This morning, I am continuing in our sermon series “The Power of One Life,” where we are looking at a different minor Biblical character every week. This week, we will look at a man named Onesimus. We first hear of him at the end of Colossians.
Colossians 4:7-9 - Tychicus will tell you all the news about me. He is a dear brother, a faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord. 8 I am sending him to you for the express purpose that you may know about our circumstances and that he may encourage your hearts. 9 He is coming with Onesimus, our faithful and dear brother, who is one of you. They will tell you everything that is happening here.
This passage seems like a simple list of people traveling with Paul’s letter, but hidden in these greetings is an incredible story of the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ. To our ears, Onesimus, who Paul describes as “our faithful and dear brother,” sounds like a fellow worker with Paul. But there is more to the story. Tychicus has brought this letter to the church in Colossae. In v. 16, we find that he has also brought a letter from the church in Laodicea. And he has also brought one more letter, a letter to a Christian man in Colossae named Philemon, that is going to shed more light on just who this Onesimus is. We don’t have the letter from Laodicea, but we do have the letter to Philemon. Turn there.
Philemon 1:1-25 - Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, To Philemon our dear friend and fellow worker, 2 to Apphia our sister, to Archippus our fellow soldier and to the church that meets in your home: 3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 4 I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers, 5 because I hear about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints. 6 I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ. 7 Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the saints. 8 Therefore, although in Christ I could be bold and order you to do what you ought to do, 9 yet I appeal to you on the basis of love. I then, as Paul-- an old man and now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus-- 10 I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, who became my son while I was in chains. 11 Formerly he was useless to you, but now he has become useful both to you and to me. 12 I am sending him-- who is my very heart-- back to you. 13 I would have liked to keep him with me so that he could take your place in helping me while I am in chains for the gospel. 14 But I did not want to do anything without your consent, so that any favor you do will be spontaneous and not forced. 15 Perhaps the reason he was separated from you for a little while was that you might have him back for good-- 16 no longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother. He is very dear to me but even dearer to you, both as a man and as a brother in the Lord. 17 So if you consider me a partner, welcome him as you would welcome me. 18 If he has done you any wrong or owes you anything, charge it to me. 19 I, Paul, am writing this with my own hand. I will pay it back-- not to mention that you owe me your very self. 20 I do wish, brother, that I may have some benefit from you in the Lord; refresh my heart in Christ,,,