Paul's Letter to Brother Philemon Volume 6
by Clifford Tate
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Paul makes a Humble Request to Philemon for Onesimus Part 3
Philemon 1:13-15 Whom I would have retained with me, that in thy stead he might have ministered unto me in the bonds of the Gospel: But without thy mind would I do nothing; that thy benefit should not be as it were of necessity, but willingly. For perhaps he therefore departed for a season, that thou shouldest receive him for ever; KJV Note: MKJV = Modern King James Version
It was always like the Apostle Paul to try and do things in there proper order and things that our Lord, Master, and Savior Jesus Christ would want him to do and that would please Him. Here we have a situation that maybe small or even insignificant to most people, but not to the Apostle Paul, for he knew that this man Onesimus did not belong with him any longer, yet he wanted to and was tempted to keep him there in Rome with him to minister the Gospel of Christ there as we see with these very next words in this letter, "Whom I would have retained with me, that in thy stead he might have ministered unto me in the bonds of the Gospel:" (Philemon 1:13) (KJV). Paul desired to have Onesimus remain there in Rome with him, but he knew that sending him back to Philemon would be the right thing to do, especially since now Onesimus has received Christ as Lord and Savior. Paul also knew that if Philemon himself were there in Rome, that he would help Paul in the minstering of the Gospel there, just as now Onesimus was doing instead. Onesimus had become such a beloved and faithful brother to the Apostle Paul that he wanted him to continue there that he would grow even more in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18). Here is what Adam Clarke had to say of this verse, "As Philemon was one of Paul's converts, he became thereby his spiritual father, and had a right to his services when in need. This was a strong argument, not only to induce Philemon to forgive his servant, but to send him back to the Apostle, that he might minister to him in his master's stead."
Next Paul shows his high regard and respect for Brother Philemon, even though as an Apostle he could have just commanded Philemon to receive back his slave Onesimus or commanded him to agree with Onesimus staying in Rome with Paul, but as we see with these next words Paul was courteous to Philemon for Christ sake showing his esteem and approval of such a wonderful loving saint of God, "But without thy mind would I do nothing; that thy benefit should not be as it were of necessity, but willingly." (Philemon 1:14) (KJV). Paul never wanted to command this fellow brother 'in Christ' to do that which was the right thing to do, but instead he wanted him to respond to the will of God and voluntarily do that which was right for him and for Paul as well. Here is what Adam Clarke had to say concerning this verse, "If the Apostle had kept Onesimus in his service, and written to Philemon to forgive him and permit him to stay, to this it is probable he would have agreed; but the benefit thus conceded might have lost much of its real worth by the consideration that, had he been at Colosse, Philemon would not have sent him to Rome; but, being there and in the Apostle's service, he could not with propriety order him home: thus the benefit to the Apostle would have appeared to have been of necessity. The Apostle, therefore, by sending him back again, gave Philemon the opportunity to do all as if self-moved to it. This is a very delicate touch."
Paul declares to Brother Philemon that this act of revolt, resistance, and rebellion on the part of Onesimus when he stole from Philemon and ran away was the very thing that brought him to an encounter with the Living Christ and saved him for time and eternity, "For perhaps he therefore departed for a season, that thou shouldest receive him for ever;" (Philemon 1:15) (KJV). The English word 'perhaps' is an interesting choice of words used here by the Apostle Paul and it means that he is uncertain of God's purpose or plan in Onesimus harsh rebellion, but he is certain of Onesimus present and his future here and in heaven, this word is translated by the Greek word tacha meaning by chance or peradventure or possibly or maybe. In other words, Paul knows that he cannot begin to understand the MIND of God and will only use his small human mind to wonder, as it is written by this same Apostle Paul to the Church @ Rome with these words speaking of the MIND of God, "O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out! For who has known the MIND of the Lord, or who became His counselor? Or who first gave to Him, and it will be repaid to him? For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things; to Him be glory forever! Amen." (Romans 11:33-36) (MKJV).
Here is what Alexander MacLaren had to say of this verse (Philemon 1:15), "Not only so, but the word suggests that behind the slave's mutiny and flight there was another Will working, of which, in some sense, Onesimus was but the instrument He 'was parted' - not that he was not responsible for his flight, but that, through his act, which in the eyes of all concerned was wrong, Paul discerns as dimly visible a great Divine purpose. But he puts that as only a possibility: 'Perhaps he departed from thee.' He will not be too sure of what God means by such and such a thing, as some of us are wont to be, as if we had been sworn of God's privy council. 'Perhaps' is one of the hardest words for minds of a certain class to say; but in regard to all such subjects, and to many more, it is the motto of the wise man, and the shibboleth which sifts out the patient, modest lovers of truth from rash theorists and precipitate dogmatizers. Impatience of uncertainty is a moral fault which mars many an intellectual process; and its evil effects are nowhere more visible than in the field of theology. A humble 'perhaps' often grows into a 'verily, verily' - and a hasty, over-confident 'verily, verily,' often dwindles to a hesitating 'perhaps.' Let us not be in too great a hurry to make sure that we have the key of the cabinet where God keeps His purposes, but content ourselves with 'perhaps' when we are interpreting the often questionable ways of His providences, each of which has many meanings and many ends."
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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