Kingdom Trumps Status

Message: The book of Philemon was a short, personal letter written by Paul to his friend who was also leading a church from his home in Colossae. This letter is different from all the rest because Paul wasn’t directing or advising from his role of apostleship. Instead he was making an appeal to a friend in  an attempt to restore and amend a breached relationship. This relationship is difficult for us to relate to because the man Paul was writing about was a slave who for whatever reason had been separated from his slave master, Philemon. Scholars and bible theologians don’t know or agree about how or why this was. They can only speculate by factoring in culture and the context of language in the letter. It is speculated based on the things Paul wrote that he stole from his master and fled to Rome. What we do know is that he ended up with Paul in Rome and had become a believer. Paul loved him and considered him a brother and really wanted him to stay with him. Instead he was sending him back to his slave master with the appeal that he be treated as a brother. Paul assumed personal responsibility for any debt owed to Philemon but from the way he wrote it seemed he didn’t expect that his friend would charge him for it. In fact, he even asked his friend to prepare a guest room for him for his next stay. I think this showed us the relationship status between Paul and Philemon because Paul was in a position of spiritual authority over Philemon. Paul was using the weight and influence of this relationship without directly ordering Philemon to do what he wanted him to do. This was important because Paul was very carefully separating his spiritual authority (which he was not shy about using), from his position of influence. This is the difference between a leader abusing his position of authority by claiming to speak for God what God has not spoken, and a leader using his influence to encourage people to seek God about a situation. This was also a demonstration of our free will to hear from God and choose. Spiritual authority was not designed to dictate the will of man. It was designed to maintain the purity of the gospel. There are so many things at play here but what I really took from this was the importance of restoration, and that our status in Christ is far more important than our status with men. This is not the first time we have heard Paul say that in Christ we are all equals. Paul was encouraging his friend to see things from a kingdom mindset rather than the standard norm they were living on earth.

Leave a Reply