Church members gathered on Sunday, September 10, to study an example of life of faith and love through the Epistle to Philemon. Apostle Paul’s letters are rich in doctrine and can easily be viewed as instructions, but what they really are is words of example from a life of someone who was completely transformed by the power of Christ’s love. In the same way, we experience growth and spiritual maturity through living a life of obedience to God’s will and relationship with Jesus so that the more we follow his will, the closer we become with Christ and the more his glory is revealed in our lives. Philemon is a personal letter written by Apostle Paul when he was a prisoner in Rome and through his words we see how a man of God acted, though and felt.
In the first verse, Paul describes himself as a prisoner of Christ Jesus. This word in Greek is an adjective rather than a noun, describing someone who is ‘bound’ as a prisoner in jail is. This means that Paul’s life belongs completely to Christ, just as he expresses in Galatians 2:20 saying, ‘it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.’ Belonging to Jesus means that whatever is happening in my life right now is all under the authority of God who either allowed me to be in this situation and place or had caused me to. Paul could have thought of all possible reasons why he is imprisoned, in a bad situation like this. He could blame someone else for this or even blame himself, but his viewpoint is very different. I am a prisoner not by Caesar’s hand, but by God’s hand.
In other words, Paul says he is not a prisoner of the circumstances but the prisoner of Christ. I am in this situation because I follow the will of Jesus who loved me and is working for my good and so even though one would normally feel shame for being in prison, he doesn’t feel ashamed (2 Tim 1:8) he rather feels and shares grace and peace (Philemon 1:3) and sees this as on opportunity for God’s power to be revealed and his life to testify God’s glory. This is the same mindset as Joseph had in Old Testament. It’s a mindset of a man whose hope is not in what is seen but in God who is working in the unseen (2 Cor 4:16-18). How can we have the same mindset? The answer is in the same word – by becoming ‘bound’ to Jesus, just as a husband is bound to his wife (Rom 7:2, 4), by belonging to Christ not unwillingly with grumbling heart, but because of the great love He has for us. When everything belongs to Him, even problems that seemed big will become small.