Grace for the Sinner Part II: An Exposition of Philemon 4-7 -- By: J. Dwight Pentecost

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 129:515 (Jul 1972)
Article: Grace for the Sinner Part II: An Exposition of Philemon 4-7
Author: J. Dwight Pentecost

Grace for the Sinner
Part II:
An Exposition of Philemon 4-7

J. Dwight Pentecost

[J. Dwight Pentecost, Professor of Bible Exposition, Dallas Theological Seminary.]

Paul was a true witness for the Lord Jesus Christ. While in prison he had been instrumental in leading Onesimus, a slave, to a personal knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ as his Savior. When it was learned that Onesimus had fled from his master, Paul sent him back to Philemon. Paul wrote a letter to Philemon exhorting him to restore that runaway slave to his former position. According to Roman law, a slave owner had the right to do with his slave what he wished. He had the power of life and death over his purchased possession. Onesimus was returning to meet his master with a possible death sentence hanging over his head. The apostle is asking that which is contrary to nature. He is asking the owner to grant forgiveness to one who has doubly wronged him. Onesimus had not only run away from his master, but he may have stolen from him before he had run away. It would be the natural thing for the wronged master to wreak vengeance upon his slave. And yet the apostle is asking Philemon (Phile 12), “thou therefore receive him.”

Whether Onesimus will be received back into the good graces of Philemon depends upon the attitude of Philemon. And as the apostle is writing in verses 4 through 7 he emphasizes the character of Philemon as it has been manifested both to God and to the saints. It is this which gives Paul an assurance that Philemon will manifest the grace of forgiveness to this one who deserves only death. The apostle writes in verses 4 and 5, “I thank my God, making mention of thee always in my prayers, hearing of thy love

and faith, which thou hast toward the Lord Jesus, and toward all the saints.” One of the most remarkable things revealed in the epistles of Paul is the great extent of the prayer life of this apostle. Here is one who traversed the Roman world to bring Christ to the Gentile people. Here is one who was occupied in season, and out of season, with preaching and teaching the Word of God. Here is one whose life was characterized by busyness from early morning until late at night. Here is one who suffered unprecedented hardships for the gospel’s sake, who yet found time to spend much time in prayer. Here is one who, in spite of the responsibilities and the burdens that rested upon him, gave himself to a continuous ministry of intercession.

It is difficu...

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