Philemon

Today’s reading is the book of Philemon.

This is yet another of Paul’s prison letters as we saw in verse 1, “Paul, a prisoner of Jesus Christ....” Verses 1b-2 tell us the recipients of this letter who were, “Philemon... Apphia [almost certainly Philemon’s wife] our sister and Archippus [probably the son of Philemon and Apphia].” When we take this mention of Archippus and compare it to Colossians 4:17, “Tell Archippus: ‘See to it that you complete the ministry you have received in the Lord’’ we begin to see that Philemon lived in Colossae. They were not the only recipients of this letter, however, for the last part of verse 2 says, “...and the church that meets in your home.” Although Paul has a couple of big, generous things to ask of Philemon, he did not want his requests to overwhelm the people too much.

In verses 4-7, Paul described his prayers for Philemon and the others. Then, in verses 8-19, Paul got to the core of the letter which was to ask Philemon to forgive his runaway slave Onesimus (vv. 17-19). Having forgiven Onesimus, Paul wanted then wanted Philemon to free Onesiumus so that he could serve with Paul. But the verse that intrigues me in this chapter is verse 6: “I pray that your partnership with us in the faith may be effective in deepening your understanding of every good thing we share for the sake of Christ.” Paul considered Philemon a partner because of his faithful giving to God’s work (v. 7). But here in verse 6 Paul prayed for a spiritual benefit to come to Philemon. That benefit was that the “partnernership with us... in the faith may be effective in deepening your understanding of every good thing we share for the sake of Christ.” In other words, Paul wanted Philemon’s financial support and prayer investment to strengthen his faith. He wanted Philemon to know God better as a result of his “partnership” with Paul’s ministry.

Have you ever considered that serving the Lord and giving to his work could actually be good for you, spiritually? Not only do others benefit from this kind of “partnership” but YOU benefit from it because it “deepens your understanding” of Christ and his mission. So I have to ask, What is your level of spiritual growth? Did it peak when you were called to be saved or is it growing? If you feel that you are stuck and not growing, then you need to find a place to serve. Serving Christ, investing in his kingdom, is helpful to your spiritual life. So, find a place to serve if you don’t have now already and watch how your understanding of God, his goals, and his people grow as a result.