Philemon 8-11 / A Profitable Servant

Posted on January 9, 2015


This is the third 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 January 4, 2015. This message explores how believers are called to be profitable to Christ. Please note that the sermon notes are not a full transcript.

Sermon Audio:
Philemon 8-11

With his authority as an apostle, Paul could’ve ordered Philemon to accept Onesimus, but he knew that wouldn’t be the correct approach.

Rather than dictate, based on his authority, Paul would rather act according to love. . . after all, this is what he was going to ask Philemon to do (act according to love).

Paul’s appeal is out of humility, not some self-seeking glory.

He wanted Philemon’s obedience to be willful and heartfelt, not grudgingly.

This is actually a good example of meekness. Paul had the authority to demand, but he chose to appeal to Philemon’s own sense of commitment and love.

By this time Paul was elderly, as was Philemon, so Paul appealed on this more personal level.

Paul identified himself as a prisoner of Jesus Christ, and in fact Paul was imprisoned as he wrote this letter.

Being a prisoner, he could identify with Onesimus (a slave). That is a distinction that Paul, no doubt, wanted Philemon to make.

Knowing that Paul identified with Onesimus’ plight, may well influence Philemon.

Paul even goes so far as to call Onesimus his son (having already referred to Philemon as his brother), Paul reminds Philemon that Onesimus is now one of the brethren.

Paul would not have called Onesimus his son, if he hadn’t been very dear to Paul.

In fact, this same title is used for both Timothy and Titus.

1 Corinthians 4:17

1 Timothy 1:2

Titus 1:4

Paul obviously thought of himself as a father to those he had won to Christ.

Indeed, a special bond exists between a believer and the person God used to bring him to Christ.

As such, Paul is making intercession for this new believer.

We would all do well to intercede on behalf of our fellow believers. Christ Himself continually sets the example.

Romans 8:27

Hebrews 7:25

Paul notes that he begat Onesimus while he was in chains, meaning that he had won Onesimus to Christ.

Paul didn’t let his current circumstances stop him from sharing the Gospel.

Too often, we do just that. We allow our circumstances prevent us from sharing the Gospel with the lost.

Onesimus, a common name for slaves, means “useful.”

But this slave, by running away, had become the opposite of his name. He was then of no use to his owner.

“But now” tells us there has been a change, which certainly was the result of his new birth.

Onesimus, who was once useless / unprofitable, had now become useful / profitable.

That’s what a new birth will do for you, it will make you useful, profitable, of value and worth.

God sees value in you.

Matthew 10:29-31

God calls those who He saves to be useful and profitable to Him.

Romans 12:1-2

This living sacrifice, which is alive and able to work on God’s behalf, is useful and profitable to Him when we know His will and do it.

Onesimus had been transformed, and was now useful not only to God, but to Philemon as well.

Are you useful to God, and those around you?

Or are you useless like a runaway slave, who tries to escape his master rather than do his will.

As a believer, you are a slave to Christ. When you run away and do not do His will, you become useless to Him.

If you are unsaved, you are useless to Christ.

Allow yourself to be transformed. Run to Christ and embrace your master.

Be a useful servant.

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