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Sunday, June 19, 2011

Doulos

Paul shows exquisite diplomacy in his petition for Onesimus as he pleads with Philemon to receive him as a brother, when rightly in his apostolic position he could have demanded it.  In Philemon 11 Paul speaks of Onesimus, "Which in time past was to thee unprofitable, but now profitable to thee and to me."  Interestingly, the name Onesimus means, "profitable.  The Greek word for unprofitable is a combination of "a" meaning "in the negative," and chrestos meaning "profitable," rendering the meaning of this compound Greek word "useless."  The word Philanthropia means "kindness toward man" in the Greek and is where we obtain the word philanthropy.  The proper name Philemon is derived from this same root.  The scripture speaks of Christian identity in John 13:35, "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another."

Paul typifies Christ's sacrifice as he beseeches Philemon to receive Onesimus as he would receive himself.  One who was once useless in his sin, has now become a functional minister of Christ.  Paul acted in strict accordance with the Hebraic fugitive law in Deuteronomy 23:15,16, "Thou shalt not deliver unto his master the servant which is escaped from his master unto thee:  He shall dwell with thee, even among you, in that place which he shall choose in one of thy gates, where it liketh him best: thou shalt not oppress him."  Matthew Henry, in his commentary remarks, "It is honorable to shelter and protect the weak provided they are not wicked.  Converts should be treated tenderly that they not be tempted to return to the world."  Christianity introduced a new dynamic of relationship--love and respect that erodes the antagonism between slaves and masters.  This truly exemplifies the restoration and transformative power of the cross.

Philemon 15 speaks of eternity, "For perhaps he therefore departed for a season, that thou shouldest receive him for ever." The Greek word Doulos speaks of, "a slave, one under subjection."  This word denotes a slave by choice, Exodus 21:5,6 says, "And if the servant shall plainly say, I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free: Then his master shall bring him unto the judges; he shall also bring him to the door, or unto the door post; and his master shall bore his ear through with an aul; and he shall serve him for ever."  This Doulos relationship is that which we enter into with Christ at the time of our salvation.  

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