The Plea Of Christian Forgiveness

Title: The Plea Of Christian Forgiveness

Bible Book: Philemon 1 : 8-10

Author: Donald Cantrell

Subject: Forgiveness; Philemon; Christian Living



Philemon 1:8-10 (KJV), “Wherefore, though I might be much bold in Christ to enjoin thee that which is convenient, 9 Yet for love's sake I rather beseech thee, being such an one as Paul the aged, and now also a prisoner of Jesus Christ. 10 I beseech thee for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my bonds.”

In this passage we delve into the dark matter of forgiveness and the Christian. We often think of forgiveness as an option but dear friend that is not the case at all, it is not!

Forgiveness is not an Option

a) Forgiveness is not a matter of discussion
b) Forgiveness is not a matter of discretion

Forgiveness is an Opportunity

a) It is an act of liberation
b) It is an act of love

I. The Incarceration of Paul

“Consider his Frailty & Desire”

Paul tells us that he is aging in body and time may be running out for his earthly ministry. The preacher had been imprisoned because the religious crowd wanted to see his demise and his destruction. The foes of Paul eagerly watched him and tried to entrap him. The prisoner of Jesus Christ is in the process of informing Philemon of his enormous request, one of total forgiveness for Onesimus.

A. The Age of Paul - His Consideration

The apostle had an earthly desire to keep Onesimus with him, but realized that it was more becoming for him to send him back to Philemon. Paul was facing much difficulty with his aging body and his imprisonment, it would have been beneficial for him to keep Onesimus, but Paul knew this would be appealing to see Philemon welcome his runaway slave back into the fold.

B. The Accomplishment of Paul - His Convert

In his daily duties around the prison of Rome Paul had encountered the fleeing slave Onesimus. The outcome of this meeting was the wonderful salvation of Onesimus. The slave was now one of his sons in the faith as was his good friend Philemon. Paul refused to allow his imprisonment to hinder his preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ, in doing so Onesimus became a marvelous believer and disciple.

1. A Free Man Came To Paul Bound

The fact of the matter is that even though Onesimus had flee the coop and seemingly was free, he realized that deep within his spirit something was not right. In his wanderings around Rome he encountered the preaching’s of Paul. In hearing the words of Paul something strange moved on his inward spirit. In his freedom he realized that he was more bound than one could have imagined.

2. A Bound Man Left Paul Free

Upon receiving Jesus as his Lord and master, Onesimus was persuaded to return to Colossae and present himself to Philemon. In doing this he had hoped to find forgiveness and reconciliation. In heading back to Colossae Onesimus now could identify with the apostle Paul, he also was a slave or prisoner of Jesus Christ. The slave was heading back to Colossae to resume his life as a slave, but inwardly he realized that he was freer than any man could hope for.

C. The Appeal of Paul - His Concern

Paul hoped that Philemon would accept his new Christian brother and find the inner power to freely and fully forgive him. The preacher has full intent to persuade Philemon in this matter of forgiveness.

1. See Him Pleading For Forgiveness

The words that were used denote one that is begging or very emotional on behalf of someone else.

Paul had formed a mighty love for his new convert and wanted to utilize all of his tools to acquire his forgiveness.

2. See Him Pressing For Forgiveness

Paul presses the point with Philemon, in declaring that he could have kept Onesimus in Rome, but he would not hide the fact that he knew where Onesimus rightfully belonged to. The issue at hand is that he pressed firmly and faithfully for the forgiveness of his helper, Onesimus.

II. The Indiscretion of Onesimus

“Consider his Flight and Desertion”

The actual name Onesimus means “profitable or useful” but that actually was not the case when he was back in Colossae in slavery. We will delve into more about the flight of Onesimus in later sermons, but nevertheless he took flight and ran. The slave had abandoned his post and it seemed as if Philemon would never see him again. Onesimus would have been classified as AWOL and list as a criminal.

A. The Lowly Occupation of Onesimus - Slavery

It was not difficult for one to understand the thoughts of this slave. In those days most slaves were treated worse than animals. It was not a life that one would willingly choose for ones self. It was a menial post and occupation.

B. The Likely Migration of Onesimus - Separation

If we could have peaked into the mind of this slave we would have found his focus on one thing, his chance to slip off into the dark night. The chance came and Onesimus plunged into the life of being a deserter and a criminal, for he possibly stole from Philemon as he took has chance and headed for the city of Rome. In Rome he could fit quietly and anonymously into the large crowds. The day came and he took it, there would be no going back to face the punishment of desertion.

C. The Lovely Conversion of Onesimus - Salvation

In his travels up and down the streets of Rome he was compelled to listen to a prisoner speak about being absolutely free, how could this be? Onesimus would have had keen interest in listening to someone talk about being free. As Onesimus looked at his wrist he saw no chains, but he did not feel free, but the prisoner was bound and he spoke of full freedom. I dare say that this compelled the slave to inquire further and in doing so he got gloriously saved.

III. The Invitation of Philemon

“Consider his Feelings & Dilemma”

The letter that was placed into the hands of Philemon may have made him feel uncomfortable. Of course he was a Christian but did he treat his slaves as a Christian should treat others. I wonder how he handled Onesimus the moment he saw him, did he immediately place him in confinement, was beating the next step?

I have wondered how this one moment may have not only challenged Philemon, but I believe that it would possibly change him. In his presence was the slave that had betrayed him and deserted him, this slave may have stolen from him. Philemon may have lost a good deal of money at the expense of Onesimus.

It may be that we will be put to the test concerning this matter of reconciliation and forgiveness. The day we got saved we forfeited our rights in the matter of forgiveness; it really is not an option. In lif  we will be challenged when it comes to people that have done us wrong. It does not matter if we are right or wrong, it does matter that we fully and freely extend Christian forgiveness. I believe that this is the foundational teaching that one should take away from this study of Philemon. The Christian is expected to forgive daily, regardless of the difficulty.

The lesson on forgiveness was taught to us on the cross of Calvary, for at Calvary we see forgiveness extended and offered regardless of the outcome. The greatest freedom that one can receive is the freedom of forgiving a wrong. If Philemon did not forgive Onesimus he would become the slave, he would be bound. The binding that he would receive would not be on his wrist or ankles, but his heart would be bound.

A. Could He Forgive Onesimus?

“Forgiveness would be a Personal Test”

In looking at his deserted slave and upon reading the letter from Paul, Philemon was subjected to a mighty decision; it would be a personal test. The test would not be asked in a class room, but in the silence of his heart. Philemon was the only man that could answer this pressing question, “Could he forgive Onesimus?”

B. Should He Forgive Onesimus?

“Forgiveness would be a Pivotal Test”

The letter would still be in the grip of his hand, the deserter as before him, the question was ringing in the inner most chambers of his heart, “Should he forgive Onesimus?” It was one thing to ask if he could, but another to ask if he should. The letter from Paul was so convincing as far as his request to forgive, but this man had done him much harm in running away.

C. Would He Forgive Onesimus?

“Forgiveness would be a Phenomenal Test”

I dare say that Onesimus was a bit antsy as he watched Philemon read this letter. The thoughts of Philemon severely punishing him caused much fright in his soul. The ultimate test was before Philemon, would he display the proper Christian conduct to his brother or would he resort to fleshly vengeance and fiery venom.

Philemon had received the greatest invitation that a Christian can ever receive the invitation of forgiving someone that had wronged him. Dear friend this will be the ultimate test that we will ever face. “Forgiveness is an obstacle to our flesh, but an opportunity to our spirit.”

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