Commencing today I will be alternating posting on my two blogs. This one – “Study & Teach God’s Word” provides a location for some observation, interpretation and application of God’s word. My more usual blog, “Life Life! International” is where I post meditations on hymns, ministry and a cornucopia of topics. So on the odd-numbered days of the month, this blog will be re-activated with new food for thought.
Let’s tackle Philemon – a simple, personal letter penned by the Apostle Paul to a dear friend in the faith, a member of the Colossian fellowship, whose slave, Onesimus, had come to faith, met Paul and now was being sent home.
My reflections are not designed for scholars, nor do I consider myself one, rather I see myself as a brother in Christ to whom God has given some amazing privileges. I want to spur on others and collectively explore what God’s word says, what it means and how we who live so many centuries away from its original context may apply its God-breathed truth in our lives.
So to the task for August – exploring Philemon.
v.1 Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother,
In 1st century letter-writing style, Paul identified himself as the author of this brief epistle. He is imprisoned, considered a threat to the “well-being” of Roman communities. How threatened are many of this world’s leaders by God’s children. (Witness in our times North Korea’s aggressive punishment of Christians).
Though Paul is bound physically, he is not bound. He is the most “free” of all prisoners and is using this imprisonment to “advance the gospel.” Compare Philippians 1:12 “…..brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel.” He is not a prisoner of Rome. He is not a prisoner of Satan. He is a prisoner of Christ Jesus, the one who is Lord over his life.
In terms of application – Do I see the hand of the Lord Jesus Christ on the wheel of my life? Can I trust Him to permit or deny what He deems best for each day, week or year? It’s an application of God’s providence, God’s sovereign rule to our daily lives. This is an important lesson, that personally I have had to relearn repeatedly.
Timothy our brother – I have been challenged with Paul’s honouring of co-workers, particularly those who are much younger. Timothy is not a “student” or “apprentice” or “junior leader” or even “assistant pastor.” He is our brother – equally a part of the family of God. Have we whose hair (as a dear brother stated yesterday) is ‘salt-and-pepper’ in colour truly honoured younger leaders? Paul even exhorts Timothy in I Timothy 4:12 “Let no one look down on you because you are young…” Though this has provided many ‘devotionals’ for youth groups, Timothy is well past his teens when Paul writes.
Here in Philemon, Timothy is with Paul, watching his pen flow with Spirit-filled expression in sentences, paragraphs and books written to fellow saints scattered in many locations. Timothy has lots to learn and Paul has brought him in to share on many occasions. Philemon may not know Timothy but he remains “our brother.”
Well enough said for these opening words of Philemon 1:1