Berlin Immanuel Church gathered on Sunday, October 1, to continue studying Paul’s letter to Philemon with the main passage in verses 8 to 10. Even though Paul, as an apostle, has spiritual authority and right to order Philemon what is expected and fitting of someone whose life is marked with faith in Christ and love that refreshes hearts of many, Paul is compelled to do more and rise to a higher level of relationship. More literal translation of verse 8 would be ‘having much boldness in Christ’. Verse 9 is not replacing something that is bad or wrong in verse 8. Paul’s boldness is legitimate, his authority received from Christ. Lord himself uses the same ‘boldness’ when speaking to those he loves and trusts in John 16:29 (translated from Greek as ‘clearly’ in NIV but same word). It is easy to use our boldness when we are right and ‘tell people like it is’, but today we see there is a more perfect way as this passage challenges us to use our boldness with the motive of love instead of ‘being right’, from life of Law to life of Gospel.
The word ‘appeal’ in verse 9 in Greek means to ‘call to one’s side’, used to describe someone becoming your advocate, just as Christ intercedes for us on the right hand of God, someone who urges and encourages; the same root of the word parakletos – the comforter, the role of Holy Spirit in our lives. This shows Paul’s deep understanding of the love of Christ for us, of God who became one of us, who came to our side. God could have exercise His justice and destroy all sinners and it would be right and just thing to do, but instead he revealed new righteousness in giving His one and only Son to die for our sins and carry the punishment that belonged to us. Christ ‘appealed’ to us ‘on the basis of love’ that we would see God’s love for us and be changed.
So here we see a touching picture of an ‘old man’, a prisoner of Christ’s love, encouraging Philemon and urging him to move to a new level of spiritual growth together with Paul, not as a commander over Philemon, but as his aid and advocate on his side. If we can change the motive of our actions and words this way, a beautiful world of love opens up in our relationships. Berlin members pray that the church can grow both in grace and number.