søndag 26. januar 2014

Genesis 1-11 Let there be light in the darkness


It’s a funny old world isn’t it. At times, so full of wonder and hope and good things. Debby and I just celebrated 14 years of marriage. Deep joy. It just keeps getting better!

But the world is also full of darkness. Think about some of the countries we come from. Evil heaped upon evil: Apartheid South Africa, the abuse of so many from the Phillipines who are promised good jobs which turn out to be something terrible, endless war in Sudan, Christians imprisoned and tortured in Eritrea. The world is dark.

We are a strange contrast, we and the world we live in. Capable of so much good and ruined by so much evil. Greatness and calamity hand in hand.

Well, this is the people and the world the Bible describes. God’s word is not all sunshine and roses. Some of what he exposes is not very nice at all. This is not the world of the Imaginary Jesus who simply smiles at everyone and blesses everyone and has tea with old ladies and NEVER CALLS ANYONE TO REPENT! The real Jesus, the real God is far wilder, far more dangerous, far more unlike us, far too unexpected, far too unreasonable in the demands he makes of us, than we would ever expect - as we shall see in the story of the life of Abraham over the coming months.
But as we shall also see, he is far more loving, far more full of mercy, far more gracious and compassionate and fatherly than we could ever imagine. He accepts us just as we are, flawed, broken, full of sin and mistakes. Just like he accepted Abraham.

Now it’s been a while since we left the book of Genesis, so this sermon is to set the scene, the backdrop, for the life of Abraham. We covered chapters 1-10 a few months back, so my first two points “From Light to Darkness” (dealing with Creation and Fall, chapters 1-4) and “Noah to Babel” (chapters 5-10) will get us up to today’s passage. Today’s passage I will cover in the last two points “Rebellion” and “Hope”.

1. From Light to Darkness

The Bible starts with the words “In the beginning, God” (Gen 1:1).
He is the Beginning. He is the Prime Source, the First Mover. All life is from him. He is everything, the Author and Sustainer of Life. He is the God who is there.

And he speaks. He is the God who speaks, who says “Let there be light!” (Gen 1:3) and there is light. What he says must happen, happens.
His word is powerful.
And his Word is personified in his Son Jesus. That is, Jesus is the perfect revelation of God. As Hebrews 1:1-2 puts it “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son”(ESV).

Jesus is the Word of God. And as we preach the word of God, we preach Jesus. That’s why we make a big deal of the Bible and of Jesus in this church. Because to preach Christ Jesus from the pages of Scripture is to meet with the same power that said “let there be light” – and if we are Christians we have experienced the power of his word to totally transform our lives.
In my dark heart God said “let there be light” and the sun rose and my life was transformed from the inside out. I was 19, in Drammen of all places(!), and the Lord commanded by the power of his word that my heart would be changed and from that day I would belong to him. Let there be light.

And this is the God who reveals himself to us in the opening chapters of the Bible. We see God. We see him in His glory. We see him powerful. Wonderful. Generous. Amazing. This is our God. Seated upon his throne he rules the world simply by the power of his word. Nothing is beyond his control. All of time and space is his to command. What a glorious King!

And then we meet us. In chapter 3, Adam and Eve, created as the pinnacle of God’s creation. Kings and Queens under God, eyes full of wonder, look to God…. and go “tttthhrrrbt!” and decide to choose for themselves the “best” way to live. Great. Good job guys.
The world has been pretty rubbish since then (chapter 3 of Genesis). Adam and Eve rebel against God, refuse to listen to his word, and in fact do the very opposite. And we’ve been following in their footsteps ever since. I won’t live life His way, I’ll live it my way. I will decide what is right and wrong. I will decide what is true for me. I will pretend to be God!

We see that attitude reflected immediately in Adam and Eve’s sons, Cain and Abel, deciding for themselves the best way to live. In chapter 4 Cain decided that Abel needed to die. Why? He was getting in the way of his worship of God! Abel was in his way, so he killed him. And things go from bad to worse.

Not surprisingly, then, God’s verdict on humanity in 6:5 is devastating. The LORD saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of every thought of his heart was only evil all the time. (NIV84)

From Light to Darkness. Once again, darkness covers the earth. We need a new word of Creation. We need the Lord to say once again “Let there be Light!”

2. Noah to Babel

The story of Noah opens in darkness. God decides to destroy the world. And He’s right. The world sucks!

