Philemon, the Gracious Master

Scriptures: Philemon 1:1
by Jacob Abshire on May 31, 2023

“Philemon, our beloved fellow worker”

Philemon 1

Some thirty years after Jesus ascended, a wondrous story of forgiveness unfolded. It began with Philemon, a faithful Christian, and successful business owner. Philemon worked from home. He was a farmer, and his large estate was maintained by family members and slaves.

Unlike slavery we so vigorously opposed in light of early American history, this servitude resembled a labor force more like we experience today. Being a slave had advantages that far outweighed the disadvantages, especially a slave to a Christian master. They would enjoy his goodness, kindness, care, and the gospel.

To Philemon, the workers were his mission field. He loved Christ and others, including his slaves. He desired that they experience the life-changing love that God lavishes on those who belong to Him. So, he modeled that love before them. They were objects of his grace.

Philemon’s slaves enjoyed his generosity and fellowship as well as his discipleship and patience. But, he was more interested in them joining him for worship than earning a living. In some sense, they did.

The Colossian church met in his home. So the slaves likely participated in worship in some way — either serving or being served. They were not excluded. The fellowship was theirs to enjoy. Most likely, they did. Their love was so strong that the apostle Paul heard about it and desired to be refreshed by it himself. 

Are you like Philemon? Would others say that you are loving and gracious with those with whom you work or lead? Do you seek their benefit above your own? Would Paul be willing to call you a “beloved fellow worker” as he did Philemon?

  1. In your circle of influence, how are you known to be? Would your fellow church members say you desire your co-workers and friends to know the gospel?
  2. What does this teach us about God’s saving work in the lives of people? What more does it say about how God uses situations?
  3. How does this help you live today? What sort of things should you be more mindful of when you go throughout your day?
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