Philemon 4-7 - The Nature of One Who Forgives
If you read verses 4 to 7 you're not going to necessarily see Paul identify 1-2-3-4-5-6, the principles of a forgiving person, but you're going to see them come out in what he says. They're not what we say explicit but they are implicit...they're implied here, very clearly.
In this section Paul refers to Philemon in very glowing terms. He commends him from (v.4-7) on his Christian character. And as he does that he is describing the kind of man who will be a forgiver. This is the spiritual character of a man who will be a forgiver. So in effect he's saying...Philemon, I know you're the kind of man that I can trust to forgive Onesimus. He's really setting him up by reminding him of his own character, now that’s wisdom… to deal out praise whenever and wherever it is possible for praise itself becomes a nourishing food for virtue.
Praise itself, legitimate praise, becomes a nourishing food for virtue and a strong antidote against sin. If someone comes to you and says, "I want to tell you, I look at your life and I just thank God that you're a godly, virtuous, holy Christian." Believe me, that's food that nurtures virtue. And at the same time, that's an antidote against sin, isn't it? Cause if you know people see you that way and believe you're that way, that accelerates your desire for virtue and your desire to stay away from sin.
Now as we look at these verses, verses 4 and following, we're going to see the kind of person who forgives. What kind of person has the capacity to forgive?
A. First… A Concern for the Lord (v.4-5a)
1. ‘…I thank my God…’ (v.4a).
a) An attitude of gratitude.
(1) Paul says that eveytime I pray about you, it’s with thanksgiving, I always thank God for you. Always when you come up in my prayers I express my thanks. I don't have anything other to say to God than thank You for Philemon.
(2) Thanksgiving should be a characteristic in the life of every believer. Why? Because giving thanks results in glory being brought to God, which is the goal of our Christian lives. If a believer is not giving thanks, and instead is grumbling about his life, he is not bringing glory to God.
Paul say’s in Philippians 2:14 that we are to “Do all things without grumbling or disputing.”
(3) Many times, Paul would open up his letter with thanksgiving:
Paul says to the Romans "First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, because your faith is being proclaimed throughout the whole world. For God, whom I serve in my spirit in the preaching of the gospel of His Son, is my witness as to how unceasingly I make mention of you." (Romans 1:8-9)
To those in Ephesus he writes "For this reason I too, having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus which exists among you and your love for all the saints, do not cease giving thanks for you, while making mention of you in my prayers." (Ephesians 1:15-16, NASB95)
To the Philippians he says "I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all." (Philippians 1:3-4, NASB95)
To those in Colosse he writes "We give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you." (Colossians 1:3)
To the Thessalonians he writes "We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brethren, as is only fitting, because your faith is greatly enlarged, and the love of each one of you toward one another grows ever greater; " (2 Thessalonians 1:3, NASB95)
To Timothy he says "I thank God… as I constantly remember you in my prayers night and day." (2 Timothy 1:3, NASB95)
!!!! b) Three Attitudes people have towards thanksgiving.
(1) It Is Unnecessary – Some people are not thankful simply because they think they deserve every good thing they have—and more. The rich young farmer of Jesus’ parable did not take God into consideration (Luke 12:19). Because he gave God no credit for his blessings, he saw no reason to give Him thanks.
(2) It is that of a Hypocrite – In another parable Jesus told of a self–righteous Pharisee who stood in the Temple and “was praying thus to himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax–gatherer. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get’ (Luke 18:11–12). As Jesus made clear in the words “praying thus to himself,” although the man used God’s name, his thankfulness was to himself and for himself.
(3) The Truly Thankful Person – Of the ten lepers Jesus healed on His way to Jerusalem, the only one who returned to thank Him was a Samaritan. But his thankfulness was genuine, and Jesus said to him, “Rise, and go your way; your faith has made you well” (Luke 17:19). The other nine lepers had sought Jesus’ healing only for their own benefit.
The Samaritan also sought it for God’s glory (v.18). His thankfulness was an expression of his trust in Jesus, his recognition that he was helpless in Himself and that his healing was undeserved and entirely by the Lord’s grace. As a result, he received salvation. That is the thankfulness, the only thankfulness, that pleases God
(4) The Psalms are instruct us in this aspect. They contain more praise than petition. Believers come into their Father’s presence through thanksgiving.
