In a message titled, MAKING AN APPEAL (Phile. 8-16), we looked at Paul’s request to Philemon. He now asks his friend to “show kindness” to the person who has wronged him (Phile. 10 NLT). Paul states he could “be very bold in Christ to command” this, but instead he “appeals” (Grk. parakaléō/ begs, entreats) to Philemon (Phile. 8-9a; Eph. 4:32, etc.).
God also does this with us as His children. He guides/leads; He does not force (Gal. 5:16-18, 25, etc.). And the basis for following God, for serving Him, is His gracious mercy, freely given to all of His kids through the shed blood of Jesus (Rom. 3:23-26; Eph. 2:8-9; 1 Cor. 6:19-20; 2 Cor. 5:21, etc.). As God appeals to Philemon through Paul, so He “appeals” to us (Rom. 12:1 ESV, etc.). When we turn to God, He gives us not only the power and ability to do what is right, but even the desire as we seek Him (Phil. 2:12-13; 1 John 1:9, etc.).
With the decision now firmly in Philemon’s hands (Phile. 12a), God’s Word continues to encourage him to do what is right- as He does us (2 Tim. 3:16-17, etc.). Paul explains Onesimus has come to faith and is now “useful” to the aging apostle chained up in prison (Phile. 9b-13 NET). But most importantly, Onesimus is loved- so much so Paul says in the Greek, “this one is my heart” (Phile. 12b). Philemon’s decision remains “voluntary” because no “good work” can ever be forced (Phile. 14; Eph. 2:10; 1 Cor. 3:9-15, etc.).
God providentially accomplished “good” through Onesimus’ evil as He does “all things” (Phile. 15; Rom. 8:28, etc.). After coming to faith, Onesimus was being returned to Philemon as “more than a slave- [as] a beloved brother” (Phile. 16; Col. 3:22-4:1, etc.).