Excerpts from Philemon - Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus ... To Philemon our beloved fellow worker ... Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God always when I remember you in my prayers ... For I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you ... I, Paul, an old man and now a prisoner also for Christ Jesus—I appeal to you for my child, Onesimus ... I am sending him back to you, sending my very heart. I would have been glad to keep him with me ... But I preferred to do nothing without your consent in order that your goodness might not be by compulsion but of your own accord. For this perhaps is why he was parted from you for a while, that you might have him back forever, no longer as a bondservant but more than a bondservant, as a beloved brother ... So if you consider me your partner, receive him as you would receive me. ... Yes, brother, I want some benefit from you in the Lord. Refresh my heart in Christ. Confident of your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I say.
Every once in a while we hear a story that—well, the news people usually say, "It restores your faith in humanity." A story about someone who went above and beyond to help a neighbor—to feed the hungry—to comfort the grieving—or just to make somebody's life that much brighter.
Paul talks about something like this when he says, "For I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you." Paul doesn't give credit to humanity, though—he knows that, whatever good things Philemon has been doing, they come from Jesus Christ. And it is on that basis that Paul appeals to him to do one more wonderful, incredible thing—to welcome and set free a man named Onesimus.
From the sound of the letter, Onesimus was once enslaved in Philemon's household. He ran away—possibly stealing some money as well—and eventually wound up in contact with Paul in jail, who told him about Jesus. Onesimus became a believer.
Now he's planning to go back to Philemon's house and try to make things right. That's the first incredible thing, and nobody in the ancient world would ever have expected something like that to happen. The second is this: Paul confidently expects Philemon to welcome Onesimus as a brother and set him free.
The lovely thing is that, as far as we can tell, that's exactly what happened. The former master and slave became Christian brothers treating each other with love, and in time, Onesimus became a bishop in the early church. Who could do such a miracle? Only the Lord. Only the God who loves each of us so much He came down to earth to be one of us, to live and to die and to rise again—so that we could live freely in His kingdom.
WE PRAY: Dear Lord, please use me to do something marvelous in some else's life. Amen.
This Daily Devotion was written by Dr. Kari Vo.
1. When have you seen something amazingly wonderful happen?
2. Have you ever had to face a scary prospect, like Onesimus going back to Philemon?
3. Tell about a time, great or small, when God blessed you in an unexpected way.
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