DEVOTIONAL – JAN 11

THE GREAT SUBSTITUTION

Leslie M. John

“If he has wronged you at all, or owes you anything, charge that to my account. I, Paul, write this with my own hand: I will repay it—to say nothing of your owing me even your own self” (Philemon 1:18-19)

A great similitude of Lord Jesus Christ paying our debts and taking our sin upon Him, in order that we may be saved, is seen in Apostle Paul’s intervention on behalf of an offender, whose name was Onesimus.

Philemon, who once was alien to the word of God, heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ from Paul and became the child of God. He was not only a great worker for the Lord but had a church in his own home. Onesimus, who was a slave of Philemon, stole some belongings from his house and ran away.

God intervened in the life of Onesimus, who heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ, obviously from Paul and became the child of God, by accepting Lord Jesus Christ as his Savior. He came to Paul and was working with him on behalf of Philemon.

Paul came to know about the wrong Onesimus did to Philemon, and writes him a letter in order to save Onesimus from his master’s wrath. In his letter Paul identifies himself as a prisoner of Lord Jesus Christ and as a brother of Timothy, in the Lord, and recognizes Philemon as a beloved fellow-worker, and addresses his letter to him, and to the Church in his house, as also to Apphia, their sister in the Lord, and Archippus a fellow-soldier in the army of the Lord.

As is seen usually in Paul’s letters, in this letter also, he invokes grace of Lord Jesus Christ on the addressees. He wishes grace and peace to all of them from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ, and recollects his intervention with God on behalf of them and thanks the Lord.

Paul appreciates Philemon’s love and faith toward Lord Jesus Christ, as also toward all the saints. He recognizes Philemon’s every attribute of goodness in Christ, and wishes that it may become more effectual.

Paul enjoyed great joy and comfort in Philemon’s house and calls him as his brother because of those, who came to the Lord, by his ministry. Inasmuch as Philemon was so ardently working for the Lord, Paul says he joined him in the work which he did befitting the Lord.

In spite of Paul’s close association with Philemon, who was saved by the word of the Lord, preached by him, he implores Philemon and intercedes on behalf of Onesimus. He does not hesitate to call himself as an aged man, and also a prisoner of Lord Jesus Christ, and therefore, requests Philemon to show mercy on Onesimus, whom, Paul recognizes as begotten in his bonds in the Lord.

Paul acknowledged that Onesimus was of no use earlier to Philemon; but now he had become useful not only to him but also to Paul, who therefore, sends Onesimus back to Philemon with the letter. In spite of the privilege Paul had in receiving the services of Onesimus he would not want to take undue advantage of weakness of Onesimus without the consent of Philemon.

Even though Onesimus departed from Philemon for a season, more so, like a thief from his presence, yet Paul pleads that he may receive him with favor; no longer as a servant but as a beloved brother both physically and spiritually. Paul imposes a condition on Philemon that if he recognizes Paul as his partner in the work of the Lord, then he should receive Onesimus with mercy, as he would receive Paul.

Paul, after pleading on behalf of Onesimus, affirms that he would pay all the debts caused by Onesimus. Paul asks Philemon to charge all the debts of Onesimus to his account with a mild admonition that Philemon owes his life to him because he was saved by his message of Christ.

Paul affirms faith in the goodness of Philemon and refreshes his heart in Christ and rejoices in Him for the fellowship he had with him. He also expresses confidence in the obedience of Philemon that he would do beyond the scope of the request made.

Paul, who was in prison in Rome, writing this letter to Philemon, expresses his faith that he would be released from prison soon, and, therefore, urges Philemon, to arrange an accommodation for himself in order that he may go to Philemon and work for the Lord together.

Lastly, he conveys greetings from Epaphras, Mark, Aristarchus, Demas and Luke, their fellow workers, who take pleasure in identifying themselves as prisoners of the Lord Jesus Christ and wishes grace to Philemon from our Lord Jesus Christ.

Lord Jesus Christ took upon Himself our sin and became sin for us in order that we may believe in Him and receive everlasting life. He paid the price not with silver or gold but with His precious blood and bought us. There is no salvation in any other than Lord Jesus Christ. It pleased the Father to bruise Him on the cross for our sake, in order that we may not perish. All that a person has to do to receive everlasting life is to accept Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord and believe in heart that God raised him from the dead.

“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21)

“That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9)