March 15, 2017 – Wednesday
Read: Ephesians 4:17-24
Focus: vss. 22-24
“You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”
In Paul’s letter to Philemon he appeals to his friend to forgive and set free his slave named Onesimus. It’s a great story that takes a little work to put together but it’s worth your consideration. The letter to Philemon is comprised of only 25 verses but you will see yourself in it. Onesimus was a slave to Philemon, an all-too-common practice of the day and throughout history (God condemns it many times and in many ways but the practice has survived in many cultures throughout the ages). In the case of Onesimus it seems he ran away, possibly after stealing money or some other possession, and wound up in Rome. In that day Rome is where someone in trouble would go to hide among the throngs of people. Philemon, and Onesimus, are from Colossae, and Philemon was a leader in the church there.
Somehow, Onesimus comes in contact with Paul and those with him. Possibly they recognized him from their missionary journeys and the time spent with Philemon. Paul leads Onesimus to Jesus and he becomes a changed man. He is a big help to Paul as he sits as a prisoner in Rome and Paul begins to see Onesimus as a son in the Spirit. They both realize that Onesimus must return to Philemon and set things right so Paul sends him back along with a letter asking Philemon to do the right thing and set Onesimus free. History picks up the story from here and we discover that Philemon did indeed set Onesimus free and he later became a bishop in the church over the region of Ephesus. His story ends in 95 AD as a martyr under the persecution of Nero.
The story of Onesimus is a story of redemption. It’s a story the children of God all share as his life makes a complete change in direction after finding Jesus. He gets a second chance and he dedicates his life to God. I imagine that Philemon, and others in the church in Colossae, were dubious at first. Surely Philemon did as Paul asked him to do but It’s hard to forget and forgive one who has wronged you without having some doubts as to the change of heart that has occurred. So I also imagine that Onesimus eventually proved himself to everyone and it was evident that he was, indeed, made new.
Ephesians 4:23 tells me that I am made new as I put on the new self and put off the old self. I can attest to the changes that happened inside of me when I asked Jesus into my heart and the direction of my life, I hope, has given those around me a good view of those changes as well. I was made new and I am being made new. It’s both a promise and an on-going event in my life.
I am willing to speculate that you see a little bit of Onesimus in yourself. Maybe the people around you were dubious, at first, when they heard you had turned your life around with Jesus. But we serve a God of second chances who delights in making the new you. This new you is “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” It’s both a promise and an ongoing event in your life. What a wonderful thing it is to be made new.