Archive for the ‘Commentary’ Category

Renewal of Mind through Paul’s letter to Philemon!

January 4, 2010

The letter of Apostle Paul to Philemon was specifically written for renewing the mind of the young disciple regarding an issue related to his old slave. Evidently Onesimus had escaped from Philemon in Colosse to Rome. And then he was caught and put in prison. There he became a disciple of Christ through his close acquaintance with Apostle Paul. As a slave, he was the legal property of Philemon and in addition Onesimus had stolen some of Philemon’s goods. Here Paul is urging Philemon to accept a previous slave and thief as a new born-again brother in Christ. This mission letter for the renewal of mind is written very sensitively and meaningfully by Paul. With grace Paul discloses the heart of the matter in the mind of Christ to encourage and move the emotions of Philemon so that he will deny himself to please God.

A slave is liberated from the bondage by Christ the Liberator. And He has become a new creation in Christ, to be a brother of his old master. Here Paul is working on the mindset of Philemon so that he won’t be reluctant to accept Onesimus as a brother. Paul’s wisdom, grace and his deep conviction on this matter make us also renew our minds regarding our relationships to worship God with reverence and awe.

1. The Grace, Peace and prayer for the “Renewal of mind”.

[Philemon 1.1-5] – Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, To Philemon our beloved brother and fellow worker, and to Apphia, and to Archippus, and to the church in your house: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God always, making mention of you in my prayers, because I hear of your love and faith which you have toward the Lord Jesus and toward all the saints.

To liberate a born-again slave from the mindset of his born-again master, Paul discloses the larger dimensions of the truth in the tenderness of a mother for his son to get deeply rooted in Christ. And he begins this letter by identifying himself as a bond slave of Christ in the prison. We need to receive God’s grace and peace through the inspiration of the lives and messages of the leaders. We also need the prayers of the saints to always deny ourselves and follow Christ. Paul is reminding Philemon, who he is in Christ and how beautifully secure and praise worthy he is in Him. And this Good News will illuminate Philemon’s inner man to receive the grace for renewing his mind to please God according to what Paul is saying next. Paul’s life, motives, prayer and teaching will influence Philemon to leave what is childish for growing fully mature in Christ. Vigorous growth and spiritual maturity happens only when we constantly chase the heart of God and gather His deeper thoughts to renew our mind daily. A true Worshipper sustains his spiritual life through inhaling the mind of Christ as the Oxygen and exhaling the mind of the flesh as the carbon dioxide. Before starting a heart surgery with the Sword of the Spirit, Paul uses extra ordinary grace and wisdom as a dose of Anesthesia on Philemon. The first four verses are doing that job meaningfully.

2. The Thanks giving, recognition, appreciation and encouragement for the Renewal of mind.

[Philemon 1.6- 7] – I pray that the fellowship of your faith may become effective through the knowledge of every good thing which is in you for Christ’s sake. For I have come to have much joy and comfort in your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you, brother. Therefore, though I have enough confidence in Christ to order you to do what is proper, yet for love’s sake I rather appeal to you–since I am such a person as Paul, the aged, and now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus–

Paul is thanking and praising God for Philemon and his team. Paul is recognizing their praise-worthy testimony in relationship to God and His people. Paul mentions here, you have done what you are supposed to do, but now there is room for improvement. You have refreshed the heart of all the saints, but your old slave turned saint is returning home, can you refresh his heart? Paul truly appreciates the loyalty and Divinity of the local Church. And then he is preparing the reader to expand his mindset. Paul demands Philemon, the denial of his role as a legitimate master by accepting the glorious role of a legitimate brother in Christ who will accept a new creation in Christ. A previous slave who has stolen his owner’s goods and escaped from his master needed to be forgiven first. God has forgiven Him, because he accepted Christ as His master. Now, as a child of God, Onesimus will ask forgiveness to Philemon when he comes there. And there he should be accepted as a new born child of Paul and should be honored as a saint of Christ. Renewal of mind is always sacrificial and it can only be done, by submitting to each other in the fear of Christ. This can happen only when Philemon joyfully says, “I am crucified with Christ. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me to renew my mind according to the perfect will of the Father”.

