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July 26, 2021 4:00 am
The one way that we demonstrate our love for God is by loving other believers, even when they've done something that offends us today on Truth for Life. Alistair Begg begins a new series on the book of Philemon explaining how broken relationships can be repaired series is called the road of reconciliation since Philemon may be unfamiliar material to son. Let me give just the briefest of backgrounds so that were not coming to it completely in the dark. This little letter is not so much a private letter as it may have first appeared to be addressed as it is to an individual as it is if you like an apostolic letter that is dealing with a personal matter and the matter is you will see as you read through the letter for yourselves is that this individual by the name of an SMS has been living as a slave in the home of his master, Philemon. He ran away, perhaps taking material goods within and ran away to Rome in the hope, presumably of this melding into the crowd and disappearing for good, but unknown to him. God had plans and purposes for this runaway slave and it was in Rome that he ran into the arms is aware of the apostle Paul and Paul then had the privilege of leading him to Jesus. As a result of him coming to know Jesus. His life was changed and as he began to become a new man in Jesus. He became increasingly useful and helpful to Paul while he was in the jail.
So much so that Paul tells us that he was almost tempted to harbor this runaway slave where not for the fact that he felt a right sense of obligation to return an SMS to his master, Philemon, and when you read Colossians, which in one way goes along with Philemon, you will discover there towards the end of chapter 4 that it was another Paul's colleagues to check us who was given the responsibility of ensuring that an SMS arrived safely in the household Philemon once again the message of the book is essentially a message of reconciliation reconciliation that is brought about in and through the work of Jesus. And while some have languished in the reading of these 25 verses on account of the fact that Paul seems not to tackle the issue of slavery had on. I find it helpful to reflect on the words of Jeffrey Wilson when he wrote, if this letter presented no revolutionary challenge to the social structures of the day. The implications of its teaching were bound to prove fatal slavery in the end bound to prove fatal. In the end is of course we are able to see throughout the course of history. One of the things that is immediately striking in reading through the verses is the depth of feeling the depth of fellowship that is apparently present in the lives of each of the central characters and the foundation of that of course is that God in his grace has brought each of these characters to faith in Jesus is not a book about people who are interested in being religious is not about religious experiences is not even about a quest for spirituality, which is of interest to many in our day. It's actually about a story that begins out with and beyond. Each of these individuals is the story of how Christianity comes seeking out people and how God in his mercy draws individuals to himself and we discover that our once proud Pharisee is now brought into friendship with a prosperous homeowner and the two of them are united in their love for one another in their love for one of the dregs of society, namely this character, an SMS, what is this work our way through these 47 versus noticing the writer as he introduces himself, and he does so humbly, you will notice that this is the only occasion that Paul introduces himself in one of his lectures by introducing himself as a slave or a prisoner of the Lord Jesus Christ. He's not parading any credentials that he might have is not reflecting on the extent of the ministry that he's enjoyed. Instead, I hear, I am Paul prisoner of Christ Jesus, and of course it is from the context of his own enslavement is aware in this Roman prison that he writes concerning this runaway slave on NESN's so keep that in mind it's physically he's at the mercy of Rome, but in reality he is the prisoner of Christ and this letter as it unfolds from here is honest and it is tactful and it is skillful, and in some instances, I think it is even humorous in the approach that he takes. I was Philemon going to be able to resist the appeal which his pen from in the wall from within the walls of a prison by hands that are actually held in handcuffs are manacles, there is great credibility that is written in to the posture of Paul.
Now you will notice that Timothy is with him. As is often the case, as he writes these letters and in the greeting that comes you will find that the heart of the letter is largely in the singular, addressed as it is to an individual or couple of places where it moves into the plural, but that really is of very little consideration for notice. Then the recipients of this letter is written to Philemon. You will notice who is described as I got a toss which is great for our good friend, I got paid meaning, love, the self giving love of Jesus. He's our dear friend and he is our Sunni Argos. He is our fellow worker and the synergy that exists between Philemon and Paul. And now anastomosis is a synergy that is grounded in the grace of God and you will notice that as he addresses Philemon down in verse 19.
Philemon had a special relationship with Paul.
