Community in the Grace of Jesus Christ (Philemon 23-25) ~ A Daily Devotion for June 16, 2014

“Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends greetings to you, and so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke, my fellow workers. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.” ~ Philemon 23-25

Explanation of the Text: Paul closes out his letter to Philemon in much of the same way he closes any letters; he includes greetings from others and a benediction. The closing here in Philemon is most similar to that in Colossians. The first person that he mentions is Epaphras. This is probably because Epaphras was most well-known to the others. He then also includes greetings from other fellow workers (a term Paul also uses to describe Philemon) including Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke. It is pointed out that “people who were otherwise disconnected in life had become connected in Christ and they took every opportunity to express their love and concern for their fellow Christians…”[1] That is to say that even as believers of the day were dispersed and spread apart, there was a common bond in Jesus Christ. This common bond lead them to be involved in the lives of other believers, to greet them, to think of them, and to pray for them. This was the character of their relationship to one another even if they had never met one another.
As he closes, Paul concludes with the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. The reason that there was this common bond, this unity within the body, this concern for others they had not met was because they all had a bond through their experience of receiving the grace of God through the Lord Jesus Christ. “The community’s life stems from God’s manifestation of grace. And the community will continue to exist only if the ‘grace of the Lord Jesus Christ’ remains with it.”[2]
Examination & Application of the Text: It is interesting for us today to look at the community of believers at the time and how they existed. This is contrary to modern-day believers and churches. Many believers do not want to be intimately involved in the lives of others, mostly because they don’t want others involved in their life. Likewise, churches also seem to remain independent of one other, seeking to function separately, rather than working together for the glory of the Lord and the salvation of many through the Lord Jesus Christ.
There is much to be learned therefore, from the believers of the early church. We should seek to interact with one another and create fellowship through our common bond in Jesus Christ. Please note that this does not negate our responsibility to hold others accountable and to separate from those who may be acting or teaching contrary to the truth; therefore, there is some discernment to be had in our relationships. However, we should act together as one mind, one goal, one love (Philippians 2:2) being bound together in unity.
However, to be bound together as a community, one must first find the grace of God themselves. As we noted above, the community life is found through the grace of God. It must be experienced individually and corporately. Knowing that we come to God through His work in us, not because of ourselves, grace can only come from Him alone. Without this revelation the transformation of people into the body of Christ (and the forgiveness he calls upon in the letter) cannot be achieved.[3] Therefore, let us act us one body that has been unified in Jesus Christ through His grace.

 

[1] Mark G. Johnston, Let’s Study Colossians and Philemon (Carlisle: Banner of Truth Trust, 2013), 154.

[2] Eduard Lohse, A Commentary on the Epistles to the Colossians and to Philemon, Ed. Helmu Koester (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1971), 208.

[3] David Poa, Colossians & Philemon, Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, Ed. Clinton E. Arnold (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2012), 423.

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