Part 4 – The Godly Character of a Forgiver
As Paul begins the body of his Letter to Philemon one might get the impression that Paul is trying to "butter Philemon up" with a lot of words of flattery in order to talk him into forgiving Onesimus, but actually, Paul is simply speaking the truth about Philemon's godly character. He begins by 'thanking the Lord for Philemon in his prayers' because Paul has nothing 'negative' to say about Philemon, so Paul is thanking the Lord, or giving the Lord all the glory for His hand of grace upon Philemon.
Paul then goes on to share with Philemon, and we his readers, six 'concerns' that Paul has or actually, that Philemon has, that enables Philemon to be a godly man that will jump at the opportunity to forgive Onesimus. It would help all of us as maturing Christians if we had these very same 'concerns'.
1. Philemon was 'concerned for the Lord. The beginning of verse five points out that Philemon had a strong 'faith in the Lord Jesus'. Since he was concerned about the Lord first, it would be only natural for him to forgive.
2. Philemon was 'concerned for the saints'. Paul had heard of Philemon's love for all the saints. If Philemon loves all the saints, then he would forgive Onesimus because Onesimus was now a saint!
3. Philemon was 'concerned for the fellowship'. Not only was Philemon concerned for individuals within the body of Christ, he was also concerned about the entire fellowship – the entire body of Christ – so if he didn't forgive Onesimus it would negatively impact the entire church.
4. Philemon was 'concerned for spiritual knowledge'. Philemon knew all about what the Word and the apostles and Jesus taught about forgiveness, but he also knew that if he put his knowledge about forgiveness into a practical example, then he would grow in a deeper practical knowledge (epignosis) that would help him, but also impact the church.
5. Philemon was 'concerned for the glory of Christ'. Paul knew that Philemon was well aware that if he forgave Onesimus and warmly welcomed him within the local body of Christ, then Christ would be truly glorified and generations to come would marvel at the Lord's transforming and repurposing grace!
6. Philemon was 'concerned for the blessings of others'. Philemon was an encourager who loved to refresh the hearts of the saints. What better way to encourage and refresh the church than by forgiving a thieving runaway slave and then embracing him as a member of his family?
We as Christians are called to forgive. We cannot forgive another person or even ourselves in our own strength. We need the grace and peace of God that comes from being born anew of the Spirit to do so, and as we grow in His grace and peace, he will enable us to face those difficult times when we are called on to forgive with the very same grace and peace that He has graciously shown us. Let's be people with forgiving hearts – for you and I have been forgiven of much!
The Godly Character of a Forgiver - 061916