Useless or Useful?

I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, who became my son while I was in chains. Formerly he was useless to you, but now he has become useful both to you and to me.” Philemon v.10-11

Paul now launches into a direct appeal to Philemon, who was the master of this runaway slave named Onesimus. Somehow in God’s providence, Onesimus had been led into contact with this leader-evangelist and had come to trust in Jesus Christ. He was now Paul’s son in the faith. Paul’s imprisonment had born fruit. Though he was bound (as he reminds the Thessalonians), the word of God is NOT bound and he was still able to proclaim it.

What was Onesimus worth to Philemon once he had run away? He was useless. But NOW, now that salvation had come to him, now that he had been changed by the Spirit of God, Paul declares that Mr. Useless is now Mr. Useful both to Philemon and to Paul. The NIV helpfully indicates in the margin that Onesimus means ‘useful’.’ In this ‘play-on-words’ Paul gives a careful, concise endorsement of Onesimus.

I wonder how our own testimony could be written. FORMERLY he/she was……. BUT NOW he/she has become……. Praise God for His transforming grace. May we be useful to the Master!

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