A simple definition for mediation is “to make peace between two warring parties”. Mediation is a type of conflict resolution that involves using a third party to settle a disagreement between two opposing parties. It can be used in the framework of our legal system, our corporate system or even in personal and family disputes.
Although mediation has become more frequently used in today’s time, mediation has been used throughout history as an avenue leading to peace. Even in Bible times we find many examples of mediation taking place.
In our blog entry today, we will be looking at an example of mediation being performed by the Apostle Paul. We will also supply references showing the similarity between Paul’s and Christ’s mediation on behalf of sinful mankind. As we begin our verse – by – verse study keep in mind that Philemon is a picture of God the Father; Onesimus is a picture of a sinner being reconciled to God; and Paul pictures for us Christ, the mediator between God and Man…
1Tim 2:5 (KJV) – For [there is] one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;
For this study the entire book of Philemon will be our text. Philemon is a very small New Testament book found between the books of Titus and Hebrews. If you are like me, when I was starting to study the Bible, I used to confuse Philemon with the book of Philippians. Philemon is made up of only 1 chapter and has three main characters. It is extremely important to understand these three characters for us to get a clear picture of the content, and teachings, of the book of Philemon:
- Philemon – He was a very rich man, a Christian, and a beloved acquaintance of the Apostle Paul. He owned servants and loved them and cared for them as if they were members of his family. Possibly, Philemon was saved under the ministry of Paul. In our text, Philemon is a picture of God the Father.
- Onesimus – He was a spiritually lost individual who is described as an “unprofitable” servant of Philemon. Perhaps, he had stolen from Philemon; perhaps, he was a slacker; or maybe, he was a complainer, stirring up trouble among the other servants; we cannot know for sure. He had illegally run away from Philemon. During his flight, he met the Apostle Paul. Under Paul’s ministry, Onesimus had been saved and desired to go back to Philemon and serve under his authority once again. Onesimus is a picture of the sinner who is being reconciled to God through the interecession of Christ.
- Apostle Paul – Paul takes upon himself the ministry of mediation between Philemon and Onesimus. Paul writes the letter of Philemon, asking His beloved acquaintance (Philemon) to accept Onesimus back and forgive him of any wrongdoing Onesimus had committed against Philemon. Paul is a picture of the Mediator, the Lord Jesus Christ.
In our study today, we will find many different aspects to Paul’s mediation that pictures for us the mediation of Christ on behalf of the sinner being brought to a saving knowledge of Christ.
1-7) Paul, a prisoner of Jesus Christ, and Timothy [our] brother, unto Philemon our dearly beloved, and fellowlabourer, And to [our] beloved Apphia, and Archippus our fellowsoldier, and to the church in thy house: Grace to you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God, making mention of thee always in my prayers, Hearing of thy love and faith, which thou hast toward the Lord Jesus, and toward all saints; That the communication of thy faith may become effectual by the acknowledging of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus. For we have great joy and consolation in thy love, because the bowels of the saints are refreshed by thee, brother.
The above verses are the introduction to Paul’s letter of mediation to Philemon. In the above, Paul sends his greetings to the members of the church in Philemon’s house. He also commends Philemon for his faithfulness in service to the Lord.
Paul, now, begins his ministry of mediation on behalf of Onesimus….
8) Wherefore, though I might be much bold in Christ to enjoin thee that which is convenient, Yet for love’s sake I rather beseech [thee], being such an one as Paul the aged, and now also a prisoner of Jesus Christ.
Principle #1: The salvation that the Lord graciously gives to us is a gift of grace, based upon His love to us. (Romans 5:8, 8:39, Titus 3:4-5)
Paul saying that although he could have required Philemon to accept Onesimus based upon the requirements of the Lord (and Paul’s relationship to Philemon), he refused to do so. Paul wanted Philemon to accept Onesimus based upon love, not necessity.
10) I beseech thee for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my bonds:
Principle #2: Christ stands between the fallen man and God the Father working to bring peace between the two parties. (Eph 2:14-16, 1 Tim 2:5, Hebs 7:25, Heb 9:15, 12:24,)
Why are the two parties at odds with one another? Lost man is separated from God the Father due to his sin. He has rebelled against God the Father, displeased God the Father and is facing the just wrath of the Father. God the Father, who is the holy, sinless and just, cannot excuse sin; nor, can He stand in the presence of sin. Based upon His holiness and the demands of His law He must punish sin.
In our text, Paul is explaining to Philemon that he is writing this letter on behalf of Onesimus.
11) Which in time past was to thee unprofitable, but now profitable to thee and to me:
Principle #3: The lost person who was unprofitable to God, once saved, becomes a profitable servant living his life for the glory of his God (2 Cor 5:17-21, Eph 2:10, 4:24, 1 John 1:7, 2:6).
Paul, as he makes intercession to Philemon, reminds him that Onesimus is a changed man who could now benefit Philemon if he accepted Onesimus back.
12) Whom I have sent again: thou therefore receive him, that is, mine own bowels:
Principle #4: When the Father forgives us and brings us into His family, He is accepting us based upon the righteousness of Christ placed upon us. In that sense, He is accepting us as if we Christ. (Rom 5:17-21, 10:4, 1 Cor 1:30, Phil 3:9, 1 Pet 1:1, Rev 7:14)
Paul is asking Philemon to accept Onesimus, as if Onesimus was Paul himself.
