in the Christian Library
John L. Kachelman, Jr.
I. Obedient faith will always produce a marvelous joy (Ac 8:39; 16:34).
This joy cannot be contained -- it radiates, it beams. This joy is seated
deep within our hearts and is rooted by obedience to God's commands.
II. One of the clearest evidences of this joy is the total change that
occurs in the believer's life--he becomes a totally "new" person (Ro 6:4;
Ep 4:24; Col 3:10).
1. A young apprentice in New England was converted and applied for admission
into a church. The practice was for the preacher to examine each petition
to see if the person was worthy of being counted a member. The preacher
went to the boy's employer and asked about his work. Pointing to an iron
chain hanging in the room, "Do you see that chain? It was forged for him.
I was obliged to chain him to the bench each week to keep him at work.
He was the worst boy I ever had. No punishment seemed to have any salutary
influence upon him. I could not trust him out of my sight; but now, sir,
he is completely changed. He has really become a lamb. He is one of my
best apprentices. I would trust him with untold gold. I have no objection
to his being received into communion. I wish all my boys were prepared
to go with him."
I. The Dramatic Differences in his change.
A. He became a "brother" (16).
1. This term refers to the bond of fellowship shared by Christians.
They are all part of the body of Christ and members of God's family (Ep
2:14-16 -- note vs 15b-16, 19)
2. The slave and master were united into a "oneness" of fellowship (Gal
3. Once Onesimus was opposed to Philemon -- enmity existed and hatred
spawned. But no more! Now they were "brothers"!
4. In a world where isolation is common and tender ties of unity are
scarce, it is wonderful to know that one can find a family attachment.
Such a dramatic difference is seen as one becomes a Christian.
5. When King Antichus was coming upon Greece with great forces and all
men trembled at the report of his numbers and equipment. Quinctius told
the Achaians this story: "Once I dined with a friend at Chalcis and when
I wondered at the variety of the dishes, my host said, 'All of these are
pork, only in dressing and sauces are they different.' And, therefore,
be not amazed at the king's forces when you hear talk about spear men and
men-at-arms, and choice footmen, and horse-archers, for all of these are
but Syrians with some little difference in their weapons." The wonderful
news from God is that all who obey His will are "brothers." They may look
different but they are brothers!
B. He became "useful" (11).
1. There is a play on words used by Paul. The name "Onesimus" literally
means "useful." Paul adds that before Onesimus was useless; but now, for
the first time, he is useful!
2. "But now" marks the radical difference.
3. This change must be seen in all believers. Before obeying the gospel,
all are useless (Ep 4:18,19). But in Christ their entire attitude changes
C. He was bound with affection -- "beloved" (16).
1. It was no longer chains and fetters that bound Onesimus to Philemon,
but a love grounded in Christ (Col 2:2).
2. No longer was he to function from selfishness but from love (Ep 4:31,32).
D. He was God's servant (16).
1. Although still owned by Philemon, Onesimus had become God's slave
2. As such, he was duty-bound to follow God's will. Imagine how drastic
this change would be to him--to be God's slave after being a slave of man.
E. Surely these differences were obvious to all who saw Onesimus. These
dramatic changes would make it easier for Philemon to accept the runaway
slave back once again.
II. The Essential Elements of his change. Onesimus' change did
not occur without reason. The dramatic change occurred because of three
A. He heard the gospel story. Somehow he had become a part of
Paul's audience and had heard of Christ's salvation (1 Co 15:3,4).
B. He believed the gospel.
C. He obeyed the gospel.
1. He understood what God had done for him in sending Jesus Christ
2. He believed that Christ was God's Son.
3. He obeyed the gospel's commands:
a. Repentance (Lk 13:3).
b. Confession (Ac 8:37).
c. Immersion (Ac 22:16).
D. By doing these three things, Onesimus became a Christian and embarked
upon the life-changing habit of living as a "beloved brother" to others,
a slave to God, and being "useful" to everyone (2 Co 5:17).
III. The Comforting Contemplations of his change.
A study of the dramatic renewal in Onesimus is concluded by contemplating
two comforting facts.
A. Let us realize how wonderful the message of the gospel really is!
Total failure in our past does not have to dictate total failure in the
present! We can find peaceful contentment in the present and triumphant
victory in the future! This is possible because of God's "amazing grace!"
(Ep 2:1-13 -- note vss. 1,6,8,9).
B. Let us accept and obey the commands which can enable us to cast away
the old, corrupt life and claim the "new"--the gospel message! When you
look at Onesimus' life and how it was changed by obeying the gospel, it
is no wonder that it is called the "Good News!" (1 Ti 1:13-16)..
I. From the story of a runaway slave comes a great message of hope and
cheer for a sin-intoxicated society. To all who hunger for "new beginnings,"
the character of Onesimus is a welcome discovery. To all who labor with
the burdens of past sins, past failures, and past weaknesses, Onesimus
says, "Hey, look at me! I once was just like you, but now I'm no longer
a slave. I'm much more than a slave!"
II. A converted Chinaman said to a missionary, "I want every person
to know that I am converted all over."
Copyright 1998 by John
L. Kachelman, Jr. may be reproducted for non-commercial purposes
at no cost to others.