In Part 1, we learned about how spiritual renewal and salvation are found only in Christ. In Part 2, we are looked at 3 instances where the apostle Paul talks about being refreshed in the Lord. In this final part, let’s consider 2 more ways we can encourage or refresh each other.
Note: Keep in mind that the apostle Paul is directing his remarks about Christians to other Christians.
Our 4th example is Philemon.
Notice Philemon verses 1 – 7. . .
Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, To Philemon our beloved fellow worker and Apphia our sister and Archippus our fellow soldier, and the church in your house: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God always when I remember you in my prayers, because I hear of your love and of the faith that you have toward the Lord Jesus and for all the saints, and I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ. For I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you. (English Standard Version)
#4: We Can Refresh and Encourage Each Other By Actively Loving Each Other and Actively Sharing Our Faith.
This love and faith in action was not only evident in Philemon’s life but also in the lives of the Thessalonian Christians. The faith and love of these mission-minded Christians was well-known; their zeal was contagious. See if you can pick up on these qualities in the tone and content of Paul’s writing. . .
We always thank God for all of you, mentioning you in our prayers. We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.
For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake. You became imitators of us and of the Lord; in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia —your faith in God has become known everywhere. Therefore we do not need to say anything about it, for they themselves report what kind of reception you gave us. They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath. (I Thessalonians 1:2 – 10; New International Version)
Chapter 2 verse 6 – 8. . .
We were not looking for praise from men, not from you or anyone else. As apostles of Christ we could have been a burden to you, but we were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children. We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us. (NIV)
Verses 11, 12. . .
For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory. (NIV)
Chapter 3:5 – 13. . .
For this reason, when I could stand it no longer, I sent Timothy to find out about your faith. I was afraid that in some way the tempter might have tempted you and our efforts might have been useless.
But Timothy has just now come to us from you and has brought good news about your faith and love. He has told us that you always have pleasant memories of us and that you long to see us, just as we also long to see you. Therefore, brothers, in all our distress and persecution we were encouraged about you because of your faith. For now we really live, since you are standing firm in the Lord. How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you? Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith.
Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus clear the way for us to come to you. May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you. May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones. (NIV)
The point is they expressed their love and their faith through their lifestyle. They intentionally shared their love, their lives, their faith and the Gospel with others.
To further illustrate, let me ask this question:
“Do you like to provoke others?”
Of course I am not talking about teasing others or trying to pick a fight. But provoking in a good sense: stirring up positive and productive activity; working out the will of God; going beyond lip service and living the life.
Take a few moments to consider these Scriptures. . .
Hebrews 10:23, 24
II Corinthians 9:1, 2
II Timothy 1:6
James 2:14 – 17
I John 3:18
After studying these, did you notice all the stimulation, incitation, stirring up, provocation, zeal, enthusiasm and action that should characterize the Christian’s life?
#5: We Can Refresh and Encourage Each Other By Encouraging Reconciliation and Forgiveness.
While everything about Jesus illustrates the perfect example of forgiveness and reconciliation, the apostle Paul’s relationship with Onesimus and Philemon gives us another great example we can learn from. Notice the real life predicaments each of these Christian brothers faced. . .
He was the runaway slave who was converted to Christ by Paul in Rome. As a fugitive he could have kept dodging soldiers and bounty hunters. As a Christian, he needed to make amends with his owner. As he returned to his master with this letter in hand, he knew Philemon had the legal power to sentence him to immediate execution. His life hung in the balance as Paul used his full influence on Philemon.
As a wealthy Christian known for his love, hospitality and faith, Paul appeals to his friendship, his status as a Christian leader, his sense of love and compassion. He doesn’t use his apostolic authority to command Philemon to receive Onesimus as an equal Christian brother but notice the subtle tact and pressure of verses 2, 14, 19 and 22.
The aged apostle is in prison for the sake of the Gospel. “Philemon” is the only personal letter of his preserved in the New Testament. Obviously he had a personal relationship with both the slave and slave owner. Paul’s objective: to reconcile these two men.
Take the time to deliberately read (study) this short letter: Philemon. Feel, visualize, and imagine the importance of forgiveness and reconciliation in the lives of these men and in the early church.
Paul was humble.
He was courteous.
He used tact and diplomacy.
He was a little stern but it was wrapped up in gentleness.
The point is he was neither self-righteous nor dogmatic. It was obvious he cared deeply about his two friends; his two brothers in Christ. He understood that Philemon was the victim and that Onesimus was guilty as charged. And yet Paul was sympathetic to their strained relationship and he acted with compassion. Christian love was his motivation.
And when it comes to forgiveness and reconciliation, the blood of Christ can make, should make and does make a difference.