The Gospel demands all of us.
It is something that penetrates our minds and hearts.
It changes the way we live, think, spend our finances, raise our children, do marriage, and relate to others.
It demolishes social barriers, economic barriers, and ethnic barriers.
There is no aspect of the believer that should not be penetrated by the Gospel.
All sinful barriers should be broken down in the life of Christ-followers.
Today we are going to take a brief one-week break from our study of Colossians to detour into the book of Philemon.
This letter was written around the same time as Colossians during Paul’s second imprisonment and was likely carried by the same letter couriers at the same time.
There is significant overlap historically with this letter when compared to Colossians as Philemon played an important role in the church of Colossae.
We will see the effect that the Gospel had on Philemon as we go through this letter, and I pray that we take this personal letter and apply it to our own lives as well.
I pray that as we study this short letter today, God prepares our hearts to hear and understand the demands that the Gospel places on our lives.
Let us pray.
Today we are going to discuss three things that the Gospel demands of us.
The first is...
The Gospel Demands Our Life (1-3)
Paul and Timothy start off this letter by greeting Philemon.
As we move forward, we see that the real sender is Paul though.
This is a personal letter from Paul to Philemon.
Paul, is in his second imprisonment which is in Rome.
This is the imprisonment that we mentioned early in our study of Colossians that ended in Acts 28.
It was during this imprisonment that he wrote Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians and this letter.
I have decided to go over this letter right before we end our study in Colossians because we are going to be introduced to the main subject of this letter - Onesimus - as we close out the book of Colossians.
Note that the greeting includes a fact about Philemon - that he is their beloved fellow worker.
After greeting who is probably Philemon’s wife (Apphia -Uh-fee-a) and probably his son Archippus, we see a very important fact shown to us in verse 2. There is a church that meets in his house.
This is quite a big deal.
Philemon is not only a genuine believer, but he has even opened up his home for the church to meet.
And it appears that even his family is all in as Paul refers to Apphia as a sister - usually meaning a sister in Christ and Archippus as a fellow soldier - meaning that he is a warrior for the Gospel.
We can learn a lot from this family, my friends.
Philemon, as we will see from this letter in verses 19-20, was likely a convert of Paul’s, possibly while Paul ministered in Ephesus.
Paul actually goes so far as to let Philemon know that he owes him even his own self - meaning that without hearing the Gospel preached by Paul, Philemon and his family would be destined for destruction in Hell.
But instead of being destined for eternal torment, Philemon and his family came to a saving knowledge of Christ and gave their entire life over to Christian ministry.
They are a great example that the Gospel demands our entire life.
So many people give lip service to Christ but never fully give their life over to Christ.
Those who are true believers are fully dedicated to Christ.
No this doesn’t mean that you have to house a church in order to be saved.
But there should be a complete life transformation.
Your priorities should be God’s priorities.
And Philemon’s family is a wonderful example of just that.
Instead of amassing wealth, they are sharing their goods and home with fellow believers.
Instead of leveraging his finances and influence for political power, Philemon is using his provisions for the advancement of the Gospel.
In verse 3 Paul ends with one of his intro statements that he repeats throughout most of his letters - Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
He starts and ends most of his letters with the concept of grace.
He wants his readers to remember that we are saved by grace through faith - not by works (Ephesians 2:8-9).
He wants them to remember the cross of Jesus Christ that poured out the grace we needed for salvation.
Moving forward we see that...
Scripture References: Acts 28, Ephesians 2:8-9
The Gospel Demands Our Labor (4-7)
Moving forward we start to see that the Gospel demands our labor.
Those who have been changed by the Gospel give their labor and love to both Christ and His people.
They obey the first and second greatest commandments (Matthew 22:37-39).
Just the thought of Philemon’s loving service to the Lord brings thankfulness to Paul as he recalls the news he has heard regarding the love and faith that Philemon has for Christ and the church.
Philemon is the real deal.
He is the opposite of the rich, young ruler that Jesus encountered.
After Jesus asked a few of the commandments to this rich, young man we come to this part of the account:
Philemon could have been this guy.
He had great wealth and a home big enough to house a gathering of Christians.
He had servants and was well known.
Note that Jesus didn’t ask this young wealthy man to work for his salvation.
He asked him to be willing to give up everything that hindered him from fully loving and working for God.
Yet, instead of going away sorrowful when he heard the call of the Christ,
Philemon committed all he had to the Gospel - even his family.
He gave his labor and his heart to the moving forward of the Gospel.
Philemon was not saved by his good works - he was saved unto good works.
A true saving faith is one that does work.
It is one that labors out of a love for Christ through the power of Christ in the believer.
Remember at the beginning of this letter that Paul mentioned a man who is likely Philemon’s son.
Philemon 2 (ESV)
and Apphia our sister and Archippus our fellow soldier, and the church in your house:
Archippus is called a fellow soldier.
We will see in our last sermon in Colossians next week that Archippus is mentioned in Colossians 4:17
Philemon, it appears had even encouraged and supported his own son to go all in and labor for the faith.
Being referred to as a soldier and being spoken of as having a ministry that was recieved in the Lord, it is very likely that Archippus was either a leader in the church of Colossae or maybe even a missionary sent out by the church.
Pastor Kenny Stidham, the recently retired pastor from Good Shepherd Baptist in Scott Depot, once told me that you can tell a lot about a man or woman by looking at their children.
You see, children watch their parents closely.
And by looking at a man or woman’s children, you can tell a lot about the heart of that man or woman in the home.
If there is family worship and Bible teaching going on in the home, the children are going to know the Word.
If there is discipline going on in the home, then the children are going to be more likely to respond to discipline in public.
We mustn’t go too far with this as it should noted that some children are frankly more difficult than others.
Parents are not ultimately responsible for all of the sins of their children nor are children for their parents as we see in Ezekiel 18.
But the principle of this fact is most certainly true.
Parents who practice during the week what they bring to church on Sunday are more likely to have children who follow in their footsteps.
And Philemon was a man who practiced what he preached.
And his son followed in his example.
Moving to verse 6 we see that Paul prays for Philemon’s effectiveness in sharing the Gospel with others as well.
He wants to see success in Philemon’s work as a servant for Christ.
Paul understands that no one comes to the Father unless he or she is being drawn by God (John 6:44).
With this truth in mind, Paul understands the necessity of prayer in the ministry of believers.
Prayer is not a cop out or something that we do just to jump through the hoops of trying to be obedient.
There is true power in prayer.
If we want to see our ministry at CrossPointe blessed and successful, we must cover it with prayer.
It is only God that can save souls and grow our fellowship.
Lastly, in verse 7 Paul reflects on the joy and comfort that he has from the love of his friend Philemon.
He likely recieved this information about the growth and work of Philemon from Epaphras who had let Paul know what was going on at the church in Colossae (Colossians 1:7-8)
There is something about seeing a person that you have poured into start pouring into others.
As a parent, it is such a joy to watch your children start to pour into younger children.
And as a minister of the Gospel, Paul found great joy and comfort in seeing Philemon paying it forward.