We are all like Onesimus

We are all like Onesimus

We are all (Christ’s) Onesimi if we will believe it.
Martin Luther

Are we just like Onesimus? An escaped slave?

Today we’re going to step into the shoes of Onesimus this morning and hopefully get a better understanding of what Christ did for us.

You see, we’re like Onesimus in at least 3 ways:

  1. An Undeserved Substitute ( Philemon 1:17)
  2. An Unpayable Debt (Philemon 1:18)
  3. An Unbelievable Payment (Philemon 1:19)

1. An undeserved substitute

“So if you consider me your partner, welcome him as you would welcome me.”
Philemon 1:17

Paul begins by trying to find common ground, we are partners in faith. Paul uses the word κοινωνός (koinownos), meaning partner or companion, they have a fellowship based on their common life in Jesus Christ.

This is no doubt true as it was Paul who led Philemon to Christ calls him in the opening sentence a “dear friend and co-worker”.

So now that Paul has reminded Philemon that he is a partner he asks him to accept Onesimus as you would me.  In other words, Paul is taking Onesimus’ place, he’s a substitute for Onesimus.

Welcome him, as you would welcome me and forgive him as you would forgive me.

As Philemon looks at Onesimus, he was to see the face of the apostle Paul.  Does that sound familiar? Just like Paul and Onesimus, Jesus takes our place.  Jesus appeals to the Father on our behalf, Father accept them as you would me.

At the heart of Christianity is the Atonement. The true meaning of Christ’s death is that he sacrificed himself in the place of us, in the place of us condemned sinners.

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
2 Corinthians 5:21

So we have an undeserved substitute but we also have

2. An un-payable debt

If he has wronged you in any way, or owes you anything, charge that to my account.
Philemon 1:18

You see Onesimus had incurred a debt and one that he has no chance of repaying.  We know that Onesimus was a runaway slave, so there is his dollar value, apparently the cost of a slave was about a year and a half’s wages.

That would be nearly impossible amount to save for a free man at that time, let alone a slave. As well as that he may have stolen possessions or money from Philemon; possibly to fund his flight.

As an escaped slave, Onesimus has incurred a debt, that he could never repay.  As property, this slave, according to Roman law, had put himself under the death penalty.

This was a debt that Onesimus could never escape and Justice demanded his life. It could only be satisfied by his death.

But you know, that’s the exact position that you and me, in fact all of humanity face apart from Christ!

Like Onesimus, we’ve incurred a debt which we cannot pay. The debt which God placed as a penalty for disobedience was more than just physical death it was also spiritual death.

For the wages of sin is death
Romans 6:23

Sin is missing the mark of perfect holiness; a mark that we’ve all missed. We’ve all sinned.

We like Onesimus, are law breakers, under a death sentence, a penalty of death, a debt which we cannot pay. It’s looking petty grim but look what Paul says:

If he has wronged you in any way, or owes you anything, charge that to my account.
Philemon 1:18

Charge that to my account! You see there is not only an undeserved substitute but also an un-payable debt and finally:

3.  An unbelievable payment

I, Paul, write this with my own hand: I will repay it
Philemon 1:19

Paul wants to make one point very clear — I will repay it!  Paul accepts completely whatever debt Onesimus has incurred in his escape, anything he stole etc. Paul is so concerned about the reconciliation between Philemon and Onesimus that he will gladly pay the full price.

And you know that’s exactly what Jesus does for us.  Instead of Paul standing between Onesimus and Philemon picture Jesus standing between us and God. Because of Jesus’ great love for us he paid the ultimate price, the full price to clear the full debt.

You know that you were ransomed…, not with perishable things like silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ
1 Peter 1:18–19

And if we go back to the start, remember how Paul said accept him as you would me? Well, Jesus not only paid that debt but he imparted his righteousness to us.

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
2 Corinthians 5:21

Not only is your debt fully transferred to Christ but His total Righteousness is fully transferred to us.  That is sacrificial love, that is the Lord’s love for us, that debt is paid in full.  A perfect and sufficient payment and sacrifice for the sins of the whole world.

When Jesus had received the wine, he said, “It is finished.” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
John 19:30

The debt was paid, on that bloody cross my debt was paid, your debt was paid and it was paid in full!

He paid the debt he did not deserve — we get a new life that we don’t deserve.

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 6:23

We now have a new life, a new destiny, a new eternity for we are a new creation in Christ Jesus.

Do you want that?  I want that!  I need that with every fibre of my being.

And what do we do with that new life?  Do we just lean back in our Jason recliners and relax?  No, of course not, we are a new creation and have work to do!  Spreading the gospel, building the kingdom, fighting against injustice.

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
Ephesians 2:10

Later on, just before we have communion we’re going to be saying the Lord’s prayer and when we come to this line:

Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.

Think carefully, if there is anyone in your family, or the church, or at work, indeed anyone known or unknown to you, forgive them in your heart before you take communion.

Just remember the terrible price that was paid to forgive us and remember that we are making a promise to God that we will forgive everyone else!


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