And the judgement comes suddenly. As Jesus says in Matt 24:37–39 (NLT) “When the Son of Man returns, it will be like it was in Noah’s day. 38 In those days before the flood, the people were enjoying banquets and parties and weddings right up to the time Noah entered his boat. 39 People didn’t realize what was going to happen until the flood came and swept them all away. That is the way it will be when the Son of Man comes.”

How long do you think our world will last? Child abuse. Abortion on demand. Slavery. Sex trafficking. Fathers abandoning their families. Mothers abandoning their children. Cheating and lying and corruption in business, in government. On and on it goes. How long do you think our world will last? How long will God be patient? How long before the Flood of his judgement washes us away?

How long would you last?
“Me? I’m a good person.”
Really? Let me ask you a question - a question I asked myself. How much would you need to be pushed before you revealed what was in your heart. A guy cuts you off in traffic – how quickly does anger rise up? You want the latest this or that and can’t afford it- Do you think “I deserve it”. Feel hard done by. Feel jealous of those who can. Maybe start planning ways you can cut a few corners here and there.
In the movie “Taken” a man’s daughter is kidnapped. But he has a certain set of skills acquired over a long career that make him a nightmare to the baddies. You know I wish I had those skills so I could go and blow the bad guys away. How easily that thought comes to me. How easily I can imagine killing people because they are “bad”. How easily such a “good decent man” could become a killer. You take my kids… you threaten my wife… you push me too far. What would it take. Just a slightly different set of circumstances. How much would you need to be pushed before you revealed what was in your heart?

In Rwanda people were pushed – and revealed what was in their hearts. Those of a different tribe were “the enemy” and after a few months of indoctrination the touch paper was lit, civil war broke out - Neighbours turned on each other. Doctors let their patients die, because they were the wrong tribe. Teachers hacked their students to death – because they were the “baddies”. Normal people, different set of cirmcumstances. What a thin veneer civilisation is.

Don’t believe me? It happened here in Norway 60 years ago. In Notodden, friends and neighbours betrayed each other to their death. Guys going around saying “don’t join up with the Nazi’s” someone reported them and sent them to their death. So easy.

Noah’s story is a warning, a clear warning ringing across time: you are on a knife edge. The sword of Damocles hangs over our heads by a thread. Judgement can fall in an instant.
Each breath is a mercy from God given to us for ONE REASON and one reason alone – to give us time to repent to cry out “mercy”! Before the hair is snipped and the sword plunges down, before the word is given and the earth is covered in fire and all that is unclean will be burnt up and the world will be remade. And your choice is: are you the firewood, or are you taking shelter in Jesus (Fireproof!)

Because that’s the other part of the story. The part where into the darkness God says “let there be light!” In in 6:8 But Noah found favour with the Lord.
New life, new hope, a new heart for Noah. And so He listened to the word of God. He risked everything, built a stupidly massive boat (the Ark) on dry land, endured ridicule, and probably a lot of self-doubt. But in the end, when the floods came, he saved the world. Through him creation was rescued, and started again.

Through him we have a clear picture of the work of Jesus. He is our Ark, our Rescue Boat, carrying us above the danger of God’s righteous judgement.

You see, God wasn’t taken by surprise by our ability to turn light into darkness. Our sin and evil was anticipated, and dealt with. On the cross. Already predicted in 3:15 as God says to the “snake” Satan “And I will cause hostility between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring. He will strike your head, and you will strike his heel.”

When God said “let there be light”, he knew the cost of giving that command. Pierced hands. Wounded side. Carrying the weight of our sin. And yet he said “let there be light”. There will be light, light for all eternity, because Jesus has absorbed our darkness in his own body and defeated it.

You want to be saved? Come to Jesus.

The alternative is to face God’s wrath… – which brings us to the people of Babel, building their tower to their own praise and glory. They had clearly learned nothing from the Flood.

3. Rebellion

The people in Babel still have the same old problem. Look at verse 4 Then they said, “Come, let’s build a great city for ourselves with a tower that reaches into the sky (lit: heaven). This will make us famous and keep us from being scattered all over the world.” Let us build our own way to heaven. Let us make our name great (famous).

Here in chapter 11 we meet a group of people richly blessed. They all speak the same language – all the people on earth united by language “the same words”. What bliss! Imagine that! Imagine we all spoke the same language, could understand each other perfectly. Fantastic!

