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  • Curt Leonard


In Colossians 4:7-9. Paul endorses the men who are going to bring back word on Paul’s ministry and activities. It also seems that they will be primarily responsible to bring the letter he has written back to Colossian believers. In this section he commends two men, Tychicus and Onesimus. While on the surface this seems to be a simple endorsement, this section offers us much more. It offers us encouragement that can change the way we see ourselves and others. In order to see this more clearly, we will examine one of them, the man Onesimus. As you recall from Sunday, we learned a number of important things about him. Let’s remind ourselves more about him… Read Philemon verses 8-20 (there is no need for a chapter, since Philemon only has one chapter). What was Onesimus’ job/role (see 15-16)? What seems to have taken place in his life (10)? What seems to have taken place previously when he was serving Philemon according to verse 18? So Onesimus was a slave of Philemon. He ran away and while away, he met Paul and was converted under his ministry. So Onesimus’ background was as a runaway slave who was formerly unsaved. Ultimately, as a slave, he was viewed as being in the lowest rung of society. And on top of this he had acted in a way that was considered a serious, punishable crime. Now read Col 4:7-9. How is Onesimus’s character described? This is high praise indeed, especially considering that it came from the zealous and godly apostle Paul. So knowing Onesimus’ place in society and what he had done, how is Paul displaying the radical nature of gospel grace (see 4:9)? Paul seeks to use a person who is considered the lowest of low in society! In a practical way he lives out the teaching of the gospel we saw him speak about in Colossians 3:11. For Paul the truths of the gospel are more than theoretical knowledge. It practically affects how he operates and how he sees people. For Paul, he sees people through the lens of the gospel. What Jesus thinks and what Jesus has done overrides human classes and human systems and changes everything. How does Paul seeing and using a person like Onesimus help you see yourself differently especially if you have had a rather rough background before salvation? How does it change the way you view your ability to serve the Lord and other believers? Are there believers in your life right now that you tend to look at without the gospel lens of grace? Or do you treat people in a way that sees their status in society (or former lifestyle) as the reason you continue to look down on them or not allow them the opportunity to serve you or the church? There are many benefits to having brothers and sisters serve in the ministry. Giving other believers the privilege to serve and be involved in ministry provides them with encouragement and grace. It reinforces the value that Jesus says they have, and it reminds us that every single believer has an essential contribution to the mission of Christ and the benefit of His church. Sometimes the refusal to give believers significant opportunities to serve us and the church may unintentionally encourage a subtle form of legalism. We may seem to suggest that a person can only serve the Lord and the church when we deem them able to do so. But general ministry and service in the Lord’s work is something that all believers, even those with highly troubled former lifestyles, can be part of. The ability to serve the Lord and His church is not provided by our performance, but by Christ’s work of grace. And while there are certain roles in the church that demands testing and further training (think deacons or elders or teachers, etc.), the privilege and involvement in ministry has already been granted us by Christ at salvation. He has granted every believer the right and privilege to serve. Christ has saved His brothers and sisters to serve (Eph 2:10) and because He has done this, we cannot refuse to give those same brothers and sisters opportunities to minister. Take some time to consider a couple things that you can practically do to give believers around you fresh opportunities to serve you and the Lord? If you lead ministries in the church or elsewhere, are there believers you can use right now to serve the Lord’s work? Pray that God reminds us that we are to see ourselves, not as unable to serve, but as new creatures in Christ, freed from our former background and now able to serve! The gospel has altered everything. In Christ we have been changed and given new hearts, new identities and we are truly new creatures in Christ. Also pray that God opens up our eyes to see where we may be refusing to let the gospel of grace radically alter our view of believers around us and not allow them to be involved in service. Let’s take a lesson from Paul and allow the gospel of grace to practically affect how we see ourselves and believers around us. Start to serve and allow others the ability to do the same!

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