I thought we’d open this year with a series on New Beginnings.
We’ll focus on a very short letter in the Bible … Philemon!
I’d love for you to follow along, even if the Bible is not your focus. It contains a million stories to apply to life today!
It would be great if you stopped right now and read the whole book of Philemon; one chapter, 23 verses. If it’s not your thing, we’ll look at verses here, no worries.
Any Bible translation would be fine. Might I suggest using one easy to understand like English Standard Version, New International Version, The Message or Good News Bible. You can find all of them online. If you are very familiar with one version, I suggest using a different version. It will often spark different thoughts, perspectives, and interests.
Then, we’ll overview it and dissect it in subsequent weeks.
The Apostle Paul writes this book to a man named Philemon and discusses another man named Onesimus. It discusses issues surrounding Onesimus and Philemon’s response to him.
From prison, Paul is teaching Philemon how to treat others who may have offended, broken a promise, maybe even stole from him.
This is a private letter, one of four Paul wrote in the Bible. 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus being the other three. This letter was composed in Rome about AD 61. Paul wrote other letters to churches, but he wrote this one to an individual. It contains a personal matter while encouraging all Christians to behave and act different from the world or natural inclinations.
Philemon was likely a leader in the church Paul started in Colossae (present day Turkey). He may have been the Pastor of the church. Unlike Paul’s letters to the churches, this letter was NOT meant to pass around to area churches.
“Paul, a prisoner [for the sake] of Christ Jesus (the Messiah, the Anointed), and our brother Timothy, To Philemon our dearly beloved friend and fellow worker, and to [your wife] Apphia our sister, and to Archippus our fellow soldier [in ministry], and to the church that meets in your house: Grace to you and peace [inner calm and spiritual well-being] from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Philemon 1:1-3 (Amplified)
Right out of the gates, Paul refers to himself as a prisoner.
In other letters from prison, Paul refers to himself as an Apostle, to establish his authority to the churches. Here, he uses a much more personal salutation addressing Philemon as a friend. So, we can assume, he and Philemon are friends; a private rare glimpse inside a first Century Christian friendship.
God preserved it all these centuries: it can teach us as well, if we allow.
Paul addresses Philemon as his dearly beloved friend and fellow worker.
I bet you don’t call many people your “beloved friend”. We reserve that term for ones who connect deep down in the heart. “Fellow Worker” refers to laboring for the cause of Christ. Their hearts were knitted as friends, but even beyond, their bond for spreading the news of Jesus and God’s amazing love was their life-quest: living for the same purpose.
Friendship, brotherhood, and passion bound them! No casual bond … this was the strongest imaginable. Their hearts beat together, no matter the cost or future! Spending their lives for Christianity, very likely would mean the end. No causal commitment or socially acceptable pursuit.
Paul, also addresses Apphia here, believed to be Philemon’s wife. It was customary to give greeting to close family members in a personal letter. Archippus was likely Philemon’s son, a leader in the church, as well. He greets the church too, as he did the other family members.
Although, the letter was not for them, Paul includes the family of Philemon for greetings. Today, we might say, “Hope your family is well” or “give my regards to your family.”
As the letter unfolds, you’ll see it offers a new beginning
to Philemon’s relationship to Onesimus and, quite possibly,
a new way of thinking for the people watching.
As 2020 begins, count your “beloved friends”. Maybe even reach out and affirm those who share your heart. If you write letters, anytime to send greetings is a great time. If formal letters aren’t in your wheelhouse, send a text, email, or PM, to express your love for them.
“Beloved’s” are life’s greatest treasures … make sure they know!
Paul did not mince words of love and affirmation towards Philemon.
Let his example speak to you and spur you on!
Have a new beginning… Do Something NEW!
It is my joy to write to you, each week …
Feel free to share with a friend(s).
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