Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Paul Louis Metzger on Philemon

Paul Louis Metzger:
....Given Paul’s and Philemon’s partnership, Paul requests that Philemon receive Onesimus as he would receive Paul (vs. 17). To receive him as an equal would entail receiving him as a free man. The idea that tends to float about in Evangelical circles that internal transformation does not involve a transformation of social status is seriously mistaken (it is as mistaken as the idea that the transformation in our spirits that leads to a transformation of social status arises from our own capacities and proclivities*). Paul appeals to Philemon to welcome Onesimus back on equal terms in the Lord and in the flesh. Onesimus is to be welcomed back like he would Paul, his partner in the faith (vs. 17). This follows from what Paul wrote one verse earlier: “no longer as a bondservant but more than a bondservant, as a beloved brother—especially to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord” (vs. 16)..
..This reminds me of a statement that Dr. John M. Perkins once made. He said, “I have a debt of gratitude to pay to the Lord” based on God’s loving grace at work in his life. I, too, have a debt of gratitude to pay in view of God’s loving grace at work in my own life, just as Paul and Philemon and Onesimus did. This same Onesimus who had been useless, once saved, becomes useful; no doubt, like Paul the “Apostle of the heart set free,”** he too is freed from the heart and now serves willingly, freely out of a spirit of gratitude. Just as Onesimus serves Paul freely, Paul asks Philemon to give Onesimus his freedom. The give and take of mutual benefit that is communion (koinonia) stems from gratitude which flows from God’s loving grace at work in their lives in relation to one another.When God’s gracious love takes over, gratitude kicks in and gets one going. An ethic of gratitude that flows from God’s gracious love is not cheap, but very costly. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes, “Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, communion without confession…. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Cost of Discipleship, {Touchstone, 1995}, p. 44).  link

Also, his sermon on Philemon here.

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Hey, thanks for engaging the conversation!