3. The renewal of mind as a faithful soldier’s duty to serve God
[Philemon 1.7-9] – For I have derived great joy and comfort and encouragement from your love, because the hearts of the saints have been cheered and refreshed through you, brother. I have abundant boldness in Christ to charge you to do what is fitting and required and your duty to do, Yet for love’s sake I prefer to appeal to you, just for what I am– I, Paul, an ambassador [of Christ] and an old man and now a prisoner for His sake.

The existing Christian character and conduct of Philemon is causing great joy. However harder the renewal of mind seems to be, it should be done as a faithful soldiers duty in the service to the King of Glory. Paul says I am an ambassador of the King of Kings, but I have become an old man in a prison on behalf of the Lord. He says; remember me enduring in these humiliating conditions for Christ sake. And now I am joyfully doing my duty now as an Apostle writing the perfect will of God to you. I am leading you to what pleases the compassionate heart of the King of Love. Renewal of mind is an act of worship. It is done in remembrance of Christ who pleased His Father through His Sacrifice to save us.

4. Renewal of mind through forgetting the past history and focusing on the glorious destiny.

[Philemon 1.10-13] – I appeal to you for my [own spiritual] child, Onesimus], whom I have begotten [in the faith] while a captive in these chains. Once he was unprofitable to you, but now he is indeed profitable to you as well as to me. I am sending him back to you in his own person, [and it is like sending] my very heart. I would have chosen to keep him with me, in order that he might minister to my needs in your stead during my imprisonment for the Gospel’s sake. But it has been my wish to do nothing about it without first consulting you and getting your consent, in order that your benevolence might not seem to be the result of compulsion or of pressure but might be voluntary [on your part].

The name Onesimus means profitable, and now he is not profitable to Philemon. But the slave boy is considered precious by the Owner of our souls and Christ has bought Onesimus for God with His own blood. The old slave has entered into the genealogy of Divinity by faith in Christ. So he is profitable for the Kingdom of God by the grace he has received. Now the renewal of mind is mandatory to please God and the ball is the court of Philemon.

Paul is in the ministry of reconciliation. Paul wrote about forgetting the past for receiving greater rewards in the Glory of Christ, in Philippians 3.7-8. “But whatever former things I had that might have been gains to me, I have come to consider as loss for Christ’s sake. Yes, furthermore, I count everything as loss compared to the possession of the priceless privilege (the overwhelming preciousness, the surpassing worth, and supreme advantage) of knowing Christ my Lord and of progressively becoming more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him. For His sake I have lost everything and consider it all to be mere rubbish, in order that I may win Christ (the Anointed One)”.

5. Renewal of mind is a sacrifice done in the free will for the sake of benevolence

There is no fear in love; perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love -1Jn 4.18. So Paul is not using his apostolic authority to make Philemon accept his old slave as a brother through fear. And if Philemon half heartedly accept or completely rejects Onesimus out of hatred, then God will consider Philemon a murderer. And at all cost, Paul want to avoid that spiritual disaster. So Paul said, “Therefore, though I have abundant boldness in Christ to charge you to do what is fitting and required and your duty to do, Yet for love’s sake I prefer to appeal to you just for what I am– I, Paul, an ambassador [of Christ] and an old man and now a prisoner for His sake also”.

By all means Paul shows respect to Philemon’s God given freedom to renew his mind without any external pressure. God is Love and God is Light. And the Light has the heat of the Consuming Fire and Light has its own Divine pressure. All we need to do is to switch on the light and disclose the eternal truth in love. The Love will put its pressure under the power of the Holy Spirit. It is written, ”Our faith rests in God’s power”. Paul said, [Philemon 1.14] -“But it has been my wish to do nothing about it without first consulting you and getting your consent, in order that your benevolence might not seem to be the result of compulsion or of pressure but might be voluntary [on your part].”

God pleasing renewal of mind is not done under circumstantial or relational pressure. It is joyfully done under the Divine pressure of God’s love through the free will of the saint. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus willfully exchanged His free will with the will of the Father. He said, “Let Your will be done not Mine”. Father did not use any force on His beloved Son, but Jesus in His free will died, out of His benevolence for us.

