Philemon 1-3 / Freedom Through Chains (Sermon notes and Audio)

Posted on November 15, 2014


This is the first in a series of verse-by-verse expositions of the book of Philemon. This message was delivered at Hillcrest Baptist Church on the evening of November 9, 2014. This message introduces the book of Philemon, and explores how things that we see as hindrances may actually be open doors. Also of note, is the topic of grace and peace. Please note that the sermon notes are not a full transcript.

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Philemon 1-3


Philemon 1-3

This one-chapter epistle of Paul to his friend Philemon is essentially a personal request by Paul that Philemon forgive his runaway slave, Onesimus, and receive him back into the church in his house as a new Christian, recently won to Christ.

Following first-century custom, the salutation contains the names of the letter’s author and its recipient.

Paul mentions Timothy along with himself, but we shouldn’t consider Timothy to be the co-author of this letter.

Timothy had probably met Philemon at Ephesus and was with Paul when he wrote the letter.

In fact, Paul mentions Timothy in several of his letters.

Philemon was a wealthy member of the Colossian church, which met in his house.

Church buildings were actually unknown until the 3rd century.

This is a very personal letter and Philemon was one of only three individuals (Timothy and Titus are the others) to receive a divinely inspired letter from Paul.

Prisoner of Jesus Christ:
As this was written, Paul was a prisoner in Rome.

Notice that Paul didn’t call himself an apostle, but a prisoner, and not just a prisoner, but a prisoner of Christ.

We need to understand that Paul was imprisoned for the sake of and by the will of Christ.

It was through this imprisonment that new doors were opened to Paul.

Ephesians 6:19-20

Philippians 1:13-14

Colossians 4:3-4

Through the amazing wisdom and power of God, chains became an open door.

This is what Christ can do for us. What seems to imprison us, may actually be an open door from God.

Be it literal chains for the sake of Christ, illness (use my example) or tragedy, God may well be opening a ministry.

Apphia was likely Philemon’s wife, while Archippus, may possibly have been his son.

Not only that, but Archippus may well have been a Pastor in the Colossian church.

Colossians 4:17

The last addressee of the letter, is the church itself.

Paul wanted this personal letter read in the church that met at Philemon’s.

If Paul had not included this church in his salutation, they might have gossiped when they saw Onesimus had returned.

Furthermore, this reading would hold Philemon accountable, as well as instruct the church on the matter of forgiveness.

This is the standard greeting that appears in all 13 of Paul’s NT letters.

This theologically significant salutation that Paul usually uses (grace and peace), is in place of the common Roman salutation of “greetings.”

Grace and peace each touches on central gospel truth.

While grace was certainly not absent from God’s dealings with His people in the Old Testament, here it marks the amazing free and undeserved gift of his Son, which is at the center of the gospel.

John 1:16

Romans 3:24

Ephesians 1:6-7

Peace, on the other hand, has deeper Old Testament roots.

It was used by the prophets as a way of summarizing the universal well-being (shalōm) that God would establish in the last days.

Isaiah 66:12

Ezekiel 37:26

Haggai 2:9

Peace has been established by God, through His Son.

Colossians 1:20

This salutation highlighted salvation’s means (grace) and its results (peace) and linked the Father and Son, thus affirming the deity of Christ.

It’s interesting to note that grace must always precede peace.

You will not experience God’s peace, until you’ve experienced His grace.

You won’t experience His grace until you’ve accepted Him as savior.

The fact that Paul links the Father and the Son, and affirms the deity of Christ by the title of Lord is central to salvation.

Romans 10:9

Salvation is central to grace, and grace is central to peace, and it all comes exclusively through Christ.

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