July 14, 2014
Philemon 1:10, 17-20
(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)
Back on March 27 of last year I wrote a blog called The Great Exchange, based on II Corinthians 5:21. To get the fullest understanding of today’s blog, I suggest you go back and read The Great Exchange.
But I will still summarize what I wrote over 16 months ago. In II Corinthians 5:21 Paul writes, “For He [the Father] made Him [the Son] who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” The Great Exchange was Jesus taking our sins upon Himself and totally paying for them by His death on the cross. But He also offers us His own perfect righteousness to wear as a robe covering our nakedness. So we stand before God, not only free from sin and condemnation, but clothed in Jesus’ own goodness – as perfect before the Father as the Son Himself!
In Philemon Paul applies these principles to a runaway slave – Onesimus, to his owner – Philemon, and to himself – Paul. Onesimus was a bond-servant to Philemon, apparently a well-to-do citizen of Colosse in Asia Minor. It seems Onesimus had stolen from his master and escaped to Rome where he met Paul. The apostle was then incarcerated – his first Roman imprisonment. Paul had led the escaped slave to faith in Jesus Christ, and Onesimus had confessed and repented of his sins – including stealing from Philemon. Paul would have liked to keep Onesimus with him as a helper and attendant, for Paul identifies himself at this time as “…Paul, the aged…” (Philemon 1:9). He was in his sixties and his hard missionary life had taken its toll on his body (see II Corinthians 11:23 through 29). But Paul would not do anything without Philemon’s permission. More important, the apostle felt the repentant slave should go back and be reconciled to his master. So he sent him back to Colosse with this letter. And The Great Exchange of Debit and Credit is illustrated in verses 10, and 17 through 20 of this one-chapter epistle:
I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten while in my
chains….If then you count me as a partner, receive him as you would me.
But if he has wronged you, or owes you anything, put that on my account.
I, Paul, am writing with my own hand. I will repay — not to mention to
you that you owe me even your own self besides. Yes, brother, let me have
joy from you in the Lord; refresh my heart in the Lord.
Do you see The Great Exchange of Debit and Credit here? The Debit is in verse 18 – “…if he has wronged you, or owes you anything….” We don’t know what Onesimus did exactly, but he had wronged Philemon, and if he had stolen property from his master, he certainly did owe him!
We have all wronged God! God created us in His own image (Genesis 1:26 and 27), endowing us with god-like qualities that no other creature possessed! But we all have disobeyed Him. “As it is written, ‘There is none righteous, no, not one;’…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…” (Romans 3:10 and 23). We have offended our high and holy God! These sins are multitudinous, and are plainly written on our account! And if something is not changed, we will forever be paying for these sins in a hot and torturous hell, eternally separated from our Creator!
But on to the Credit part! Paul emphasizes this three times:
• …in verse 17 – “…receive him as you would me.” Receive Onesimus as if he was Paul! This is marvelous – especially when we apply it to our situation before God! When we accept Jesus as our Savior, we are then accepted by the Father as if He was receiving Jesus Christ – His own Son – Himself!
• …in verse 18 – “…if he has wronged you, or owes you anything, put that on my account.” In other words, Credit my account with his Debit! That is exactly what God does for us in the Lord Jesus Christ! He credits us with the full righteousness of Jesus! We stand before the Father in the Son as if we had never sinned at all!
• …in verse 19 – “I, Paul, am writing with my own hand. I will repay….” Jesus has written on our bill – our long list of sins – one word in the Greek, which He uttered from the cross – Tetelestai – meaning, “It is finished!” (John 19:30). That one word might be written across a bill of sale when payment was received – “Paid in full!” And the Lord wrote that word with His own blood! Our sins are totally paid for! We do not owe anything more when we are in Jesus Christ!
Yes, Paul does remind Philemon that he didn’t have to promise to repay Onesimus’ debt. “…not to mention to you that you owe me even your own self besides.” After all, Philemon’s Christian life and training were apparently all the result of Paul’s work. God did not have to provide for The Great Exchange of Debit and Credit through His Son. He would still be God if we all went to hell! But He loves us so much “…that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16).
One more thing – in verse 20 Paul writes, “…let me have joy from you in the Lord; refresh my heart in the Lord ” Do you know you can rejoice and refresh the heart of God? Accepting Jesus Christ as your Savior and living in obedience to Him as Lord does just that – it refreshes and rejoices the heart of God (see Hebrews 12:2)!
May this give you new insight into the Debit and Credit of your account!