Forgive (Before You Read Philemon)

Philemon: Where the Gospel Meets Life  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
0 ratings
· 1 view

Big Idea

Tension: What does Paul want Philemon to know before he reads Philemon about forgiveness?
Resolution: That he should forgive Onesimus because he is forgiven.
Exegetical Idea: Paul wants Philemon to know that he should forgive Onesimus because he is forgiven.
Theological Idea: Christian forgiveness is motivated by and emulates Christ’s forgiveness of us.
Homiletical Idea: We forgive because we’re forgiven.


Introduction: I want you to imagine that it is sunset. The church in Colossae, which meets in a wealthy widow named Apphia’s house, is about to start the worship service. In the church there are slaves and freemen, there are men and women, Jews and Gentiles. Children chatter away. There are maybe 30-40 people. One of the two ruling elders of the church is preparing himself to preach, perhaps over one of the Old Testament prophets. At first, he was not as good as the teaching pastor, a man named Epaphras, but Epaphras has been imprisoned in Rome for his faith, and the elder has more clout in the community. Ever since he’s been one of the main teachers, he’s gotten to be quite good and respected by the church. The smell of the love-meal which has been prepared as the climax of their time together wafts into the noisy living room. Everyone’s looking at their watches, getting ready to start worshipping, when suddenly there are footsteps down the hall. Walking right into the giant living room are two men, one familiar, one strange. They carry in their hands, three letters, three messages from the Apostle Paul. People are excited by this, but confused. Tychicus, the strange man is known by reputation. He is one of Paul’s chief deputies. What an honor! But the other man, a man named Onesimus, a man who had deeply wronged them, a man who had stolen lots of money from his master and run away, they had never expected to see again. This itself would have been strange, but it is only heightened by the fact that his master was none other than the teaching elder. When the teaching elder of the church has had a chance to collect his thoughts, he gruffly reaches out his hand and looks over the letters. To his surprise, one of them is addressed to himself, reading in big letters, “The epistle of the Paul to Philemon.”
So today, we are going to begin a 7 week series in the letter of Paul to Philemon. And it might surprise you that we are actually going to be in the book of Colossians together this morning. This is because I believe that the whole book of Philemon can only be understood in light of these verses in Colossians. So first, before we really get into these verses, I want to give you three reasons why there is a connection between these books, and why, if we want to understand the letter to Philemon, we need to have a grasp on these three verses in Colossians. So here are 3 reasons for the Colossian Connection
The Colossian Connection
Look at the names at the end of Philemon, vs. 23-25. We see here the names of Epaphras, Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke. 5 Names. Now turn to the back of Colossians, Colossians 4, starting in vs. 10. We see the names of Aristarchus, Mark, Epaphras, Luke, and Demas. Further, Archippus is mentioned in Col. 4:17, and Archippus is one of hte people mentioned in Philemon 1-3. These two letters were written at the same time and sent at the same time by the same hands to the same place. They were written by Paul in prison, both to the church in Colossae, where Archippus and Philemon were most likely elders. The first connection then, appears to be contextual and canonical.
The second reason is grammatical. In these three verses there are 8 words that are found throughout the book of Philemon. Some of them are relatively common, but most of them are not, take for instance that great Greek word σπλαγχνα. More on that in a bit.
The third reason for the connection is conceptual. These verses are about having a posture of love and forgiveness, even when people have wronged us. The letter to Philemon is written to a man named Philemon, whose slave, a man named Onesimus, wronged him deeply and could have cost him a fortune and run away. And now that Onesimus has become a Christian, Paul is urging Philemon to forgive him. For us, these three verses will help to equip us to understand what forgiveness is, and the book of Philemon will help us to understand how to forgive one another specifically.
<Read Colossians 3:12-14>
So a good place to start is to start by asking what is forgiveness. And I believe this is crucial for us to understand, because I think that this will help to guide us and direct us in our study.