But what do they do with this great privilege. Do they fall down in praise and thanksgiving of God? Do they thank him for his blessing? Do they build an altar to worship him. Of course not! They build an altar to themselves: a great monument to their own greatness! “Let us build a tower to heavens” they say. It will make our name great. Let us be like God. High. Lifted up. Great.

They are also disobeying God’s command to fill the earth. They’re all gathered together.

Such blessing – look what God says about them in v6 “nothing they set out to do will be impossible for them!”. So blessed. But instead they turn blessing into rebellion.

Ironically, it’s pretty pathetic. They are trying to reach up to heaven – but even with their mighty tower, God still has to look DOWN to their tower. 5 But the LORD came down to look at the city and the tower the people were building.

Our attempts to out-God God are that feeble. And their blessing turns to judgement, as God comes DOWN and reminds them who is God, and who is not. He confuses the languages. He scatters them across the earth, as he had commanded.

The fact that we here all speak different languages reminds us clearly of one thing: we are not God. He will not permit us to be united in rebellion. Our babble of languages is a mark of shame. We are rebels.

We here in Norway are particularly blessed. We are rich beyond our wildest dreams. We live in peace in a society shaped by 1000 years of Christianity (even though we’re busy chipping that away, it still has a huge influence). We are the Babylonians, rich, blessed, with great power. And in the 40 years since we really became very wealthy, what have we done? Turned away in droves from God. Turned our churches into a mockery of the gospel, with liberal drivel or soft weak watered-down “Christainty” that offends no-one and saves no-one. Turned our back on the word of God.
I see no-one leading our nation in praise for God’s blessing. Calling us to repent and worship God Most High. And that worries me. For God’s patience is not everlasting. A Day has been set for judgement. We are in severe danger. We must warn our fellow citizens of the danger of rebelling against God.
Let’s pray now, thank God for his blessing, and pray for our friends and neighbours who are in rebellion against him.

We can pray because there is hope!

4. Hope

In the Bible study we’re going through the book of Acts. Acts chapter 2 is the day of Pentecost – when the disciples are filled with the Holy Spirit and He gives them speech – speech that everyone can understand like their own language! It’s a reversal of Babel. United in Christ, under God, we are truly together, finally. Babel’s curse is not eternal.

The book of Revelation ends with all of God’s people not scattered, but gathered together in a great city – a huge multitude of people from every tribe, nation, language- and people-group. It is the fulfilment of the desire of Babel. To be together, united, one. But that is not found outside of God. Sin always fractures and destroys us. To reach the city of Revelation, we need someone to defeat sin. And that is the serpent-crusher, the one promised in Genesis 3:15.

That is why the hope in this chapter (11) is found in the boring verses from v10 to v32. A genealogy. A list of births and deaths. Wow. But hopefully now after going through chapters 1-10 you’ll know that when you see a genealogy you go “HURRA!” because it means God’s promise in 3:15 is still coming! Every new baby that was born carried the hope of the world: maybe this one will be the one to crush the serpent. Maybe he can free us from sin and death.

And although this genealogy doesn’t end with Him, Jesus – it does end with a very significant person: Abraham (or Abram as he was first called). God calls one man out of this sinful rebellious mass of people, and declares him righteous, and makes an outrageous promise to him: I will make you a great nation, and all the families in the earth will be blessed through you.

This is the promise he made right in the beginning, in fact: to create a world that is “very good” (Gen 1:31) . And when we rebelled and broke it, he renewed that promise in Genesis 3:15 that one day a man will be born who will crush evil forever, and creation will be restored. Abraham is not that man. But Abraham is part of the fulfilment of the promise of that man. Because from Abraham’s descendants came Jesus, the serpent-crusher, the one who defeated evil once for all on the cross, dealt with our sin, and flung open the gates to the new Creation. Come one, come all. The price is paid. The way is open.

He is the tower to God, the gateway to heaven. There is no other way.

So if you are like the Babylonians, trying to build your own way to God, or your own monument to your greatness. If your life revolves around you, your desires, your purposes, your dreams – repent. Turn away from living for yourself, and turn to Jesus. Start living for him. Get your small ambitions replaced with eternal ones.

And turn every area over to him. Perhaps you’ve kept a little part back. “This is mine”.
No. All belongs to him. He is the King. He is the Creator. There is nothing in all of creation over which he does not say “mine”. Give up your rebellion, and give it up to him. He is a good King.

From light to darkness, from Noah to Babel. From the rebellion of Babel to the hope of Christ.

