October 24th 2009

A Spiritual Family

7th of a series of studies from Philemon

“…I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, who became my son while I was in chains”

Philemon 1:10 (NIV UK)

All believers are united together as a spiritual family. 

The runaway slave, Onesimus, had become a Christian during Paul’s ministry in prison. The implication is that he was baptized by Paul or came to Christ in response to Paul’s preaching or both, and so Paul calls him “my son Onesimus”.

 The point is that Philemon is now spiritually related to his former slave, and through the love of Christ ought to welcome him as a dear brother in the faith. Paul, Philemon, Onesimus and indeed all of us share the same relationship with “God our Father” (v 3). We have one spiritual Father, “and he is in heaven” (Matthew 23:9). 

The word “Father” not only defines the nature of our fellowship with the great God but also changes our relationship with fellow believers. God is our Father. How can we call him Father and at the same time ignore or mistreat our brothers and sisters? Calling God our Father commits us to our spiritual family. Of course, God’s desire is that all of humanity be saved through Christ, and therefore we should treat all whom we meet as potential brothers and sisters in Christ. 

Our biological families have a special place in our hearts, as did Jesus’ own family. One of the last things Christ did on the cross was to remember his mother and to arrange for her future welfare. Our Christianity should begin at home. 

Sometimes, however, our physical families can reject us because of what we believe. Often it can be our own fault for whatever reason, and we should never stop loving them. Love is what will build a bridge to their salvation.

We can be comforted by knowing that we have a spiritual family. Christ explained, “no-one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields— and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life” (Mark 10:29-30).


Our Father, thank you for the fellowship of other believers and that we are all one family in and through You.


Study by James Henderson 

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