Forgiveness is giving up our right to get even. Why is this? Because, as we’ll see in a minute, this is what Christ did for us. Christ took our blame, and gives us his blessing. Christ took our punishment, and gives us his reward. So for Christians, forgiveness recognizes the wrong that somebody else has done, but it chooses not to get even with them. So if you say you forgive somebody, that means you’re not going to get even with them. So if you get in a fight with your spouse, and you both say I’m sorry and you confess your sins and you forgive them, you’re not going to punish them with coldness. If you say you forgive someone for something they said to you, you won’t gossip about them behind their back. Why not? Because in gossiping you’re trying to get even with them. If you say you forgive your children, then you’re not going to make them earn your love back.
But it’s equally important to learn what forgiveness is not. Forgiveness is not foolishness. In other words, we are called to forgive people, we’re not necessarily called to trust people. Forgiveness is given freely. Trust is restored slowly. So, for example, the apostle Paul was abandoned in the middle of a hard season by someone he counted as a friend, John Mark. It’s not unreasonable that he didn’t trust him when John Mark wanted to go on their next journey. I don’t think that means Paul didn’t forgive him. More personally, <illustration: Charles>. We all need to get to the place where we can forgive those who have wronged us. When we forgive, we should, the best we can, leave the door open for restoration and trust to be restored when the other party recognizes their sin and repents. Think of Joseph with his brothers. But, nowhere in Scripture are we encouraged to be foolish around those people. We are called to forgive. We’re not called to foolishness. Innocent as doves, wise as serpents.
Transition: Maybe you’re wondering, why are we called to forgive? Why should we forgive? I’m glad you asked. Here is the reason for our forgiveness
The reason we forgive.
Look here in vs. 13. Look here, it says, forgive as or because the Lord forgave you. We forgive because he forgave. I think if we don’t start here, we screw everything else up.
Here are some simple things that this passage tells us about God’s forgiveness of us
χαριζομαι - It is generous and lavish and liberal and prodigal. He holds nothing back.
God paid the cost to forgive you. This word for forgiveness actually recalls what Paul said up above in Col 2:13-14...
It is an aorist, past tense verb. All our sins are nailed to the cross. Our forgiveness is again and again, but Jesus’ says: this is finished.
God forgave you - God didn’t just make it possible for you to be forgiven. He actually forgave you. He actually forgave you. Up above he calls us his chosen ones. He chose to forgive us. He didn’t have to. he actually wanted to. He wanted you to be forgiven.
ὁ κυριος - He is the covenant God. His forgiveness restores covenant with us. It puts us back in a place to walk as his holy and beloved children.
Illustration: Ephesians 4:31-5:2
Ephesians 4:31–5:2 ESV
Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
Now, if you would have known me in college, you would have thought that I was an angry, bitter person. I definitely had an edge to me. You almost certainly would not have liked me. And the reason was, in part, because I went through a childhood trauma, and because I went through this, it kind of encouraged a control problem in my heart. And the problem was, I wasn’t in control. In fact, there is nothing that gets reinforced to you more in high school and in college that you are not in control. And so I was bitter and angry and disappointed. And I really was convicted in college that I needed to call this person and forgive him. And it totally changed my life. It was like the anger and my bitterness dried up. And I will tell you that showing forgiveness changed my life. That because I was obedient, it totally changed the trajectory of my life. Nevertheless, that’s not why we forgive.
The reason being, if I was to say to you, “forgive because it’s better for you”, I just don’t think that will compel people to actually forgive. When you come face to face with someone who has wronged you, who has abused their authority in your life, who has cut you deeply, it’s not that you don’t know that showing forgiveness to that person is a good idea. Of course you know that showing that is a good idea. But in that moment when you’re staring that person in teh eyes, or you’re lying at bed awake at night because of what they said to you, or you are ruminating bitterly over how they treated you, we are far more likely to say, “I’m gonna hold onto this anger a little longer.” It is far easier to say, “I know it’s good for me, but I’m going to be angry a bit more.” It is far more to say, “I know it will feel better in the long run to forgive, but I really feel like holding onto this grudge.” And that bitterness will fester like an open, cancerous sore until it consumes you whole.
The only way I know to prevent that is to change our motivation. To say that God has forgiven me, therefore, I must forgive. Look at this word for forgiveness, this word for forgiveness is the verbal form of the word “grace.” It’s literally this idea of the generosity of grace. When God forgave us, he was not begrudging, or scrooge-like, or a curmudgeon about it. He wraps us in his arms and says, “This my son was dead, and is now alive. Welcome home.” He was generous and he was liberal and he was prodigal. He wasn’t holding anything back.
