August - Reading 24

Discussion in 'Bible Reading Plan 2016' started by Clint Kritzer, Aug 24, 2002.

  1. Clint Kritzer

    Clint Kritzer
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  2. Aaron

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    In The Parable of the Tenants, Christ says that the Gospel will be taken from the Jews and given to a nation, the church, that will bring forth the fruits thereof.

    That a covenant based on works, the Old Testament, could not bring forth the spread of the Gospel is no surprise to God. God did not switch to "plan B" when His first attempt failed. He knew beforehand and ordained that the Jews would reject His Son and kill Him. The Old Covenant was weak because it relied on the power of a man's will and ability to fulfill it. It was doomed to failure from the beginning.

    But the New Covenant is not based on a carnal commandment and the power of the flesh to fulfill it. It is based on the power of an endless life, the power of the spirit of life in Christ. Hebrews 7:16.

    [ August 24, 2002, 11:48 PM: Message edited by: Aaron ]
     
  3. Clint Kritzer

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    Good evening -

    Thanks again, Aaron. I will add to your comments that the Parable of the Tenants is very reminiscent of Isaiah 5:1-7. This fact certainly would not have escaped the notice of the Scribes and Pharisses that Christ was addressing.

    I hope all of those following along with the program have enjoyed Esther as much as I. Just when things couldn't look worse for the Jews, everything turns around. Haman is hung on his own gallows and Mordecia is given a title and position of authority. We finish this wonderful short story tomorrow.

    We began the very short Book of Philemon today as well. It is believed that Paul wrote this Letter about the same time as the Book of Colossians. It is further believed that he was a prisoner in Rome at the time but it is also possible that he was in Ephesus.
    Philemon was a slave-owning believer in Colosse. Onesimus was Philemon's slave and escaped after possibly stealing from Philemon. However, Onesimus met Paul after his escape and was converted. The purpose of thisLetter is Paul appealing to Philemon to treat Onesimus as a brother in Christ. The penalty for a slave escaping at that time was death.
    Paul uses a great deal of tact when speaking to Philemon. I believe the central theme of the Letter is found in today's reading: Formerly he was useless to you, but now he has become useful both to you and to me.

    May God bless you

    - Clint
     
  4. Clint Kritzer

    Clint Kritzer
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    Proverbs 17:5

    Kindness to the less fortunate is one of the core values by which others recognize us as Christians but the concept was always stated as a part of God's Will even as far back as the Patriarchs. Christ spoke quite clearly on the matter when he spoke of the separation of the sheep and goats in Matthew 25:31-46.
     
  5. Clint Kritzer

    Clint Kritzer
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    Sunday School lecture - 10/19/03

    Philemon

    Introduction


    The short Letter of Philemon sandwiched between the Pastoral Letters and the General Letters is quite unique to the New Testament. There was much debate among the early church fathers as to whether this document belonged in the Canon as Paul is explicitly not speaking as an Apostle at any point. Some considered it too personal and commonplace. However, this Epistle gives us a unique view of the social structure of the Mediterranean world at that time under the Roman Empire, the relationship of church members, and even a unique perspective of Paul himself. It gives us a clear picture that even though outward circumstances may separate us, in a higher sense, we are all united in Christ. This Letter is a testimony to Paul’s statement in Galatians 3:28: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.”

    The Pauline Epistles as well as the whole of the New Testament have received criticism in the past century for their lack of a condemnation of slavery. Though emancipation is hinted in verses15-17, Paul never comes out and condemns the practice of slavery. Paul acted within the confines of the society in which he was placed. Slavery was a well-established institution in the Greco-Roman world. To criticize the institution itself would have been a contradiction in Pauline thought. True change for the Christian must come from within, not from mandatory laws and regulations. Paul does not command Philemon to free Onesimus. Instead he appeals to the inward virtue of a converted and changed man. It is not this one man’s obligation to an Apostle of Christ that would confront the institution of slavery, it was instead his Love of Christ among and within His followers that would abolish the act of slave ownership for all of God’s people. (v.14)

    In this ancient story we find a real life drama bringing three dissimilar Christian converts together in love. Paul, a former zealous Pharisee called to Apostleship; Philemon, a wealthy Mediterranean Gentile; and Onesimus, the most despicable of people in the world at that time: a runaway slave. Yet these seeming opposites are brought together as one in this amazing appeal to agape love, the desire and inclination to do what is good.