6. Renewal of mind is done in remembrance of the true testimony of Character and Conduct

[Philemon 1:10-13] – I appeal to you for my [own spiritual] child, Onesimus [meaning profitable], whom I have begotten [in the faith] while a captive in these chains. Once he was unprofitable to you, but now he is indeed profitable to you as well as to me. I am sending him back to you in his own person, [and it is like sending] my very heart. I would have chosen to keep him with me, in order that he might minister to my needs in your stead during my imprisonment for the Gospel’s sake.(AMP)

Timothy was Paul’s beloved son in faith; similarly Onesimus also has become Paul’s beloved son in Christ and Paul is declaring his relationship with Onesimus with great pride. Paul from the heart of a father is convincing Philemon his elder spiritual son about Onesimus his new-born son. Deeper renewal of mind can be produced by people only when we have unbreakable relationships with each other. Loveless preaching cannot capture the hearts of the listeners. Ministry of reconciliation done for a meaningful renewal of mind is only fruitful when it is done with the heart of a Father. Stiff people with no Father’s heart leads people to spiritual destruction, they cannot lead people to real transformation. Preachers need a Father’s heart. If we preach the truth without love, we will fail to witness the transformation of the listeners. True Love gives God a chance to touch the hearts.

Onesimus is only a slave to Philemon, Philemon has not done anything to bring Onesimus to Christ. But to Paul, Onesimus has become a spiritual son born in Christ as a brother of Philemon now. Paul has taken labor pains in the prison to see the life of Christ being formed in Onesimus. So Paul also testifies about the character and conduct of Onesimus comparable to Philemon himself. Onesimus served Paul in Philemon’s absence in the prison and became Paul’s heart in Christ.  So in a way Paul is pleading to Philemon, don’t break my heart. Renewal of mind cannot be cannot be done if your heart is hard or cold. There is no other way for Philemon to please God in connection with Onesimus. Denying himself and following Jesus is the only God pleasing way. Renewal of mind cannot be ignored any more now, it is absolutely mandatory

7. Renewal of mind is done as a voluntary act for growing mature in Christ.

[Philemon 1.14-16] But it has been my wish to do nothing about it without first consulting you and getting your consent, in order that your benevolence might not seem to be the result of compulsion or of pressure but might be voluntary [on your part]. Perhaps it was for this reason that he was separated [from you] for a while, that you might have him back as yours forever, Not as a slave any longer but as [something] more than a slave, as a brother [Christian], especially dear to me but how much more to you, both in the flesh [as a servant] and in the Lord [as a fellow believer].

Even if you have a Father’s heart, even if you speak higher Heavenly standards with deep conviction and compassion, renewal of mind that pleases God is still the fruit of the free will of the follower. Follower will get a reward for what he has done after hearing the Word of God, Leader will get a reward for living and preaching the uncontaminated Word. And as a leader, Paul is not abusing or not even using his authority to control Philemon’s will externally. Paul wrote God’s thoughts to Philemon and waits for the internal response from the free will of Philemon patiently. Without over influencing, without manipulating or controlling, Paul is humbling and nearly pleading as a servant before Philemon, just to witness a renewal of mind that pleases God. Here Paul is projecting Philemon as a boss with self control.

This is the astonishing wisdom of Paul. Always Truth has its own power, Divinity and authority to influence the hearts of people. Eternal Truth is all worthy to be followed by any man. God wants every man to know the truth, because it can set the captives free. Jesus is the Way the Truth and the Life, He is the Alpha and the Omega. Truth will not be understood because it is just preached or heard. Truth has to be revealed by the Father and if we accept it then our inner man will get illuminated to follow the truth. That’s why Jesus asked his 12 Disciples “Tell me who I am”. Truth can be followed only if, the Father enlightens our heart.

The spirit of a man is the lamp of God. On the way to Emmaus Jesus spoke the truth to the disciples and their hearts were on Fire and then God opened their eyes for the vision of Christ. Paul is not pretending God here, even though he is the mouth piece of God here. Paul knows he cannot do what God alone can do. Jesus Christ alone is the Lord, and Paul is not ashamed of the Gospel of that Christ. And Paul is not even ashamed to humble himself before Philemon his co-worker. Paul knows, “Those who are led by the Spirit are the Sons of God”. And if you are a son, you cannot sin, because the seed of God is in you and it will enlighten you forever. Philemon is a son, so Paul knows Philemon doesn’t need compulsion or pressure from outside to please God.

