The Berean Expositor
Volume 45 - Page 130 of 251
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pp. 72 - 76
The apostle Paul, demonstrating his confidence in the grace of God as having touched
Onesiums, "his child", begotten in his bonds, sent him back from Rome to Colosse
accompanied by Tychicus (Col. 4: 7-9; Philem. 12).  In doing this he waived his
authority as an apostle, and subordinated his own desire to retain Onesimus, to "the
mind" of Philemon:
"Whom I would have retained with me, that in thy stead he might have ministered
unto me in the bonds of the gospel: but without thy mind would I do nothing: that thy
benefit (thy good) should not be as it were of necessity, but willingly" (12-14).
The Apostle assumes that Philemon himself would perform this ministry to him, had
he been present, and was of a mind to keep Onesimus on his behalf, but again the
greatness of the man showed itself--not "of necessity, but willingly".  Paul was
concerned that ministry should come from the heart, a lesson for all believers of all times.
The more that is read of this wonderful epistle, the more it is realized that it was
written with a pen "dipped in grace". There is never compulsion, and the only debt is
"to love one another" (Rom. 13: 8); yet when this has been said, it only serves to
emphasize the truth of I John 3: 16:
"Hereby know we love, because He laid down His life for us: and we ought to lay
down our lives for the brethren" (R.V.).
Paul could quote examples of those who possessed this spirit:
"Greet Priscilla and Aquila my helpers in Christ Jesus: who have for my life laid
down their own necks" (Rom. 16: 3, 4).
"Epaphroditus . . . . . for the work of Christ he was nigh unto death, not regarding his
life, to supply your lack of service toward me" (Phil. 2: 30).
"Onesiphorus (no doubt at great personal risk remembering that Paul was in the
`death cell' at this time) . . . . . sought me out very diligently . . . . . and in how many
things he ministered unto me in Ephesus, thou knowest very well" (II Tim. 1: 16-18).
The obligation of such `love' is perhaps never more felt than in this most personal of
Paul's epistles. The comfort such ministry must have brought to the Apostle cannot be
gauged at this distance in time, but the value he put upon it, is some indication. He gave
up this comfort when he sent Onesimus back to Philemon. Here is true greatness, for
Philemon was in debt to Paul (19) and the Apostle might well have considered it his right
to retain this minister to offset such a debt.  The `good' (agathos) of verse 6 is
recognized; the `benefit' (agathos) of verse 14 is to be exercised `willingly'.
The Apostle now indicates his belief that behind the whole affair may be observed the
work of God.
"For perhaps he was therefore parted from thee for a season, that thou shouldest have
him for ever" (15 R.V.).