Philemon 1 – Overcome Imprisonment
Tuesday, 7th March 2023
Rev Daniel Xi An Poon
Section One V1-7 Love and Trust in the Prison
Philemon records the letter Paul wrote to Philemon for Onesimus, who was a salve. Even though Paul himself was imprisoned, but he was able to show love and wrote a letter for Onesimus. A lot of time we also feel that we are imprisoned, by our marriage, by our work, by this world… so how can we overcome imprisonment? Paul did not complain or feel sorry for himself when he was imprisoned, he did not backslide, but his love for God continued to grow.
V1-3 ‘Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, to Philemon our beloved friend and fellow labourer, to the beloved Apphia, Archippus our fellow soldier, and to the church in your house: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.’ Paul knew why he was imprisoned, but he was not discouraged, he also knew it was not his problem but the work of Satan. It’s easy for us to feel discouraged and having self-condemnation when we come across difficulties. We must learn from Paul, to see our identity in God, and to release grace and peace from Jesus Christ.
Paul had the love and trust in God, he believed that he was free even though he was imprisoned, he knew Jesus’ love and he had the assurance of his identity and authority. Can we see love when we feel imprisoned? Can we see hope in our situations, or are we just sitting there and doing nothing? Paul did not wait until he was released from the prison, but he showed us that the environment should never stop us serving God. What is our situation right now? Do we want a breakthrough? Do we see God’s love with us?
V4-6 ‘I thank my God, making mention of you always in my prayers, hearing of your love and faith which you have toward the Lord Jesus and toward all the saints, that the sharing of your faith may become effective by the acknowledgment of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus.’ Paul continued to pray for others, he never stopped praying no matter what situation he was in. Furthermore, Paul showed love and cared for his disciples and the churches he established. He was giving thanks and having joy because of the love and faith of the churches.
Can we also continue to pray for others even though we are in a difficult situation? The environment should not stop us to care for others and to love, God has already given us love, peace and joy. Why do we complain? Because we don’t believe in what God is doing, we don’t love God, and we don’t see what God’s doing is for our own good.
Section Two V8-16 Build Up in the Prison
V8-11 ‘Therefore, though I might be very bold in Christ to command you what is fitting, yet for love’s sake I rather appeal to you—being such a one as Paul, the aged, and now also a prisoner of Jesus Christ— I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten while in my chains, who once was unprofitable to you, but now is profitable to you and to me.’ Paul is writing for Onesimus, but this is not the biggest purpose of Paul writing this letter. Paul wrote this letter for Philemon, so he could see Paul, Timothy, and Epaphras, who were imprisoned, but were set free. Paul wanted to build up Philemon, he wanted to encourage him, and release the fragrance of the Tree of Life to him.
Paul knew he had the authority in Christ to give direct instructions to Philemon, but in love, Paul was willing to lay down his authority to command, and he appealed to Philemon. Paul humbled himself, denied himself, not for himself, but for Onesimus. Paul called Onesimus the son he had begotten while in chains, he was a prisoner, yet he could bear spiritual children, he was showing Philemon that no matter what, Paul was able to share the Gospel and to influence life no matter what. Nothing should be our excuse to live out the life God has given to us, He has given us the Great Commission, to disciple the nation. But do we hold onto this authority? Do we allow the living water of Jesus to flow into us, flow through us, and to others around us? God has sent people to come to us, He has placed us in environment, where we can make an influence. But do we see it like how Paul saw it?
Paul saw Onesimus was profitable to him. Do we also see the people we are caring, we are discipling, and we are sharing Gospel to are the people profitable to us? Or do we see them as burdens? Paul was talking to Philemon that even though Onesimus was his slave, he was not saved by the Gospel, but when Onesimus came to Paul, he was reborn and renewed. In the past, Onesimus ran away from his master, he was untrustworthy and he was unreliable. But Paul used a new eyesight to see Onesimus. Do we also use a new eyesight to look at ourselves? Our old self has died, we are no longer the same, therefore stop having the self-condemnation and self-accusation, believe that we have reborn and been renewed in Jesus. Stop living in the prison, stop being rebellious, and start believing that God loves us.
V12-13 ‘I am sending him back. You therefore receive him, that is, my own heart, whom I wished to keep with me, that on your behalf he might minister to me in my chains for the gospel.’ Paul wanted to keep Onesimus with him, because he could do a lot of things for Paul and serve Paul in the prison, but instead, he sent Onesimus back to Philemon, because of his love for Philemon. Paul did not seek his own benefit, but always look out for those he cared for and those he loved. Paul was building up Philemon, he was in lacking physically, but all he was thinking was to benefit others. If we are being judgemental and criticising others, then we will also judge and criticise ourselves. God is the only Judge, let us change out mindset, take up the authority, and live out the true identity God has given to us. Then we can build up others and disciple them.
Section Three V17-25 Send Out in the Prison
Paul did not forget his identity and his authority, he was able to overcome imprisonment, he was also able to send people out even though he was in chains. Paul knew he was not living in the environment, he was not living in his emotions, but he was living in the eternity, he was living in the Kingdom of God. Overcoming imprisonment does not mean to leave our environment or leave our relationship, but to be faithful in God’s appointment, His Great Commission, and His love.
腓利门书 1 – 超越监牢