The Prisoner of God's Love

Bible Book: Philemon 
Subject: Trust; Love; Servant


The theme of this sermon is, “Paul was subject to a higher power than Rome.” The text comes from Philemon 1, 9. Philemon 1:1 (KJV) “Paul, a prisoner of Jesus Christ, and Timothy our brother, unto Philemon our dearly beloved, and fellowlabourer,1:9 (KJV) Yet for love's sake I rather beseech thee, being such an one as Paul the aged, and now also a prisoner of Jesus Christ.”

In this passage we find that the apostle Paul refuses to esteem himself as an Apostle or a noted preacher, but establishes himself as a prisoner of Jesus Christ.

1) The Lowliness of this Prisoner

a) Void of notable identity

b) Void of needful publicity

2) The Loveliness of this Prisoner

a) Valued servant of Christ

b) Valued saint of Christ

I. The Perplexing Location of Paul - His Chains

In this section we find that Paul is writing from his imprisonment in the city of Rome. As we know Paul was imprisoned several times during his notable walk for Jesus Christ. In the coming sermons we will find out that Paul is writing a letter or a “Post Card from Prison” to his dear friend Philemon, who lived in Colossae. In most cases we would find that the location of would have become a stumbling block, but not so with this wonderful man.

The chains that had been placed upon the wrist and the ankles of Paul only represent his standing with the Roman government. Paul did not consider himself to be a roman prisoner, but a prisoner of Jesus Christ. The first sighting of his chains would have been perplexing to many people, but Paul refused to allow the chains to hinder his ministry. The chains were not obstacles to him but he allowed them to become chains of opportunity.

A. The Harsh Outcome of His Testimony

It must be understood that not all is hunky dory in the life of a sold out Christian. In serving God we will often face persecution and perplexity. In looking at his chains we notice that Paul had suffered much in standing for the name of Jesus Christ. The outcome of his committed stand was harsh and tough upon his personal life. The road that Paul traveled was not comfy or cushy, it was harsh.

1. Imprisoned Because of His Manifested Life

The prisoner of Christ allowed his light to shine brightly and boldly and in doing so he would pay a stiff penalty. Jesus allowed for this coming persecution, he told his followers that if they hated him; they would also hate us.

2. Imprisoned Because of His Magnified Love

In having a fervent love for Jesus, the aging preacher was heaping harsh suffering upon himself. It is amazing love that can allow a man to participate in the kind of suffering that Paul faced from day to day.

B. The Heavenly Outlook of His Testimony

The common viewer would have assumed that Paul had a disdain for the government of Rome, this was absolutely untrue. Paul desired to go to Rome, even against the Holy Spirit warning him of great affliction and persecution; on to Rome he journeyed. Paul looked a bit higher than the roman soldier that had chained him up, he allowed that his chains were of higher and nobler intent.

The shallow Christian fails to understand that we can rise above our circumstances; we can flourish in the fiery flames of persecution. The aging apostle had learned to look higher than the problem; higher than the persecution, the higher look is the look that points us to servant hood and obedience in the fire. In looking higher Paul embraced his chains, for they assured him of a higher and nobler allegiance, one that was beautiful and becoming to heaven, look higher.

1. His Chains Were Not Dreadful But Spiritual

The old apostle embraced his chains and his challenge, is this not profitable for you and me? One can dread life or one can embrace life, the higher look will embrace it with sincerity and submission. Paul alluded to his chains as spiritual chains; ones that had him hooked up to his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

2. His Chains Were Not Disgraceful But Supernal

In looking at his chains, Paul refused to consider them as disgraceful, but as supernal. I do not believe that Paul had a death wish, or the desire to become a martyr, but he refused to run from his chains. One can allow his situation to destroy him or he can look higher and see that his suffering is supernal and approved of God.

II. The Promising Liberation Of Paul - His Confidence

The prisoner of Rome may have been chained and watched constantly but in reality he was as free as one could ever be. The preacher purposely associated his standing to that of being a bond slave in the name of his Lord. Paul demonstrated much confidence that he was liberated and extremely free in Jesus Christ.