13) Whom I would have retained with me, that in thy stead he might have ministered unto me in the bonds of the gospel:
Principle #5: Once saved, the believer is to minister unto Christ, his Mediator and Savior, this ministry is to only end at his death. At death, the saint goes home to be with the Father and begins ministering to Him. (Rom 6:16-22, Eph 6:6, Rev 1:1, Rev 7:15)
Paul explained that Onesimus was serving Paul before Onesimus departed to be with Philemon. He would serve Philemon once he entered into his presence.
14) But without thy mind would I do nothing; that thy benefit should not be as it were of necessity, but willingly.
Principle #6: The Lord was in no way obligated to save us, He freely choose to do so based upon His love for us. (Eph 1:3-6, 1:11, Rom 8:29-30, 9:11-16, Phil 2:13)
Paul desired for Philemon to freely choose to accept Onesimus back.
15 -17) For perhaps he therefore departed for a season, that thou shouldest receive him for ever;
Principle #7: Once saved, the saint is now eternally safe in the hands of His God. Nothing can come between Him and His Lord ever again. His sins have been paid for (and forgiven) past, present and future. (John 10:25-30, 17:11-12, Hebs 2:12-13, 7:22-28 ,1 Pet 1:3-5)
Paul here is reminding Philemon that, if he accepts Onesimus back into servant hood, it would be gaining a profitable servant on a permanent basis.
16) Not now as a servant, but above a servant, a brother beloved, specially to me, but how much more unto thee, both in the flesh, and in the Lord?
Principle #8: Once saved, the saint becomes a member of the family of God and joint-heirs with Christ. (Roms 8:16-18, Gals 3:29, 4:7, Eph 3:6, Titus 3:7)
Paul explains that Philemon was to accept Onesimus, not simply as a servant, but as a relative fo Paul and a member of Philemon’s own family.
17)If thou count me therefore a partner, receive him as myself.
Principle #9: The salvation of a sinner is based on the harmonious work of the Trinity. One of the purposes for their workings on behalf of the sinner is so that the Trinity might be glorified (Eph 1:1-14).
Paul asks Philemon to recognize they are both working towards the same goal, serving the Lord for His glory. Therefore, Philemon should receive Onesimus for the same reason (so that the Lord might be glorified).
18) If he hath wronged thee, or oweth [thee] ought, put that on mine account;
19) I Paul have written [it] with mine own hand, I will repay [it]: albeit I do not say to thee how thou owest unto me even thine own self besides.
Principle #10: The sin debt of the sinner is paid by Christ, this is the basis of their salvation. With the completion of Christ’s payment on the cross, the salvation of God’e people becomes an act that does not go against the justice of God. Since the sin debt of God’s people was paid by Christ, God can now, justly, withhold the punishment for the lost man’s sin. (1 Pet 1:17-19, 2:22-24, 3:18, Matt 6:28, Col 1:12-14, 1 Cor 6:20, 2 Cor 5:21, Gal 3:13, Eph 5:2)
Paul tells Philemon to charge Paul for any debt Onesimus owed to Philemon. Paul would pay for the debt of Onesmius. In other words, Philemon should not hold any debt against Onesimus; and allow it to be a hindrance to accepting Onesimus back.
20) Yea, brother, let me have joy of thee in the Lord: refresh my bowels in the Lord.
Principle # 11: Christ finds great joy in a sinner becoming reconciled to the Father (Matt 18:10-14, Luke 15:5-10,)
Philemon accepting Onesimus would bring great joy to Paul.
21) Having confidence in thy obedience I wrote unto thee, knowing that thou wilt also do more than I say.
Principle #12: When Christ died on the cross, it was based upon the Father’s will and had assurance that it would result in the salvation of His people (Rom 8:29-30, Phil 1:6, 2 Thess 2:13-14).
Paul had confidence in Philemon that he would do what was right.
22) But withal prepare me also a lodging: for I trust that through your prayers I shall be given unto you.
Principle #13: Following His death and resurrection, Christ ascended to be with the Father to live with Him eternally. He is now preparing a place for Christians to live with Him as well. (John 14:1-4, Acts 2:32-36, Eph 1:20-23, Phil 2:9-11, 1 Pet 3:22, Rev 21:2)
Paul was planning on going to be with Philemon in the near future.
23) There salute thee Epaphras, my fellowprisoner in Christ Jesus;
24) Marcus, Aristarchus, Demas, Lucas, my fellowlabourers.
25) The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ [be] with your spirit. Amen.
Paul closes the letter with wishes to those that were with Philemon.
Have you ever come to peace with your God? By turning from the sin that you have committed and turning to Him, in faith, you can come to peace with God.
Rom 5:1-2 (KJV)
1) Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: 2) By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
If you have any questions concerning the way of salvation please feel free to visit or call a Bible teaching church in your area. They will be happy to speak to you about the Lord Jesus and the salvation He graciously gives. Or, if you would rather, feel welcome to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll be more than happy to answer any question you may have.