For the sake of the gospel
1st of a series of studies from Philemon
“Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus”
Philemon 1:1 NIV UK
Paul turned his personal situations into occasions for the gospel. He had learnt to be content and at peace inwardly while at the same time striving to make every twist and turn in this life into an opportunity for Christ.
Despite being in prison Paul told and retold the same story as when he was free: “he preached the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 28:31). His circumstances did not diminish his zeal for telling others this message.
He had been incarcerated by the Roman authorities but he saw his imprisonment as a chance to continue his work for Jesus. Thus he describes himself here and elsewhere as a prisoner of Christ Jesus.
From jail he and Timothy wrote to Philemon. This was a very special letter, full of affection, tact, compassion and grace. It is a lesson in practical Christianity.
The background was that a slave called Onesimus had run away from his owner, Philemon, who was Paul’s friend. Later Onesimus had become a believer and one of Paul’s companions. Paul wrote to explain to Philemon that Onesimus was now a changed man.
There is so much we can learn from this exciting passage of scripture, and each Saturday for the next few weeks we will be studying what Paul actually said to Philemon and how we can apply his words to Christian living today.
One may have thought that, since Paul had been imprisoned, he could have had a break from the work of the gospel and left it to others. After all, God would have understood. Not Paul. When most of us would have given up or at least have taken it easy, he continued to witness to our Saviour until his martyrdom in Rome during the reign of the emperor Nero. Everything he strove to do or to say, in good times and in bad, was for the sake of the gospel, for which he suffered unfairly “even to the point of being chained like a criminal” (2 Timothy 2:9).
Our Father, Father to Paul and also to modern Christians like me, help me to proclaim the gospel of your kingdom in good times and in bad.
Study by James Henderson