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Lesson No. 57—Everyone Should Read and Study the Whole Bible.

LESSON THEME:—PHILEMON

Philemon 1:10-16.

  • KEY WORD—”BROTHER.”

  • KEY VERSEPhilemon 1:16.

  • KEY PHRASE—”UNPROFITABLE SINNERS MADE PROFITABLE.”

Home Readings.

This epistle has been called the most beautiful and most intensely human of all Paul’s letters.

For family altar read:—

WRITER—Paul.

DATE and PLACE of writing, same as Colossians, 62 A. D., during his first imprisonment at Rome.

TO WHOM written—Philemon. Philemon was a member of the church at Colesse, and was probably converted at Ephesus, during Paul’s three-year stay there. He was a man of wealth and celebrated for his hospitality for the church met at his house. It was customary in those days for people of means to own a number of slaves, and to keep less than ten was hardly possible for a man who wished to move in high society. APPHIA was the Christian wife of Philemon, and ARCHIPPUS, his son, and a fellow labourer with Paul in the gospel.

ABOUT WHOM WRITTEN—Onesimus. He was a slave of Philemon, and still a heathen when he robbed his master and ran off to Rome. There he came into touch with Paul, who was a prisoner in his own hired house. It is probable that at his master’s house, where the Christians met to worship he had often heard him speak of Paul to whom Philemon owed his conversion. This meeting of the runaway slave with the great apostle led to his conversion, Philemon 1:10, and he at once began to assist Paul in the work. The apostle would have gladly kept Onesimus with him, but as he could not do this without the knowledge and consent of Philemon, he sent Onesimus bath to his master. Paul also recommends Onesimus to the Church at Colosse as a “Faithful and beloved brother who is one of you.” This recommendation would be of great value at Colonic assuring the Christians there that

Onesimus was not now merely a heathen slave, but is Paul’s spiritual child.

PURPOSE—To show that the gospel has the power to win a thief and a runaway, and to soften the harsh relationship that of o13 existed between a master and his slaves.

GREAT FACTS:—

  1. Greeting.

  2. Faith and Kindness.

  3. Plea.

Great Facts I. The Apostle’s Greeting.

Philemon 1:1-3.

Paul begins this letter, as was his custom, with words of appreciation, calling his friends, “our dearly beloved, our fellow-labourer, our fellow-soldier.” He did this not from a desire to please or to say nice sounding things, but because he always recognized good in others, and had a heart full of love for them. The best way to secure the doing of further good is to give deserved praise for good already done.

Philemon, by throwing open his house for prayer and worship, sets us an example for today. When a church-house is not nearby, it is a very worthy thing for a man to make his house “a house of prayer.” House-to-house prayer meetings have done a vast amount of good, and the custom should not be allowed to pass away.

Great Facts II. Philemon’s Faith and Kindness.

Philemon 1:4-7.

Paul here thanks God for the faith which Philemon had toward the Lord Jesus, and for the love and kindness which he showed toward all the Lord’s people, and the apostle prays that Philemon’s faith may ever result in everything that is good and Christ-like.

LESSON—Faith in Christ is a saving grace, the very principle of the Christian life, and Of good works. This faith is manifested in love to fellow-Christians for these graces never exist separately, for those who love Christ must and will love those also who are begotten of Him, 1 John 5:1.

Great Facts III Paul’s Plea for the Runaway.

Philemon 1:8-21.

The apostle here claims to have authority to command Philemon in this matter, and yet for love’s sake, he, the grey-haired Paul now a prisoner for Christ’s sake, pleads for his new spiritual child Onesimus, the runaway slave, whom he is sending back, who once was of little service, not only to Philemon but to the apostle as well. He had become so dear to Paul that it was like tearing out his very heart to send him back, yet be would not keep him without Philemon’s consent. This temporary separation of the slave from his master was intended by God, that his master might have him back, forever, no longer as a slave, but as something better—a dearly beloved brother.

The apostle further pleads with Philemon to receive Onesimus back as he would receive him—Paul—and if the fugitive has caused any loss or owes anything, then charge it to Paul for he will repay it, although Paul will say nothing about Philemon owing his very self to him. Paul would gain something from Philemon because of his union with the Lord, and has confidence that he will do even more than is asked.

LESSON

  1. It must not be thought that because Paul returned a slave to his master that therefore, Christianity endorses slavery. The truth is, that the law as it then stood gave certain rights to Philemon, and an apostle would be the last of all men to violate the law. His mission was to set forth such truths as the fatherhood of God for believers, the sonship of Christ, and the brotherhood of man, so that masters would recognize their responsibility to God, and see that their Christian slaves were fellow-citizens of the household of God. As Christian nations have come to believe these Bible truths, slavery has been abolished. Notice that when Paul sent Onesimus back to Philemon, it was not as a slave to be punished for deserting, but as a dearly beloved Christian brother.

  2. As Paul found Onesimus wandering from his master’s house and his place of duty, so the Lord Jesus found us wandering from God, Luke 19:10. The story is told of a mother, who although she had eleven children buried in the little graveyard, wept not for the dead, but for a living son who had run away from home. As she sent a friend to find him, she said. “If you find my boy, sick, or in prison, or in want, do all you can for him and I will repay you.” She had the streets and alleys of a great city searched until she found him. If parents, “being evil,” are so moved to find their prodigals, how much more the Saviour who is all love?

  3. As Paul pleaded that all of the slave’s demerits be placed to his account, and all of Paul’s merits be placed to the slave’s account, so Christ has taken upon Himself all our sin and guilt, and in exchange has bestowed upon us His righteousness and His divine nature, 2 Peter 1:4. How happy we should be that Christ will pay all our debts, and so identify Himself with us that we all shall be received as Himself!

  4. As Philemon received Onesimus, so God will receive us and make us profitable. Grace changed a criminal, in this case, to a Christian brother, from unprofitable to profitable. How many of the world’s greatest characters were nobodies, lost amid a lost multitude, until Christ called them by name, put a new heart and a new spirit within them, and made them somebodies in the realm of noble service. Who would ever have heard of Peter, James and John if Christ had not made them profitable to the world? Augustine, Luther and Muller would have been Dust ordinary failures, common worldlings, but for the enriching grace of the Lord Jesus, which made some of the most valuable men who has ever lived. If our lives are not counting for as much as they should, let us give ourselves utterly to Him who magnifies and makes valuable every life laid upon the altar.

Questions on the Lesson.

  1. Give the key word and key verse.

  2. Who was the writer?

  3. Give date and place of writing.

  4. Tell about Philemon.

  5. Who was Apphia and Archippus?

  6. Tell about Onesimus.

  7. What the purpose of the letter?

  8. Which is the best way to secure the doing of further good?

  9. In what did Philemon set an example?

  10. Show that faith and love must exist together.

  11. Describe Paul’s plea for the runaway.

  12. What obligation did Paul take upon himself toward slavery?

  13. How has Bible truths abolished slavery?

  14. Show that Jesus has ever been seeking wanderers.

  15. What does Jesus take upon Himself and bestow on us?

  16. Show that grace makes men profitable.

  17. Name some men made profitable.

  18. Have you read the Home Readings?

  19. Name the great facts.

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