The Slave (His Obligations)

December 17, 2012 at 11:26 am | Posted in Biblical friendship, Outcasts of Ministry | 2 Comments
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Last time we saw that:

1. The owner of a slave determines his usefulness.
2. The overseer of a slave determines his usefulness.

Now we will see that:

3. The obligations of a slave determine his usefulness.

As a disobedient, runaway slave, Onesimus incurred a debt, or an obligation, he could not pay. But after he was saved, when he became a servant to Christ, the Apostle Paul taught him that he must live up to his obligations. Onesimus owed a debt to Philemon – either for stealing or running away in violation of his legal bondage. Paul wrote to Philemon and basically told him that he did not want to impose upon him as a brother in Christ. Paul had ministered to Philemon and they both served the same Lord, so it would not have been out of line for Paul to simply ask Philemon to forgive Onesimus for Paul’s sake, and let him stay with Paul. But that’s not what Paul did. He sent Onesimus back, and told Philemon, “He may not be able to pay what he owes you, but…”

If he hath wronged thee, or oweth thee ought, put that on mine account; I Paul have written it with mine own hand, I will repay it: albeit I do not say to thee how thou owest unto me even thine own self besides.

Philemon vv. 18-19

We have all been in Onesimus’s situation. We all owed a sin debt we could never repay. Isn’t that a wonderful picture of what the Lord did for us on the Cross? And the promise and security we have as believers? “Put that on my account,” says Christ to the Father. “I’ve already paid it all.”

Onesimus was useless as an earthly slave because he owed a debt he could never pay back. But as a servant of Jesus Christ, he had someone to stand in his place, in love, and say, “Charge it to my account.”

When the Lord Jesus spoke to His Disciples, He said,

Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.

John 15:14-15

A servant has to obey. Obedience is not really his choice. We might say that’s a big difference – a servant has to obey, but a friend doesn’t. However, it’s different when you’re a friend of the king. See, the king’s friends have a special relationship with the king. The king’s friends are his servants, but they have reached the level of friendship as well, because they have already shown they can be trusted to obey. With whom does a king share his secrets? His closest friends. When the king says, “Jump,” his servants ask, “How high?” But his friends don’t ask “how high,” because when the king says “jump,” his friends are already two feet in the air.

You can see an example of this in the case of Abraham, who the Bible calls “a friend of God.” In Genesis 18, two angels and the Lord came to visit Abraham in his tent in the heat of the day. He was nearly 100 years old, but for about 15 verses Abraham went into hyper-drive. Not only did he get busy ministering to his guests, but he encouraged everybody else to do the same. After a while, the two angels leave, and the Lord stays behind to share His secrets with Abraham – in other words, to talk with His friend.

We can also see David’s close friends (II Samuel 23:13-17) hear him sighing for a drink of water, upon which they risk their lives to go get it from a special well.

The secret of the LORD is with them that fear him; and he will shew them his covenant.

Psalm 25:14

One day in Heaven we’ll have face-to-face fellowship with the Lord, but I’m glad I don’t have to wait to have true fellowship with Him. I can be a trusted friend, and a useful servant now. But I have to remember that God is the owner of my life, not me. I need to be accountable to my overseers – to remember to be loyal to those God has placed in authority over me. Finally, I need to remember that I could never pay the debt for my sins. Christ Jesus had those charged to His account. But I do need to respond in love and live up to the obligations He has graciously entrusted to me.

A runaway slave in ancient times was an outcast. In modern society slavery is no longer legal, but a servant of God, although he might be an outcast in the world, can be a friend of God and a child of God. God the Father will in no wise cast out His children.

All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.

John 6:37

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  1. […] Next time we will see that the obligations of a slave also determine his usefulness. […]

  2. […] of the King do as they’re told; friends of the King get to know the King’s secrets because they have a PATTERN of doing what they’re […]


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