“Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, to Philemon our beloved friend and fellow laborer,” Philemon 1:1
One of the things I’ve always liked about Paul’s letter to the church in the New Testament is the way he greets people at the beginning and salutes them at the end. You can tell from the way he does this that Paul was very much a people person. He wasn’t looking to make a name for himself. He wasn’t merely driven by an internal desire to be successful as a minister, evangelist, and gospel worker. He truly loved the people he worked with and labored for, and it was that love, both for Jesus and the people, that drove him.
In the brief letter that will be our focus for the next little while, Paul is addressing his friend and fellow Christian, Philemon.
Paul takes a great deal of space in this short epistle greeting Philemon and the other Christians, and reminiscing about their labors together in the past. Nearly a third of the entire letter is comprised of this introductory material. But Paul isn’t being verbose and long winded. He’s, rather, setting the stage so that he might prepare Philemon for a very serious request. But we’ll get to that in another post.
Paul begins his letter in a style typical of most of the letters attributed to him, by identifying himself by name and then by defining his association with Jesus. In several letters he describes himself as being a slave, or bond slave, but in this letter he’s a “prisoner of Christ Jesus.”
Paul is at this time literally a prisoner. He’s in Rome waiting for his case to be presented to Caesar. He might have been released if he hadn’t exercised his right as a Roman citizen, and appealed to Caesar. Perhaps he could have withdrawn or recanted his appeal and been released. But a prophecy from God had said that this imprisonment would accomplish God’s purpose and He would use it so that Paul could proclaim the gospel before kings and rulers, and Paul is content to follow the path Christ has charted for him. So a prisoner he remains.
Are you content to follow the path Christ has determined for you?
You’ll probably not receive a prophecy telling you the direction Jesus is leading you, most don’t. But scripture tells us that God has a purpose and a plan for each one of us and if we’re prayerful and submitted, day by day, step by step, he’ll guide us down the path he’s chosen for us.
Paul followed Jesus and in the following took the Gospel to places to which he would have probably never gotten access on his own. His roles in his devotion to Christ were diverse: apostle, slave, prisoner, preacher, teacher, evangelist, cast away, convict, and assassin’s target.
Paul was content to be whatever the love of Christ compelled him to be. Are you also willing to be anything Jesus calls you to be?