Let there be light in the darkness! Amen! Come Lord Jesus Come!

søndag 19. januar 2014

The Intecessor

Letter to Philemon part 2: The intercessor


Have you ever been in a hopeless situation, unable to get out of it, unless someone helped you?

I have, in my last year at university I was horrible student. I didn’t show up for classes. And dragged my feet through the hospital internship. I was told that if I didn’t get my act together I would fail, and have to do the year over. I was moved to do my internship in a different hospital. I met my new instructor and,old her about my bad attitude .About me wanting to change it, and become a better student. My instructor there taught me more in 3 months than I had learned in 3 years. She told my teacher that my attitude had improved drastically, and that I was a hard worker. If it hadn’t been for that woman, I would have left university and never finished my degree.


Last week we looked at forgiveness and slavery, in Paul’s letter to Philemon. I talked about how hard it can be to forgive those who hurt us, because we don’t really want to forgive. We want revenge, and the only way we can forgive someone is to turn to God and ask for His help. We don’t want to forgive because we are, in fact, slaves: slaves to sin. Our default setting seems to be slave to sin. We are like Onesimus – we have run away from our true Master and chosen a worse one! We have chosen sin.

The theme of today’s sermon in intercession.

( TO intercede is to settle an argument between two or more people. It is to speak to someone, in order to defend or help another person. So to intercede is to stick your neck out for someone, with a real possibility that your head will be head blown off!)

Just like Onesimus we need someone to intercede for us.
We need someone to represent us before God and ask for His forgiveness, to ask for us to be brought back under His mastery.

And as we spoke about last week, if we belong to Jesus, though our hearts are mastered by sin, through Jesus we’re given the strength to forgive, and turn from the slavery of sin. And we can do like verse 6 tells us to: to put into action the generosity that comes from our faith.

One of the ways we do that is to stand up for those with no rights – just like Jesus does for us. That’s the major theme of Philemon, and so what we will look at today is.

1. The intercession of Paul…

2. The intercession of Jesus…

1.Paul intercedes on the Behalf of Onesimus.

Paul writes this letter to intercede on the behalf of Onesimus, Philemon’s runaway slave.

10 I appeal to you to show kindness to my child, Onesimus. I became his father in the faith while here in prison

Verses 17-19: 17 So if you consider me your partner, welcome him as you would welcome me. 18 If he has wronged you in any way or owes you anything, charge it to me. 19 I, Paul, write this with my own hand: I will repay it. And I won’t mention that you owe me your very soul!


This is only a starter, when it comes to the letter to Philemon.

Did you know that roughly 90 % of the letter to Philemon is intercession? 18 out 25 verses in the letter to Philemon, has an interceding quality.

Paul phrases his letter cleverly, and instead of demanding Philemon’s submission for the sake of Christ, and the authority of Paul. He request a favour, from his friend.

Though the are friends Paul understood that a slave that steal, and run away from his master is a useless slave. And therefor sympathize with Philemon on this, he continues the letter making it clear to Philemon, that Onesimus is no longer useless. But in fact so useful that Paul would prefer Onesimus to remain with him in Rome. He continues his letter telling Philemon that Onesimus is now more than Philemon’s slave. He is a Christian, a beloved brother of Paul and Philemon. Even more so Onesimus is now a part of God’s people. So Philemon must love him, not because Philemon is ordered to do so by Paul. But have a look at verses 4-5:

4 I always thank my God when I pray for you, Philemon, 5 because I keep hearing about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all of God’s people.

Philemon’s love for God’s people is evident, and now he must love Onesimus, who have become a Christian, one of God’s people.

So far Paul has gone quite easy on Philemon, he has told him of Onesimus becoming a Christian. How he now is very useful to the both of them. Onesimus has become a beloved brother to Paul and Philemon.

But this is where gloves come off, In verses 17 – 19 Paul basically says to Philemon, If you consider yourself a Christian, and if you’re my friend. You will receive Onesimus as you would receive me.

If Onesimus has done anything to you, or owes you anything. I ask you my friend: Please charge that to me. I will repay you. Not to mention that you owe me your very soul, I was the one who led you to the Lord! You were once, as lost and deprived as Onesimus remember? Pretty powerful stuff isn’t it?

Reading verses 1-2 we understand that the letter is a Public letter, and Paul also intends the church that meet in Philemon’s home to hear it. Should Philemon In spite of Paul’s argument no matter how elegant and logical it was, fail to submit to his request.

