1 Peter 1&2

 Slaves or Bondservants

 In this study we are going to focus more on Philemon than 1 Peter.  Philemon had a slave named Onesimus who had escaped from Philemon and ended up in Rome ministering to Paul who was in prison. Paul decided to send Onesimus back as a changed man along with this letter. Apparently Philemon was a believer and wealthy enough to have a slave.

I see Philemon as a type of believer who has become successful in the world. Worldly success usually comes at a price that can enslave us if we are not careful. It can be as simple as adapting to the prevailing culture or getting caught up in outright sin. The bottom line is one becomes a slave to that which has mastered him.

Jesus said in John 8 that he came to set us free from the things that enslave us. Onesimus had become a believer. He was set free from his old way of thinking and his sins were forgiven. Paul said to Philemon that Onesimus was so transformed that he was ministering to Paul. He also said that although Onesimus was once useless to Philemon he would now find him useful. So Paul was sending Onesimus back.

Onesimus was transformed when he became a new creature, his actions showed that the old was gone and the new had come. Paul made that clear in this letter. Now it is Philemon’s turn. Was Philemon really a believer who had been set free from the cultural norms and the deceitfulness of wealth? Did Philemon have a transformed heart and mind? Or would he succumb to the pressure of the cultural norms in his treatment of his runaway slave?

The world teaches us to be selfish and greedy. It tells us to live for ourselves and grab all the wealth, power, and possessions we can because this is how the world defines truly living. In the Kingdom of God these things can become a hindrance to our relationship with the Lord. That was the case with the rich, young, ruler in Matthew 19:16-30.  He came to Jesus and asked what he must do to receive eternal life. He had all the things the world defines as living. He was young and rich and he had power and authority.  What more could he possibly want? Deep down he knew he was lacking something and that something was eternal life. Jesus saw that his riches were the problem. Apparently his faith was in the money and possessions he had. Jesus told him to get rid of them and follow Jesus. Money and wealth are not evil. But, when we put our trust in them instead of Jesus, that is a big problem.  Paul warns of this in 1 Timothy 6:9&10.

There are many wealthy Christians who do not have a problem in this area. They see their wealth as a God given asset to be used to glorify God by blessing and serving others. However, becoming a Christian may not change our station in life. But it must change how we look at life and conduct our life no matter what our station in life is. We are to no longer serve ourselves and the ways of the world, we are to serve the Lord and bring glory to Him. Paul was sending Onesimus back to the station in life that he had run from. But he was sending him as a changed man. Paul was asking Philemon to live out his Christian life in the way he received Onesimus.  We don’t know how Philemon responded, but it is very likely each one of us will be faced with the same kind of situation where we will have to make a sacrifice to go against the cultural norms or worldly ways, and act in response to our faith. The price could be high. Will we grumble or seek to glorify God? In 1 Peter 2:16 we read, “Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondservants of God.” NASB

In our next study we will take a closer look at 1 Peter. For now though let’s consider this question, are we slaves to the world or bondservants to our Lord? One day we may have to answer that question with our actions.

Pastor Dave