Accountability: A Necessity in the Body of Christ (Philemon 22) ~ A Daily Devotion for June 13, 2014

“At the same time, prepare a guest room for me, for I am hoping that through your prayers I will be graciously given to you.” ~ Philemon 22
Explanation of the Text: As we enter to this text, it is a new thought in itself, but the wording still indicates a connection to the previous verse. In it, Paul requests that Philemon keep a room ready for he hopes to visit, hoping to be delivered to them through their prayers. It is noted that the house of Philemon must have been quite large because not only does it have excess space for guests, but it was also used to provide a place for slaves (such as Onesimus) and it was used as the meeting place for the house church (verse 2). The form of the verb used when Paul asks for a guest room to be prepared for him is singular, meaning it is directly solely to Philemon and it is in the imperative form. This is a command that Paul is issuing to Philemon. It is important to note that Paul is probably not defining an itinerary here. It would be illogical for Paul to consider going to Colossae when it is known that if he is released, he intends to go to Spain (Romans 15:24, 28). What then is the motivation for expressing this to Philemon here? First, Paul may simply be expressing a desire. Longing to have fellowship with fellow believers in Colossae, it may be his intention that someday as time permits, he will indeed visit them. There is a second motivation to this. Pointing to comments by Lightfoot, William Hendriksen notes that by mentioning a pending visit by himself, Paul is compelling Philemon to obedience. This invokes an air of accountability, in which Paul is almost indicating, “I will be there to see if you have followed through in obedience with what I have said.” While he does not say this directly, his tactful use of words is a convicting force to initiate the act of obeying.
In the second part of this verse, Paul moves to the second person plural verb form. Remember, in the first part of the verse, he used the singular form. This means he is now switching from addressing Philemon directly to addressing the rest of the body. In it, Paul is indicating both his need for prayer and compelling them to pray for him. It is not uncommon for Paul to solicit the prayers from his fellow believers (see also Colossians 1:9 and 1 Thessalonians 5:1-2 as examples).
Examination & Application of the Text: One of the biggest things that comes through in this particular verse is Paul’s masterful way of keeping a fellow believer accountable. He doesn’t do it through manipulating, threatening or demeaning ways. Instead, he does it through reason in the form of love. Why is it important for Paul to do this? Because accountability is an important aspect of Christian living. The Christina life was not one that was meant to be lived in solitude. It was one that was meant to be lived together as a body; it is for this reason that Paul writes of spiritual gifts being used in the body and that it functions together as one unit (Romans 12-13).
As we engage in the spiritual battle each day, it should be recognized how easy it is for us to go astray. I know for me personally, I am a sinner. Left to my own, I am more focused on myself – my own needs, my own wants, my own desires, and whatever else it may be. I personally, need the accountability of another person in my life to keep me humble, grounded in my faith, and focused on God. I am convinced that each of us needs accountability in our lives. We need to develop relationship(s) with individuals that we trust so that they may keep us accountable and that we may keep them accountable. That relationship should be one in which we can be honest and open with each other. It should not be one of judgment and condemnation, but rather, one fellowship, rooted in Jesus Christ and love, so that we can urge one another to walk uprightly in a manner that is worthy of the calling with which we have been called. Do you have that kind of accountability in your life? Is yes, how can you make that relationship stronger? If no, what’s keep you from it? Granted it is not easy to maintain relationships so intimately connected, but it is a very necessary part of our walk. We must help to keep one another accountable, just as Paul sought to do here….in a loving way that kept in form with the truth of the word of God.

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