The shortest of Paul’s letters was addressed to Philemon. In it he urged Philemon to welcome a man named Onesimus. In fact, Paul sent the letter with Onesimus who delivered it to Philemon in Colossae. The problem is that Onesimus was once a slave belonging to Philemon and to make matters worse Onesimus was a runaway slave who apparently stole property from Philemon before making his escape.
Onesimus (whose name means “useful”) joined with Paul while Paul was in prison in Rome. He proved to be quite “useful” to Paul and, in the process of spending time with Paul, gave his heart to Jesus. Paul had also led Philemon to Jesus and he wanted his brothers in Christ – Onesimus and Philemon – to transition from a slave-slave owner relationship to a relationship as brothers in Christ.
It was a significant request that Paul made of Philemon, considering how things had worked out in the past. Philemon would have been within his rights to beat his former slave, make him work even more to pay off his debt, or worse, take his life.
The thing is that God has the right as God to treat us according to our sins. We are deserving of death in the presence of a holy, righteous God. We have sinned and the payment for sin is death. And yet, God has paid our debt and forgiven our sins all through the work of Jesus. When we consider how we have been forgiven by God, we have no choice but to forgive those who have wronged us.
This Bible study was presented to the Agape Life Bible Study Class of the First Baptist Church in Brenham, Texas, on Sunday, November 13, 2022. It is part of a series of Bible study sessions from The Gospel Project – a Bible study curriculum developed by Lifeway Christian Resources. Handouts with slide content can be requested at: firstname.lastname@example.org .
Handouts are also available at: fromthebackporch.org .
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