In a message titled, SHARING EFFECTIVELY, we left the introductory salutation of Paul’s letter and looked at his opening prayer and thanksgiving for Philemon (see Philemon vv. 4-7).
Paul “always” gave thanks to God for Philemon in his regular prayers- for his “love and faith… toward the Lord Jesus and…all” believers (vv. 4-5).
Paul heard of Philemon’s exemplary testimony from brothers like Epaphras from far away- even while chained up in Rome (v. 1, 9; Col. 1:7-8, etc.). Onesimus, in fact, may have been one of the people who told Paul of Philemon’s character in Christ after he also was saved by grace through faith (v.10; Col. 4:9).
While slavery is a wicked institution, not sanctioned by God, the Bible reveals the Lord worked through the evils of that time- as He does today- for good (e.g. Rom. 8:28; Col. 3:22; 1 Cor. 7:21, etc.). The Gospel changes hearts and preserves and helps societies (Matt. 5:13-16; 16:18; 18:17, etc.). Philemon’s love for God is an example of this as well as Onesimus’ willingness to return to him in this biblical account (1 Cor. 7:22, etc.).
Paul also prayed “the sharing of [Philemon’s] faith would become effective” (v.6a). This same word for “effective” (in Grk. ἐνεργής energḗs) is translated “powerful” in Hebrews 4:12. God wants our faith to be shared- POWERFULLY- EFFECTIVELY. He wants us to verbally communicate what Christ has done for us so others can be saved (e.g. Matt. 28:18-20; Acts 1:8; Rom. 1:16; 10:14, 17; John 1:12-14; 14:6, etc.). This is done by knowing “every good thing which is in [us by]… Christ Jesus” (v.6b), and also by forgiving others as Christ forgave us (vv. 12-15; Matt. 6:14-15; Eph. 4:32, John 17:21 etc.). That refreshes the “hearts” of believers and glorifies God (v.7; Luke 15:7; Heb. 12:2, etc.).