Through Paul’s example, we are reminded of Christ’s precious Work of Salvation for us. In a letter to his friend, Paul appeals on behalf of Philemon’s runaway slave, Onesimus. Onesimus has stolen from Philemon, left his household, most likely stumbled upon Paul’s acquaintance, and has come to faith in Christ under Paul’s teaching. While Onesimus is now living as a family member of God’s Family, he still has to face the consequences of his wrongdoing against Philemon.
Paul’s appeal for Onesimus exhibits a Grace like that which Christ shows towards everyone who has sinned against God. First, Paul makes an appeal for Onesimus on the basis of the relationship that Paul and Philemon share. He considers Onesimus “a part of [himself],” and asks Philemon to treat Onesimus as such. Likewise, Christ appeals to God the Father on our behalf because of the relationship They share as Father and Son. Christ, who claims us as His own by His Death, delivers us from God’s Righteous Judgment based on His close relationship to God His Father. Second, Paul takes on himself the debt which Onesimus owes to Philemon: “if he has wronged you in any way, or owes you anything, charge that to my account,” he says. Paul does not ask Philemon to forget the debt which is owed to him, but instead offers to pay it on behalf of Onesimus. In a much greater way, Jesus takes on our debt owed to God for our wrongdoing and ensures that it is paid in order to preserve us. Paul’s act of compassion towards Onesimus is a reminder of Christ’s greater Compassion towards us! Though we sin against God, Jesus His Son saves us from the punishment we deserve to endure. What Love our Savior has for us!