I pray that your partnership with us in the faith may be effective in deepening your understanding of every good thing we share for the sake of Christ. Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the Lord’s people.
In the verses above, Paul continues to lay the groundwork for a big ask. Paul prays that Philemon’s faith would allow him to discern what is good and right. Paul found great joy and encouragement in the love that Philemon had for other believers and for him. It is love that gives Paul the greatest encouragement, because it is the surest indicator that Christ is being formed in His people. Now Paul is going to rely on this love when it comes to Philemon receiving his former slave and brother in Christ, Onesimus, back into his home.
Paul would say one more thing before his ask, “You have refreshed the hearts of the saints.” In his commentary on the book of Philemon, theologian N.T. Wright writes, “The Colossian Christians, weary in their daily battles for the Lord, find in Philemon the refreshment and rest needed to regain strength for renewed warfare.” Paul sees in Philemon’s leadership something appealing and compelling, which binds the apostle and this church leader together in a special bond.
It is because of who Philemon had become in Christ, that Paul is able to appeal to his heart concerning his brother in Christ, Onesimus. One of the important lessons that we learn from this short letter is that in Christ, people can change. We see this in the lives of both Philemon and Onesimus. Godly transformation is not optional in the life of the believer. Spiritual growth or maturity is expected. In the book of Hebrews, Paul writes, “Therefore, let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity” (Hebrews 6:1a).
Paul also writes, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Cor. 5:17). A clearer understanding of this text might be, “old things are passing away and all things are becoming new.” This communicates an ongoing change that has a definite starting point. The key word here is “ongoing.” The sanctification process begins the moment you trust Christ and continues the rest of your life as you live for Him.
Questions to Ponder
Do you rely on the Holy Spirit to guide you in matters of right and wrong? Do you have a reputation for loving God and others? Are you a life-giving spirit? Do you encourage others in their spiritual walk? How is the Spirit of God working in your life to transform you into the image of Christ?
- Worship the Lord as Agape (sacrificial love). Praise Him for having unlimited patience, for being so merciful, forgiving, and full of grace.
- Tell the Lord you are sorry for any sins that He reveals to you (judgement, accusation, offense, lying, compromise, pride, jealousy, coveting, greed, sexual immorality, etc.).
- Tell Holy Spirit you are sorry for grieving His Spirit within you.
- Receive His forgiveness and everlasting kindness and mercy.
- Ask God to grant you a submitted heart toward the Lord and that you would be led by Holy Spirit throughout the day. Ask Him to grant you words of encouragement, words of wisdom, and words of knowledge to others to build them up and grant refreshment.
Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, worthy are You, how majestic is Your name. I declare that You are worthy of all my praise, and I join in with all creation and say that You are the one and only true God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Lord, thank You for my brothers in Christ, Philemon and Onesimus, who were such a blessing to Paul, as Paul was to them. God, I am asking for those of us in the Oak Pointe Church family that we too would love one another as they loved each other. I ask that our faith and love would also echo throughout the region and world. I ask that we, too, would be active in sharing our faith so that we would have a full understanding of every good thing we have in You, Lord Jesus Christ.
I pray our love would give great joy and encouragement to those around us, and that we would refresh one another in Christ Jesus. I ask all of this in Your name, Jesus Christ. Amen.