Demonstrate Restoration

Youth Fall Lesson 13

Philemon 8-21

Lesson Resources:

Download Lesson Here




 Sources: Esword, Explore the Bible, W. Wiersbe, M. Henry, J. Phillips

Have you ever purchased something that came with instructions on how to put it together? Did you follow the directions or not? The purpose of the instructions is to provide a step by step guide to properly assemble something. Have you attempted to do it without and then had to pull them out and see where you messed up? We like to go it alone and try to figure our way through sometimes, but that can cost us time and sometimes money when we mess up. What about in your relationships> Have you ever done something wrong to another person? Have you ever been wronged by someone else? If so, it can definitely put a strain on any relationship. Sometimes the hardest thing we’ll ever do is to ask someone for their forgiveness. Wouldn’t it be great if there was a set of instructions given to us to follow to help with making things right? I am so glad you asked. As we look at this letter from Paul to Philemon we will see how WE CAN DEMONSTRATE RESTORATION BY FOLLOWING THREE INSTRUCTIONS PAUL GIVES PHILEMON.


PHILEMON 8-12 8 Wherefore, though I might be much bold in Christ to enjoin thee that which is convenient, 9 Yet for love’s sake I rather beseech thee, being such an one as Paul the aged, and now also a prisoner of Jesus Christ. 10 I beseech thee for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my bonds: 11 Which in time past was to thee unprofitable, but now profitable to thee and to me: 12 Whom I have sent again: thou therefore receive him, that is, mine own bowels:

One of the most difficult things we can ever do is to forgive someone that has wronged us. As Christians, we are called to live out the gospel in our daily lives. This is one practical way for us to do that and to demonstrate to the world what restoration looks like. In order for restoration to take place, we must start with forgiveness. It is the first and most important step in the process of restoration. Paul writes this letter to Philemon, a slave owner, with the anticipation, and the expectation, of Philemon forgiving Onesimus, his former slave. It is important for us to acknowledge that the Bible never condones slavery. However it was a very common practice in the world at that time. People would buy slaves for the purpose of doing work, also as a way for the slave to repay a debt, but it wasn’t necessarily racially motivated as we might understand slavery today. 

Paul gives this instruction to Philemon telling him forgive Onesimus for running away from him and possibly even stealing money from him. Paul opens his letter, verses 1-7, to Philemon by reminding him of their friendship and partnership in the gospel. Paul even tells Philemon that he has heard testimony about Philemon’s faithful love of Jesus and the church. Philemon had a reputation for loving and serving other believers in need. In other words, Paul is establishing that Philemon loved Jesus and had a reputation for showing the love of Jesus to others. Based on Philemon’s testimony, Paul instructs him to not only to forgive Onesimus but also to let him go free.

Paul tells Philemon that during his time away, Onesimus had met Paul in prison, began to minister to Paul’s needs, and ended up accepting Christ as his Savior. Paul pleads with Philemon to forgive Onesimus and receive him back not as a slave but as a brother in Christ. Paul could have used his position as an Apostle to persuade Philemon to forgive Onesimus, but instead he pleaded with Philemon, based on his love for the brethren, to forgive on the basis of love toward another believer.


One of the best ways we can demonstrate to the world love in action is to be a forgiving person. We should always be reminded that God has forgiven us when we didn’t deserve to be forgiven. In order for us to be in a right relationship with God, and to be restored to Him, we had to be forgiven too. 


PHILEMON 13-16 13 Whom I would have retained with me, that in thy stead he might have ministered unto me in the bonds of the gospel: 14 But without thy mind would I do nothing; that thy benefit should not be as it were of necessity, but willingly. 15 For perhaps he therefore departed for a season, that thou shouldest receive him for ever; 16 Not now as a servant, but above a servant, a brother beloved, specially to me, but how much more unto thee, both in the flesh, and in the Lord?

