand?

Moses declared to Israel in Deuteronomy chapter 23: “[15] Thou shalt not deliver unto his master the servant which is escaped from his master unto thee: [16] He shall dwell with thee, even among you, in that place which he shall choose in one of thy gates, where it liketh him best: thou shalt not oppress him.” The Mosaic Law could not be clearer: under no circumstances was the escaped servant to be returned to his master. Yet, as today’s Scripture bears out, the Apostle Paul sent runaway slave Onesimus back to owner Philemon. Why did Paul not follow Moses?

Due to an undisclosed wrongdoing, Onesimus ran away from Philemon’s house in Colosse. While Paul was imprisoned at Rome hundreds of miles away, Onesimus showed up there and Paul shared the Gospel of Grace with him. Onesimus trusted Jesus Christ as his personal Saviour and thus joined the family of God. Paul sent Onesimus back to Philemon, Onesimus carrying a special message—the Bible Book we now know as “Paul’s Epistle to Philemon.” In that little Book, the Apostle explained to Philemon the spiritual transformation of Onesimus.

As a former Pharisee and Jewish Law scholar (Acts 22:3; Philippians 3:5), Paul was very much aware of what Moses commanded. Still, the Law was not in operation. The Church the Body of Christ was under a whole new dispensation (set of divine rules). Grace would enable Philemon, no matter how badly he had been cheated, to accept Onesimus as an eternal “brother beloved” in Christ. By sending Onesimus back to Philemon, Paul afforded them both an opportunity to experience just how amazing (and unifying) God’s grace is! 🙂

Philemon and Onesimus

Sunday, April 17, 2016

“I beseech thee for my son Onesimus, which I have begotten in my bonds: Which in time past was to thee unprofitable, but now profitable to thee and to me” (Philemon 10,11 KJV).

The last epistle of Paul in the canon of Scripture is his very brief letter to Philemon. Much can be drawn from those few verses, but, in this present study, we will confine our attention to one aspect, to learn a lesson in our own Christian lives. Philemon was a saved man. His slave, Onesimus, was lost, having not trusted Christ until he met Paul. We wonder, did Philemon ever witness to Onesimus?

After the book of Acts, near the end of Paul’s ministry, the Apostle was imprisoned (under house arrest) in Rome for two years (Acts 28:30,31). During this time, he wrote the epistles of Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon. While he was in bonds in Rome, he met a runaway slave named Onesimus. Onesimus was from Colosse (cf. Colossians 4:9), where there was a local grace church. Onesimus’ master was Philemon. Philemon was a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, for Paul referred to him as such throughout that short epistle that bears his name. Strangely, Onesimus was an unsaved man when he met the Apostle Paul. Did Philemon ever bother to share the Gospel of Grace with his employee, Onesimus? Maybe not.

Once, a lady told me that, after she was saved, she asked a family member who had been saved for years, “I was on my way to hell, so why did you never share the Gospel with me?” The relative replied, “I do not know!” Unfortunately, Christians oftentimes overlook those closest to them. Parents, children, siblings, in-laws, spouses, cousins, aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews, neighbors, friends, classmates, and coworkers are people who we can reach. There are people in the world that only we can reach with the Gospel. We have extra-close relationships with them, and they will rarely, if ever, discuss intimate (religious) topics with others. Let us be mindful to take advantage of those special relationships. Souls are on the line!