Then Archippus and the Colossian church would prove to be Paul’s representatives in Colossae. And they would apply the “pressure” needed to help Philemon do the right thing. As a church they also need to look out for each other’s godliness, and as you can imagine. Though Philemon might have needed a nudge in the right direction, he also needed support from his church. Because to not punish a runaway slave, when the law permitted it was unheard of. I can just imagine the way people talked about Philemon in Colossae:

Did you hear about Philemon? he didn’t punish an unruly slave because of a letter he received from a Jew named Paul. He must have lost his mind!

He might be have been the laughing stock of Colossae, so Paul knew that he would need the support from his fellow Christians.

Paul’s intercession on the behalf of Onesimus might be difficult to understand in today’s society. Especially since we don’t have slaves, and most countries don’t have as severe punishments as they did back then.

But let’s say you had been to Rema 1000, and while you were there you saw a chocolate. You really wanted this chocolate, but knew you couldn’t afford it. You only had enough money for eggs, milk and bread, so you slip the chocolate into your pocket and pretend like nothing. When getting to the till, taking out your money the chocolate falls out of your pocket. The lady at the till call security, and you are held back until the police arrives to question you.

The whole thing ends up in court where the Judge and the owner of Rema 1000 wants to make an example of you. You sit there while they try to accuse you of everything under the sun, in addition to stealing a chocolate bar. They say “he is a part of an organized crime-ring”.” While you sit there rendered speechless, with your head cradled in your hands thinking I’m in trouble. You hear a voice coming from beside you saying: “ Objection! This is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard! Yes he stole willingly, but he’s not a gang member. He stole because he wanted chocolate, and that was a stupid thing to do. But there’s no reason to trial him as a part of a crime ring” You look up and there beside you is a man in long black cape. He is your lawyer, speaking and interceding on your behalf.


This is what Paul did for Onesimus, he acted as his lawyer. He spoke and interceded on his behalf. Telling Philemon that Onesimus was a changed man, who was no longer the useless slave, but trustworthy Christian.

2. Jesus the intercessor!

It must have been wonderful to have a friend like Paul. Imagine a friend who willingly paid, your debts, and interceded with anyone, wanting to you punished you for your actual crimes! The good things is that we have an intercessor like that, we have Jesus!


If we’re in Christ, He is our intercessor.


Have a look at verse 6:

And I am praying that you will put into action the generosity that comes from your faith as you understand and experience all the good things we have in Christ.”

That is what Paul writes in verse 6 of his letter to Philemon. Understanding and experiencing all the good things we have in Christ, what does that mean?

After reading the letter to Philemon, what feels like a hundred times, I realized that we are Onesimus! Upon realizing this. Paul’s letter of intercession became much bigger than a friend looking for a favour. To me it became the Gospel about Jesus Christ compressed onto a page or so. We see Paul taking on a Christ like role and interceding for Onesimus his beloved brother, offering to make right the wrongs he has made, and to pay off his debts. By doing so, he talks Philemon out of carrying out his lawful right. To punish his servant for running away from his responsibilities, and stealing from him. Onesimus deserved punishment. But Paul but intercedes, why did Paul do this? Because Jesus had done it for him first, Paul only showed Onesimus a fraction of the love and mercy Jesus had already shown him. Paul used to be a zealot Jew, persecuting the Christians in Jerusalem. In acts, we can read that he was present at the stoning of Stephen the first Christian martyr.

He took men and women out of their homes throwing them in to prison for being Christians. He went to the synagogues to get letters of approval to chase down and arrest Christians in Damascus, he was threatening and eager to kill the Christians (acts 9:1). It was while persecuting Christians Paul met Jesus, and had his life changed completely. He became one of the most noted and important people in Christianity. God forgave him: the murder and persecution of His people. So it’s no wonder Paul sticks his neck out for Onesimus. Paul has felt the generosity of Christ, and therefor he can show Onesimus the same generosity.

Just like Onesimus we’re in trouble! We are so guilty that it’s not even funny. Luckily, for you and me, I don’t know what you have done, and you don’t know what I have done. But we all know that we haven’t loved God perfectly, because we’re not able to keep God’s commandments. If we’re not keeping God’s commandments, we’re not keeping the commandment’s Jesus gave us.

