Friday, June 13, 2008

The Character of Forgiveness

Last Sunday we introduced the book of Philemon which we are studying as the second half of our Super Heroes series here at Grace Church. In this study, we are zoning in on one major characteristic of a Biblical Super Man. Biblical Super Men are men who chose to forgive. Paul writes this little postcard of a letter to Philemon asking him to forgive Onesimus who had ran away from Philemon after stealing money from him. His escape route led him to Rome where he met up with the Apostle Paul in prison who led him to faith in Christ. Now he is sending Onesimus back to Philemon with this letter.

In verse 4 of this one chapter book, Paul expresses his confidence in Philemon that he would do the right thing. Paul describes the character that Philemon displays which is needed to show forgiveness. In doing so, Paul shows the value of offering thanks to God for the godly virtue and conduct of other believers (every letter of Paul’s except Galatians has a similar opening of thanksgiving). Beginning in verse 5, Paul gives the reasons he has such a confidence in Philemon. This verse is a literary technique where the first part of the verse goes with the last verse while the middle stands alone. The phrase, “I hear of your love” is connected to the phrase, “toward all the saints." The middle part of the verse stands alone as he also mentions the faith he has in the Lord Jesus.

Philemon was a man who showed love toward all the saints. This is written in the present tense showing that it is a continual action of Philemon. The character to forgive includes continually displaying a self-sacrificial love to all believers. Philemon was also a man who showed faith toward the Lord Jesus. He believed and acted upon the words of Christ. This is also written in the present tense showing continual action. The character to forgive includes a continual desire to please the Lord.

This confidence in Philemon’s character produced several results. First, it resulted in a fellowship of faith. The word “fellowship” speaks of a mutual sharing or belonging. Paul describes this mutual sharing as “effective.” This is the Greek word where get our word “energy” and speaks of something being powerful. Philemon’s love for the saints and faith in Christ produced a powerful sharing of life with all believers. It also produced a knowledge of “every good thing which is in you for Christ’s sake.” The word “knowledge” speaks of a deep, rich experiential knowledge. This knowledge occurs as Philemon continues to know the truth of Scripture through experiencing and obeying it. The character to forgive includes a powerful sharing of life with all believers that develops through experiencing the truths of Scripture.

According to verse 7, this type of character that produces forgiveness also brings joy, comfort and refreshment in the lives of other believers. The word “refreshed” is a military term describing an army resting after a long march. Jesus used this same word in Matthew 11:28 when he said, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” Be sure to join us this Sunday at Grace Church as we learn more about the character that brings about forgiveness.

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