Family Bible Study lesson for Jan. 27: Useless to Useful
January 11 2002 by Lisa Horton , Philemon 8-21

Family Bible Study lesson for Jan. 27: Useless to Useful | Friday, Jan. 11, 2002

Friday, Jan. 11, 2002

Family Bible Study lesson for Jan. 27: Useless to Useful

By Lisa Horton Philemon 8-21 One day a young man was brought before Alexander the Great on charges of cowardice during a battle. Having a fierce hatred for cowardly behavior, Alexander's face turned red with anger. But as he looked at the handsome youth standing before him, his face softened with compassion. "What is your name young man?" Alexander asked.

The young man answered softly, "Alexander, sir."

"What did you say?" snapped the general.

"My name is Alexander, sir," answered the youth.

Filled with rage, Alexander the Great stormed at the young man. "Change your conduct, young man, or change your name!"

Useful (Philemon 8-11) Onesimus had been given a good name. His name meant "useful" and "beneficial." However, prior to becoming a Christian, Onesimus was not living up to his name. As a matter of fact, he was useless (v. 11). Onesimus had wronged his master, Philemon, possibly by robbing him, and then he had fled. As a runaway slave, Onesimus was considered a criminal and could be punished by death.

In God's great providence, Onesimus fled to Rome where he came into contact with the Apostle Paul. It was a divine appointment. While in chains, Paul led Onesimus to faith in Christ. Although still a slave, Onesimus was now free in Christ.

Charles Dickens said, "No one is useless in this world who lightens the burden of it to anyone else."

As a new believer, Onesimus helped lighten Paul's burden while in prison. He, who had been of no use, had become useful and helpful. Onesimus' behavior now matched his name.

Paul wrote a personal letter to his friend, Philemon, informing him of Onesimus' miraculous transformation. He urged Philemon to put his Christianity into action by forgiving Onesimus and accepting him back as a brother in Christ.

Valued (Philemon 12-16) Philemon, a member of the church at Colosse, was undoubtedly a good Christian man. The church met in his home and Paul described him as a dear friend and partner. He was known for his faith in the Lord and his love for all the saints. Although Philemon was a man of great Christian character, he had not been able to change Onesimus' heart.

Jesus is the only one who can change a person's heart and create a beautiful masterpiece out of a shattered life.

Agostino d'Antonio, a sculptor of Florence, Italy, worked diligently on a large piece of marble but could do nothing with it. Other sculptors also tried and gave up. The stone was discarded and laid on a rubbish heap for 40 years. Then Michelangelo saw the piece of marble and had it brought to his studio. He took the worthless stone and carved it into "David" - one of the world's masterpieces of sculpture.

Jesus, the master sculptor, transformed Onesimus and gave value to him whom others had given up on.

Isn't it amazing how God can take a worthless, sinful life, wash it in the blood of Jesus Christ, and make it valuable in the kingdom of God!

Welcomed (Philemon 17-21) Although Philemon had every right to punish Onesimus, Paul appealed to him on the basis of love to welcome Onesimus back, not merely as a slave, but as a brother in Christ. Philemon's response would require radical forgiveness - a forgiveness that would not only release Onesimus from his offense but would also restore the broken fellowship. Philemon had experienced the love of God and the forgiveness of sin. Now it was his responsibility to pass that love and forgiveness on to Onesimus.

Ephesians 4:32 says to "be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you." Philemon's actions would be a significant example of genuine Christianity to this newborn believer. His willingness to forgive and forget could set the tone for Onesimus' spiritual growth.

Amy Carmichael said, "If I say, 'Yes, I forgive, but I cannot forget,' as though the God, who twice a day washes all the sands on all the shores of all the world, could not wash such memories from my mind, then I know nothing of Calvary love."

One glimpse at Calvary reminds us of Jesus' love and the enormous price He paid for our forgiveness. Have we experienced Calvary love? If so, let us be eager to offer love and forgiveness to others!

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1/11/2002 12:00:00 AM by Lisa Horton , Philemon 8-21 | with 0 comments
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