³Appeal for Reconciliation´ Danny André Dixon Sermon on Philemon July 4, 2010 1 Introduction Would you open your

Bibles to the book of Philemon. This season of the year has special significance to me, particularly as I think about the celebrations associated with the beginning of our country. We think about the Declaration of Independence, that magnificent document which begins with the recognition that ³all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.´ And I can¶t help but smile as I think about the boldness of that document and the resolve that stood behind it as it enumerated no less than 27 major headings of wrongs that had been brought upon the American Colonies by the King of England, with several times that many subheadings justifying the idea that since governments are granted their ruling power by the people, the people have the right to alter or to abolish the government over them. It is a document that says, ³Things have gotten so bad and have gone so wrongly for so long a period of time that it¶s just time that we called it quits and went our separate ways.´ And they were willing to die to see just that done. And then I cast my mind back to a former time; a time when the biblical perspective was not quite the humanistic one that served as a motivating force to defy the king and begin a new country. I think of Daniel¶s observation in chapter 2 verse 21 of his book in which he notes that God ³changes the times and the seasons´ and ³removes kings and set up kings´²and that includes the good ones as well as the bad ones²but all for his ultimate purposes on the earth. I think of that comment made during the days of Nebuchadnezzar King of Babylon, dethroned by the Medes and the Persians under Darius, conquered by Alexander

³Appeal for Reconciliation´ Danny André Dixon Sermon on Philemon July 4, 2010 2 the Great of Greece, whose empire fell to that of the Romans under Pompey. I think of that Roman empire, a republic governed for a short time under the first among Senators Julius Caesar, his assassination and the dynasty that began with his nephew Octavius, better known to us as Augustus, the emperor on the Roman throne when Jesus was born in Bethlehem. It was the time of the succeeding emperors Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius in the earliest days of the Christian Church and finally the time of Nero, the first Roman Emperor to exercise a local but vicious persecution upon Christians in and around Rome for a brief time²a time that included the latter ministry of Paul, who writes the letter to Philemon while in prison for the first time in Rome under Nero in the year 64 A.D. He would be released briefly, three years later, before Nero would arrest him again and decapitate him after a second imprisonment as part of that Christian persecution in 67 A.D. But it was indeed a different time²a time when slavery was the norm. There were thousands and thousands of slaves brought into Rome because of war. Slaves ³were the teachers and doctors, they were the accountants and clerks, they were they were the household servants and the field laborers´ (Arthur Mayer Wolfson, Essentials in Ancient History [New York, NY: American Book Co., 1902], pp. 432-433). Under Hebrew law, a slave was the money or property of his master and could be beaten to within an inch of his life, according to Exodus 21. Under Roman law, if slaves ³tried to run away, they were whipped, burned with iron, and sometimes even killed´ (I. Akatsa [03-21-2000], ³Slavery in Ancient Rome.´ History and Thought of Western Man. Rich East High School. Park Forest, IL.

³Appeal for Reconciliation´ Danny André Dixon Sermon on Philemon July 4, 2010 3 Retrieved 07-04-2010 from http://www.richeast.org/htwm/Greeks/Romans/

slavery/slavery2.html). We¶ll come back to that in a little while.

If you¶re wanting to take notes on our lesson this morning, you might want to begin with the idea of 1. The Church Leaders Remembered²1-9 If you¶ve ever followed the chronology of the book of Acts, you¶ll find that Paul was obsessed, or maybe I should say led by God¶s spirit to make his way to Rome to preach there. All of this begins in Romans chapter 23 after Paul makes a speech to an assembled crowd of Jews who end up wanting to tear him apart for challenging them on their hypocrisy. You could start reading about this in Acts 23:11 where the Lord tells Paul that he must be a witness for him in Rome. We won¶t read this material. But it¶s enough to say that it takes him five chapters of adventures to finally get to Rome in chapter 28:14 where he is put under guard in prison chained to a Roman soldier. It¶s from here that Paul writes his epistle to the Colossians on the supremacy of Christ; the epistle to the Ephesians on the glory of the Church in God¶s eternal plan; and to the Philippians, which is a letter on looking to Jesus as the ultimate pattern of service and humility within the Church as Christians live in harmony with one another. He also writes the letter to Philemon, who was probably the owner of a large home, which served as a house church where he served as an elder. Notice verses 1-3 of the letter: Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, To Philemon our dear friend and fellow worker, to Apphia our sister, to Archippus our fellow