Paul is able to refer to Philemon is the individual who owes his very self to him and the relationship of Paul with an SMS is one of father to son in the faith and apparently so as well in relationship to Philemon how that came about, were not told II have my conjectures and they are largely irrelevant, but it had to happen somewhere and it could've happened. I suppose if Philemon was on a business trip and went and had Paul giving his lectures in the lecture hall of Taranto's and perhaps he then came home. Having come to trust in Jesus and told Appia whom I take to be his wife. Here in verse two, and then octopus whom I take to be his son. Also in verse two that his life had been touched and changed by Jesus and suddenly their home is radically altered. While then he greets them and look at how he greets them in verse three he greets them with grace catalysts and with peace Irene a standard greetings of both Greek and Hebrew reminder of God's grace, bringing them into a saving knowledge of who Jesus is and what he's done and then the piece, which flows from not saving knowledge piece of being restored fellowship with a guard against whom we have offended on account of the sacrifice of Jesus being brought into fellowship with those who may be very, very different from us in all kinds of ways of peace that ultimately even passes human understanding. That is all wrapped up in this lovely greeting when we get to verses 4 to 7 we move from his greeting to the opening indication of his love and his concern and his affection. You will notice that there is nothing introspective about Paul despite his circumstances, many of us writing from far less daunting predicaments may have been tempted to fill at least piece of our letter with a measure of complaint or concern regarding everything that's going on. But Paul pay scant attention to his circumstances chained as he may be imprisoned, as he is and he moves immediately. Thankfulness to prayer, fullness, enter joyfulness, and it is a reminder to all of us who have a responsibility to teach the Bible that unless the Bible is first talk to our own hearts than we have no legitimate basis from which to teach it to others. A tall, I always thank my God, he says, as I remember you in my prayers. What wonderful kind, gracious, humble, greeting you receive a letter like that from someone who says when I think of you when I pray for you. It is always with thankfulness.
It would warm your heart. I think it would encourage you.
It certainly does me. Peterson paraphrases this every time your name comes up in my prayers. I say oh, thank you God will help think about that. Think about all the names and faces that come up when you and I are parading they come across the computer screen is on my other minds is aware what we do reach reach for the mouse to click the delete button will get rid of that Facebook get rid of that name. Thought I'd only causes me concern. Book book book but not not not not Paul know he clicks for the enlarged button.
He enlarges a whole screen and he fills the screen up with a face of Philemon and and is aware as he sees them in his mind.
I says every time your name comes to mind when I'm praying I just say thank you God. I know you people that fit that category and I hope that you take the opportunity in prayer to thank God, as he dons. I don't think for a moment that this is something superficial or sentimental. Paul makes it clear that that is not the case because in verse five he says that his prayers of thankfulness are fueled because of what he knows concerning this fellow Philemon. What is he know about Philemon. Why does he thank God every time he comes into mind and his prayers well he tells us because of what I hear I hear about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints your faith in Jesus and your love for all the saints see this kind of cause and effect that this faith in Jesus and that this love for Jesus produces a trustworthiness and trusting this and a genuine affection for those who also loved Jesus and find John more than anyone else when he writes his first letter uses. This is one of the defining features of genuine Christian faith because remember he says. How could you ever claim to love God whom you cannot see while failing to love your brother and your sister whom you can see, so let your love for your brothers and sisters be the evidence of your genuine love for God. Who is your father. And Paul is able to address this very thing and we have great reason to be thankful for those who are able to pray for us and for whom we pray in this very vain. Now we come to verse six in which he proceeds to tell Philemon that when he says his prayers. He specifically asks that something may happen and the NIV has.
I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ. Let me give you a one commentators statement regarding verse six. It reads as follows.
The meaning of almost every word in this difficult verse is disputed.
Other is referencing.
The writers are referencing the Greek and then the translation that is coming from the Greek, is an endeavor on the part of people to make sure they get it as close to the original as it is written down as they can.
That's why if you have the King James version. You will notice the word sharing is not there at all by the word fellowship is there, which is the word from Greek, which is coin anemia, which is the same word that is used for communion or for partnership okay.
It also means to share in but the translators of the NIV determine the what was being written in the Greek, was about sharing with others. This great news, and by doing so, thereby becoming more familiar with the gospel yourself, which is of course a biblical notion that nothing on biblical by the idea, and we are forced to say the NIV translators may actually be the ones who got it right but I don't think so.
I don't think so because they're out on a limb there out on a limb with the others. For example, I just decided I went to my new English Bible, which I hardly ever pay attention to a tall, I thought I wonder what the what they did in the in the new English Bible and listen to it wasn't mistranslated in the in the NEP. My prayer is that your fellowship with thighs in our common faith may deepen the understanding of all the blessings that are union with Christ brings us as opposed to.
I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith see the distinction that your fellowship with thighs in our common faith may deepen our understanding. Now why did I go in this direction and decide that I'm not gonna side with the NIV illness because I studied it in context and what Paul is actually doing in here is making a plea to Philemon to do something which is not normal to do something which is not characteristic of the culture of his day to do something that is actually the volume to do something in the expression of forgiveness that is emblematic of the forgiveness that Philemon himself has discovered as a result of all that he has been through the Lord Jesus Christ. In other words, he is saying. I want you to make sure that you did into the shared communal mutual reservoir of every good thing that we have in Christ, and as you do so that this may increase your knowledge of that knowledge which is going to go on to say is not something that I want merely to reverberate in your thinking. But to be translated into your doing.
