Lessons In Taking Liberties

In Philemon verse 13-14 we can learn a great deal about how to handle other people’s possessions. I would venture to say that more hurt feelings and more broken friendships are caused by taking liberties with out asking than anything else. This can refer borrowing items, using property, or simply assuming it’s ok without ever asking. How we treat the property of others says a lot about who we are.

In out text the Apostle Paul had led Oneisimus (a run away slave) to salvation in Christ while he was imprisoned in Rome. Paul knew his owner Philemon personally, and was sending Oneisimus back the be repent and be forgiven. Paul wrote this letter to encourage Philemon to accept Philemon as his brother in the Lord. Lets look at Paul’s view of taking with out asking.

13 Whom I would have retained with me, that in thy stead he might have ministered unto me in the bonds of the gospel: 14 But without thy mind would I do nothing; that thy benefit should not be as it were of necessity, but willingly.

Paul’s Destitute Condition v13 Paul’s first thought was to keep Oneisimus in Rome as his servant till he could be released. He also implies that if Philemon were in Rome, he would have providing this service himself, hence “in thy stead.” Paul is “in the bonds of the gospel.” Literally imprisoned for preaching the gospel. In first century Rome many people died in jail because food and clothing were not always provided. So could he have used a servant at this time? Who needed this servant the most? Imprisoned Paul or wealthy Philemon? Surely Philemon wouldn’t care considering the circumstances? We often use our circumstances to justify taking liberties with someone else’s stuff. We think we need it more or since we are friends, they won’t care.

Allow me to give you some guidelines for taking liberties with out asking.

  • 1 Only in an emergency. If it is not an emergency, then ask first and wait on their response. Anything that can be put off, should be, untill permission is granted.
  • 2 Is it a matter of life or death? If it is, don’t ask, just act! Nothing is more precious than saving a life.
  • 3 Look at the value of what you are taking. Risking a $1000 item that doesn’t belong to you to save a $10 item that does, is never a good idea. However, I’m sure any friend wouldn’t care for you risking his $10 to save your $1000, in a pinch.
  • 4 Is this really an emergency? We tend to over exaggerate, so ask yourself again. BTW 4 missed calls to a cell phone in under 5 minutes is NOT waiting patiently. Don’t try to justify not asking first.

Paul’s Duty To Consult v14a “Without thy mind” doesn’t imply that one of them was crazy. Paul is waiting for Philemon’s consent. Paul would not take a liberty that did not belong to him. So he sent Oneisimus on a 1300 mile journey to Colosse rather than keep him in Rome with out Philemon’s approval.

You may say “He’s chained to a Roman soldier! This is a pretty serious situation.” Yes, it’s a bad situation, but not an emergency. According to verses 1, 23 and 24 there were at least six other men with Paul to take care of his needs. “But Paul was on a mission trip. He is doing the work of God.” some will reason. What we are doing and the cause it goes to support does not give us the right to take what is not ours. Many will say “They are such good friends. Surly he wouldn’t care. Why even ask? Just send him back later.” The closeness of your friendship can easily be destroyed by actions like that. However, your friends are sure to grow closer by treating them the way Paul treated Philemon. We should always respect their property.

Philemon’s Decision To Consent v14b When Paul referred to “thy benefit” he was referring to the reward Philemon would receive for his aid in spreading the gospel. Had Paul kept Oneisimus it would have been to Philemon’s benefit. But that was not Paul’s decision to make. That is why he wants Philemon to make his own decision “willingly” and not out of “necessity.” Paul was not seeking acceptance for his actions. He was seeking permission to act.

This is hard for people to take some times. If I have seen it once, I’ve seen it a hundred times. A friend asks a favor and the other friend says no. Just because they are friends does not require the other party to comply with their request. They have a right to say no. We have a responsibility to accept their answer, even if it’s not what we expected to hear. Remember, this is not an emergency or a matter of life and death, it is a favor.

Here are three words to take away from this study:

  1. Condition: If it’s not an emergency, you are in a position to wait.
  2. Consult: Take the time to ask permission. Your relationship with them or the good cause that this will support should not matter.
  3. Consent: Accept their decision and thank them regardless of their answer.





Four Reasons For Forgiving

We have been studying the book of Philemon on Wednesday nights and it has been a real joy to read a personal letter from Paul. Before asking Philemon to forgive Onesimus, Paul praises Philemon as an example to others of how a Christian lives in verses 4-7. Then in verses 8-10 he lays out four reasons for him to forgive Onesimus before he makes his request known. I hope we all can learn the importance of forgiving others. My outline for this text is as follows:

#1 Obeying a command of a leader. v8 Paul had the right as an Apostle to require his forgiveness. But he chose not to force this on him.

#2 Obedience to Christ’s love. v9a “for love’s sake” Because we have experienced the love of God, we should share that love with others.

#3 Observing a compassionate life. v9b Paul refers to himself as the “aged” in reference to the miles more than the years of his life. II Cor 11:23-28

#4 Obligation to a changed life. v10 Paul reveals that Onesimus is now a believer and a new creature in Christ. This alone warrants forgiveness, love and encouragement.

Curing The Crippled Church

The events of Acts 6:1-8 are often used to show the ministry of deacons in the church. I view this chapter as one of the great miracles of the early church. Up to this point the church has grown at a rapid pace while experiencing the arrest and beating of it’s leaders and the deaths two people who were seeking glory for themselves. During this time the Apostles were conducting all of the church’s ministry. Now we find discord in the body and the church has become crippled.
The Reason v1-2: Four things can be listed as the cause. 1) Unnumbered Multitude; “the disciples multiplied” the larger the congregation the more this becomes an issue. With growth comes growing pains. 2) Unfair Ministration; “widows were neglected” the Greeks were accusing the Hebrews of showing favoritism. This may or may not be true but it affected the fellowship. 3) Ungodly Murmuring; the Greeks may have been done wrong but this is not the way to handle it. Murmuring has plagued God’s people since the days of Moses and it still cripples churches today. 4) Unfit Ministers; “it is not reason…” the Apostles were not to be “serving tables” they were to lead and teach.
The Remedy 3-6: “seven men… to appoint over this business” weather these were actual ordained deacons or just seven helpers matters not to me. God’s wisdom for the church to have deacons is clear from other text. lets look at the trait these men were to posses. 1) Hard Working Men; they were not paid ministers. The work they did was on top of supporting their family. 2) Honest Men; “of honest report” means everyone would know them to be honest. The office did not make them honest. they already were. 3) Holy Men; “full of the Holy Ghost” they didn’t seek accountants, bankers or lawyers. They sought godly men who were led by the Spirit of God. These seven men will free the twelve up to pray, study and teach.
The Results 7-8: When God binds the wounds of a church it can begin to grow again. Four things testify to this in these two verses. 1) The Word Increased; there can be no spirituals growth without growing in the knowledge of the Bible. The more Bible we take in, the better we are equipped to handle this life. 2)The Worship Increased; “disciples multiplied” the Lord has once again begun adding to this church. When we are at peace with our fellow believer we are able to reach others. 3) Their Influence Widened; “priest” the priest around Jerusalem became believers in Jesus Christ. They knew all to well the difficulties of serving a large congregation. 4) Their Wonder Increased; “Stephen… did great wonders” this is the first time we see God doing this through someone other than one of the twelve. A healthy church has room for others to and glorify God with their gifts.
Let us pray to God that he would work this miracle among the many churches of our day. Pray that God would use you in the remedy and keep you from becoming one of the reasons. ~ Bro Harold