³Appeal for Reconciliation´ Danny André Dixon Sermon on Philemon July 4, 2010 4 soldier, and to the church that meets in your home.Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. One of the first things that you¶ll notice here is how personal and affectionate this letter is. He considers Philemon his ³dear friend.´ Some scholars suggest that ³Apphia our sister´²Paul¶s Christian sister²is Philemon¶s wife, and Archippus is their son whom Paul calls his fellow soldier. In verses 4-5 he mentions their reputation of love and faith toward the Lord Jesus and toward all the saints, which is another word for the Christians. And he says he remembers them in his prayers. I thought the wording here was very interesting, because the New International Version words it ³your love and faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints.´ The Greek is a bit more awkward, but more precise. It literally reads: ³your love and faith which you have toward the Lord Jesus Christ and to all the saints.´ It¶s easy enough to think about think about showing love and faith to the Lord. That¶s sort of expected. We want to be committed to him. We want to be devoted deeply to him. We want to have affection for him. It¶s a little different to use those prepositions in describing our relationship with one another as members of the Christian Church. Paul here says we have love and faith toward Christ. But he also says we have love and faith toward the people whom God has set apart for his purposes. We can say that we want to show love toward people, and there is often no limit to the amount of love that we can pour out toward those in need, and not only that, just out of the kindness that we want to show people who are ³in the faith´ so to speak. It¶s a slightly more difficult thing to be so effulgent, so prodigal, so outpouring in showing faith toward other believers. Why? Faith in a context like this is showing reliability toward someone else regardless of that

³Appeal for Reconciliation´ Danny André Dixon Sermon on Philemon July 4, 2010 5 person¶s response. And it¶s right here that we begin to get a hint at the genius of Paul¶s letter. This is an epistle about relationship and of how far you will be willing to go out on a limb on someone else¶s behalf. What love and what faith you want to show to Christ, we should want to show to fellow Christians. Does this mean that we put other people on a pedestal as high as Christ is? No. But it does mean that there is a degree of focus on and toward other believers that is devoted simply because they happen to be ³in Christ.´ There is a consequence of this faith. Again we have a difficult phrase in the Greek. Literally it is, ³the fellowship of your faith.´ Admittedly the NIV sort of makes this verse sound like a verse on evangelism with a consequence that results if we ³share our faith.´ I mean I wish it were that simple: I wish that by just bustling up my courage and by sheer force of will I get out there²maybe in a brief case and a suit and look like a door to door insurance man²and hump it and share my faith with other people I¶d get the result mentioned in verse 6: that I might ³have a full understanding of every good thing in Christ.´ Now wouldn¶t that be neat? But again we have to keep in mind what Paul is doing and where he is going with this. I am convinced that he is ³working´ Philemon. He¶s not being dishonest. But he is definitely trying to bring out in Philemon a quality that is in Christ that ought to be seen demonstrated toward other believers. And it¶s not because he hasn¶t already seen this in Philemon. I mean, look at verse seven. He says, ³Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the saints.´ Now If we¶ve ever been a part of the process of selecting elders or overseers in the church we know that one quality that we look for, according to 1 Timothy 3:2 and Titus 1:8 is that