Psalm 100:4 says we “enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise” (Ps.100:4).
c) Three Levels of Thanksgiving.
(1) Thankful when we are blessed – When things are going well or God grants an especially welcome benefit, we are happy and grateful. When getting a job, being delivered from sickness, being reconciled with our spouse, or experiencing other such pleasant things, it is easy to be grateful to the Lord.
(2) Being thankful for the hope of blessing and victory yet to come – The first level is after the fact, the second is in anticipation of the fact. Thanking God before a blessing is more difficult than thanking Him afterward, and requires more faith and spiritual maturity. This second level is where faith and hope begin, because it involves the unseen and the yet unexperienced.
Jesus demonstrated this in (John 11:41-41) where He thanked God in advance, in total confidence before the prayer was answered.
Jesus said "Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. “I knew that You always hear Me; but because of the people standing around I said it, so that they may believe that You sent Me." (John 11:41-42, NASB95)
(3) Thanking God in the Midst of battle – When Daniel heard that King Darius had signed the decree forbidding the worship of any god or man but the king himself, Daniel immediately “entered his house (now in his roof chamber he had windows open toward Jerusalem); and he continued kneeling on his knees three times a day, praying and giving thanks before his God, as he had been doing previously” (Dan.6:10).
2. ‘…making mention of you always in my prayers…’ (v.4b).
a) Unceasingly, petitioning for the brethren.
(1) The Apostle Paul, was a man who continued to petition for the brethren in his prayers.
Paul says to Timothy “I constantly remember you in my prayers night and day” (1:3b).
(2) One of the ways to motivate other believers to consider their accountability to be faithful and to move their hearts in service of Christ, is to continually hold them up before the Lord in prayer—and to tell them of it.
There is an interesting verse in 1 Samuel that says "far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you; but I will instruct you in the good and right way." (1 Samuel 12:23, NASB95)
!!! 3. ‘…hearing of your love and faith which you have toward the Lord Jesus Christ…’ (v.5a).
a) Philemon had a concern for the Lord, he desired to please Him.
(1) Paul says the first thing I hear about you Philemon is that you have a true faith in the Lord Jesus, you have a concern for the Lord & you want to please Him.
(2) I know I can come to you, Philemon, and ask you to forgive because you are concerned about the Lord, you have a true saving faith, you're a genuine real Christian and therefore you have the ability to forgive. You have been forgiven so you can forgive.
(3) Philemon, Paul says…
(a) we are those for whom much has been forgiven and we can forgive much.
(b) we are those of whom we are to forgive one another because God for Christ's sake has forgiven us.
(c) we are those, like the parable of Matthew 18, who have been forgiven an unpayable debt and should go out and forgive others. Philemon, you have a real faith, you're a true believer, and you can forgive.
(4) Just a side note, the verb "you have", present tense, you continue to have. An ongoing continuous nature of concern toward the Lord, he continues to want to please Him.
(5) So, a forgiving person has a concern for the Lord, wants to honor the Lord & is desirous of that which expresses his faith in the Lord. And because his faith is real he has the capacity to forgive.
B. Secondly… A Concern for people (v.5b).
1. ‘Love…toward all the saints…’ (v.5b).
a) Sacrificial Love.
(1) This is agape love, this is love of choice, love of the will, love of self-sacrifice, love of humility, and this is the love that says I don't care about myself, I care about you.
(2) This is the love that says I'll make any sacrifice to meet your need.
(3) This is the love that says it's not emotion with me, its obedience. I'm not compelled to serve you because there's something about you that's attractive, I'm compelled to serve you because there's something about the power of God within me that moves me that way.
You remember 1 Thessalonians 4:9? Paul says I don’t have to teach you how to love "Now as to the love of the brethren, you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another” (1 Thessalonians 4:9-10, NASB95)
How are they taught by God? Because Paul says in Romans "the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us." (Romans 5:5, NASB95)
b) Brotherly love toward all the saints reflects the nature of Christians.
