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Read Introduction to Philemon

 

Philemon 1:16 …no longer as a slave but more than a slave—a beloved brother, especially to me but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.”
 
no longer as a slave but more than a slave—a beloved brother,
Slavery was universally practiced in the Roman Empire.  This slavery was abusive, harsh and immoral.  Christianity’s approach to social injustice was personal regeneration and not social reform.  If a maximum number of people turn to Christ, this will turn society around. 
1 Co 7: 20 “Let each one remain in the same calling in which he was called. 21 Were you called while a slave? Do not be concerned about it; but if you can be made free, rather use it. 22 For he who is called in the Lord while a slave is the Lord’s freedman. Likewise he who is called while free is Christ’s slave. 23 You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men. 24 Brethren, let each one remain with God in that state in which he was called.”
Paul did not request that Philemon to free Onesimus but that he treat him as “a beloved brother.”  Master and slave were to take pleasure in one another as beloved brothers in Christ.  There is no spiritual hierarchy when it comes to being in Christ.  Paul called Onesimus a “beloved brother” in Colossians 4:9.  Paul, Philemon and Onesimus were all on the same spiritual plane.  A slave socially stands on the same spiritual plane as the master. 
especially to me but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord
Onesimus was a “beloved brother” to Paul and to Philemon as well.  Onesimus was “especially” beloved to Paul but now “much more” to Philemon.  He was a slave in the “flesh” and a brother “in the Lord” to Philemon.  Philemon had much more vested in Onesimus than Paul. 
PRINCIPLE: 
Spiritual status transcends social distinctions. 
APPLICATION: 
When a person becomes a Christian, our relationship to them changes. They now belong to our spiritual family.  We cannot be indifferent toward fellow members of the body of Christ because we belong to God and each other.  People relate to us in who spheres: 1) physically, mentally, emotionally and 2) spiritually.  The latter is the higher sphere.  It transcends social distinctions. 
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