Part 7 – Perhaps the Reason: The Providence of God in Philemon
When you really think about it, there are a number of ways that people – religious or not – think about how and why 'stuff happens' in this world. Some think that life is nothing more than arbitrary, random, acts of disorder that have no meaning – they feel that 'stuff just happens'. Others think that what happens in this world is all a matter of blind fate, written in the stars, and this is nothing but fatalism – "Que sera sear, whatever shall be shall be". Stuff happens in an orderly fashion but there's no meaning behind it.
Others – and many of these folks are Christians – believe that the Lord God is somehow involved in the 'stuff' of this world, but that mankind is really responsible for much of what happens because of the use of our 'free will'. These folks love the Lord and believe that He is 'sovereign' but they have a hard time explaining how God can really be 'sovereign' if mankind ends up making so many decisions that mess things up for God.
What many theologians believe – especially those who have historically been associated with the Reformed doctrines of grace (and this goes way back to Jesus, the Apostles, the early church fathers, St. Augustine, etc. and not just when Martin Luther and John Calvin came on the scene in the 16th century) – is that God is sovereign, thus EVERY details – EVERY molecule – EVERY person – is under the direct control of the Almighty God. Man still makes decisions and is responsible for his sin, but ultimately, nothing happens outside of the Lord's ordained plan for His creation. Read all of the above scripture verses for the biblical proof.This subject of God's providence – God's intimate involvement in the every day activities of His creation – comes into play here in Philemon when Paul begins verse fifteen by saying, "Perhaps the reason...". Paul is implying that there was/is a divine 'reason' for Onesimus stealing Philemon's money and running away. It didn't just 'happen'. Onesimus absolutely sinned, but the Lord God was directing his paths for a greater divine purpose.
Just think for a moment as to how Philemon came to faith. He left Colossae and traveled 1200 miles to the city of Rome – a city of one million people. But "somehow" he comes in contact with Paul, who not only leads Onesimus to faith, but happens to be a personal friend of Onesimus' master Philemon! What are the 'chances' of that?
The 'reason' that all of this happened was so that Onesimus could be saved, go back to Philemon as a newly converted 'slave' and brother in Christ; allow Philemon the opportunity to forgive and be reconciled; spiritually impact the entire church of Colossae with the forgiving love of Christ; and positively impact the Christian Church down through the ages.
Onesimus' sin was still wrong, but we see the magnificence of God's grace and power to turn someone's sin into a great blessing for the kingdom of God and for His glory!
Take some time today, tomorrow, and the rest of the week, just thinking about how the Lord arranged your footsteps and brought you to faith; brought you to Florida; brought you your spouse; your job; your church; every detail in your life....the Lord is sovereign and in His benevolent providence He is directing our steps for His glory and our eventual glorification.
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