Philemon, A Portrait of Forgiveness

Object Lesson:  A paycheck to contrast the wages of sin and the gift of God.

I wonder how many of you have ever been paid for doing some job. You know that I work and so I brought my check along today to use as our object lesson. 

Let me tell you about another paycheck. In my Bible I read, “The wages of sin is death,” Romans 6:23. My employer pays me in money, but sin pays its wages in death. Since everyone is a sinner, everyone receives this paycheck of death. 

If I should go to the bank to cash my check and find that the bank had failed and could not pay, do you know what would happen? Very likely the government would step in and cash my check, for the money in most banks is insured and the insurance would cover the loss. That is exactly what happened in regard to your sins and mine. Jesus Christ stepped in and paid the debt of our sins, not because we couldn’t die for our sins but because He loved us so much. He became our insurance against having to die. 

Now instead of death for your sins, you may have complete forgiveness. For in the place of death, the Lord Jesus offers you eternal life. “The wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord,” Romans 6:23. I had to work for this check, but you cannot work for salvation. God says that salvation is for “him that worketh not,” Romans 4:5. Which will you have, the paycheck of death or the free gift of eternal life? 

Object Lesson by Charles Ryrie, Easy Object Lessons, p. 10.

As Christians, there will be many times in our lives when we are wronged by others. The issue is our response. How will we handle it? What example will we demonstrate? Mind you, forgiveness does not excuse punishment. Remember, Christ was still punished on the cross. Yet, we are forgiven. Forgiveness is often a concept that is misunderstood by our society. Forgiveness does not mean excuse a person from punishment. A punishment does fit a crime. But that person can still be forgiven. 

The letter to Philemon is written by the apostle Paul. The epistle is regarding a slave named Onesimus who has run away from his master Philemon. The penalty for a slave leaving his master was a high price to pay. But something happened after Onesimus left his earthly master. Paul introduced him to Jesus and he believed. Onesimus was now a fellow believer. 

Paul requests that Philemon take back Onesimus as a fellow brother in Christ and no longer as a slave. From Paul’s perspective, he is now more useful as a believer than he was previously as a piece of property. Paul had the authority as an apostle to command Philemon what to do, but he chose not to. Instead, Paul appealed to Philemon as a friend and to his sense of compassion, character, obedience, and forgiveness. 

This letter provides examples of how Paul follows the standard set by Jesus. Paul had not sinned against Philemon yet he was willing to pay the penalty of the crime committed by Onesimus against Philemon. Likewise, Jesus had not sinned and He was willing to pay the penalty for sin on our behalf on the cross by His death. 

Debts have to be paid. Onesimus’ debt to Philemon had to be paid just as the penalty for sin had to be paid. Paul accepted the responsibility of Onesimus’ debt. Christ paid the debt for the sins of humanity on the cross.

 

 

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