“I then, as Paul–an old man and now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus–…” Philemon v.9b
How would you describe yourself to others? By name? By age? By spiritual status? Paul uses all three descriptions as he prepares to speak on behalf of a younger brother in the faith.
Paul….no longer Saul of Tarsus, but Paul, one who has been radically changed by the grace of God. Saul had headed to Damascus (Acts 9) intent on persecuting Christians and ended up meeting Christ. My prayer for those who are executing believers in the Middle East is that they would be confronted by the risen Christ and brought to genuine faith. In their passion to serve Allah, they are enemies of the one true God and His one and only Son, Jesus Christ.
Paul is an old man. Many years have past and he has been seasoned in service. His life has been full and will soon draw to a close. He is still pressing forward, aiming toward the goal for which Christ Jesus selected him (Philippians 3). His journey will soon conclude and he will be able to testify to Timothy, a beloved brother and leader in the faith, “I have fought the good fight. I have finished the course. I have kept the faith.”
By the way, “I am also a prisoner of Christ Jesus….” Where once he had tried to take followers of The Way bound and back to Jerusalem, now he himself is bound. I wonder if his pre-conversion persecution ever came back to haunt him as he himself now suffered. How long will he remain in prison? What is God’s purpose in allowing this test? Don’t faithful mature senior leaders deserve better? No! He tells Timothy – “EVERYONE who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” (2 Tim. 4:12) I so wish some of today’s “health and wealth” false gospel preachers would study their Bibles more carefully. Stop bribing people with the “American dream” and promising unbiblically based blessings! Speak the truth and call those aspiring to godliness to prepare to pay the price which God explicitly states will be paid!!!!
The hymnwriter penned the words so well,
“Am I a soldier of the cross a follower of the Lamb?
And shall I fear to own His cause or blush to speak His name.
Must I be carried to the skies on flowery beds of ease,
While others fought to win the prize and sailed through bloody seas….”
Our persecuted brothers and sisters around the world this day are enduring the wrath of the enraged dragon, the one ‘filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short!’ Read Revelation 12 and refresh your memory with the basics of spiritual warfare!