This Lord’s Day we’ll come to Paul’s fourth and final argument in his advocacy for Onesimus. This is the weightiest of them all, striking so near to the very heart of Philemon, as he asks him to consider his love for and partnership for Paul himself. How Philemon treats Onesimus–who means so much to Paul–will be a testimony to what Philemon considers of his relationship with Paul. With the request finally put into words, Paul addresses the very practical matter of the debt Onesimus owed Philemon. It ought to be paid and yet Onesimus could not pay it. So Paul takes the debt upon himself and promises to pay it. If anyone has ever memorized verses from Philemon, it was probably vv.18-19 in which Paul speaks of assuming Onesimus’ debt. That’s because Paul’s unthinkable action beautifully pictures the very thing Christ has done for us. In fact, both Paul’s final plea in v.17 and his acting the part of a surety so closely resemble Christ’s intercession for us and Christ’s suretyship for us, that no passage in all of Philemon more effectively points us to Christ and His love as these.

Dr. James La Belle

Pastor La Belle was born in Florida, raised in Alabama until he was 15 years old, and then lived in Washington until he was 30, when he and his family left for Seminary in Philadelphia. He and his wife Chantry have been married for 24 years and have 7 children from ages 19 to 9: River, Schylie, Forrest, Terra, Sandy, Rocky, and Chantry. Pastor La Belle has published two books with Joel Beeke (Living by God's Promises and Living Zealously), with a third forthcoming (Living for God's Glory in Marriage) and is currently working on a Doctorate in Puritan Studies.

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