Philemon (Sermon Notes)

Had a great time today visiting our old church New Covenant Fellowship, where Iva had asked me to preach.

– Greetings from Cambridge, it’s great to be back
– Some testimonies of street evangelism; gospel bracelet explanation
Context of Philemon: Paul led Philemon to the Lord (v.19), is now in prison (v.1), where he somehow meets Onesimus, Philemon’s slave (v.16). Paul leads him to Christ (v.10) — and is now sending Onesimus back (v.12) so they can be reconciled.

1. The Problem (?) of NT Slavery
– The common question: ‘why does the NT endorse slavery’ (eg. ‘Slaves obey your masters’ Col. 3:22)
– Aside: William Wilberforce and the (Christian!) abolition of slavery
– Paul: Apolitical Apostle or Subversive Slave-liberator?

2. The Deeper Gospel Problem
– Why didn’t Philemon evangelise Onesimus? (Reinhard Bonnke story: the people we don’t notice need to hear the gospel)
– Paul’s prayer for Philemon: thanks for your love for the Lord, for the saints, for the lost (conspicuous omission)
– Prays he would become effective in sharing his faith:
i. not out of obedience to the Great Commission
ii. not out of a burden for the lost
iii. but for his own sake–‘for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ’!

3. Appeal not Command
– the GRACE of the Gospel
(Aside: hypothetical heavenly judgement of the unsanctified sinner saved by simple faith to the dismay of the devil)
– but do we excuse our lack of boldness (v.8) in the name of a ‘love’ without substance?
– the need for RECONCILIATION

4. Greetings from Paul’s team
Who are they? Epaphras (Col. 1:7,4:12; =Epaphroditus? Phil.2:25), [John] Mark (Acts 13:13,15:37-39; 1 Peter 5:13; Mark’s Gospel), Aristarchus (Acts 20:4, 27:2), Demas (Col. 4:14, 2 Tim. 4:9 =( ), Luke (Acts 20:5 ‘us’; Col. 4:14; Luke’s Gospel + Acts)
– God has personal plans for each one of us, esp.
i. to respond to the gospel,
ii. to be reconciled in each other,
iii. to become effective in sharing our faith

Robert Thomas — Missionary to Korea

(copied from this site)

Robert J. Thomas was haunted by the thought of Korea. A Welsh missionary to China, he knew that the people of the “Hermit Kingdom” needed the gospel. But Korea, observing how westerners had mistreated China, closed its doors to foreigners. Burning with evangelistic zeal, Robert felt he must do something about the people’s ignorance of eternal life.

On this day, September 13, 1865, he arrived on the coast of Korea and began to learn what he could about the people and their language. By his action, Robert became the first Protestant missionary to the ancient land, whose name means “chosen.” Roman Catholics, however, had converted many Koreans starting in the late 1700s. They were so successful that in 1863 eight thousand were slaughtered by a government that feared foreign influence.

Lacking Korean language material, Robert handed out tracts and New Testaments in Chinese. He soon had to return to China, where, the following year, his wife died.

In 1866, Robert learned that an American boat, the General Sherman, was going to try to establish trade relations between Korea and the United States. He offered to accompany the boat as an interpreter in exchange for a chance to spread the gospel.
That August, the General Sherman sailed up the Taedong River toward Pyongyang. Robert tossed gospel tracts onto the river bank as the ship proceeded.

Korean officials ordered the American boat to leave at once. The Americans defied the warning. They paid for their arrogance with their lives. The schooner ran aground and stuck fast in the muddy bottom.
The Governor of the province, Pak Kyu Su, attacked the ship. When the Koreans tried to board, waving machetes, the Americans opened fire. Over the next two weeks, the Americans held the Koreans off, killing twenty and wounding many more. By September 3, the Koreans were fed up. They launched a burning boat down river at the General Sherman to set it afire. Now the Americans had to dash ashore or burn to death.

As the sailors fled from the boat, the Koreans killed them. Robert had to flee with the rest. True to his mission, he leaped from the boat carrying a Bible. “Jesus, Jesus!” he cried in Korean to the attackers, offering them the Bible. His head was whacked off with a stroke of a machete according to one account, but others think he pleaded for his life and was beaten to death. We may never know the truth, nor if Robert tried to prevent the Sherman’s foolish defiance of a sovereign power and its butchery of civilians. Seemingly Robert’s efforts had been in vain.

But God worked in the heart of the man who killed Robert. Convinced by Robert’s beaming face that he had killed a good man, he kept one of the Bibles, wallpapering his house with it. People came from far and near to read its words. A church grew. A nephew of Robert’s killer became a pastor.

Today 40% of South Koreans are Christians and the nation has some of the largest congregations in the world but the North remains largely closed to the gospel.