Philemon and Onesimus

Sunday, April 17, 2016

“I beseech thee for my son Onesimus, which I have begotten in my bonds: Which in time past was to thee unprofitable, but now profitable to thee and to me” (Philemon 10,11 KJV).

The last epistle of Paul in the canon of Scripture is his very brief letter to Philemon. Much can be drawn from those few verses, but, in this present study, we will confine our attention to one aspect, to learn a lesson in our own Christian lives. Philemon was a saved man. His slave, Onesimus, was lost, having not trusted Christ until he met Paul. We wonder, did Philemon ever witness to Onesimus?

After the book of Acts, near the end of Paul’s ministry, the Apostle was imprisoned (under house arrest) in Rome for two years (Acts 28:30,31). During this time, he wrote the epistles of Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon. While he was in bonds in Rome, he met a runaway slave named Onesimus. Onesimus was from Colosse (cf. Colossians 4:9), where there was a local grace church. Onesimus’ master was Philemon. Philemon was a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, for Paul referred to him as such throughout that short epistle that bears his name. Strangely, Onesimus was an unsaved man when he met the Apostle Paul. Did Philemon ever bother to share the Gospel of Grace with his employee, Onesimus? Maybe not.

Once, a lady told me that, after she was saved, she asked a family member who had been saved for years, “I was on my way to hell, so why did you never share the Gospel with me?” The relative replied, “I do not know!” Unfortunately, Christians oftentimes overlook those closest to them. Parents, children, siblings, in-laws, spouses, cousins, aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews, neighbors, friends, classmates, and coworkers are people who we can reach. There are people in the world that only we can reach with the Gospel. We have extra-close relationships with them, and they will rarely, if ever, discuss intimate (religious) topics with others. Let us be mindful to take advantage of those special relationships. Souls are on the line!

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