In this final look at Paul’s letter to Philemon, I want us to focus on verses 21 through 25. It reads, “Confident of your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I say. At the same time, prepare a guest room for me, for I am hoping that through your prayers I will be graciously given to you. Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends greetings to you, and so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke, my fellow workers. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit” (ESV).
If you’ve been with me for the past month, you know Paul’s request to Philemon is that he would forgive his slave, Onesimus. In verses 1 through 7, we see the work before forgiveness. In verses 8 through 17, we see the call to forgiveness. In verses 18 through 20, we see the cost of forgiveness. And now, we see the power for forgiveness.
It’s easy to bypass these verses as if they hold no significance. After all, this is the end of Paul’s letter, and most of it consists of personal greetings. But God’s Word speaks to us—even the passages we view as irrelevant. So, with that being said, there are three things I want us to see in these final verses of Philemon.
First, Paul expects Philemon’s obedience.
Notice verse 21, which reads, “Confident of your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I say” (ESV).
If we’re to obey God, we must forgive. Jesus says, “‘For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses’” (Matt. 6:14-15 ESV).
Just as Paul expects Philemon’s obedience, so does God expect our obedience. As difficult as forgiveness is, it should never be taken lightly.
Second, Paul expects Philemon’s prayers.
In verse 22, Paul writes, “At the same time, prepare a guest room for me, for I am hoping that through your prayers I will be graciously given to you” (ESV).
Paul, writing from prison, is confident in Philemon’s prayers. After all, as James reminds us, “… The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working” (5:16 ESV).
Third, Paul expects Philemon’s fellowship.
In verses 23 and 24, Paul mentions a handful of names. But Philemon knows these men. They aren’t strangers. That’s why Paul writes, “Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends greetings to you, and so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke, my fellow workers” (ESV).
You see, relationships suffocate where there is no forgiveness. If Philemon doesn’t forgive Onesimus, tension is sure to result among his brothers in Christ. Far too many churches are plagued by unforgiveness. Church members who don’t get along. And while it causes a whole bunch of problems, the root is often a lack of reconciliation.
Let this not be so in our churches. Paul expects Philemon’s fellowship.
By now, you’re probably asking, “How am I supposed to do this?” Forgiveness can be a daunting task. Obedience is difficult. Fervent prayer takes time. And maintaining proper fellowship among brothers and sisters in Christ seems impossible.
Surely Philemon feels the same way. But Paul isn’t done.
In the final verse of his letter, he writes, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit” (v. 25 ESV).
The grace of God empowers us to forgive. It is this grace which strengthens our resolve to obey. It is this grace which stirs the heart in prayer. And it is this grace which keeps us together.
My prayer, as I bring this Philemon series to a close, is that we would deeply consider who we might need to forgive. God doesn’t call us to forgive without giving us the power. And it’s called His grace.
Isaiah Pauley is the Minister of Worship for Faith Baptist Church in Mason, W.Va. Find more at www.isaiahpauley.com. Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author.