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Philemon - Glimpses of Early Church Life

Stuart Briscoe

The Epistle of Paul to Philemon, perhaps because it is such a brief letter, is often overlooked by people who otherwise take a keen interest in reading and studying the Bible. This is unfortunate. There is much for the contemporary church to learn from what Paul wrote, even though the letter has to do with slavery, which we no longer have to deal with.

It appears at first sight to be so personal that it cannot have general application. But we should note that Paul is writing to Philemon about the social ramifications of spiritual renewal, the relationship between an individual and the community of faith to which he belongs, and how to bridge the social, cultural, and generational gaps that so bedevil our culture and churches.

Messages From This Series:

The letter to Philemon in which the Apostle Paul, now an old man, goes to bat for a young runaway slave, offers many charming and enlightening glimpses into life in the early church, glimpses intended to enrich our experience of contemporary church life.

Philemon, a highly regarded Christian gentleman, was being encouraged by his friend and spiritual father, Paul, to take a challenging and potentially controversial step of faith.

Onesimus, the runaway slave found his way to Paul, the prisoner from whom he heard the gospel. He believed, continued in the faith, matured, and became indispensable. But the time came for him to go home and face the music.

The expression "the church that meets in your home" sounds strange to us because the idea of "church" has changed dramatically since Paul wrote about it. What did he mean by "church"? What should we know about it and should it affect the modern church?

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