Paul is a man of hope because the Love that is poured out in the heart of Paul is a love that hopes, Philemon will surrender to God’s expectations. So Paul is openly disclosing what is pleasing to God and giving time and space for Philemon to respond willfully to God’s word. Paul is patiently waiting for the renewal of mind in the heart of Philemon. This will make Philemon deny the ownership of Onesimus, before the ownership of Christ who bought Onesimus and Philemon with the price of His blood on the cross. Every knee shall bow; every tongue will confess Jesus Christ is the Lord without external pressure. The Lamb of God who was slain for all is worthy to be praised eternally. Amen !!!

8. Renewal of mind happens because of the Compulsion of the everlasting love of Christ.

[Philemon 1.15-25] For perhaps he departed for a while for this purpose, that you might receive him forever, no longer as a slave but more than a slave–a beloved brother, especially to me but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord. If then you count me as a partner, receive him as you would me. But if he has wronged you or owes anything, put that on my account. I, Paul, am writing with my own hand. I will repay–not to mention to you that you owe me even your own self besides. Yes, brother, let me have joy from you in the Lord; refresh my heart in the Lord. Having confidence in your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I say. But, meanwhile, also prepare a guest room for me, for I trust that through your prayers I shall be granted to you. Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, greets you, as do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, Luke, my fellow laborers. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.

Paul as an Ambassador of God is convincing Philemon about the purposes of God by disconnecting him from the thoughts on earth and uplifting him to the thoughts of eternity. Paul is letting the love of Christ compel Philemon for a true renewal of mind. Until and unless we shift our focus to Christ, renewal of mind doesn’t happen fruitfully. If we are not in agreement with God’s purposes on earth, our eternal rewards can get lost as a result of our ignorance and self worship. Perhaps Paul has already prepared the mindset of Onesimus to get back to where things went wrong. Things need to get right with his old owner who is now a brother in Christ. Renewal of mind is about bravely taking a step of faith to do God’s will without any friction from the flesh. Here the enemy is the mind of the flesh and influences of the world brings evil imaginations against the perfect will of God. Paul wants Philemon and Onesimus to become more than conquerors in this matter.

Now, Onesimus is a born-again man and he is a new creation, old things have passed away and all things have become new. For freedom Christ has set him free. Still he need to get reconciled with his old master and Paul is sending him back to Philemon with faith.  Paul has faith in the obedience of Philemon, He knows Philemon will refresh his heart. If there is no hope, renewal of mind never happens when the truth is spoken. So without commanding the renewal of mind as an Apostle, in a father’s heart, Paul is demanding Philemon’s love to him which will be pure obedience to Christ. Renewal of mind is impossible when relationship is broken. So Paul ministered the Renewal of mind to beloved Philemon so sensitively and tactfully.

Renewal of mind is essential to both the old slave and the old master. Paul wrote in [1 Tim 6.1-2], “All who are under the yoke as slaves are to regard their own masters as worthy of all honor so that the name of God and our doctrine will not be spoken against. In [Eph 6.9] Paul said, “Masters, do the same things to them, and give up threatening, knowing that both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no partiality with Him.

Paul said again, “We are the ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God [2 Cori 5.14-20]. In the love of God, Paul pleaded to Philemon, he said, “Receive him forever, no longer as a slave but more than a slave–a beloved brother.”, By all means Paul want to witness the renewal of mind.

Apostle Paul who wrote half of the New Testament remembered what Christ has done on the cross for all. What Paul is today is all because of the grace he has received through the sacrifice of Christ. So from the depth of his heart Paul pleaded again to Philemon not to reject Onesimus as a brother.”If then you count me as a partner, receive him as you would me. But if he has wronged you or owes anything, put that on my account”. By saying this Paul was exactly representing Christ the Good Samaritan on earth. Lives may change if we are ready to take few risks to please God who risked His only begotten Son for us. Today God is seeking the true worshipers. So that Holy Spirit who doesn’t have a Body can abide in the one which is willing to sacrifice the mind of the flesh to represent the mind of Christ on earth. Such a person is the Temple of the Living God.

About such people Christ said I will build my Church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. Are we available? Are we buildable? Are we ready to renew our minds….then remember what Christ said, “Destroy this temple? I will build it in three days”. And He fulfilled His promise when He died on the cross and rose again from the dead….But what about us? Can we deny ourselves and willfully renew our mind today to please God with all our heart?!!! God bless! Amen!!!

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