³Appeal for Reconciliation´ Danny André Dixon Sermon on Philemon July 4, 2010 6 an elder is supposed to be ³hospitable.´ That means willing to be open-hearted with his possessions and property to be seen as a welcoming and kind individual. But let¶s look at point number 2, which I¶ll call 2. A Slave¶s Rebirth Paul is done messing around. He now wants to get to the point of his letter. He begins verse 8 with the word, ³Therefore.´ The word that he chooses is the Greek word spelled in the English letters D-I-O, dio. This is a very strong Greek conjunction which means ³for this precise reason.´ Because I know you are otherperson centered. Because I know you to have a reputation for being a man who has faith toward Christ AND toward the brothers and sisters in the Lord. Because I know that you want to share the sort of faith that you have in the context of the Christian family²again, ³for this precise reason, although in Christ I could be bold and order you to do what you ought to do, yet I appeal to you on the basis of love. I then, as Paul²an old man and now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus . . .´ Okay, we have seen that Paul wants something. He has been buttering up Philemon from the very start. Addressing him and his family as if they were some really central part of the church there as hosts of the church that meets in their home; as people that he personally remembers in his prayers because of their love and faith toward Jesus (1) his authority as an apostle, which he says he won¶t use; and (2) because he¶s an old man. You know I¶ve observed something that I want to use as an illustration of this point, and that is the intense sense of familial respect in the Mexican culture for grandparents. But it is VERY prominent in the Mexican culture. Explain. I also observed it in Russia for the Bábushka or grandmother in the culture. The word ³Bábushka´ is a term of beauty and respect. It means ³butterfly´ in Russian). He

³Appeal for Reconciliation´ Danny André Dixon Sermon on Philemon July 4, 2010 7 adds as a basis of his appeal his old age. (Animate: ³Look, Philemon, I¶m an old man. I don¶t have a lot of time left on this earth, [which was literally true!]. Do this for me as a favor to an old man. I want you to consider that this young man is now a believer. He has been born again. He is my ³son in the faith´ through the gospel. Let¶s read a bit further and let him get it out: I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, who became my son while I was in chains. Formerly he was useless to you, but now he has become useful both to you and to me. I am sending him²who is my very heart²back to you. I would have liked to keep him with me so that he could take your place in helping me while I am in chains for the gospel. But I did not want to do anything without your consent, so that any favor you do will be spontaneous and not forced. Perhaps the reason he was separated from you for a little while was that you might have him back for good²no longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother. He is very dear to me but even dearer to you, both as a man and as a brother in the Lord. Now that¶s a mouthful: a. He appeals to spiritual PARENTHOOD. He says Onesimus became his son. In the book of first Corinthians, Paul deals with a number of problems. One of them was that they were allowing some very influential teachers to trump the authority of the apostles as if those people had some sort of parental status over them. He writes, correctively, in 1 Corinthians 4:15b-16: ³Even though you have 10,000 guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel. Therefore I urge you to imitate me.´ When you sit down and teach someone the gospel. IF you do, and you instruct

³Appeal for Reconciliation´ Danny André Dixon Sermon on Philemon July 4, 2010 8 that person in what is necessary to become obedient to the faith, Acts 6:7, when that person responds, you become, in effect, that person¶s spiritual father or mother. And you should want to feel some sense of responsibility to nurture the person and grow him or her up in the Lord. This is what Paul was feeling. And maybe he had a little of that in mind. When he talks to Philemon about Onesimus b. He argues on the basis of PRACTICALITY. He says that Onesimus was useless, now he¶s useful. We¶ll get a hint of it down in verse 18, but you get the impression that there was some sort of financial impropriety when Onesimus ran away from Philemon. In Luke 16:1-10 we have the parable of the unjust steward. It¶s a bit different since this fellow was an employee and the owner wanted to fire him. In Onesimus¶ case may have stolen something or embezelled funds. Under Roman law, he could be beaten, branded with a hot iron, or even put to death. Paul knew Philemon¶s rights under Roman law. c. He argues on the basis of PETITION. He says, ³I don¶t want to bully you´ and ³I want you to act spontaneously.´ I¶m asking you to do this. And isn¶t that the way Jesus wants things done in the church. He says in Luke 22:-26, ³The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority are given the title Benefactor. But you are not to be, like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules should be like the one who serves.´ d. He argues on the basis of PROVIDENCE. He says that, maybe God was at work all along (Comment on why I don¶t believe God causes

