Updated: Oct 16, 2022
Paul, formed by his encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9), had a very different view of our world. He realized what it meant to live in God's kingdom. When he wrote to the Ephesians, Paul recorded:
Ephesians 6:12 (NKJV) "For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places."
In the first century and today, there are powers opposed to the kingdom of God. We have systems of oppression and injustice that see and treat others as less than image-bearers as they were created.
In our study of Philemon, we have asked, "Can the gospel work in the real world?" How does it look when the gospel of Christ is applied to our everyday lives? Concluding our thoughts on Philemon, we will consider Paul's view of cross-shaped reconciliation.
In the final sections of Philemon (17-25), Paul encourages Philemon to obedience and sends his final greetings. However, the image of the cross and the cross-shaped reconciliation we see in Paul's words is where I would like us to focus our attention.
RECEIVE HIM AS ME
A few sentences in Paul's letter express his understanding of the cross and reconciliation as it draws a picture for us.
Philemon 12 (NKJV) “I am sending him back. You therefore receive him, that is, my own heart”
Philemon 17–18 (NKJV) “If then you count me as a partner, receive him as you would me. But if he has wronged you or owes anything, put that on my account.”
Paul asks that Philemon receive Onesimus back as if he were receiving Paul himself. But, even more, than receiving Onesimus back, Paul places everything Onesimus owes on himself. Paul, in this letter, does not mention the cross. But what Paul does is apply the cross in the lives of others.