Paul's Letter to Brother Philemon Volume 5
by Clifford Tate
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Paul makes a Humble Request to Philemon for Onesimus Part 2
Philemon 1:11-12 Which in time past was to thee unprofitable, but now profitable to thee and to me: Whom I have sent again: thou therefore receive him, that is, mine own bowels: KJV
Paul had now requested that Philemon receive back to himself his runaway slave Onesimus, not just as his slave once again, but now also as his very brother in our Lord, Master, and Savior Jesus Christ. Philemon loved our Lord Jesus, but he was wronged very severely by Onesimus, so it is Paul's desire now to remove any doubt or reservation from his mind, therefore, he continues his plea or humble request with these next words, "Which in time past was to thee unprofitable, but now profitable to thee and to me:" (Philemon 1:11) (KJV). Onesimus was a thief who stole from his master Philemon and then ran away from him with his things. The English word Paul uses here 'unprofitable' is translated by the Greek word achreÌ„stos (used this one time only in the New Testament) meaning (as a negative particle) inefficient, that is, (by implication) detrimental: - unprofitable. In other words, before Onesimus's conversion to Christ he was of no benefit spiritually to Brother Philemon, he was then a hurt to him who caused him damage and loss, but now that he has received the Lord Jesus Christ, Paul wants him to know and understand that he (Onesimus) has become (by the power of the Holy Spirit) a profit or benefit spiritually to the Apostle Paul in Rome and will likewise be the same to Philemon upon his return to him.
Here is what Alexander MacLaren had to say of this verse, "Paul pleads with Philemon to take back his worthless servant, and assures him that he will find Onesimus helpful now. Christ does not need to be besought to welcome His runaway good-for-nothings, however unprofitable they have been. That Divine charity of His forgives all things, and 'hopes all things' of the worst, and can fulfil its own hope in the most degraded. With bright, unfaltering confidence in His own power He fronts the most evil, sure that He can cleanse; and that, no matter what the past has been. His power can overcome all defects of character, education, or surroundings, can set free from all moral disadvantages adhering to men’s station, class, or calling, can break the entail of sin. The worst needs no intercessor to sway that tender heart of our great Master whom we may dimly see shadowed in the very name of 'Philemon,' which means one who is loving or kindly. Whoever confesses to him that he has 'been an unprofitable servant,' will be welcomed to His heart, made pure and good by the Divine Spirit breathing new life into him, will be trained by Christ for all joyful toil as His slave, and yet His freedman and friend; and at last each once fugitive and unprofitable Onesimus will hear the 'Well done, good and faithful servant."
Philemon most likely receives this letter from Onesimus as Paul had sent him back to Philemon with this plea in hand as he declares with these next words, "Whom I have sent again: thou therefore receive him, that is, mine own bowels:" (Philemon 1:12) (KJV). Paul has seen the transformation in Brother Onesimus and wants Philemon to give him a new start, a fresh start as the new creation 'in Christ' that he now is (2 Corinthians 5:17). Although Philemon loves our Lord Jesus and all those who belong to Him, he still needs to see for himself the fruit of change in the life of the man, however, Paul knowing this aims to reassure Philemon even more with these words at the end of this verse 'mine own bowels', meaning this man that I now love as much as my own soul or as much as a Mother would love the child growing in her womb.
Here is what Alexander Maclaren had to say of this verse, "Not many years ago the conscience of England was stirred because the Government of the day sent out a circular instructing captains of men-of-war, on the decks of which fugitive slaves sought asylum, to restore them to their 'owners.' Here an Apostle does the same thing - seems to side with the oppressor, and to drive the oppressed from the sole refuge left him, the horns of the very altar. More extraordinary still, here is the fugitive voluntarily going back, traveling all the weary way from Rome to Colossae in order to put his neck once more beneath the yoke. Both men were acting from Christian motives, and thought that they were doing a piece of plain Christian duty. Then does Christianity sanction slavery ? Certainly not; its principles cut it up by the roots. A Gospel, of which the starting-point is that all men stand on the same level, as loved by the one Lord, and redeemed by the One Cross, can have no place for such an institution. A religion which attaches the highest importance to man's awful prerogative of freedom, because it insists on every man's individual responsibility to God, can keep no terms with a system which turns men into chattels (property). Therefore Christianity cannot but regard slavery as sin against God, and as treason towards man. The principles of the Gospel worked into the conscience of a nation destroy slavery. Historically it is true that as Christianity has grown slavery has withered. But the New Testament never directly condemns it, and by regulating the conduct of Christian masters, and recognizing the obligations of Christian slaves, seems to contemplate its continuance, and to be deaf to the sighing of the captives."
If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ and His amazing healing power, pray this from your heart to the Lord Jesus Christ (you speaking directly to Him), Dear Lord Jesus, I confess to You that I am a sinner and I need Your forgiveness. I believe You shed Your Blood and died for my sins. I believe that You rose from the dead proving that You alone are God. I repent of my sins. I want to turn from my sins. I ask You Dear Lord Jesus to come into my heart and take control of my life. I want You to be my Lord, Savior, and my God. Amen...
Sincerely in Christ,
Clifford D. Tate, Sr.
Author of “Silent Assassins of the Soul - Are you Broken by Pornography and Masturbation? You can be Restored by the Lord Jesus Christ and brought into Deliverance, Freedom, and Victory! A Guide for Men and Women in the Enemy’s Crosshairs” e-book available now @ Amazon Kindle, @ Apple I Bookstore for IPod, Barnes and Noble for Nook, Reader Store for Sony Reade, Kobo, Copia, Gardners, Baker and Taylor, and eBookPie…
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