Paul’s letter to Philemon tells us many things about the earliest churches. These are glimpses into the life of the church; they are not fully-formed doctrines. In this letter, we learn that the church is to be a place of:
- Suffering for Christ (1, 23)
- Gatherings in homes (2)
- Accountability (2)
- Prayer (4)
- Deep familial relationships (5, 16)
- Love for one another (5)
- Life in Christ (5-6)
- Hospitality (7)
- Generosity (7, 14)
- Servanthood (8-9)
- Empowerment (8-9)
- How to make an appeal (8-12)
- Conflict resolution (9)
- Outreach to the lost (10)
- Building the next generation (10-11)
- Leader development (10-11)
- Trust in God’s providence (15)
- Rejection of slavery (16)
- Equality between the brethren, in spite of social mores to the contrary (16)
- Love toward those who society has rejected (16)
- The church’s response toward social change (16)
- The church’s separation from the world (16)
- No sacred-secular distinction (16)
- Substitution, forgiveness and reconciliation (17-19)
- Healthy leadership authority (17-18)
- Leading in community (23-24)
All of these things are expressions of healthy church culture, and they are expressed in the letter in thoroughly practical ways. Notably, there is nothing in the letter about programs or organizational strategies, structures or forms; there is just life.
Find out more about each of these glimpses in Glimpses of Church Life, by Malcolm Webber.
About Glimpses of Church Life, by Malcolm Webber:
In Christ, there is neither slave nor free.
“… that you might have him back forever, no longer as a bondservant but more than a bondservant, as a beloved brother …” (Philemon 15-16)
The message of Philemon, the shortest and most personal of Paul’s letters, is needed by the whole family of God, in every era and culture.
Philemon is not merely an example of how to skillfully make a difficult request of someone ‒although Paul demonstrates his mastery of that. But more than that, this is a wonderful letter about church life.
In Philemon we see many clear descriptions of what happened in the earliest churches and what their culture was like. While short, Philemon is a beautiful and deep articulation of healthy church life.
Philemon also gives a crystal clear picture of God’s position on slavery; we have dedicated a chapter to this at the end.
Glimpses of Church Life is available for purchase here. To purchase more of our books, visit https://www.strategicpress.org/.