“So, although I have quite a lot of confidence in Christ and could command you to do what is proper, I would rather appeal to you on the basis of love—I, Paul, an old man and even now a prisoner for the sake of Christ Jesus — I am appealing to you concerning my child, whose spiritual father I have become during my imprisonment, that is, Onesimus, who was formerly useless to you, but is now useful to you and me.”
Having started with a pretty positive paragraph (vv.4-7) Paul now gets to the matter at hand. He knows that due to his God-given role as an Apostle (Galatians 1.1) he could command Philemon to do what is right but rather, he says, he would rather appeal to [him] on the basis of love. The runaway slave in question, Onesimus, has become a spiritual son to Paul (v.10) and therefore a spiritual brother to Philemon.
Onesimus’ name means ‘useful’ and Paul uses a great play on words here, did you see it?
“…I am appealing to you concerning my child, whose spiritual father I have become during my imprisonment, that is, Onesimus, who was formerly useless to you, but is now useful to you and me.”
Paul is saying look, this runaway slave was useless in your eyes after he took flight but now, now he is coming good on his name, he is now useful to you and me.
Having come to faith in the Lord Jesus, Onesimus has gone from being useless to useful. Having been regarded as the lowest of the low, a slave with no rights, Paul is now saying that Philemon should now look at him as [his] child, as a beloved brother in the Lord.
When we put our hope, and trust, and faith in Jesus as Lord and Saviour we too are viewed totally differently. Consider these few examples:
We are the reason for heavenly rejoicing – Luke 15.10
We are forgiven – Hebrews 1.3b
We are loved – John 14.21
We are known – Matthew 6.8
We are justified – Romans 8.30
Putting his faith in Jesus as Lord and Saviour was the best choice Onesimus ever made. It transferred him from darkness to light, from death to life, and from being useless to useful.
For you and for me, the choice is the same: do we accept and affirm that Jesus is who He says He is?
Do we want to be useful for Him and His Kingdom?
If you do, pray today and say so.
Tell Him, reaffirm that you believe He is who He says He is, and pray for opportunities to be useful!