A. Looked Past The Chains - Unseen Connection

In looking past his chains Paul had heavenly insight that all was okay. The unseen connection in his life would have troubling and disturbing for the unsaved passerby, but not so with a born again believer. The believer can rest be assured that we have an unseen connection with God, through his son, by the Holy Spirit. The connection is not for the human eye to see nor for the natural man to feel, it is a spiritual trust and a scriptural truth, “we are” connected!

1. The Upward Look That Soothed His Heart

The days may have slowly passed by in that cold harsh prison, but something stirred the spirit inside of the preacher and he had supernatural assurance that soothed his soul. The upward look is one that rallies our being to look higher and to place all of our trust upon the one that saved us.

2. The Upward Love That Stirred His Heart

The love of God had abundantly appeared unto Paul and this love allowed him to be stirred within his very own soul. It is one thing for us to love those that we see, but another for us to display an upward love for one that we have never seen. The upward love of Paul was one that challenged him to continue his chosen path.

B. Looked Past The Circumstances - Unfathomable Confession

It would have been amazing to watch as Paul lifted his chains and looked past them and past his circumstances, them declared that he was a prisoner of Christ. I believe this to be one of the most tender and cherished profession of ones faith to be found in the bible. It was a wonderful declaration; I am not a prisoner of the roman government, but of Jesus Christ. I suppose that at first the roman soldier thought Paul to be insane, but over time he may have realize the truth of his testimony and his trust.

1. Ignored The Obstacle Of Imprisonment

I believe that Paul refused to have a disdain for his imprisonment. It would have been easy for him to sulk and to quit upon his God. Paul had passion and where there is passion absolutely nothing is impossible or improbable. It is the foolish man that expects life to be simple and soft, this is not so, never has been nor ever will it be. Life is tough but we must look beyond those things that would hinder us.

2. Invited the Opportunity of Imprisonment

The onlooker would ridicule Paul of being a vile prisoner, but Paul would point to the heavens and declare that his chains represented a higher one than Caesar, and then he would openly and powerfully share the gospel. The prison only allowed him to speak to a different audience, but he spoke anyway. The prison limited his movement, but he preached anyway. The prison revoked his liberty, but he preached on and in doing so led multitudes to the Lord.

III. The Puzzling Limitation Of Paul - His Challenge

The curious onlooker would notice that this prisoner was different than others; he refused to allow his situation to overpower his mind and mission. Paul had a momentous challenge in staying the course, in fulfilling his purpose, but he would.

A. The Reduction Of His Movement

“A Hard Prison Held Him”

It was easy task that Paul faced in his prison life. The chains of prison would have limited his movement. The average preacher may have quit in the horrible harsh conditions. The roman government may have sought that Paul would become a spectacle for other religious fanatics. The hope would have been that this one would flounder, but he rather flourished.

1. Physical Limitation

The physical limitations would have been burdensome, due to his chains and the constant presence of his assigned guard. The roman guard would have witnessed his every movement, hear his every word.

2. Geographical Limitation

Paul was a missionary for the infant church; his work was needful and beneficial for the nurturing and growth of the growing organization. Now he could not travel from town to town, this would have been so burdensome to Paul. The preacher may have been limited in his personal travel, but not by his penmanship.

B. The Reach Of His Ministry

“A Higher Power Helped Him”

God had chosen to bless the ministry of Paul regardless of his limitations; obstacles only present opportunities in the work of God. The aging old preacher relied upon God to send people his way and send them he did.

1. Puzzling Power Of His Preaching

The prison preacher still found time to preach from day to day. The chains only offered him the passion to preach about his enslavement to Jesus Christ.

2. Puzzling Power Of His Pen

In this harsh horrible prison, God moved upon his chosen vessel to pen several letters that would be placed in the canon of scriptures. The pen was a mighty tool in his hand and God used it to nurture his church and to challenge his people.


In this lesson we have witnessed that circumstances should not dictate or limit how we serve our Lord and Savior. Paul shows us a wonderful example of how to become a prisoner for Jesus.