Paul and Onesimus had developed a great friendship. Paul had led Onesimus to Christ and had begun to disciple him too. Paul wanted Onesimus to stay with him and continue his discipleship, but Paul recognized that Onesimus needed to make the situation right with Philemon. Paul again encourages Philemon to forgive Onesimus, but to do it willingly out of his own love for the brethren. 

Our motives matter, particularly when it comes to following Jesus. If we do the right things because we feel like we have to or because we want to look good, we will only do the right things when others are watching. God cares not just about what we do, but the reasons behind those actions.  Thankfully, Jesus is in the business of changing hearts. Following the instructions to receive Onesimus back as a brother was an opportunity to demonstrate to the watching world the kind of loving forgiveness Jesus offers us.

Paul instructed Philemon to receive Onesimus back not just as a slave but as a beloved brother. Onesimus had been changed by the Gospel, he had given his life to Christ and was willing to make the situation right with his former master. The Gospel should change us too. It should change the way we treat other people, it should change the way we think about other people, and it should change the way we choose to forgive other people. Paul told Philemon in verse 16 to consider now how much more Onesimus would be a benefit to him, not only in the flesh, but also in the Lord. Sure he would have his former slave back to fulfill the duties he had been expected to perform but also to help serve the Lord for the furtherance of the Gospel!


We too should be considerate of others that have been forgiven by God just like we have been. Think about where we might be if others had not forgiven us and then received us also. God has not only forgiven us but He has also received us into His family. HE has made us joint heirs with His own son, Jesus Christ. We not only get to go to heaven when we die, but we also get to have an inheritance from our Heavenly Father. 


PHILEMON 17-21 17 If thou count me therefore a partner, receive him as myself. 18 If he hath wronged thee, or oweth thee ought, put that on mine account; 19 I Paul have written it with mine own hand, I will repay it: albeit I do not say to thee how thou owest unto me even thine own self besides. 20 Yea, brother, let me have joy of thee in the Lord: refresh my bowels in the Lord. 21 Having confidence in thy obedience I wrote unto thee, knowing that thou wilt also do more than I say.

Once again Paul instructs Philemon to set Onesimus free and to receive him as he would receive Paul himself. This might seem like Paul is repeating himself and that’s because he is. He is doing everything he can on the behalf of Onesimus to persuade Philemon to forgive and receive him. The whole time Paul has been reminding Philemon about how the Gospel impacts our lives and calls us to act differently than the world. Paul goes so far as to charge Philemon that if Onesimus owes him anything to put it on Paul’s account. That should be a reminder to all of us about what Christ has done for us. There was a debt we couldn’t pay and Christ stepped in and put our debt on His account.

In the face of the gospel, all the human designations, positions, and cultural rules we set up that influence our opinion of other people fall away. When we recognize that all people are made in God’s image and all people need a Savior, we can let go of defining people’s worth on the basis of their social status, achievements, or even their sins and failures. The Gospel puts us on an equal footing with each other before God. This is how we should see each other and how we should treat each other.

Paul leaves Philemon with one last instruction, to go above and beyond. In verse 21 Paul says that thou wilt also do more than I say. Paul is confident in the obedience of Philemon that he expects him to not only do what Paul has asked of him, but knows he will go beyond. His confidence was in thy obedience and based on what Paul himself had done for Philemon. Verses 18-19 give us a little insight into what Paul’s relationship with Philemon was like. They too had shared a time of forgiveness and reception, which Paul was counting on Philemon to reciprocate to Onesimus.


This instruction is also good for us. We should also be willing to go above and beyond for someone who has done wrong to us. By doing this we will be demonstrating to them the same love and care that Crhist has shown to us. The Gospel isn’t something that we should keep inside of us, it is something we should be living out in our daily lives. 


Can you imagine what it must have been like for Onesimus to go back to Philemon?  How much must have been going through his mind. But what joy he must have felt when Philemon forgave him and received him back, not as a slave but as his brother in Christ. We too can have this kind of impact on others and the world around us by demonstrating to them what restoration looks like. If we choose to follow the instructions Paul gave to Philemon we can restore others too.