(1) The apostle John powerfully affirms that truth.
In his first epistle, chapter 2 verses 9-11 he states that “The one who says he is in the light and yet hates his brother is in the darkness until now. The one who loves his brother abides in the light and there is no cause for stumbling in him. But the one who hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going because the darkness has blinded his eyes” (1 John 2:9–2:11).
In the next chapter the apostle uses even stronger words: “By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother (1 John 3:10).
Jesus Himself said that “By this (which is brotherly love), by this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).
!!!!! (2) This love does not demand, expect repayment or love in order to receive (v.16).
Jesus said: "When you give a dinner or a supper, do not ask your friends, your brothers, your relatives, nor rich neighbors, lest they also invite you back, and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you; for you shall be repaid at the resurrection of the just." (Luke 14:12-14, NKJV)
(3) It loves even when it is rejected:
Paul said "I will gladly spend myself and all I have for your spiritual good, even though it seems that the
more I love you, the less you love me.” (2 Corinthians 12:15, NLT)
C. Thirdly…A Concern for fellowship (v.6a).
1. ‘…the sharing (fellowship NASB) of your faith may become effective…’ (v.6a).
a) Faith that pursues fellowship.
(1) Real faith and love will result in a concern for fellowship. In other words, there is no place in the Body of Christ for a selfishness that does not care about others.
In the early church "They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer." (Acts 2:42, NASB95)
(2) In the church that Jesus Christ is building, people are involved in one anther’s lives. And in this church at Calvary Chapel La Mirada people are involved in one another’s lives. The church is not a theater where people go to watch what happens. We are not supposed to come in, sit down, walk out, and have no other involvement with the fellowship.
Instead, we’re commanded, as the writer of Hebrews says to “consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near” (Heb. 10:24, 25NASB).
Listen to the way the NIV renders it: "And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching." (Hebrews 10:24-25, NIV)
Listen to the NLT: "Think of ways to encourage one another to outbursts of love and good deeds. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage and warn each other, especially now that the day of his coming back again is drawing near." (Hebrews 10:24-25, NLT)
(3) We need each other. We need to be in fellowship with each other, as we strengthen each other and encourage each other.
(4) So Paul is saying to Philemon, “You need to forgive because I don't want chaos in the fellowship, I want harmony, peace, unity." What's his implication here?
(a) Onesimus is coming back. You know now that Onesimus from reading this letter is a Christian. And that makes him in the fellowship and he belongs to you now not only as a slave but as a brother in Christ and you belong to him not only as a master but as a brother in Christ and I know you care about the fellowship.
b) Faith that is effective.
(1) Now, Paul says, I want your fellowship, the fellowship of your faith to become effective, to have a powerful impact.
(2) Paul’s saying if you forgive this guy it's going to have a powerful impact because this was a serious felony for which Onesimus could lose his life and if you just flat forgive the guy that's going to send a strong message to the church about the priority of fellowship & forgiveness!
(3) This word effective is used 2 other times in the New Testament:
Paul says "for a wide door for effective service has opened to me, and there are many adversaries." (1 Corinthians 16:9, NASB95)
The writer of Hebrews says that "the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart." (Hebrews 4:12, NASB95)
c) Just a side note on fellowship:
(1) Not only do we have fellowship with the saints, but listen to whom else we have fellowship with:
Our Father in Heaven, John writes "what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ." (1 John 1:3, NASB95)
Paul also comments on our fellowship with Jesus in 1 Corinthians, he says "God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord." (1 Corinthians 1:9, NASB95)
The 3rd Person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all." (2 Corinthians 13:14, NASB95)
"If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. " (1 John 1:6-7, NASB95)
"Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? " (2 Corinthians 6:14, NASB95)
(2) So, a person with true saving faith is concerned about the Lord.
(3) A person who has had the love of God shed abroad in his heart is concerned about other people.
(4) And a person who cares about the fellowship and has the priority of the mutual belonging of believers in his mind is going to be the kind of person eager to forgive. If you love the Lord, if you love people, if you love the fellowship, you'll be a forgiver
(5) There's a fourth...a fourth concern and that is this, he had a concern for knowledge.
