Part 11 – Doing the Right Thing For the Right Reason
As we have already discussed, Paul was willing to pay off the debt that Onesimus owed to Philemon for stealing from his master, as well as other expenses that came with Philemon having to deal with a runaway slave. This generous act of grace by Paul was a picture or type of Christ in that the innocent Paul (innocent in that he didn't sin against Philemon) was willing to pay the debt of sin that was incurred by the runaway slave Onesimus who was incapable (as we sinners are incapable) of paying back the "debt of sin" owed to THE MASTER – THE LORD GOD ALMIGHTY.
But Paul does throw in an interesting passive-aggressive line for his good friend Philemon to think about: "...not to mention that you owe me your very self". Paul led Philemon to faith so in a human sense, Philemon 'owes' Paul his very life. You and I think this way as well when we stop and think about people in our life who either led us to the Lord or who did some extraordinary act of kindness to us. We feel that we "owe them", not in a sense that we must pay them back for their kindness, but rather that because of their kindness we ought to take a special interest in blessing them because of our love and appreciation.
So, Paul is telling Philemon that he wants some 'benefit back' for Paul's loving service to Philemon, and that 'benefit back' is not only that Philemon would forgive and be reconciled to Onesimus, but that Philemon consider setting Onesimus free so that Onesimus can come back to Rome and minister with Paul. Philemon (as verse seven tells us) has the gift of 'refreshing the hearts of the saints' so Paul wants his heart refreshed as well by Philemon following through in these 'requests'. Paul knows that Philemon will be obedient to these things – but NOT because Paul the Apostle makes the requests, but rather because of Philemon's love for Jesus. When you are loved by Jesus you are capable of loving Jesus back, and that love produces within us a true sense of humble service and obedience to the Lord.
I then pointed out three reasons why we ought to be obedient to Jesus:
1. Because He is the universal Lord. As God and Lord over all things, then we ought to be obedient simply because He is the sovereign Lord over all.
2. Because of our love for Christ. With the love of Christ now within us, which motivates all that we do, obedience will be the natural result because of this love within us. We love Jesus because He first loved us, and because He loves us and we love Him, it is only natural that we would want to obey the One whom we love.
3. Because of the natural joy that comes from serving a Savior that saved us and loved us while we were still sinners. When we serve the Lord in grace and not law or obligation, there is an inner joy that comes from the Spirit of Christ within us. There is peace, refreshment, encouragement, and joy when you know that you are serving the Great God who placed His love within our hearts.