NEW TESTAMENT POSTCARDS
Part 1 – Getting A Wrong Right
March 3, 2019
Dr. Mark S. Hartman
Galatians 3:28 In Christ, there is neither Jew nor Gentile, slave or free, male nor female.
In God’s eyes women and men are equal. Jews and Gentiles, meaning all races, are equal. Slaves and free people, in the Roman empire, were equal. The ground is level at the cross.
Christians are the ones in this world who need to be champions for what the Bible teaches about equality because we are the ones with the Word of God which tells us to live like this.
Luke 6:31 Do to others as you would like them to do to you. (Jesus) (NLT)
1. THE BACKGROUND OF THE STORY OF PHILEMON FOR THEN AND NOW.
A. God never leads us to avoid our sins. He leads us to face them and through His power to overcome and conquer them.
1. Murray Harris, Slave of Christ, provides documentation that shows that most slaves, not all but most, in the second half of the 1st Century Roman Empire were usually the equivalent of indentured servanthood. Indentured servants are people who work for someone else for a set period of time to pay back a debt or because of a benefit they received. For instance, many of the European settlers came to the United States as indentured servants. Their way to America was paid by a landowner in exchange for that person to work for him for an agreed upon number of years and then be set free. This was obviously very different from African slavery in American. But, in the 1st Century Roman Empire, there were also many who were conquered people from wars who were made slaves for a prescribed limited time. By the beginning of the 1st Century there were strict laws to protect them.
2. Murray Harris observations:
a. First century slaves were not distinguishable from anyone else by race, speech, or clothing.
b. First century slaves were oftentimes more educated than their owners and many times held high managerial positions.
c. First century slaves earned the same wages as free laborers and, therefore, were oftentimes not poor and often accrued enough personal capital to buy their own freedom.
3. As you read the information, make sure you differentiate between 1st Century vs. earlier centuries in Rome. In earlier centuries in Rome, slaves were treated as cruelly as they were in America in the south. But, by the middle of the 1st Century (the time of the writing of the New Testament, most, but not all, of the abuses had ended. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slavery_in_ancient_Rome;
4. Abuses connected to 1st Century slavery such as being beaten or being kidnapped and sold into slavery were all condemned by Paul, which means Paul’s writings does condemn what happened in American slavery. (Ephesians 6:9: Colossians 4:1; 1 Timothy 1:9-11; Book of Philemon; Exodus 21:2; 20-27; Deuteronomy 24:7)
5. 1st Century Christianity gave slaves an equal place in the church with everyone else. Some of those former slaves actually became pastors and elders. In fact, several of the most prominent early church leaders were actually former slaves who had bought their freedom and rose to prominence in the early church. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slavery_in_ancient_Rome)
6. 4In the Old Testament all slaves were actually indentured servants and had to be treated with dignity. (Exodus 21:2;20-27; Deuteronomy 24:7)
2. THE STORY OF PHILEMON PUSHES US TO RECONCILE BROKEN RELATIONSHIPS WITH OTHERS IN OUR LIVES.
A. The first character of this postcard was Philemon. (Philemon 1-9)
Philemon 1:1-9 This letter is from Paul, a prisoner for preaching the Good News about Christ Jesus, and from our brother Timothy. I am writing to Philemon, our beloved co-worker,
2 and to our sister Apphia,
and to our fellow soldier Archippus, to the church that meets in your house.
3 May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace.
4 I always thank my God when I pray for you, Philemon,
5 because I keep hearing about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all of God’s people.
6 And I am praying that you will put into action the generosity that comes from your faith as you understand and experience all the good things we have in Christ.
7 Your love has given me much joy and comfort, my brother, for your kindness has often refreshed the hearts of God’s people.
8 That is why I am boldly asking a favor of you. I could demand it in the name of Christ because it is the right thing for you to do.
9 But because of our love, I prefer simply to ask you. Consider this as a request from me—Paul, an old man and now also a prisoner for the sake of Christ Jesus.
B. The second character of this postcard was Onesimus. (Philemon10-12)
Philemon 1:10-12 I appeal to you to show kindness to my child, Onesimus. I became his father in the faith while here in prison. 11 Onesimus hasn’t been of much use to you in the past, but now he is very useful to both of us. 12 I am sending him back to you, and with him comes my own heart.
3. WHAT IS PAUL ASKING PHILEMON TO DO? (Philemon 12-22)
A. What is Paul asking?
1. Paul is asking Philemon to forgive a man who stole from him and who caused great damage even though Philemon will never get back all that has been lost.
2. Paul is asking Philemon to swallow his pride and go against common tradition in how an offense like that was usually handled. He is pushing him to not retaliate.
B. On what basis is Paul asking Philemon to do this?
1. Paul is reminding Philemon that God has turned a terrible wrong into a greater good. (Philemon 15)
2. Paul is reminding Philemon that Onesimus is now not just an offender, he has become a brother and he is to love Onesimus now as a brother. (Philemon 16)
3. Paul is reminding Philemon that God has forgiven Philemon of a lot more than God is now asking Philemon to forgive Onesimus. (Philemon 19)
4. THERE ARE SOME PRACTICAL CHRISTIAN PRINCIPALS THAT THIS POSTCARD CHALLENGES US TO LIVE BY.
A. We have a responsibility to face our wrongs, not hide from them. That involves confession and restitution to others we have wronged. (Matthew.5:23-24)
B We have a responsibility to forgive, realizing how much we have already been forgiven by God.
C. We have a responsibility to forgive those who have wronged us.
Action Steps I will take this week…
- I will speak to a minister at the Next Step Center about how I can know Jesus as my Savior.
- This week I am asking God to bring willingness to forgive someone who wounded me.
- This week I will seek to restore a relationship that is broken