Monday, 30 July 2018
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen. Philemon 1:25
This final greeting is extremely similar to that of the closing of the book of Galatians. The only difference is in Paul’s use of the word “brethren” in Galatians. That was explained then as being necessary because, despite the temptations of the Judaizers, Paul still considered them brethren and wanted that point highlighted, even at the very last moment of his direct and purposeful epistle. The inclusion of the word here is unnecessary. Paul has already called Philemon “brother” twice. Those also greeted in the epistle were in good standing with him, and so he skips the term. Instead, he simply speaks to all of them collectively with a plural pronoun.
“The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ” is one of the greatest concepts found in the Bible. Man is fallen and man needs grace for his salvation and for his continued walk with the Lord. Paul asks for this marvelous blessing to be bestowed upon Philemon and those with him. In this petition, it is understood that they are undeserving of it. One cannot merit grace. Therefore, the petition is one of hope that this unmerited favor “of the Lord Jesus Christ” will continue to be lavished upon them – sinners already saved by that same grace.
This grace, being unmerited, is especially highlighted here for them to consider their position before God. They have been granted grace in the spiritual renewal found in Christ, and from the bonds of sin-debt which tied them down, and he is now in the highest hopes that grace will likewise be bestowed upon Onesimus in an earthly way. Paul is reminding them that they stand by grace and that this grace should be with their “spirit.” The spirit is the highest part of man. It is the aspect of us which is reconnected to God because of grace, not works.
Man spiritually died when Adam disobeyed God; Jesus Christ regenerates our spirit through His work. Faith in that deed, and faith alone, is what brings this about. Paul asks them to consider this and let this grace continue to be that which guides their spirit. It is certain that he desires it to be especially directed toward the wayward slave who is standing there awaiting a decision on his fate as Philemon’s eyes fall upon the last words of the letter. And with that said to his dear fellow Christians who meet in the house of Philemon, he closes with “Amen.” So be it!
In coming to the ending of the letters of Paul which bear his signature, we should stop and be thankful for how God used him to bring us such wonderful epistles of doctrine, instruction, training, and encouragement. He spent his life’s energy to the glory of God, understanding the immense debt that he owed, and which had been canceled because of the shed blood of Christ. It is more than fitting then that his final epistle is not one of actual prescriptive doctrine, but one which appeals to the very heart of the gospel in another way. In a chest full of precious jewels, Philemon radiates out its own splendor among them. It shines out prominently as a reminder to each of us that we have received grace and mercy, and so we should also consider bestowing it upon others. Their offense against us is far less than our offense against God. Let us remember this always.
Life application: If you have come to the book of Philemon, after having read it and contemplated it, has it changed your heart towards another who needs your loving grace and tender mercy? At the foot of the cross, the ground is level. We all needed His forgiveness, and we received it. Are you prepared to give it to someone who has offended you far less than you have offended God? Convert your heart of stone into one of tender flesh, look upon the affliction of the one who stands near, and grant them the pardon they need to be restored in their spirit towards you. Let peace and fellowship be seen in you towards others because of the cross of Jesus Christ.
Lord God, we all have debts owed to us, and debts that we owe. Some are debts which must be paid because of earthly responsibilities. And, some are debts that we can forgive, or ask to be forgiven, because of our position in Christ. Help us to be willing to cancel those debts among our fellow believers that will allow them to more freely live in Your presence, knowing that we have been forgiven so much more because of Jesus. Help us in this, O Lord. Amen.