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Monday: From Slave to Son — 9 Comments

  1. The lesson on Philemon struck me fairly early in my career as a teacher. Believe it or not, in spite of being a science teacher, I also had to teach Bible, a task I felt unsuited for and definitely untrained. The textbook back then was not the most inspiring and I endeavoured to make it a little more interesting than just learning texts and reciting them (Pretty much the order of the day back then.) The book of Philemon was one of the books we were supposed to study. I asked my students to translate the book into a more modern situation. Wow, when you have 30 students taking an old letter and applying it to the modern world, you come up with some amazing insights.

    The texts that stuck with me and changed my way of thinking about teaching are:

    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 1:15,16

    Translation for me: …not now as a student but above a student, a brother teacher …

    The idea that a student was a fellow teacher (or that I was a fellow student) changed the perception of what teaching was all about. No longer did I see me as somehow superior to my students, but rather working together on a common goal.
    Philemon is about relationships and how we should regard ourselves when we think we are masters in knowledge, Christian understanding, employment, marriage. We are not as masters but peers.

    Amen!(39)
    • Onesimus, a pagan slave who had wronged his master, Philemon, . . . had escaped to Rome. In the kindness of his heart, Paul sought to relieve the poverty and distress of the wretched fugitive and then endeavored to shed the light of truth into his darkened mind. Onesimus listened to the words of life, confessed his sins, and was converted to the faith of Christ. . . . Paul . . . counseled him to return without delay to Philemon, beg his forgiveness, and plan for the future. . . . It was not the apostle’s work to overturn arbitrarily or suddenly the established order of society. To attempt this would be to prevent the success of the gospel. But he taught principles which struck at the very foundation of slavery and which, if carried into effect, would surely undermine the whole system. . . . When converted, the slave became a member of the body of Christ, and as such was to be loved and treated as a brother, a fellow heir with his master to the blessings of God and the privileges of the gospel.—Conflict and Courage, p. 350.

      Amen!(8)
      • Happy Sabbath Stanley. Great find, giving us insight of Onesimus and Philemon. May I add another principle. “Paul might have urged upon Philemon his duty as a Christian; but he chose rather the language of entreaty.” Acts of Apostles page 457.2. This language of entreaty is also found in Philemon. Philemon 1:8-9. And we see Paul’s tactful words in the preceding verses.

        Amen!(0)
  2. Today's lesson asks "What important principles about restored relationships can we find here?"

    Phil 8,9,14: Paul chose to use appeal rather than commanding/compulsion as his mode and method or interaction with Philemon.

    Phil 18: Paul made provision for acknowledgement and address of anything Philemon perceived as having been 'wronged'. Paul didn't bypass or dismiss any aggrievement.

    Phil 21: Paul was confident that genuine, willing (as opposed to forced) compliance would be the natural outcome of this mode and method because of the state of Philemon's heart (v 4,5).

    Principles:

    * where persons in disagreement are each individually anchored in self-renouncing love as the basis for their life and living, appeal and acknowledgement of wrong is the most effectual basis for emergence of genuine compliance/unity.

    * where one or more persons in disagreement are not individually anchored in self-renouncing love as the basis for life and living, use of commanding/compulsion will not result in genuine compliance/unity - though it may result in 'uniformity' under sufferance.

    Amen!(20)
  3. All times I read Philemon I see in Onesmus, a troubled "me"; a runaway from God for many years. Though I had been baptized so many years ago in 1985, I found myself lost in the world all the way from 1989 to 2015. I had become a slave to excuses, pride and the world. God then worked out His redemption plan, using my Wife and Children, who started attending Church. It was through them (who I would escort to church every Sabbath, and return to my world) that I got back to church and felt restored to God again. Like Onesmus, I for no reason but through Grace, was brought back to the "fold" by intervention from the Lord using my family. And when I read this below, I see how God restored my relationship with Him:

    "So if you consider me your partner, receive him as you would receive me. If he has wronged you at all, or owes you anything, charge that to my account. I, Paul, write this with my own hand: I will repay it—to say nothing of your owing me even your own self. Yes, brother, I want some benefit from you in the Lord. Refresh my heart in Christ." Philemon 1:17-20

    Philemon is one really unique story of mending fences. As Christians, what can we do to restore our brothers or sisters who have been enveloped by the World? We could pray for them as a start, but let us not forget them. Pray for them to be received back as "Sons of God", because we all were once "Slaves of Sin"; and like Paul, Jesus intervened for a restoration from a broken relationship with God.

    Amen!(31)
    • Thank you for sharing this. It made perfect sense to me and opened further my understanding of this letter.

      Amen!(3)
  4. The unity of the gospel is kept by the love of Christ. Christ is the center of it all. Without Him, the gospel does not exist. Understanding and practicing Jesus is to keep the unity!

    Amen!(8)
  5. Unity in Christ Jesus cause changes in the world and specifically human hearts, so that the gospel spreads far and wide. amen

    Amen!(3)
  6. I appreciated this lesson study today. I saw that like Stanley said, pride is a major issue in reconciliation to God on our part. But it is also a major obstacle we need to overcome to restore relationships. We need to live a debt-free life. We can let go of other people's debts to us if we choose to. Even if they don't deserve it in our own eyes. With God's help we can forgive.

    Amen!(8)

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