From I Have To, To I Want To

Philemon 1:10 – I beseech thee for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my bonds:

Philemon 1:11 – Which in time past was to thee unprofitable, but now profitable to thee and to me:

Philemon 1:12 – Whom I have sent again: thou therefore receive him, that is, mine own bowels:

Philemon 1:13 – Whom I would have retained with me, that in thy stead he might have ministered unto me in the bonds of the gospel:

Philemon 1:14 – But without thy mind would I do nothing; that thy benefit should not be as it were of necessity, but willingly.

Philemon 1:15 – For perhaps he therefore departed for a season, that thou shouldest receive him for ever;

Hello readers, hope you’ve had a good week. Time is marching by and we are in November! Yet the weather is still pretty cold here even though we are deep into spring. Waiting for the global warming to kick in! In this blog, I have just some thoughts from the book of Philemon. It’s only a short book, but it is pure gold. Paul wrote this letter to Philemon, and this whole book centers upon Paul beseeching Philemon for a guy called Onesimus, whom Paul refers to as “my son” and “brother beloved”.

But it had not always been this way. Onesimus had not always been who he was now. We find out from reading that Onesimus had evidently been a servant of Philemon, and an unprofitable servant at that. And furthermore, Onesimus had run away. There a plenty of runaways in Christianity today. The prodigal son was a runaway, he up and left his father and his family to go away into the far country. Onesimus departed like many do today, and will we be like Paul who have the gospel of repentance, reconciliation and restoration?

How many people walk out on Christianity, walk out on truth, they depart because they never had the reality of Christ in their life. Onesimus had been an unwilling and unprofitable servant of Philemon, but as Philemon reads this letter from the Apostle Paul, he’s finding out that man that Paul is sending back to him is a completely different man to the one that he knew and that left him.

Paul wrote that he had begotten Onesimus in his bonds. Now I am not entirely sure, but it seems that Onesimus met Paul in jail. Because that’s where Paul was, Paul was in bonds. Maybe he met him in jail because he was out there doing wrong and he’d been thrown in jail too, otherwise why would he be in jail to meet Paul. But in jail, he met Paul, and Paul told him the gospel, and Paul led this unprofitable runaway to the Lord. People need truth, people need the word of God, that’s what makes the change. Did Paul say oh yeah I understand why you’re doing wrong, did Paul sympathize with Onesimus’ rebellious life, or did Paul preach repentance and faith? I think we know don’t you.

Paul wasn’t even free, and yet God was still using him to save people. If Paul hadn’t been imprisoned for preaching the gospel, maybe their paths would never have crossed. God’s plan may not be your plan, but God does know best. Paul was where God needed him to be to see a young man who was ruining his life get saved. And Onesimus became a son to Paul through the gospel of Christ.

A relationship based on the Lord Jesus Christ is a special relationship. Paul wrote that he had “begotten” him. You know, you might never have any physical children, Paul did not but hopefully you do, but you can still have many children in a manner of speaking. Just read Galatians 4:27! And Paul had begotten heaps of people through the gospel, just read two books in the Bible where Paul writes to a young man called Timothy, whom he also referred to his own son in the faith

So in his bonds, Paul had developed a special bond with Onesimus through the gospel. And the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ had changed Onesimus’ life. If you ever want to see true change, it is only possible through the gospel of Jesus Christ, for in the gospel, in the word of God, is the power to birth a new person. Philemon wasn’t reformed, he was a new creature in Christ. He wasn’t do better, he was different. He wasn’t pretend and put on, he was the real deal. He had a new heart, because that’s what the gospel can birth in a man who calls upon the name of Christ in repentance and faith.

This is a wonderful letter because you see Paul asking Philemon to forgive Onesimus and receive him back, and if he has anything against him, to lay it against himself instead of Onesimus. Forgive him, and put his wrongs on me. Live this Christianity out, because that’s real Christian living. It reminds me of what Jesus Christ did on the cross, because that is where this heart comes from. Our sins were put to Christ’s account so we could be forgiven and accepted by God. In this book the truth of the gospel is practically laid out.

Onesimus went through a big change as a result of believing the gospel. Evidently he became very close to Paul as a brother in Christ, and he had become very important to Paul as a friend and in the ministry. What a change! And what are you today? Are you a begrudging Christian? Are you an unprofitable Christian? Are you a runaway? Are you a departed Christian? Or are you a willing Christian? Onesimus went from a begrudging, unwilling, unprofitable servant to a willing and profitable brother in Christ.  Religion is “I have to”, but salvation is “I want to”, because your heart is changed.

And today I just want to think about “from I have to, to I want to”. Paul was sending Onesimus back to Philemon as a changed man, because he was a new man in Christ. Onesimus left unwilling, but would return to Philemon willing. Onesium left Philemon as “have to”, but returned to Philemon as ” want to”. When your Christianity goes from “have to” to “want to”, it is a completely different experience. Returning would not be easy, facing up to past faces and people who know what you were like before, but Onesimus was going back to make things right, and to do it right.

This book also made me think about the influence I have on other people. Because what if there wasn’t a faithful Paul out there who would tell Onesimus the gospel? Who is depending on you being a faithful ambassador of Christ? If people don’t hear the truth from you, who will they hear it from? People are going to cross your path and you don’t know what they’re running from, you don’t necessarily know all the back story, but you have an ability, opportunity and privilege to make a difference in their lives. What an impact Paul had on Onesimus’ life for good.

Paul was all for reconciliation and getting things right, that’s why he was sending Onesimus back to Philemon. Hey, get this right. You wronged your master, live out this Christianity. See, Christianity involves repentance, and that means making things right, even if they are in your rearview mirror. There was a wrong back there in Onesimus’ life, there was a master he had not been profitable to, whom he had wronged and run away from, what kind of a witness of the gospel would it be if he did not return? Paul didn’t make excuses for Onesimus, and he sent Onesimus back to make it right, to front up, to prove his faith.

See, true salvation changes a person. It’s not running and blaming and justifying and excusing and pretending and lying. That’s not the Christianity Onesimus had found. We know that Onesimus had wronged Philemon, and in this book we see a wonderful reconciliation only possible through the blood of Christ. Imagine if Paul had said to Onesimus, oh yeah I would’ve run away from that master too. Imagine if Onesimus had given all his excuses about why Philemon was such a sorry boss. But none of that happened. There was no excuses, instead there was repentance, and true repentance proved in action.

Onesimus went from have to, to want to. He went from unwilling, to willing. He went from unprofitable, to profitable. He went from wronging, to doing right. And in this book is a wonderful picture of Christ, because Paul is sending Onesimus back to Philemon saying, whatever he has done wrong, put it on my account. We are accepted by God because Jesus said to his Father, their sin, put it on me and receive them. And we are received, just as we know Philemon received Onesimus back and no longer as a servant, but as a brother in Christ.

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Joseph View All →

Hi, my name is Joseph Zadow. I am a 30 y/o Bible Blogger. I was new to blogging once! God’s word is the best thing that we can be given, and once we have it and know it for ourselves it is both a privilege and responsibility to bring it to others! We are blessed to be a blessing! I am a sinner (for sure!) saved by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ and I am a Lord Jesus Christ follower. He is faithful even though I rarely am to him. I believe the Bible is the word of God, and stake my life on it. My destination is heaven. As they say, I’m just a passin’ through this world… although most of the time it’s more like hangin’ by a thread in Jericho! I love playing sports – particularly cricket… I currently work on an orchard and a side hobby business of mine is growing vegetables etc – they are good for you! I love writing. Always happy to talk, so feel free to leave a comment. You can read more about me and my blog here – kjvbibletruth.com/about :)

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