Steve Wells: Philemon and Forgiveness

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Baptists Preaching is a column from the Baptist Standard. It is not an effort to advance any one theology or style but to present what a collection of Baptists considers a word from God. Likewise, Baptists Preaching offers a repository of Baptist preaching for future study and research. To recommend a sermon to be featured in Baptists Preaching, please contact eric.black@baptiststandard.com.

Steve Wells: Philemon and Forgiveness (Philemon)

Steve Wells, senior pastor of South Main Baptist Church in Houston, Texas, begins by reflecting on the words of the hymn “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms,” which express the peace Christians have in Jesus Christ. Such peace is needed now and can be found in forgiving others, as demonstrated by Philemon, owner of a slave named Onesimus.

Onesimus became very significant to Paul during his imprisonment. Paul knew Onesimus, to have a future free of fear, needed to deal honestly with his past and return to Philemon, his owner. Paul could not go with his friend but could write a letter to Philemon and send it with Onesimus. In that letter, Paul called Philemon to forgiveness, not to forgetting the past, but to recognizing the past and dealing with it honestly.

According to Christian tradition, Paul’s letter to Onesimus changed the course of Christianity and thus history.

This sermon was delivered online on Mar. 15, 2020, the 3rd Sunday of Lent, for the morning worship service at South Main Baptist Church in Houston. The full service is available here. The audio for the sermon is available here.


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