And the reason is, because when you are really forgiven, when you really feel the free grace of God’s justification, when you really feel the genuine peace and relief of salvation, then it changes your heart. Which is why the wicked servant was condemned from our scripture reading: because when his master forgave him, he didn’t feel it. You know he goes and drags up his fellow servant because he hadn’t paid him back. I think the problem with the servant was that he never could accept that he was forgiven. He kept trying to pay his master back. He hadn’t received the gospel. His heart was cold.
The reality is, if God has justified you by grace through faith, then he justifies others. If God gave up his right to condemn you, if God took your debts into himself, if God set aside his just condemnation of you, what right do you have to condemn others? What right do you have to punish others? What right do you have to be bitter and angry and let malice fester? None. We forgive because he forgave.
The way we forgive. We forgive like he forgave.
Who are we when we put them on. It says put these on as...
Chosen - Those who are chosen
Holy - Those who are sanctified
Beloved - you are beloved
Put on then - This is an ongoing, present tense verb, meaning “to clothe yourself in, to robe yourself in.” It means that forgiveness is more than saying, “I forgive you for one little thing you did.” It means that continually, progressively, regularly, you need to clothe yourself in the forgiveness and love of God. It means that forgiveness is more of a posture and practice than an ocassional thing. In other words, in order to forgive, you have to be a forgiving person.
So what do we put on? Well, he gives us 7 virtues
Hearts of Compassion - How Jesus interacted with people was because he saw their needs and he felt mercy for them.
Matthew 9:36 ESV
When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.
Kindness - God was kind in moving towards us before we ever moved towards him. He was just good to us.
Ephesians 2:4–7 ESV
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
Humility - Jesus humbled himself towards us.
Philippians 2:5–8 ESV
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Meekness - Jesus did not assert his own rights, but gave them up for others. He doesn’t assert his superiority over others needlessly.
Matthew 11:29 ESV
Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
Patience - Patience endures hardship, it endures trials, it endures letdowns and shame.
1 Timothy 1:16 ESV
But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.
Forgiven - Now, we’re going to spend a whole week talking about Forgiveness. But for now, I think it’s enough to say that this word is talking about the indulgence of expense. That is, it emphasizes just how much God has forgiven us for. Paul has already told us about God’s forgiveness in 2:13-14...
Love - Perhaps most famously, God has shown his “love” for us.
John 3:16 ESV
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
Romans 8:31–39 ESV
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Notice here how all these things are an imitation of what God has done for us. And in particular, of how God has done them for us in the gospel. So here’s the idea, if the gospel is not at the center of who you are and what you do, you will not be forgiving. We talked about this a bit at Men’s Study last week, but we look like Jesus by looking at Jesus. You become forgiving, but beholding and seeing and loving and revelling and relishing the love of God in Christ for you. Do you want to be forgiving? Embrace and rehearse and remember and review this: God has forgiven you. You become forgiving, is by embracing forgiveness.
If one has a complaint against one another - So notice this, if and when complaint and division and divisiveness rise up, when you hurt one another, when you wound each other and backbite and lie, your posture is already forgiving. In other words, when someone else hurts you, you should already be ready to forgive. The reality is, if you want to forgive, you have to be a forgiven person. And praise God, the gospel of God’s forgiveness of us makes us forgiving people.
Do you want to be forgiving? Be forgiven. So if this is a hard sermon for you to hear, know this, you are forgiven. God has been liberal and generous and prodigal, he has spared no expense to bring you home. You were once lost, and now you are found.
Forgive, but don’t be foolish.
Don’t punish others by refusing to reconcile when they’re repentant.
Make it easy for others to forgive you.
Forgiveness is a perpetual posture, not a one time practice. It means not only do we need to forgive the bigt things done against us, but the little, tiny things done against us.
Forgiving others means being generous with forgiveness.
If you have forgiven someone, you should let them know.
Conclusion: David Henry
Related Media
See more
Related Sermons
See more