Philemon

Who was Epaphras?

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Philemon

23 Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, greets you, 24 as do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, Luke, my fellow laborers.

Colossians 1

as you also learned from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf,

Colossians 4

12 Epaphras, who is one of you, a bondservant of Christ, greets you, always laboring fervently for you in prayers, that you may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God. 13 For I bear him witness that he has a great zeal for you, and those who are in Laodicea, and those in Hierapolis.

 

There were men who travelled with Paul on his missionary journeys, some of whom we know very little about.  Epaphras was one of those men and I would like to introduce you to him.  It appears from Colossians 4:12 that Epaphras was from Colossi for Paul says that he was one of them. I find this interesting in that here is a man who was saved in and through a local church who then left his home and church to be a part of Paul’s mission’s team.

Travelling with Paul was no easy task.  Much of their travels were on foot.  We know that at times they slept outside and we know that they had a couple of shipwrecks.  We know that Paul was beaten and imprisoned leaving his travelling companions to get him food and care until he would be released.  When Paul was stoned at Lystra his travelling companions took his body and left town.  Epaphras was one of these companions of Paul.

We don’t know anything about Epaphras’ talents but we do know that he was a man of great prayer.  Paul tells the Colossians that Epaphras labored fervently in prayers for them.  As a spiritually mature man, Epaphras prayed for his friend’s spiritual growth into the will of God more than for their physical well-being.

We also know that Epaphras was a faithful servant and minister of Jesus Christ.  Having left his home he committed to the ministry of God with the Apostle Paul.  Wherever God led Paul, Epaphras followed serving Paul and serving with Paul with love and zeal. Epaphras cared for people.  As Paul ended his letter to Philemon, Epaphras asked Paul to greet Philemon for him.

So often in the Bible we learn about great heroes of the faith, great men and women that we have a hard time identifying with.  Epaphras was not one of those people.  In him I see a man much like any of you who grew up in a pagan world, heard the gospel and grew in his church.  With a heart to serve his Savior, Epaphras volunteered to join up with Paul’s team and became a fellow-minister of the great Apostle.

What does God have for you?

Today is our son Steven’s birthday.  Like Ben and Anna’s little girl, Steve came one month early and very healthy.  What a joy to see a son grow up, give his heart to Christ and then to use his God-given talents in the Lord’s work.  Happy Birthday, Son.

Please keep Caleb and Lindsey in your prayers as they are seeking the Lord’s direction for their lives.  Different doors seem to be opening and closing leaving them in a place not quite sure where to go next.  Pray for God’s clarity to be made known to them.

Thanks for your prayers yesterday. 

I hope to see you tonight for prayer at church, Bible study, youth group and Kids4Truth.  Let’s join together as children of God seeking Him. 

Have a great day in the Lord,
PS

The ability to forgive and the difference Christ makes

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Philemon

15 For perhaps he departed for a while for this purpose, that you might receive him forever, 16 no longer as a slave but more than a slave—a beloved brother, especially to me but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.

17 If then you count me as a partner, receive him as you would me. 18 But if he has wronged you or owes anything, put that on my account. 19 I, Paul, am writing with my own hand. I will repay—not to mention to you that you owe me even your own self besides. 20 Yes, brother, let me have joy from you in the Lord; refresh my heart in the Lord.

As Paul writes to his friend Philemon on behalf of his runaway slave Onesimus, he confirms to Philemon that his slave has now become a brother.  I have worked both for Christians and for non-Christians.  When working for a non-Christian the relationship is just a work relationship and less than a peer relationship as the owner saw me as nothing more than an employee doing his or her bidding.  But when I have worked for a Christian we had family bond between us.  Yes, I still worked as an employee but was able to fellowship as a brother in Christ.  Paul was explaining this to Philemon.  When Onesimus returned he would be more than a slave for he was now a brother in Christ.  Jesus changes everything!

Then Paul tells his friend Philemon that any financial cost he has incurred in the loss of Onesimus to put that loss on Paul’s ledger and Paul would repay his friend on behalf of the runaway slave now become a brother.  The burden of Philemon’s loss would naturally be placed upon the slave when he returned.  He would be given more work, harder work, and longer work to make up for what he had cost his owner.  Paul wanted to pay off all of Onesimus’ debt so that he would go back into the employ of Philemon without an extra burden.  Maybe we should be less demanding of full justice on our brothers and sisters.