D. Fourthly…A Concern for knowledge (v.6b).
1. ‘…the knowledge of every good thing which is in you…’ (v.6b).
a) Spiritual blessings in the heavenlies.
(1) When you became a Christian, did God put good things in you? Yes, of course!
Paul says "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” (Ephesians 1:3, NASB95)
(2) Epignōsis (knowledge) refers to a deep,rich, full, experiential knowledge. It’s the knowledge that comes through personal acquaintance with the truth. See, Philemon could read of forgiveness, or hear a sermon about it. But until he forgave, he could have no experiential knowledge of it.
(3) You want to know how to get the knowledge of the good things that are in you? Exercise them. You will find out the incredible goodness of what God has placed within you when you walk in obedience to the will of God and you experience those things in your own life.
(4) God has given you the capacity to forgive. Forgive somebody and experience it." That's what he's saying. Once you do it, Philemon, you're going to experience the forgiveness
(5) Do you think there’s a difference between looking at a picture in a book of someone skiing down a mountain and actually being on the mountain yourself?
(6) The same thing is true in the spiritual realm. I can read the words on the pages of the Bible that define forgiveness but I will never have the deep knowledge of forgiveness until I forgive and experience it. And that's how I learn to know every good thing that God has put in me.
(7) So, the person who can forgive is concerned about the Lord. He's concerned about people. He's concerned about fellowship and he's concerned about knowledge. He wants the full rich deep knowledge of every good thing that's in him.
(8) There's a fifth component, I think, in the character of someone who forgives and that is a concern for glory.
!! E. Fifthly…A Concern for Glory (v.6c)
1. ‘…for Christ’s sake…’ (v.6c).
a) Doing all things for the glory of God.
(1) Now, actually in the Greek it says, "Unto Christ, so in other words, he is saying:
(a) …"Philemon, I know you have fellowship as a priority, I want it to be powerful.
(b) …I know you're concerned about knowledge and I want it to be the knowledge of every good thing that is in you.
(c) …and I know you want all of this for Christ's sake," that's implied. In other words, you're concerned about the glory of Christ. You do it unto Him
(2) The Christian life with all its deeds, with all its joys, with all its works, with all its responsibilities is for the glory of Christ, it's for Christ's sake, it's for Christ's name, it's for Christ's praise, for Jesus Christ's glory!
(3) If you're devoted to that you're going to forgive, right? I cant say “I’m not going to forgive you” because if you say that basically you are saying “I’m not interested in Your Glory, but my vengeance.”
(4) But if you want to honor Christ then you'll forgive as He forgave you, right?
(5) So… the one who forgives then is marked by
(a) a concern for the Lord
(b) a concern for people
(c) a concern for fellowship
(d) a concern for deep experiential knowledge and…
(e) a concern for the glory of his Lord.
(6) There's one last note. The person who forgives is characterized by a concern to be a blessing.
F. Sixth... A Concern to be a blessing (v.7)
1. ‘…I have come to have much joy and comfort in your love…’ (v7).
a) A reputation for love.
(1) Paul says your love has brought me joy and comfort. In fact, Philemon, you bring me much joy. Why? Because in the middle of (v.7) he says through Philemon, the hearts of the saints had been refreshed.
(2) People struggling, suffering, and hurting emotionally, had been refreshed by Philemon. Refreshed is from anapauō, a military term that speaks of an army resting from a march.
(3) So check this out! Philemon brought troubled people rest and renewal; he was a peacemaker.
(4) Philemon was a source of blessing to everyone and that kind of person, Paul knew, could be counted on to forgive.
I. The Nature of One Who Forgives (v.1-7) 1
A. First… A Concern for the Lord (v.4-5a) 1
B. Secondly… A Concern for people (v.5b). 4
C. Thirdly…A Concern for fellowship (v.6a). 6
D. Fourthly…A Concern for knowledge (v.6b). 7
E. Fifthly…A Concern for Glory (v.6c) 8
F. Sixth... A Concern to be a blessing (v.7) 8