Today's Devotions

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Showcase: Assorted Treats

  • River of Love +

    There's a river of love that runs through all timeBut there's a river of grief that floods through our livesIt Read More
  • I Am Nothing +

    I stutter when I tryTo speak the language of lifeI want to shout out loudBut I just cry insideSometimes it Read More
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Don  Carson

http://www.biblestudytools.com/rsv/2-kings/18.html

http://www.biblestudytools.com/philemon/1.html

http://www.biblestudytools.com/hosea/11.html

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Psalm+132-134%2C1+Corinthians+11%3A17-34&version=NRSV

2 Kings 18; Philemon; Hosea 11; Psalms 132–134

IN THE FIRST CENTURY, a slave who ran away could legally be executed. A master might not enforce that punishment, but at the very least the runaway slave who was caught would face very brutal treatment.

Onesimus is a slave who has run away from Philemon. Somewhere along the line, Onesimus has been converted. Whether he sought out Paul before his conversion or after, Onesimus is now with Paul, probably in Rome. The apostle is in prison awaiting trial, and Onesimus, now a believer, is running errands for him and otherwise helping him out.

But Paul knows this cannot continue. The apostle himself could be charged with aiding and abetting a fugitive. Legally, even morally, Onesimus must go back to Philemon and square things. But where is the morality in Roman slavery itself?

So Paul writes to Philemon and Apphia, knowing they are Christians, presumably well-to-do, with a home big enough to house the church where they live. The letter is a masterpiece of firm, godly diplomacy.

Paul commends Philemon for his love and encouragement (v. 7). He mentions that he could simply order him to take certain actions (v. 8), yet he prefers to appeal to him "as Paul—an old man and now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus" (v. 9) so that Philemon will act out of love. Only then does he mention Onesimus, and state what the appeal consists in. Paul wants Philemon to take back Onesimus, whom Paul characterizes as his "son," now a "useful" person (which is what the name Onesimus means), and so loved by the apostle that he is Paul's "very heart" (vv. 10–12). Paul would have been happy to keep him, but would not do anything without Philemon's "consent" (v. 14). Of course, Onesimus had run away, but regardless of how reprehensible that act had been, in the larger scheme of things "perhaps the reason he was separated from you for a little while [a convenient passive!] was that you might have him back for good—no longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother" (vv. 15–16). Surely he will therefore be dear to Philemon, "both as a man and as a brother in the Lord" (v. 16).

So Philemon is to welcome back Onesimus as he would welcome the apostle himself (v. 17), who hopes to come soon on a visit that will check up on things (v. 22). Apparently Onesimus stole from Philemon when he left: Paul says he will gladly repay the full amount—though Paul gently reminds Philemon of the supreme debt he owes to the man who brought him the Gospel.

Nothing can destroy brutal relationships faster than the Gospel rightly applied.

http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/loveofgod/2013/11/05/2-kings-18-philemon-hosea-11-psalms-132%e2%80%93134/

Reflections to Consider

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Publications

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Music

  • River of Love

    There's a river of love that runs through all timeBut there's a river of grief that floods through our livesIt Read More
  • I Am Nothing

    I stutter when I tryTo speak the language of lifeI want to shout out loudBut I just cry insideSometimes it Read More
  • 1

Audio & Video

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Favorites

  • Transforming this World: The Hope of Glory by NT Wright +

    Wright confronts the perspective that this world doesn’t matter, and that we live only to be in heaven. He shows Read More
  • What is Good in a World that Defies Hope: a talk by NT Wright +

    This is the second part of three talks by NT Wright at Harvard University in November, 2008 on the topic Read More
  • The Stream, the Lake and the River: NT Wright +

      Acts 2.1-21; John 7.37-39; a sermon at the Eucharist on the Feast of Pentecost, 11 May 2008, by the Read More
  • Jesus in the Perfect Storm by NT Wright +

    Zechariah 9.9-17; Luke 19.28-48; A sermon for Palm Sunday, April 17, 2011, In the University Chapel of St Salvator, St Read More
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Hidden Blessings

  • Christ is a Great Savior: a review of the movie Amazing Grace +

    Amazing Grace is a historical drama about William Wilberforce who was elected to British Parliament at the age of 21 Read More
  • Wilberforce, Hollywood's Amazing Grace, Charlotte Allen +

    William Wilberforce's relentless campaign eventually led the British Parliament to ban the slave trade, in 1807, and to pass a Read More
  • Making Beauty out of Ugly Things: Grace by U2 +

    Grace, she takes the blame She covers the shame Removes the stain It could be her name Grace, she carries Read More
  • The True Nature of Grace and Love: a movie review of the Soloist +

    The 2009 movie The Soloist is based on a book by the same name, written by Los Angeles Times columnist Read More
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