When an expert in religious law asked Jesus what was the greatest commandment, He replied.  “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”

So we are in trouble because! We have sinned against God, and awoken His righteous anger. We don’t measure up to the bare minimum of God’s expectations of us. We don’t love Him perfectly, we run away from Him saying: No God it’s my life, and I want to live it my way. It isn’t sin it’s my choice. We even try to steal His Glory, so that we can glorify ourselves! “Big” Preachers baptizing people in their own name, or people charging sick and desperate people hundreds of kroners to pray for them.

We are Onesimus. We have betrayed our master. We have run away, pretending to live our own life. Free as our own master – but we’re not free. We’re a slave to our own sinful desires. We need an intercessor. We need a Paul. And that is exactly whom we have:

He whom we wronged, God. He loves us so much, that He even gave us a way out. After all we have done to Him, and He knew from the start what we were like.

He sent us His own son, Jesus. So that He could intercede on our behalf. Jesus was born fully human and fully God, He lived a life experiencing the same joy, sorrow and other things we feel, including temptation. Jesus lived a sinless life, which means: He didn’t sin once, He loved God His Father perfectly. Fulfilling the law, living a perfect life. Then Jesus died a perfect death on the cross, where He carried all our sin and punishment. In Roman times the punishment for a runaway slave was crucifixion. We, like Onesiums, stand guilty, and the sentence is death by crucifixion. We deserve the complete and eternal separation from God.

But Jesus God’s son took it all on Him. So now when we sin, when we disobey God and awaken his fury. Jesus is sitting beside God saying: That is Christian, he is far from perfect in fact, and he is quite the sinner. Nevertheless, he is in Me, and I have died for his sins. Therefore, he is no longer a sinner but one of Your children. We have the best intercessor, In the words of v19 Jesus says: “Father charge it to me. 19 I, [Jesus], write this with my own hand: I will repay it.


Imagine that you’re Onesimus, you’ve ran away from you master. Stole from him, and dishonoured him. You come to Paul, you cry on his shoulder telling him everything: How you ran away and stole more money than you’ll ever be able to pay back.

You expect total and utter condemnation, but what you receive is mercy. Paul tells you that he knows Philemon, and just like you, he led Philemon to the Lord. He tells you he is going to write him a letter, and that he will settle you debt with Philemon. Can you imagine the joy you would feel, free of an impossible debt and forgiven. Through the works of one man!


That is how we should feel every day. In the same way Paul interceded on the behalf of Onesimus, pronouncing him no longer useless. But in fact extremely useful, and a beloved brother. Jesus is now interceding on our behalf, pronouncing us as no longer sinners but clean. Because of His death on the cross, if we are in Christ. We are pronounced God’s children, and no longer, strangers sentenced to an eternity separated from God.

søndag 12. januar 2014

I am Philemon

An introduction to Philemon: We are Philemon


The letter to Philemon is written to a rich man in Colossae named Philemon, by the Apostle Paul. It’s also written to Apphia who more than likely was Philemon’s wife, Archippus who might have been Philemon’s son and a minister in the Colossian church meeting in Philemon’s house. The letter is also to be read aloud in the Colossian church.

Paul writes a letter to Philemon after meeting Philemon’s slave Onesimus in Rome. Onesimus ran away from his master Philemon, and to make sure he would be able to provide for himself. He might have stolen some money or things, from Philemon. Paul grows quite fond of Philemon, and they develop a friendship. Paul leads Onesimus to Christ, and he becomes a great help to Paul, whilst being imprisoned.

We don’t know how long Onesimus stayed in Rome, but we know that he told Paul that he had ran away from his master.

Philemon and Paul are old friends, Paul led Philemon to the Lord. Since Paul can’t go see Philemon he does the next best think. He Writes him a letter where he intercedes for his friend Philemon.


1.State the point: Forgiveness is hard but it’s possible through Christ!

To forgive someone is one of the hardest things we do as humans, but it’s possible trough Christ. Especially if it’s someone we trust or love, are we able to forgive that. We will have a look at that now.

2.Show it in the text Forgiveness is hard but it’s possible through Christ!

If you open your bibles in Philemon, and have a look at verse 6.

“And I am praying that you will put into action the generosity that comes from your faith as you understand and experience all the good things we have in Christ.”

3.Explain the point Forgiveness is hard but it’s possible through Christ!

Forgiveness is painfully hard and, quite often it is because our pride has been wounded. And just like the Greco-Roman society , we find it exceptionally hard to forgive someone for wounding our pride, I bet Philemon felt that way too. Nevertheless, He was told to forgive those who sinned against him, as we are told to forgive those who sin against us.

