Lesson 8: Apostolic Refreshment – Philemon 20-21

by Pastor Ricky Kurth

You're listening to Lesson 8 from the sermon series "Philemon" by Pastor Ricky Kurth. When you're done, explore more sermons from this series.



When a Bible writer uses the word “yea” after saying something (v.20), it meant he was really pouring it on (Psalm 7:5; 68:3).  At the end of Verse 19, Paul reminded Philemon that he should do what Paul asked and be gracious to his runaway slave because Paul asked him to, and he owed him his very self, since Paul led him to the Lord.  Then after saying, “Don’t you want to pay your debt to me by doing what I ask,” he really pours it on and says, “Don’t you want to give me joy by doing what I ask?”

The reason you should care about that is that it illustrates how you owe your very self to the Lord for saving you, but you shouldn’t do what He asks just because you owe Him, but also because it brings Him joy.

Paul is a great illustration of this, for every time he tells us what brought him joy, it was that God’s people were obeying Him.  He told the Philippians it would bring him joy if they received each other graciously (Phil. 2:2).  That meant it would rob his joy if they didn’t.  Prison didn’t rob Paul of joy, for he rejoiced to see how God used it to get the gospel to Caesar’s household and “all other places” (Phil. 1:12-18).  Even the thought of dying didn’t rob Paul’s joy, for he knew it was “far better” to be with Christ (Phil. 1:23).  The only thing that robbed his joy was ungraciousness among saints!

And don’t forget who was asking the Philippians to fulfil his joy—the apostle who gave them joy when he led them to Christ, and who was living for the “furtherance” of their joy (Phil. 1:23-25).  So in asking them to fulfill his joy, ye was saying, “I’m living for your joy, can’t you live for mine?” In the same way, it was the apostle who brought Philemon joy by leading him to Christ, and who was now continuing to live for his joy as well as the joy of the Philippians, who was asking Philemon to let him have joy of him by doing what he asked.  And that illustrates how the Lord brought you joy by dying for you, and continuing to live for you (Rom. 8:34).

Back in Philemon 1:7, Paul said Philemon refreshed the bowels of the saints in his church by feeding them (cf. Ezek. 3:3).  But when Paul said he could refresh his bowels by being gracious to his slave, he was using the word “bowels” as heart (cf. Jer. 4:19; Lam. 1:20).  That illustrates how obeying the Lord refreshes His heart.

We know His heart needs refreshing sometimes because we read that after Satan fell after Genesis 1:1, it refreshed the Lord’s heart after He recreated the creation described in Genesis 1,2 (Ex. 31:17).  Well, when you get saved, it refreshes the Lord because suddenly you are a new creature (II Cor. 5:17).  Of course, when you don’t act like a new creature, it grieves the Lord (Eph. 4:30).  But then when you obey Him again, it refreshes Him again.  And we’re seeing all that illustrated here with Paul’s refreshment.

Paul was “confident” that the grace God had shown Philemon would get him to do what he asked and be gracious to Onesimus (Phile. 1:21).  His confidence in the carnal Corinthians (II Cor. 2:3; 7:16; 8:22) and the legalistic Galatians (Gal. 5:10) illustrates God’s confidence of how grace can fix whatever is wrong with us.

Paul was confident Philemon would do “more” than what he asked, perhaps set his slave free!  This illustrates how God is confident you’ll do more under grace than He told the Jews to do under the law.  The law said not to do evil (Ex. 23:2), grace says to avoid the very appearance of evil (I Thes. 5:22).  The law said to tithe (Deut. 12:11), under grace the Macedon-ians gave more than a tithe of their “deep poverty” (II Cor. 8: 1-5).  The law said to sacrifice animals (Deut. 12:11), grace says to sacrifice your own body (Rom. 12:1).

The law said not to eat meat offered to idols (Ex. 34:15), Paul said you can, but not to if it will offend a brother (I Cor. 10:27,28).  The Lord introduced New Testament grace by saying the law said don’t kill, but grace says don’t hate (Mt. 5:21,22).  The law said don’t commit adultery, grace says don’t even think about it (Mt. 5:27,28).  If you think it’s a good idea not to hate or lust, it is because your heart has been touched by God’s grace.  Grace makes you evaluate what you’ve been given and how much it is worth to you.

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