But then, notice that Paul reminded Philemon that he owed Paul his very life.  In other words, Paul is asking Philemon to completely forgive any and all of Onesimus’ debt because he, Philemon, has been fully forgiven.  This sounds like the parable in Matthew 18 only there the servant did not forgive the one who owed him a debt.  Here Philemon shows the genuineness of his forgiveness by accepting Onesimus back as a brother and by forgiving all of his debt incurred before his salvation.

Yes, Jesus changes everything.   If Philemon was not a Christian and if Onesimus had run away and been returned it would not have been a good day for either man.  But in Christ, the return of the slave was the coming home of a brother and the rejoicing in all that Christ had done.  I am thankful to be the man I am in Christ and not the man I would have been without Him.  I am thankful that I can treat people as brothers and sisters and not as those who owe me something.  I am thankful that having been forgiven I am able to forgive all who sin against me.

This Sunday, Jessica Schuessler is going to be with us in church.  Jessica goes to abortion clinics for the express purpose of getting women to change their minds.  Back in November a woman that Jessica worked with had her baby.  The woman who had the baby had great need and we mentioned that need to our church.  We were able to help this woman who choose life and demonstrate that we, the Christian community, would support her right decision.  Jessica is seeking ongoing help to support women who choose life over abortion.  I am sure her presentation will be challenging to us and I hope we can rise to the occasion to be a part of her rescue operations.

Men, we do have a prayer breakfast this Saturday morning at Denny’s at 7:30.

Please keep Richard Powell and his family in your prayers.  His sister Joan died this week.  She was 85 and fell asleep in a chair.  Her husband is Daryl and Rich is with him in Michigan. 

Have a great day in the Lord,

PS

A man who demonstrated a changed heart

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Philemon

I thank my God, making mention of you always in my prayers, hearing of your love and faith which you have toward the Lord Jesus and toward all the saints, that the sharing of your faith may become effective by the acknowledgment of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus. For we have great joy and consolation in your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed by you, brother.

Are you familiar with the story of Philemon and his slave, Onesimus?  This is a one chapter letter from Paul to a dear friend whom he had led to Jesus Christ. While in prison Paul had led a runaway slave who was also in prison to salvation through Christ.  This runaway slave, Onesimus, became a new man in Christ and brought great joy to Paul. When Onesimus was to be released from prison and returned to his owner it was realized that Paul knew his owner well.  This short letter is a plea from Paul to Philemon to receive Onesimus back, not as a slave, but as a brother in Christ.  It is a beautiful letter filled with compassion and love for both men.

As Paul begins his letter we learn something about Philemon.  Paul, probably from Onesimus, had heard of Philemon’s love and faith toward the Lord Jesus and toward all of the saints.  When Christ comes into a man or woman their love capacity changes.  Without Christ we can only love to a certain level but when Christ comes into our lives our capacity for loving others knows no bounds. Philemon was a changed man and it showed.

Knowing that this man whom he had led to Christ was so filled with love and with good works brought Paul great joy and comfort.  Philemon was a man who used his resources to refresh the Christian community as much as he could.  Because Philemon was so dialed in to the love of God and was so changed by the grace of God, Paul could confidently request that he receive Onesimus back into his house as a brother.

My last devotional came from Paul’s call to Titus to be a man of good works. Paul’s call to Philemon was based on the good works he had shown. James calls us to show our faith by our works. Philemon did.  Good works are the evidence of a changed life.  I am asking us all to be people of good works according to the biblical teaching and examples.  So what good works would our Lord have for you this year?

Baby Emilia Grace is doing well.  The whole family is rejoicing as is our entire church family.  It was fun to share with you all last night. 

Our teens still need our prayers.  The god of this world seeks to blind their eyes to the necessity of the gospel.  Sin is charming but they need their hearts changed by Christ.  Pray for Holy Spirit conviction of sin and true heart and life change. 

Have a great day in the Lord,
PS