³Appeal for Reconciliation´ Danny André Dixon Sermon on Philemon July 4, 2010 9 everything to happen. But, as per Romans 8:28, he uses everything that does happen). e. He argues on the basis of PARTNERSHIP. He says, ³If you consider ME a partner, welcome him as you would welcome me.´ I think it would be foolish to think that every wrong that has ever been done against us by someone else is manageable. There are some biblical principles that seem to trump other principles in a given situation. I mean, what do you do if someone refuses to change. Jesus also said in Luke 17:3, ³So watch yourselves. If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgiven him.´ So it¶s not a blank check disregarding any misbehavior that someone wants to continually be in. Even Peter on the day of Pentecost said to those who heard his message about Jesus status as Lord and Messiah in Acts 2:37-38, ³REPENT and be baptized everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.´ Not everything is unconditional. But from every indication in this letter, Onesimus was someone whom Paul now had complete confidence, regardless of what he had done to Philemon in the past. He had truly been born again. He was a new man in Christ. Paul wanted Philemon to see it and to cut the man some slack. 3. A Brother¶s Recommendation 18-22 As our final point in this lesson¶s outline, let¶s think about ³A Brothers Recommendation. You know, near the end of the school year, I get a lot of requests from seniors to write them recommendations for scholarships to college. Those requests come from the biggest knotheads to the kids who receive some of the highest honors at the school. Is one kid really any better than another? Occasionally I¶ve come to find out that the smarter kids can be just a bit more

³Appeal for Reconciliation´ Danny André Dixon Sermon on Philemon July 4, 2010 10 evasive of the authorities, or know how to talk their way out of a disciplinary situation than one of their less ingenious classmates. Sometimes the comment on the recommendation for some of the bad kids just doesn¶t mention the bad but says, somewhat creatively, ³This student was always present in class´ (Sometimes you wish he wasn¶t). Or ³This student always turned her work in on time´ (Even if there obviously wasn¶t the best effort that could have been made, or was an almost unreadable scribbling of an essay that you know was written between Algebra problems or in Math class the hour before it was due in mine). Paul doesn¶t deny that Onesimus had done wrong. But he also doesn¶t deny that Philemon had suffered loss because of this slave. He says, ³Look, let me take personal responsibility for any inconvenience that you have suffered.´ ³If he has done you any wrong, or owes you anything, charge it to me. I Paul am writing this with my own hand. I will pay it back²not to mention that you owe me your very self.´ Don¶t you just love those ³not-to-mention´ statements. They have a name in Greek rhetoric. It¶s called ³pretaritio,´ a Latin figure of speech meaning ³to overlook, to pass over, to disregard.´On the basis of their relationship in Christ, Paul asks Philemon, without asking him, to think of all that he owes Paul. ³I¶m not gonna mention that you owe me everything, but you do. So DO this for me, buddy.´ The last few sentences, verses 20-21 are both touching and noble. Paul felt that he would be released from his imprisonment and that he would be able to see the members of the church at Colossae again. But they new the situation as well as anyone could. Nero was a crazy man. Church history does seem to suggest that Paul was released for a short time about the time Peter had been taken into custody

³Appeal for Reconciliation´ Danny André Dixon Sermon on Philemon July 4, 2010 11 in Rome. But just before he¶d gotten too far outside the city, he was arrested again. Peter would be crucified upside down. Paul, because he was a Roman citizen, could not be crucified, but he was beheaded with a sword. Maybe he knew that was going to happen, maybe not. But he appeals to Philemon on the basis of the possibility that maybe he would see him again.´Prepare a guest room for me.´ He says in verse 22. ³I hope to be restored to you in answer to your prayers,´ he tells the congregation.

Conclusion

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