Part 3 – When A Hello Is More Than A Hello
We see in the very beginning of Paul's Letter to Philemon that Timothy is with Paul, and Timothy is a protégé of Paul's who will later pastor the church in Ephesus. Paul refers to Philemon as a dear friend as well as a fellow worker, indicating their special friendship, and the fact that Philemon has served with Paul on the mission field and may very well still be serving the Lord in some capacity back in his home church in Colossae, which meets in his home. We are also introduced to Apphia and Archippus, who many believe are Philemon's wife and son respectively.
Paul then gives what appears to be a very standard greeting: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. It is my contention that this is a 'standard' greeting for Paul because Paul intends this greeting to be more than just a pious throwaway 'hello', but actually it is a 'means of grace'. By that I mean that Paul is truly (since his writings are considered Scripture) speaking God's grace and peace into the heart, mind, and soul of Philemon for three main reasons:
1. Paul is reminding Philemon of what happened to him when he came to faith in Christ. The Lord extended His electing, transforming, saving, undeserved, unmerited, unearned grace to Philemon and it ended the spiritual war between Philemon and the Lord. Philemon was now at peace with the Lord God Almighty.
2. Paul is reminding Philemon that grace and peace needs to be extended to Onesimus. Just as Philemon did not deserve to be shown grace and experience God's peace, but was shown it by the Lord, Philemon needs to forgive Onesimus.
3. Philemon is going to need grace and peace in order to forgive Onesimus. Philemon is incapable – as all of us are incapable in and of ourselves – to forgive another person of their sins against us – so Philemon is going to need (even as a believer) an 'extra dose' of God's grace and peace to be able to not only forgive Onesimus, but to be able to accept him as a brother in Christ, and as a member of his church which meets in his home. The Word of God preached – in this case – Paul's very words (being that they are scripture) are a 'means of grace' extended to Philemon (and to you and I) to enable us to live our lives in God's continued grace and peace.
This is why you and I need to continue to read earnestly, sincerely, and by faith God's Word, and listen with ears of faith as it is taught and preached so that we might continue to be filled with God's grace and peace to enable us to live the Christian life day by day!