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Rays of Light Bible Lessons by Keith Holder


Philemon 20-21 Yea, brother, let me have joy of thee in the Lord: refresh my bowels in the Lord. Having confidence in thy obedience I wrote unto thee, knowing that thou wilt also do more than I say.

The joy that Paul looks forward to will be realized when he learns that Philemon had, with gladness, granted all that he had asked in this letter regarding Onesimus - that he had forgiven Onesimus of his sinful past, accepted him back as a faithful servant, and, more importantly, received Onesimus back as a brother in Christ. This being done, Paul says that it would refresh my bowels in the Lord. His very heart and mind would be refreshed; his apprehensive anxiety would be relieved; his great emotional concern for the future state of Onesimus would be rested and set at ease.

Having confidence in thy obedience I wrote unto thee, knowing that thou wilt also do more than I say. As a brother in Christ, Paul was confident that Philemon would respond favorably to his plea on behalf of Onesimus. Paul expressed his confidence in the Christian brethren of Corinth (2 Cor. 2:3, 7:16, 8:22), of Thessalonica (2 Thess. 3:5), and of the members of the churches of Galatia (Gal. 5:10). Paul was confident that these Christians would be obedient to the will of God, which he had delivered to them in person, and by the inspired epistles he had written to them. But here, in this personal epistle, his confidence was placed in an individual Christian of Colosse - Philemon. Paul was sure that Philemon would hear his plea for Onesimus - that he would receive him back, both as a servant and as a brother in Christ.

Notice how far Paul's confidence extended toward Philemon. Paul says of him, that he knewthat thou wilt also do more than I say. This is mere speculation, but could it be that Philemon granted Onesimus his freedom from enslavement? Although there is no record of the results of Onesimus' return, and Philemon's receptiveness, a deed such as this would certainly have been more than Paul had requested him to do.

What a great lesson this is to all Christians today. Take God's word as the source of eternal life through Jesus Christ, believe and obey its commandments, do all that God requires us to do as His children, and also do more than is required by God. Christians are not to search God's word for the minimum requirements to gain eternal life. We are expected to labor for the cause of Christ to the best of our ability. We are not to extend the minimum love for our fellow man, rather, we are to give abundantly to fill the needs of others; we are to give more than is necessary.

Did our Lord not tell us this in His "Sermon on the Mount?" And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away (Matt. 5:40-42). We are not to turn away from the needs of others. We are to give more than we are asked to give. In deeds of kindness, this text tells us that, as followers of Christ, we are to go an "extra mile!"

Ourmotive for extending works of kindness to our fellow man is not to receive like deeds from them. Christians are not to give in order to receive, but with humility they are to give liberally to the needs of others out of a concerned, caring, and loving heart. This teaching was made plain by Christ when he said, But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind: and thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just (Luke 14:13-14). Paul told the church at Corinth: He, which soweth sparingly, shall reap also sparingly; and he, which soweth bountifully, shall reap also bountifully (2 Cor. 9:6). Christians are to be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate; laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life (1 Tim. 6:18-19). Good works must demonstrate the faith of an obedient Christian (James 2:15-17). True love for God must be demonstrated, not in word, neither in tongue, but in deed and in truth (See 1John 3:16-18).

Paul knew the Christian character of Philemon. He knew he would go beyond what was asked of him. In this epistle, Paul is teaching Christians everywhere to take the example of Philemon as their own, and do more than what is asked to satisfy the physical and spiritual needs of others.