Today I am reading from Philemon, and although it is a short letter, I am going to spend a couple days on it. There is so much information (once again) that Paul packs in to a few words. This letter is to a man named Philemon; however, I will get in to the primary reason for the letter tomorrow.
Today I would like to simply point out a few things; one of which is emphasized a few times in Titus; more on that on a second.
First, we see that Paul considers Philemon a beloved friend. Paul also considers Philemon (and the other two people mentioned) fellow laborers and fellow soldiers. Right there should be the goal of every Christian; have big brother Paul consider you a fellow laborer and a fellow soldier. Paul is in the battle for the Gospel, working hard to share the Truth and we need to be shoulder to shoulder doing the same work, waging the same war for Jesus.
Philemon 1:1 Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, To Philemon our beloved friend and fellow laborer, 2 to the beloved Apphia, Archippus our fellow soldier, and to the church in your house: 3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 4 I thank my God, making mention of you always in my prayers, 5 hearing of your love and faith which you have toward the Lord Jesus and toward all the saints,
We also see that Philemon has a church in his house. It is worth pointing out that, yet today, in nations where persecution is rampant, the only place where you will hear the true Gospel preached is in house churches. The "state churches"; although in some countries they "authorize" them to operate, most times the Gospel is watered down and polluted.
So, here's Philemon operating a house church, faithfully serving Christ, a fellow worker and fellow soldier; and Paul is praying for him....what specifically does Paul say he's praying for?
Philemon 1:6 that the sharing of your faith may become effective by the acknowledgment of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus.
As Paul made clear in Titus; our good works do not save us; but we need to maintain good works because it is profitable for men. When people see that there is no hypocrisy in us, God is Glorified. On the other hand, if people do not see good works in us it will create confusion to the non-believer and God will not be glorified:
Titus 2:7 in all things showing yourself to be a pattern of good works; in doctrine showing integrity, reverence, incorruptibility,
Titus 2:14His own special people, zealous for good works.
Titus 3:8 This is a faithful saying, and these things I want you to affirm constantly, that those who have believed in God should be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable to men.
Titus 3:14 And let our people also learn to maintain good works, to meet urgent needs, that they may not be unfruitful.
Another big thing that creates confusion to the non-believer is when they do not see love and gentleness in Christians. Two points on this:
1) A friend of mine made the point last week and again today; "Jesus raised the bar at every turn. We are called to love as He loved. How did He love? Sacrificially" I have to admit, I need work in this area. I need to be more sacrificial in my time and energy. Where as I am not as selfish as I used to be; better isn't best. I feel the weight of this conviction and I'm excited to improve in this area with the Lord's help.
2) I know a couple Christian guys on the radio; one of them I partied with back in the day before either one of us was saved. Both of these guys love the Lord; however, their "shock jock" approach seems to be less than gentle to me. Isn't that what we are called to be? I don't see any exceptions in the word at all here:
Titus 3:2 to speak evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing all humility to all men.
I am not trying to drag these guys down, I am trying to build them up. Just as what my brother said about sacrificial love convicted me to do better, I am hoping that these guys will feel the conviction of the need to be more gentle. After all, iron sharpens iron right? We are to both edify and rebuke our brothers; all for the glory of God. We are to be more Christ like, and if we are being prideful, unloving, harsh and disrespectful we should expect our brothers to correct us....why? Because it is not about you, it is about Him; and if what you are doing is not in accordance with His will and glorifying Him and His Gospel we need to be corrected. As a friend of mine in prison says, "whoever said it is about you?"
Proverbs 27:17 As iron sharpens iron, So a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.