And of course what I have in mind expressly is your response to my plea for your runaway fellow anastomosis that the sharing of your faith in the faith may reveal this for you. I give you.
Let me give you one other paraphrase and and just listen carefully and see if if this is helpful. I am praying that the mutual participation which is proper to the Christian faith you hold may have its full effect in your realization of every good thing God wants to accomplish in us to lead us into the fullness of Christian fellowship that is of Christ.
In other words, Paul reckons that if Philemon allows this principle to inform his thinking and in turn is living. Then Paul can be confident that Philemon will do what is right in relationship to his slave on S&S so it is a very mutuality of things it is that it is the essence of our Christian experience that we are brought into a mutuality of relationships in and through Jesus which is so transformative, so life altering that it finds the way in which we work out that experience in our Christian lives is radical and in many cases countercultural our lives are bound up with Jesus and therefore they are bound up with one another and therefore we are to give to one another because we belong to one another and when we understand the depth of what we share the depth of fellowship. The depth of communion. The depth of that interdependent relationship then it will be virtually impossible for us to claim anything as our own, or to be unprepared to grant forgiveness where it is due, or indeed to be selfish and hardly any shape or fashion.
It's ironic that I think what proves to be the key verse is by the testimony of the commentators. One of the most difficult of verse seven draws us to an end for our time this morning. He says I want you to know I'm praying this praying that this will be true.
Let me just tell you. He says that your love, your agora pay the love of Jesus in you and through you has given me great joy and encouragement of derive joy and encouragement from you because of your love because I know that you've been refreshing the hearts of the saints.
What a wonderful thing it is to be a refresher to be a refresh of the word is used here is a military word for soldiers on the March and as they're marching through.
I think of like a bridge on the river quae Durden down them and that and eventually that they did the English guys is okay follows general take 15 minutes and they all just lay down their burdens and grab for water and sit and chat and so on, and it is a moment of refreshment that is a word that is used here.
What a fantastic ministry. I haven't heard anybody tell me of of old, of late.
When I asked him, and under what what what what gift is God giving you what what what are you what are you doing with your life what what what are you doing and immediately be 10 Eric Weiner teaching a Bible study I'm involved in normal services God has given me a ministry of of refreshment. How does that work people when I get with people they feel like they've had a rest in the feeling it had a big drink of water and they feel like they've been encouraged in Christ. While that's a ministry is not the refreshing ministry because you know we all know that there are people who are enervating and there are people who are energizing that are those who simply and out of your balloon. Just when they're walking towards her. And there are others who are unable to put a little bit of air into your balloon when you when you're just like this and Philemon was the last you have given me great encouragement. He says when I think of you in prayer, I say thank God for Philemon and I know that all ton of people are saying the same thing because you my brother, through your love you have refreshed the hearts of the saints, and that I think is our prayer as we go made in the spirit of Christ, so Phil is a fresh we might in turn be a refreshment and an encouragement to one another would be good for all of us to take a minute and think about how we might bring refreshment for someone's life this week. It's a question worth pondering. From today's message on Truth for Life with Alister Bragg maintaining healthy relationships with other believers is a biblical priority but it's also a priority for us to maintain a healthy relationship with God, and of course one of the ways we do that is by praying regularly and consistently were honest, most of us would admit that consistent prayer is a challenge for us.
That's why were recommending to you. Alister Bragg's book, pray big in this book Alister examines the apostle Paul and how he prayed, giving us a model to follow.
You'll notice, for example, that when Paul prayed he rarely prayed for material needs or for people's health issues. Instead, he prayed about eternal things asking that the gospel would take root in people's lives that the church in Ephesus would grow that more people would be saved, when you read Paul's prayers.
You discovered that he asked God to move in big and bold ways, so that Christ would be glorified. This book pray big guides us as we seek to reframe our own purse along these lines. Each chapter of the book contains a model prayer.
You can either pray it as it's written or use it to frame your own thoughts.
There's also a study guide that comes with the book to help you put Paul's pattern of prayer in the practice requester copy of the book pray big today. Receive both the book and the parent study guide when you donate Truth for Life.org/donate. It's not appropriate for people who are in a position of authority to have expectations or even to make demands of other people. When the apostle Paul intervened for reconciliation between true believers. He chose to make an appeal rather than to issue a demand will find out more as we listen tomorrow on Truth for Life from Bob Lapine. The Bible teaching ministry of Alister big is furnished by Truth for Life learning is prolific