Tuesday in the Twelfth Week of Ordinary Time

Philemon 1-7

Be Not So Proud

Philemon was a slave-owner; that did not make him a wicked man.  I write this at a time in our nation’s history when saying such is deemed the most insensitive thing a person can say.  I have written in other places that the early Church accommodated a terrible evil while moving the world away from it.  Servitude was a fact of life in the ancient world into which people were born; it was the same for our country up until just over 160 years ago.  It’s extremely difficult for people such as ourselves to accept that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, godly kings and prophets of the Old Testament, saints in the New and long after, owned slaves.  This kind of thinking leads us to commit the following sin—in sum, that we are better people than they were because we have “progressed” beyond such a degrading institution.  I respond to that as I have in other places: Our acceptance of sexual immorality in all its perverse forms renders us unfit to judge anyone else or any other culture—and that’s only one example.  I grant that the world is a more humane place than it was two thousand years ago, and I credit that to the preaching of the gospel and spread of the Church around the globe during that time.  But I also know that sinful man is sinful man in every and all times.  Studying history gives one a sense of humility of one’s own time and culture, and I refuse to stand in judgment over previous generations who were as immersed in their culture as we are in ours.  Our task as Christians is to rise above our culture to be a godly people, and frankly few of us ever rise very high in the course of our lives.  All of this said, I will strive to look upon previous generations with the grace which I hope my descendents will one day look upon ours and our obvious shortcomings.

In verses four through seven, Paul informs us that Philemon loved the Lord and the saints and was a kind and generous man, “because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you.”  He prays that this generosity “may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ.”  No, I don’t think Paul was lying about Philemon’s character for the sake of “buttering him up” to release Onesimus.  I do think that Paul was not so subtly appealing to Philemon’s virtues so that he would willingly free Onesimus—so that Onesimus might freely and willingly serve the Lord with Paul—a petition which we think Philemon granted.

There are many things hard to understand about how God has worked in a world full of human sin.  Through it all, He has saved and forgiven His people: Paul (former church persecutor), Philemon, and, yes, even us.

Author: The Reformed Baptist

My name is Stephen Taylor, ordained Baptist minister of eighteen years pastoral experience with a Ph.D. in Historical Theology from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. Better than that, I am married to a godly woman, Karla, who has been very patient with me since 1989. I have two daughters, both of whom I homeschooled for extended periods of time, who became godly young women, and who ran off and married godly young men, all of which is very proper. The oldest daughter has even seen fit to bless me with a grandson and a granddaughter, and my youngest daughter with a grandson, all three of whom are bundles of exceeding joy. As you can see, I am quite blessed. This website is dedicated to helping people grow in the wisdom and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ through the gift of writing that the Lord has given to me. It is specifically about helping His people grow in godliness, the theme you see repeated above. I write devotions with this aim and hope that they might be of some help to God’s people. Full disclosure: I am of a Reformed bent, meaning that my understanding of Scripture is primarily informed by the Reformers and their successors of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. However, as a student of church history and theology, I strive to remain true to that teaching handed down once for all unto the saints through every age of the Church. I like to think of myself as a “catholic” Christian, as the Reformers thought of themselves. At any rate, feel free to read, pray, and contact me if you wish, or correct me if need be. As you can see, I tend to follow the church year. Of course, I make no special claims about these devotions. I know very well that others have written better and plumbed the depths of God’s word with greater insight. But if my musings help someone draw closer to the Lord, well then, I have my reward. Blessings to you and may the God and Father of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ speak to you that word which He knows you especially need to hear. Grace & peace, Stephen Taylor

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