Three Gifts

Bible Book: Philemon  1 : 17-25
Subject: Christmas; Gifts
[Editor's Note: Though this is not specifically a Christmas sermon, it deals with the picture of a sinner and an example of Jesus. Onesimus is a picture of the lost world, and Paul's attitude and work in redeeming Him to his master is a an example of exactly why Jesus came and what Jesus seeks to do with us and the Heavenly Father.]

You cannot help but see the spiritual typology (picture) in this small letter. Philemon is a picture of God the Father, Onesimus is a picture of a sinner, and Paul is a picture of Jesus. The Father has been wronged and the guilty must pay, but there is another that is willing to pay their debt.

History records another person in this story and his name is Tychicus (Col. 4:7). Paul states, that Tychicus, “…will tell you all the news about me.”

John 16:13-14, “However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you.”

That represents the shadow of the Book of Philemon, now let’s journey into the substance of the book. (Explain the story of this book)

I. Obedience Encouraged 17-19

Note the Gifts (Grace)

A. Reconciliation 17

“partner” – koinonia, to have in common; a partnership, fellowship in the same business. Let’s solve this problem together

“receive him” – (accept); v.12 tell him how also, “the way you treat Onesimus is the way you treat me.” Paul is saying, “he is to me as my own heart.”

Paul is acting as both a Mediator and an Advocate

1 Timothy 2:5, “For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus”

Mediator – priest, go-between, a bridge

1 John 2:1, “My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.”

Advocate – lawyer – attorney, speaks on my behalf

This passage serves as a beautiful illustration of what Jesus Christ has done for us as believers. God’s people are so identified with Jesus Christ that God receives us as He receives His Son. We are “accepted” (received) in the Beloved.

Ephesians 1:6-7, “to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.”

We cannot approach God with any merit of our own, but God must receive us when we come to Him “in Jesus Christ”

The word “receive” means to receive into one’s family circle. Imagine a slave entering his master’s family. Yet, imagine a guilty, hell-bound sinner entering God’s family.

Reconciliation puts two that are separated together and at peace.

Ephesians 2:14-18, “For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity. And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near. For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father.”

The key to reconciliation is Jesus Christ.

“as you would me” – this short, yet powerful phrase represents SUBSTITUTION.

Here Paul is attempting to put himself in Onesimus’ place, exactly what Jesus did for us.

B. Imputation 18-19

Note that Paul did not suggest that Philemon ignore Onesimus crimes and forget about the debt owed. Rather, Paul offered to pay the debt himself.

1. God’s Compassion 18

Is there any question as to whether Paul loves Onesimus?

Is there any question as to whether God loves you?

What is the Principle of Imputation? Love must pay a price. Love made a way. Grace is love that pays a price

G od’s

R iches

A t

C hrist’s

E xpense

An example is seen in the Good Samaritan. Luke 10:35, “On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, 'Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.'”

God in His holiness could not ignore the debt that we owed, for God Himself must be faithful to His own law. So, Jesus paid the debt for us.

Impute – to put it on account

When Jesus Christ died on the cross, my sins were put on His account and He was treated the way I should have been treated.

When I trusted Him as Lord and Savior, His righteousness was put on my account, and now God accepts me in Jesus Christ because of His righteousness.

2 Corinthians 5:21, “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

He is able to do this because of the Cross and One word

“It is finished!”

This word was placed over jail cells and stamped on debts in the first century.

Isaiah told the world of this truth 600 years before Calvary.

Isaiah 53:6 “All we like sheep have gone astray;

We have turned, every one, to his own way;

And the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.”

Isaiah 53:6 starts with all and ends with all; penal substitution

2. Man’s Comparison 19

Could Paul be saying to Philemon, “Put Onesimus’ debt on my account and then cancel it because you owe me an even greater debt.”

Onesimus owes Philemon a material debt

Philemon owes Paul an eternal debt

Paul had shared the gospel with Philemon and led him to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. That is a debt Philemon could never repay.

1 Corinthians 4:15, “For though you might have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel.”

II. Obedience Explained 20-21

A. Note The Picture Of Graciousness. 20

“Do for me what you do for others”

“joy” – benefit (profit), exercise your strength

B. Note The Picture Of Grace. 21

“Having confidence in your obedience”

3 John 4, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.”

“knowing that you will do even more than I say”

Grace can always expect more. Mercy – God did not give us what we deserved. Grace – God gave us what we did not deserve

III. Obedience Expected 22-25

22 This could serve as an encouragement to follow his instructions, in order to not be ashamed at Paul’s coming.

25 Grace would be sufficient to help Philemon do what was right along with all of the Colossians. It grants the ability to obey.

What a great story of Forgiveness. Forgiveness is quite a Gift! Stephen offered it. Acts 7:60, “Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lord, do not charge them with this sin.’ And when he had said this, he fell asleep.” Jesus offered it. Luke 23:34, “Then Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.’ And they divided His garments and cast lots.”

Sir Thomas More, Lord Chancellor of England under Henry VIII, spoke the following words to the judges who had unjustly condemned him to death: “As the blessed Apostle Paul…consented to the death of St. Stephen, and kept their clothes that stoned him to death, and yet be they now both twain holy saints in Heaven, and shall continue their friends forever, so I verily trust and shall therefore right heartily pray, that though your Lordships have now here in earth been judges to my condemnation, we may yet hereafter in Heaven merrily all meet together, to our everlasting salvation.”

Believers should be motivated to forgive by the knowledge that forgiveness brings joy (benefit) and blessings to other believers.