Jesus states the importance of forgiveness on multiple occasions.

In Mark 11:25

“But when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive your sins, too.”

In Matt 6:15

“If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

A lot of us even say it ourselves when we get up or when we go to bed, when we pray The LORD’S Prayer. Remember somewhere in the prayer when you get to:

“and forgive us our sins,
as we have forgiven those who sin against us.”

Just think about that for a minute, we actually pray. God forgive my sins, the way I forgive those whom sin against me. We should realize that the way we forgive others, effects how we will be forgiven. It is an eye opener, but it doesn’t make it any easier to forgive. So what do we do then, do we sit down in a lotus position and go aaahmmmm. Do we try to muster up the appropriate amount of forgiveness? No we don’t, we can’t forgive by ourselves. We are sinners, we don’t really want to forgive, we want vengeance. So the ability to forgive was not considered noble in the times of Philemon. And we still see it now, and we hear it as well. If someone is rude to you, how do you react? Do automatically think I forgive you beloved child of God. Or are you more like me, and wish you had been a bit better at thinking on your feet. So that you could either deck them or be really rude back?

You see whether we are Romans, Norwegians, British, and so on. To forgive someone is not attractive, REVENGE on the other hand is. So how do we then forgive those whom sin against us. Well, God has even given us the tools we need to forgive those whom sin against us.

When you become a Christian, you do so because you want to be in Christ. You realize that without Him you are lost, you need Jesus to save you from your sins. Moreover, speaking like a one who has been a Christian for a while, it’s still find it very easy to sin, and I do. However, the thing is that I feel so awful afterwards, sometimes I feel so bad it makes me sick! The guilt and sin that I carry, is too much for me to carry on my own. So I do the only thing I can do, I pray and ask the Lord for forgiveness. After having done this I feel the forgiveness, and I believe that God has forgiven me. Being forgiven is a great feeling, isn’t it? You know when you were younger, and had to walk to and from school every day. Do you remember the books in your backpack weighing you down Ugh! It was so heavy, wasn’t it? Do you remember the feeling of getting in the door and throwing off the backpack. I felt like the weight of the world had been lifted off my shoulders, I still feel like a sinner. Nevertheless, I know that I am a forgiven sinner.

Forgiveness is absolutely one of the good things we’ve been given in Christ. In Ephesians 1:7 we can read that God purchased our freedom with the blood of His Son, and forgave our sins. When we have received such wonderful gift, it’s only right that we repay it. It is required of us.

4.Illustrate the point Forgiveness is hard but it’s possible through Christ!

I know it’s not easy at all, sometimes it takes years to fully forgive someone. I have a friend named Anne, and her mother treated her really, really badly. I won’t go in to details, but it’s the kind of dysfunctional family stuff you see on TV. Anne hadn’t spoken to her mother for many years, and hated her passionately since she ruined her childhood. As Anne and I was talking I asked her if she had spoken to her mother lately, and she said no. I told her that it was important for her to forgive her mother, but if she didn’t want to see her she didn’t have to . She replied that she had forgiven her mother, but it was still hard for her. A few days ago Anne rang me, just to tell me that she had been to she her mother.

Now I have met Anne’s mother and I know that she is a peculiar woman at best, so I asked her how did it go? She told me that it had gone quite well, and that it actually was a nice visit.

The thought of receiving Onesimus as a brother, might not have been what was closest to Philemons heart But as we all now, brothers argue and fight. Sometimes they don’t even like each other. But most of the time brothers do love each other, even though it might take months, even years to fully heal from hurtful things said and done-

5.Apply the point Forgiveness is hard but it’s possible through Christ!

Forgiveness isn’t easy, but the good thing is that we don’t have to do it alone! When we’re in Christ, we have received the costly gift of forgiveness, and The Holy Spirit will compel us to forgive. God will give us the strength, and the will to do it. As I said It’s not something we have to do on our own. A part of putting the generosity that comes from our faith into action, is to forgive. Alexander Pope quite smartly put it like this:

“To err is human; to forgive, divine.”

All we have to do is to pray, and ask for the strength to forgive. I bet Philemon had to do the same. So when a master and a slave see each other as beloved brothers, how long do you think slavery could last?

1.State the point: We’re all slaves, either of Christ or sin

Earthly masters or not, we’re all slaves, either of Christ or sin.

