Studies in Philemon Part V: The Obedience of a Son -- By: J. Dwight Pentecost

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 130:518 (Apr 1973)
Article: Studies in Philemon Part V: The Obedience of a Son
Author: J. Dwight Pentecost

Studies in Philemon
Part V:
The Obedience of a Son

J. Dwight Pentecost

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

Onesimus, carrying an epistle to Philemon, could confess “I am not worthy,” for he was a slave of Philemon, who had robbed his master, and had run away to be swallowed up in the capital city of the Roman Empire. While he was there, hiding from the wrath of his rightful owner, he came to know Jesus Christ as his personal Savior through the ministry of the Apostle Paul. While Paul might have made use of Onesimus in Rome, he sent him back to Philemon in order that he might be restored. The Apostle Paul is writing this little epistle to another of his sons in the faith, Philemon, in order that he might be willing to receive Onesimus back. Onesimus, because of his crimes against Philemon, was under a death sentence, for death was the penalty for any slave who abandoned his master. As Onesimus returned, he had to trust the intercessory work of Paul to bring him into favor with Philemon. Onesimus had no plea of his own, for he was guilty. He had no right to expect favor from Philemon. Onesimus is dependent entirely upon the plea of the Apostle Paul.

Previously, it was seen how this illustrates the work of God the Son in bringing sinners into fellowship with God the Father. In the first place, in verses 4 to 8, Onesimus would be received into the house of Philemon because of Philemon’s attitude or good disposition. Paul is confident that Philemon will accept Onesimus because Philemon previously had manifested love toward God, and faithfulness to the saints and his past conduct makes Paul confident concerning his reception of Onesimus. We were reminded that God is kindly disposed toward sinners. But God’s mercy and grace cannot be revealed to sinners apart from the work of the Lord Jesus

Christ. When Christ came and gave Himself as a sacrifice for the sins of the world, that sacrifice opened the floodgates that held back the manifestation of God’s love and mercy. In the second place, Onesimus was received by Philemon because of the intercession of the one who loved him. Because Onesimus was loved by Paul as a son in the faith, Paul takes the place of an intercessor, and he says, “I beseech thee for my son Onesimus.” Paul, in love, took the place of an intercessor to represent the guilty one before the one whom he had injured, even as the Lord Jesus Christ takes the place as a mediator, and an intercessor, between sinners and God. One is received because Jesus Christ pleads for the believer, pleads His sacrifice, pleads His blood, and...

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