Philemon 4-7 / Faithful Love (Sermon notes and Audio)

Posted on November 28, 2014


This is the second 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 23, 2014. This message explores how faith in Christ must lead to love of the saints. Please note that the sermon notes are not a full transcript.

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Philemon 4-7


Philemon 4-7

As Paul moves past the greeting, and into the actual subject of the letter, he works his way up to the actual request he’ll make of Philemon.

Paul has a serious issue to take up with Philemon, and it involves forgiveness. He is careful though, to first express his own love and admiration for Philemon.

In both pagan and Christian letters of the first centuries of the Christian era, the salutation was often followed by an expression of thanksgiving and a prayer.

Though this letter was addressed to others as well as Philemon, the phrase “making mention of you” is singular. This makes it clear that this letter is directed solely to Philemon.

Paul mentions that he is thankful for Philemon, and here he tells us why. It is because of his faith in Jesus, and his love for the saints. These two go hand in hand.

It was true of the Ephesians.

  • Ephesians 1:15

It was true of the Colossians

  • Colossians 1:4

It was true of the Thessalonians

  • 2 Thessalonians 1:3

This must always be the case. Faith in Jesus should always lead to a love of the saints. Jesus even said that our faith would be demonstrated by our love.

  • Matthew 25:31-40

Paul may have heard about Philemon’s faith in Christ and love for the saints from Onesimus and Epaphras, and Philemon’s faith in Christ produced love for all the saints. Since Philemon loved “all” the saints, he surely should include Onesimus, who is now a saint, in his love!

Paul’s prayer for Philemon is similar to prayers by him for other believers.

  • Colossians 1:9-10

It is an appropriate prayer on behalf of any fellow Christian. Its emphasis is on the blessings and responsibilities of true fellowship. In particular, Paul wanted Philemon’s actions to send a powerful message to the church about the importance of forgiveness.

The “sharing” of which Paul speaks is the Greek word koinonia, meaning “fellowship.” That is, genuine Christian faith involves a sharing of one’s life with others of “like precious faith”.

  • 2 Peter 1:1

That fellowship becomes effectual only through recognizing and appreciating all the blessings we have received through Christ. In order for this type of sharing and fellowship to take place with Onesimus (a runaway slave), Philemon must be willing to forgive. For Philemon to acknowledge every good thing that is in him in Christ Jesus, he would have to acknowledge the gift of forgiveness. Forgiveness, in and of itself, is characteristic of the heart of Christ. If forgiveness were not of utmost importance to Him, He certainly would not have subjected Himself to the Cross! Yet, it was on the cross that we see the greatest example of forgiveness.

  • Luke 23:34

Not only did He forgive sinners, but He forgave the very ones who were nailing Him to the Cross! Therefore, this attitude of forgiveness must be present in all who are in Christ. In fact, Jesus says that we shouldn’t put limits on it.

  • Matthew 18:21-22

Paul has been repeatedly impressed by the expressions of Philemon’s love; they have brought him much joy and comfort. This verse justifies the joy Paul takes in Philemon. Like cold water on a hot day, Philemon knew how to be refreshing. He was able to revive and restore his brothers and sisters in the faith. His love and generosity had replenished them.

Philemon also encouraged Paul by his love and loyalty. Are you a refreshing influence on others, or do your attitude and temperament add to the burden they carry?

Instead of draining others’ energy and motivation with complaints and problems, replenish their spirits by encouragement, love, and a helpful attitude. Often times, this will require forgiveness.

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