2.Show it in the text: We’re all slaves, either of Christ or sin

When reading trough the letter to Philemon, I counted Paul mentioning his imprisonment five times on average every fifth verse in his letter to Philemon mentions his imprisonment. Just see for yourself:

v1: ”This letter is from Paul, a prisoner for preaching the Good News about Christ Jesus, and from our brother Timothy.”

V9: “But because of our love, I prefer simply to ask you. Consider this as a request from me—Paul, an old man and now also a prisoner for the sake of Christ Jesus.”

V10: I appeal to you to show kindness to my child, Onesimus. I became his father in the faith while here in prison.

V13: “I wanted to keep him here with me while I am in these chains for preaching the Good News, and he would have helped me on your behalf.”

V23: “Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends you his greetings.”

3.Explain the point: We’re all slaves, either of Christ or sin

Why does Paul go on, and on, and on about being in prison, does he want a fruit basket? By all means he deserves it. But that can’t be why he keeps bringing up his imprisonment. As the other letters in the bible, when something is frequently repeated, it is because it is important. Four out of five times, when he mentions his imprisonments; there is a reference to Jesus or the Gospel (the Good News) about him. Verses 1,9,13,23. Paul tells Philemon that he is in chains for preaching the Good News, and calls himself a prisoner for the sake of Christ Jesus. Because of his faith in Jesus Paul is taken places he does not want to go. He is put entirely at mercy of God, just as a slave is put at the mercy of his master. Paul refers to himself as a slave of Christ many times, e.g. Romans 1:1This letter is from Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus, chosen by God to be an apostle and sent out to preach his Good News.

Pauls letter forced Philemon in to deciding who he was. Was he a slave of sin or a slave of Christ? The way he received Onesimus when he returned would tell Paul, and the church who met in his house that.

We’re either Slaves of Christ or of Sin

So who are we, are we slaves of Christ or is sin our master?

The bible tells us that the wages of sin is death, and that we have all sinned, we’re not anywhere near Gods glorious standard.  What does that mean to us, well I won’t say the first thing that comes into mind, but we’re… eh IN TROUBLE. It seems out default setting is to be slave of sin, dead, and nowhere near how God wants us to be. Is that it then… should we all leave right now, and make up a more convenient theology, a theology that has a more relaxed view on sin and death. We could worship Prince Philip… hmmm, no that’s right there’s already someone doing that. Well… I have good news for you.

We don’t have to, we can stick with the real thing. Why drink diet coke, when you can have the real thing?

In John 8:34-6 Jesus says

“I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave of sin. A slave is not a permanent member of the family, but a son is part of the family forever. So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free”

When we become Christians, our chains of sin that we have dragged around with us a lifetime are broken. We turn to Jesus and repent of our sin, we wish to obey God wholeheartedly. We realize that we don’t have to go off and do something stupid, that only hurts us more, and leads into more sin. We see that we are no longer slaves of sin, but of righteous living. The Holy Spirit that that comes into us when we become Christians compels us to lead a righteous life. So as we see God even gives us the tools to lead a righteous life, and to no longer be slaves of sin. We’ve been given everything we need to be slaves of Christ and not of sin. So all we have to do is to turn to Jesus and repent of our sin.

4.Illustrate: We’re all slaves, either of Christ or sin

Did you know that a slave that ran away from their master in ancient Rome, and was caught had a FUG burnt into their forehead and a collar around his neck. Sometimes they collar had some kind of inscription like: “Hey my master is Tyranus Quintus, I have ran away. If you find me, kill me and bring my head back to my master. He will reward you ” Isn’t that what sin does to us? Luckily it most of the time doesn’t behead us but it hurts us. To be a slave of sin is to be at the mercy of the cruellest master there is. Isn’t it better to be the slave of righteous living, the slave of Christ. He who has freed us once and for all, He who takes the collar of around our neck, and breaks our chains of sin.

5.Apply the point: We’re all slaves, either of Christ or sin

As Jesus said:

“I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave of sin. A slave is not a permanent member of the family, but a son is part of the family forever. So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free”

If you don’t want to be a slave of sin anymore, turn to Jesus and repent of your sin. He will set you free, and give you all the tools you need to be a Christian and a slave of Christ.


Point 1: Forgiveness is hard but it’s possible through Christ!

Point 2: We’re all slaves, either of Christ or sin

God has given us tools to forgive each other, and lead a life of righteous living, as a slave of Christ. So all we need to do is to turn to Jesus and repent of our sins.