The little ‘letter to Philemon’ [a letter from the Apostle Paul written whilst he was incarcerated] is really quite amazing though short. You can read it in a few minutes and I’ll ask you to do so now before you continue reading this week’s Column from Calvary. Here we are told about a runaway slave {Onesimus} who, if the historians are right, stole some money and fled from his master in Colossae. He was arrested in Rome, about 100 miles from Colosse, and jailed by the miracle of God, with Paul who just happens to be a friend and mentor to Onesimus’ master Philemon. What a small world indeed. Through Paul’s witness and testimony of Christ to his captive audience Onesimus, he becomes a Christian and upon his release from jail, Paul compels Onesimus to return to his master Philemon. With him Paul sends this incredible letter we know as “Philemon”. The letter would appear at first glance to be merely a letter requesting clemency on behalf of Onesimus. However, once we turn our thoughts to deeper considerations, we soon find that what appears to be a simple letter asking for leniency is in fact a wealth of instruction and doctrinal guidance, and a beautiful illustration of the Love of God, the Love of the Son, the Mercy of Redemption and forgiveness. Perhaps by the time you finish with Philemon you may find that you regard this little powerhouse book as more of a mirror than you previously thought. A mirror that shows your own face reflected back. Take verse 11 for example: Referring to Onesimus Paul says I know this guy was not serving you as he ought to have. I know because he’s told me he was disobedient and disloyal and unfaithful to his duties. Look at the way Paul words it “Which in time past was to thee unprofitable, but now, profitable to thee and to me”. On down in verse 15 Paul points out that “perhaps” the whole thing was God’s plan. Maybe the Lord wanted him to run off and get caught and meet me in jail so he could hear the gospel and get saved! But now, he’s not just a servant, he’s a brother beloved. Onesimus’s story is my story in many ways. How about you? Many verses tell me what I was in ‘time past’ and show me how utterly [‘gone astray’ Isaiah 53:6] I was, how much of an [unclean thing and a filthy rag Isaiah 64:6] I was; all my ‘righteousness’s were’. Many verses tell me about what a scoundrel Malcolm Harrison was before Christ BUT here in Philemon I find my own face staring back at me through the words of the Holy Spirit as he instructed Paul’s hand to write them to mankind. The verse that tells me what I was to God in ‘time past’…Unprofitable. Paul appeals to Philemon saying that Onesimus was, in the past, useless, unprofitable, disobedient BUT that Onesimus is a “new creature” now, begotten in my bonds, a brother beloved and a son to me in the faith. There’s our introduction to the incredible letter to Philemon. If the Lord permits and we’re all still here next week we’ll dive into it deeper and see some things that apply to our lives today! Join us in worshipping the Lord at Calvary Baptist Church where the Bible is held in highest regard, the Lord is praised and we still sing the Hymns! Calvary is on the Loop across from Pizza Hut. 903-729-5924.