Pastor's Sunday School Blog
Sunday School Lesson
“Grace to a Runaway Slave”
July 8, 2018
Pastor’s Notes (Some additional thoughts for your Sunday school lesson):
The over-arching content of Paul’s letter to Philemon is that of equality in Christ; how we respond to those who have in some way wrong us. This passage fleshes out the Lord’s prayer from Calvary, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” It also condemns self-pride; self-exaltation above others. I am no better that you, and you are no better than me; in Christ we are one.
“There is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).
Every one of us has at some point been wronged offering to each an opportunity to demonstrate the love and grace of God through forgiveness and restoration. Remember what Jesus said to His disciples, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (John 13:35).
Why didn’t Paul condemn slavery? (1) This was not the right forum for such a debate. (2) Onesimus may have been an indentured, paying a debt, or a vocational servant, a position he chose as a matter of finance.
Appealing to Love, Not Obligation (Philemon 8-14).
Rather that tell Philemon what he ought to do according to what is right in the sight of the Lord, he challenged him to do right motivated by love.
Describe the difference between serving God out of obligation, and serving God motivated by love…
Obedience doesn’t produce love, rather love produces obedience. “If you love Me, you will do what I say” (John 14:15).
Paul appeals to Philemon on the basis of Onesimus’ conversion experience … he is not the same person he was when he left you…. His past is not his present (See 2 Corinthians 5:17).
He left useless … he returns useful … an inward change changes one outwardly… “Onesimus” means useful in the Greek language.
“son” – indicates Paul’s involvement with Onesimus’s salvation experience. It also reveals Paul’s attitude toward him; once a slave, now a son of God and as such, a brother in Christ Jesus.
Paul could have insisted Onesimus remain with him, but through it best to send him back, giving Philemon the opportunity, motivated by love, to return him to Paul.
Accepting a Brother, Not a Slave (Philemon 15-17).
Once again see God working through a perceived negative to create a positive … Onesimus left a rebellious slave … he is returning a devoted servant, and more, a son of God, and therefore, a brother in Christ.
Discuss the story of Joseph (what you meant for evil, God meant for good), and Romans 8:28 as it relates to this story.
B-T-W … we are not defined by our position/stature in life, but by our relationship with God… equality among believers flows from the reality that we are all citizens of the same country, and members of the same family.
Anticipating Grace, Not Duty (Philemon 18-22).
Paul exemplifies in verses 18-19 the substitutionary atonement of Christ; the willingness to pay anther’s debt. His willingness to take the place of another portrays what Christ did for us.
These verse also serve to remind us that our debt to God is greater than any man’s debt to us, and if God was willing to forgive us our debt, then we should be willing to forgive others their debt to us.
Blessing others, you bless me. How we treat others should reflect well upon the Lord.
Theological Theme: Christian reconciliation exemplifies/models what Christ did on the cross.
Christological/Christ Connection: Jesus paid our debt so that we might be reconciled to God.
Missional Application: Forgiveness and restoration toward those who have wronged us reflect the heart of our crucified Savior.