FRIDAY, MAY 12
I have no way of knowing how much you know about this short book/letter that was written by Paul to a man named Philemon. It doesn’t get a lot of publicity for some reason but it really is a theologically rich book. Let me give you a little background and then we will look at some really cool theology.
When Paul wrote this book/letter, he was a prisoner in Rome. He wrote to a dear friend of his, Philemon, who lived in Colossae. The human link between these two was a runaway slave name Onesimus.
It appears that Onesimus may have robbed his master, Philemon, and ran off to Rome to get lost in the crowd. It is estimated that there were possibly tens of millions of slaves in the Roman Empire at this time and there would have been an untold number of slaves that had escaped their masters. So, it would have been an easy thing for a runaway slave like Onesimus to get lost in the crowd.
Through God’s amazing providence, Onesimus met Paul in Rome. And Paul led him to the Lord. Much of the rest of the letter has to do with whether Philemon should allow Onesimus to stay with Paul and help him or whether Paul should Onesimus back to Philemon. There all kinds of social issues at play in the decision that would have had far reaching implications.
I want you to skip down to verse 17. Here Paul says to Philemon that whatever Onesimus owes should be charged to Paul’s account. And Paul promised to take that debt upon himself and pay it. Now let’s use this and let me help you walk through some theology.
First, notice that Paul did not suggest Philemon ignore the Onesimus’ crimes or forget about the debt that he owed. Instead Paul assured Philemon it would all be paid.
It takes more than love to solve this problem. Love must pay a price. God does not save us by His love. He loves the whole world but the whole world is not going to be saved. God saves us by His grace which is love that is willing to pay a price, love that is willing to make a sacrifice.
Our sin created a huge debt that we could not repay, not in a million years. So, Jesus went to the cross and died for our sin, paying that debt for us.
This is what is called imputation. To impute means to put on account. When Jesus hung on the cross my sins were put on His account and He paid the debt of my sins which is death. When I accepted Jesus as my Savior, His righteousness was put on my account.
At that point, Jesus can say to the Father, receive this one as you receive me because I have paid his debt. In verse 17, Paul challenged Philemon to receive Onesimus as he would receive Paul.
Wowzers! My sin was put on Jesus’ account. Jesus’ righteousness was put on my account. And now God receives me as He received Jesus.
What a Savior! What a glorious Savior!