Paul’s Plea to Philemon

 We’re running a bit ahead of schedule this week for Luke 16, so we thought it would be a good time to take a look at Paul’s epistle to Philemon.

Paul’s letter to Philemon was a personal one, but it was also one that he intended to be read to the entire church, as they met in his home (verse 2). Philemon was a wealthy Christian in Colossae, and Paul probably befriended him during his three years in Ephesus, which was about 161 kilometers away. One of his bondservants, Onesimus, had run away, possibly even stealing some money from him (verses 18-19).

Philemon (New Testament person)

Philemon (New Testament person) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In a fortuitous coincidence, or more probably God’s providence, Onesimus had ended up in Rome while he was hiding, and had come into contact with Paul while he was in prison there. Presumably, it was during his first imprisonment there, and the letter was probably written about 62 A.D. – about the time that he wrote to Ephesus. After meeting Paul, Onesimus had become a Christian. Now Paul was sending him back to Philemon with the request that he receive his bondservant as he would receive Paul, and that he now should consider him a beloved brother.

Paul would have liked for Onesimus to stay and continue to help him while he was in prison, but he needed things to be made right between the two of them. Paul’s confidence that Philemon would respect his wishes and go beyond even what Paul was asking of him comes though loud and clear in this letter. Secular tradition has it that this same Onesimus became an important leader in the church. Whether that is true, we do not know for sure. But it seems that it was God’s will for Philemon’s forgiveness, the growth of brotherly love, and the service of Onesimus to make a difference in their lives, and in the lives of those in the church there. It was a great lesson in the providence and power of God in the lives of all those Christians.

It is notable that in this, the shortest epistle Paul had written, one of the people who Paul sends greetings from is Demas (verses 23-24). The letter was before Demas’ love for “this present world” had caused him to desert Paul and go to Thesslonica (2 Timothy 4:10).

(This year’s reading plan for Luke, Acts, and 1 and 2 Chronicles averages just 15 verses per day – 5 days per week!)
Schedule for this week
Read or listen to audio of today’s selection from Luke here
Read or listen to audio of today’s selection from 1 Chronicles here

/Bob’s boy
___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  

Enhanced by Zemanta
Advertisements

Acts 28 – Paul Arrives in Rome

On Paul’s journey to Rome, his ship was wrecked on Melita, or Malta. There he was bit by a poisonous snake, but he didn’t die (Acts 27:39–28:6)

Luke picked up the account after the shipwreck, where they learned that the island they had safely reached is called Malta.  He said that the natives were kind and welcoming, and even helped them with a fire.  But a snake came out because of the heat, and fastened himself to Paul’s hand.  The sight of the deadly creature hanging from his limb just after he had been rescued from a life-threatening shipwreck made them suppose that he must be a murderer, getting his just reward (Greek and Roman tales had long spoken of just such events – “The Argonautica”, for example).  But God was certainly not going to let anything happen to him.  When he neither died nor showed any ill effects from the bite, they then thought Paul himself to be a god.

Publius in verse 7, is described as a “chief man” – the Greek term for which is “protos,” of which term several inscriptions have been found.  Several references to Publius and this chapter, along with photographs can be found in this article at BiblePlaces.com.  Publius’ father was ill with fever and dysentery (the description of which ills fit those of an infection caused by goat’s milk called “Malta fever”).  Paul healed him, as well as others of the island with diseases that were brought to him afterward (verses 8-9).

The shipwreck occurred on Malta, where the ship’s company spent three months. Finally, another ship gave them passage for the 100 miles to Syracuse, capital of Sicily, then sailed on to Rhegium, finally dropping anchor at Puteoli. Paul was taken to the forum on the Appian Way and to The Three Taverns before arriving in Rome.

After three months, they again set sail in a ship from Alexandria that had been wintering there.  Luke describes the ship as having a figurehead of the “twin gods” (Castor and Pollux, the mythological twin sons of Zeus and Leda, were seen as the protectors of seamen).  They put in at Syracuse for three days, then ended up in Puteoli, where they stayed with brethren they had found for seven days, then to Rome.  The brethren there heard, and came from as far away as “The Three Taverns” and the “Forum of Appius” (hence, the name, the Appian Way) (verses 12-16).

Paul spent considerable time preaching and trying to convince the Jews there of the good news of Jesus through the words of Moses and the prophets.  Some believed, but others did not – the latter leaving disagreeably (verses 23-25).  Paul quoted Isaiah 6:9-10 to them in verses 26-27; and then told them that now this news of the salvation of God will be brought to the Gentiles, for they will listen.

