Onesimus: A Picture Of Grace       

Philemon 15


     Philemon was a truly gracious man (v. 5). He loved Christ,his church,his gospel,and his servants. He maintained a church in his house. He treated God's servants with the highest respect, kindness, and generosity. He was an especially benevolent friend to the Apostle Paul. Onesimus was a slave whom Philemon had come to trust. But this trusted steward of Philemon's household betrayed his master, stole his money, and ran away to Rome. At Rome, by one means or another, he was brought into contact with Paul in prison. There he heard the gospel of Christ and was converted. Converted or not, Onesimus still belonged to Philemon. He was a wanted man.His master had a lawful right to have him executed, but he might be gracious. So Paul wrote this little epistle to Philemon and sent Onesimus back to his master with a plea for mercy.What a picture this is!The only way any sinner will ever be saved is to return to his Master, who has every right to slay him, pleading for mercy. As Onesimus found mercy at the hands of Philemon, so every repenting sinner finds mercy at the throne of grace when he returns to God by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Read this little epistle carefully and you will see seven lessons clearly taught in it.

1. All true believers are united to one another in sincere love (vv. 1-5, 16).

2. God always uses the appointed means of grace, gospel preaching, to save chosen sinners (v. 10). By one means or another, he causes his elect to hear the Word (Rom. 10:17).

3. The transforming power of God's sovereign grace makes the most useless sinners profitable servants to him (v. 11; I Cor. 1:26-30; 6:9-11).

4. The providence of God arranges all things for the salvation of his elect, overruling the most evil deeds of men, even the sins of his chosen, to bring them to Christ (v. 15; Psa. 76:10).

5. As Onesimus was accepted for Paul's sake, so God's elect are accepted for Christ's sake on the basis of his substitutionary work and intercession (vv. 17-18).

6. Saved sinners owe a debt of gratitude to those who are the instruments of their salvation (v.19;Isa.52:7).

7. The most blessed thing in the world is the experience and the exercise of free forgiveness (v. 17; Matt. 6:14-15; Eph. 4:32).


Don Fortner