Partners in Christ
Lord, help me to reflect on Paul’s words: “In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel” (Phil. 1:4,5).
Read PHILEMON 1–7
1 Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother,
To Philemon our dear friend and fellow worker— 2 also to Apphia our sister and Archippus our fellow soldier—and to the church that meets in your home:
3 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Thanksgiving and Prayer
4 I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers, 5 because I hear about your love for all his holy people and your faith in the Lord Jesus. 6 I pray that your partnership with us in the faith may be effective in deepening your understanding of every good thing we share for the sake of Christ. 7 Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the Lord’s people.
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
When someone in authority ask you to do what he could command you to do, how does that affect your decision?
Around the world we are increasingly aware of how differences of gender, economic status, age, race and ethnicity divide communities and societies. The Christian community witnesses to a different reality. Paul reminds the Colossians of a radical and countercultural inclusivity: “Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all” (Col. 3:11; Gal. 3:28). This is more than a mere slogan for Paul. He proves its reality in the story of Onesimus, a slave originally belonging to Paul’s friend Philemon, a member of the Colossian church.
Onesimus has run away from his master, but in Rome he finds Christ through Paul. Now Paul appeals to Philemon to welcome him back. His appeal is founded on Gospel partnership, a true sense of loving solidarity between fellow believers. The sense of partnership is expressed not simply in word (6) but in the overall tone of Paul’s language. First, Paul and Timothy introduce themselves carefully: Paul is a prisoner (1) appealing on behalf of a slave. He sees Philemon as a “friend and fellow worker” (1), and he reminds Philemon of the closeness between them through Paul’s prayers and gratitude for Philemon’s love for God’s people (4,5). These tight bonds of fellowship enable Paul to make a difficult appeal. Next, Paul highlights the loving actions in the Christian community in which Philemon is well known (5,7), and Paul’s personal appeal is also made on the foundation of love (9).
Such solidarity between believers is vital in the Christian community. How many rifts and disagreements could be resolved in our churches if this fundamental theme were properly understood? In a hostile world, we are fellow workers in a divinely ordained partnership that operates on fellowship through the miracle of the Gospel.
Pray today for those who are partners in the Gospel—perhaps church members or missionaries around the world whom you support.
Lord, cause me to understand that the smooth operation of Your kingdom sometimes requires me to sacrifice and “take one for the team.”