Verses 30-31 close out the book of Acts with the word that Paul remained there two full years, at his own expense, “teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.”  No further word is given of Paul’s appearance before Caesar, or any confirmation of secular writings that suggest he fulfilled his desire to go and preach in Spain, nor of a second imprisonment before his martyrdom.  As much as we would like to know of the rest of Paul’s story, the inspired word of God does not tell us because the book of Acts is not Paul’s biography, but the word “breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness…” (2 Timothy 3:16).

So, one might wonder, if it was so important for Paul to appear before Caesar, why is there nearly a chapter and a half about the journey and shipwreck, and not a word about what was so important about that appearance?  The answer is that first, God had some reason for Paul to go to stand before Caesar that fulfilled His purpose, but there have been countless events since creation important to Him that are not  important for us to know about for teaching, for reproof, for correction, or for training in righteousness.  But the journey and shipwreck teach a couple of important lessons.  One is that when God wants something done, it gets done, period!  Nothing will stop it from completion.  The other is that God, as we have seen since Genesis, always keeps His promises.  Paul was imprisoned, betrayed, the target of assassination, 2,000 miles away from his destination, shipwrecked, stranded on an island, and had a deadly snake bite him severely enough to have hung from his hand.  Yet God wanted him to be in Rome, and had promised that he would get there safely.  We can take comfort, knowing that His will is going to be done, and that He has promised salvation for His faithful.

Read or listen to audio of ESV version of this selection from this link.

/Bob’s boy
___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.

Romans 15 – Christ the Hope of Jews and Gentiles

Circus Maximus: Rome’s entertainment center.
The Circus Maximus is an ancient arena and mass entertainment center located in Rome, Italy. It was first built about 600 BC. Situated in the valley between the Palatine and Aventine Hills, it met the demands of the Roman people for mass public entertainment on a lavish scale, primarily chariot races, but also wild beast fights and naval battles. Julius Caesar expanded the Circus around 50 BC, after which the track measured approximately 1800 feet in length, and 750 feet in breadth and could accommodate an estimated 150,000 to 350,000 seated spectators.

In the previous chapter, Paul had been addressing the division and dispute among the Jew and Gentile members of the church at Rome concerning 1) the problem related most probably to the Gentiles eating meat that had been sacrificed to idols, which would have been offensive to the Jews (an issue he had to speak to elsewhere as well) and 2) the “esteeming” of one day over another (probably the Gentiles’ objection to the Jews who still observed the feast days from the old Law).  Having already spoken to this, he admonishes them further, as he did the brethren at Corinth in 1 Corinthians 10, that they must think about their brethren and their souls as well as their consciences and help each other bear their own weaknesses.

As for the Old Testament Law, he says in verse 4 that “…whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”  This was to say that we have much that is profitable to learn from the old Law.  But while all should be  sensitive to the consciences of others, this does not give those others license for imposing those matters on their brethren, but rather they should all live in harmony, and “welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you.”   He finishes this section of the chapter in verses 8-13 by reminding them that “Christ became a servant”  for the sake of Jews and Gentiles alike, according to God’s plan.

When Paul wrote his letter to the church in Rome, he had not yet been there, but he had taken the gospel from Jerusalem clear over into Illyricum. He planned to visit and preach in Rome one day and hoped to continue to take the gospel farther west, even to Spain.

Paul then speaks of his ministry to the Gentiles for the gospel of Jesus, and it becomes clear how passionate he was about that important mission.  He speaks of the collection for the poor of the church in Jerusalem – which he is preparing to deliver now; and he is proud of the Gentiles stepping up as they have done to help their Jewish brethren.  It is important to Paul, and it is important to the Gentiles themselves, as well as to their unity with Jewish brethren everywhere, as many will see it as symbolic of the entrance of the Gentiles into the kingdom (verse 17-18).   Of that mission, Paul says in verse 19 that he had traveled preaching the gospel from Jerusalem to the Roman province of Illyricum (later called Dalmatia).   He said he had done all of that as it was written in Isaiah 52:15, which he quotes in verse 21: “Those who have never been told of him will see, and those who have never heard will understand.”

Paul finishes this chapter in verses 22-33 by telling the brethren in Rome that he plans to finally come to visit them on his way to Spain after he goes to Jerusalem.

Read or listen to audio of ESV version of this selection from this link.

/Bob’s boy
___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.