Topic: Christian Fellowship: Lessons From Paul’s Letter to Philemon
(Self Assessment 149)
Background: Last week, our discussion helped us to learn that Christian fellowship thrives on mutual love, respect and understanding. Our case study was Paul’s letter to Philemon on behalf of Onesimus.
Onesimus used to work for Philemon as his slave but run from his master’s household and found himself with Paul and his team. After nurturing him in the Lord, Paul decided that the more Christian thing to do was to send Onesimus back to his master, Philemon. But not without a letter that should appeal to Philemon’s Christianity to accept Onesimus back; not as a slave anymore, but as a brother in Christ.
Let’s consider how Paul, after the salutation and greetings in the letter, presented his appeal, and see the lessons we can learn from it.
Text: Philemon 8- 16
8 Therefore, although in Christ I could be bold and order you to do what you ought to do, 9 yet I prefer to appeal to you on the basis of love. It is as none other than Paul — an old man and now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus — 10 that I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, who became my son while I was in chains. 11 Formerly he was useless to you, but now he has become useful both to you and to me.
12 I am sending him — who is my very heart — back to you. 13 I would have liked to keep him with me so that he could take your place in helping me while I am in chains for the gospel. 14 But I did not want to do anything without your consent, so that any favor you do would not seem forced but would be voluntary. 15 Perhaps the reason he was separated from you for a little while was that you might have him back forever — 16 no longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother. He is very dear to me but even dearer to you, both as a fellow man and as a brother in the Lord. Amen
i. Why do you think Paul could as far say to Philemon, “in Christ I could be bold and order you to do what you ought to do”?
ii. Instead of ordering Philemon to do the expected, what did Paul rather prefer to do? Why do you agree or disagree with Paul that, that was the best approach to the situation?
iii. What had become the relationship between Paul and Onesimus, and how did that contrast the relationship between the latter and Philemon?
iv. On what basis did Paul write saying, “formerly he was useless to you, but now he has become useful both to you and to me”? Is it possible for believers to treat subordinates as ‘useless’? What can we learn from this statement Paul just made?
v. Read verse 12 again. Was Paul exaggerating when he called Onesimus his ‘very heart’? If not, how does this explain the bond and love that can exist between people of different orientation, status and race JUST BECAUSE OF CHRIST? Also, if Paul was not exaggerating, then what did that statement imply to Philemon who probably had deemed Onesimus ‘useless’ before?
vi. Paul wrote, “I would have liked to keep him with me so that he could take your place in helping me while I am in chains for the gospel”. What exactly did the Apostle mean by that?
vii. Read verse 14 again. Why didn’t Paul keep Onesimus then? What lesson is here for how we take each other for granted as believers? Especially Christian leaders using their mandate, knowledge in Christ and experience in ministry to bully others around for whatever they seem best to do?
viii. Explain verses 15 and 16 — is it possible in Christ for one’s former slave to become his dear brother? What makes it so?
ix. What have you learnt from today’s study?
Kindly reply us through these same social media platforms (WhatsApp & Facebook). We learn a lot from the answers you share. NEXT WEEK, WE SHALL COME YOUR WAY WITH THE CONCLUDING PART OF THIS SERIES!
NB: 36 days to 4Jband’s incredible “LAHAI CONCERT” on the 26th of Dec 2016. 2pm sharp @ the ICGC ADONAI TEMPLE, HAATSO!
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