    Author: There has never been any serious challenge to the authenticity of this Letter as being a genuine Pauline document. The Epistle is listed in the Marcion Canon of the middle 2nd century. It is also found on the Muratorian Fragment, the earliest list we have of New Testament Books dated by scholars as being from about 170 AD.

    Date and Location: As is testified in the text, we know that Paul was writing this Letter from prison. Just as in Philippians, we must conjecture which jailing this was. Our best and most supported guess is once again that this was written from Rome during Paul’s first imprisonment there as described in Acts 28:16-31. Taking this view, we can date the Letter anywhere from 58-62 AD, but most probably around 61 AD.

    The Letter is closely associated with the Letter to the Colossians and we will explore the location and dating and connection more thoroughly in next Sunday’s lesson. We gather from Colossians 4:7-9 that both Letters were delivered by Onesimus and Tychius at the same time.

    Purpose: All that we really know with any assurance is found within the text itself so many presumptions are made through single statements and traditional acceptance. The general assumption is made that Philemon is the owner of the house in which the church met and the owner of Onesimus.

    Many scholars believe that it was actually Archippus who owned the house and Onesimus. The most prevelant of these theories state that Paul did not know Archippus personally and therefore enlisted the help of Philemon, whom he did know, to sway the hypothetical slave owner. While this theory holds some merit, it has never gained the consensus of critical thinkers.

    Again, an assumption is made that Onesimus is a runaway slave though he is never called a slave in the text, per se, as the actual translation is bondservant, a figurative expression for slave. Some scholars argue that Onesimus was actually an apprentice of Philemon, but this theory, too, has never gained very strong support.

    For the purposes of this lesson, we will assume the traditional view of Philemon: that Philemon, a citizen of Colossae and owner of a home in which a church congregated, owned a slave named Onesimus who had possibly robbed his master and run away.

    What we can glean with certainty from the meager amount of text is that Philemon had been won to Christ through the efforts of Paul some years earlier. This likely occurred during Paul’s final journeys before returning to Jerusalem. During this journey, Paul stayed three years in Ephesus (Acts 19), which is located quite near Colossae. Paul returned to Ephesus various times as he had made this a hub of his evangelistic missions at the time. We know that Philemon was a dedicated layman of some wealth who had a good reputation among his fellow Christians.

    Onesimus while on the run had encountered Paul and had also been won to Christ. At the time of this Letter, Paul is sending Onesimus back to Philemon with this Letter making an appeal to Philemon to forgive Onesimus and to count his debts against Paul. This was an extremely bold and dangerous thing for Onesimus to do. Slaves in the Roman Empire had little to no rights and runaway slaves were the most severely punished.

    The Epistle serves several purposes:
    1. It is to beg forgiveness for Onesimus.
    2. It is to recommend Onesimus to the entire church.
    3. It is a commendation of Philemon.
    4. It is a legal document taking on the debt of Onesimus to Philemon.
     
  6. Clint Kritzer

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    Philemon 1-3 Address and Salutation

    Just as 12 other Books of the New Testament, Philemon begins with the name “Paul.” This time, however, instead of identifying himself as an Apostle, he is instead a “prisoner for Christ.” Paul recognized that the base cause of his imprisonment was not because of Nero, it was instead because of God’s Purpose in his ministry. Timothy is named with Paul though the Letter is obviously written by a single author. Notice the single, first person pronouns in nearly every verse of the Epistle. Possibly, Timothy was being named because of Philemon’s familiarity with the young Gentile convert. There is also a possibility that Timothy is being named as a witness giving validity to the legal nature of the Letter.

    Philemon is named as a “fellow worker” or “fellow laborer” indicating that he had been instrumental in helping Paul with his ministry in their previous encounters. Tradition tells us that Apphia was Philemon’s wife and Archippus his son, though we have no way to verify this assumption. That Archippus is named a “fellow soldier” has been assumed by many to mean that he may have been the pastor of the church that met in Philemon’s home. We only see one other individual given this title in the New Testament: Epaphroditus.

    Philemon 4-7 Thanksgiving, Prayer, and Recognition of Christian Character of Philemon

    In the phrase “I remember you”, the “you” is singular giving the indication that this is a personal letter, not an Epistle to a church, though in these salutation we see Apphia and Archippus addressed. It would not be unusual for a matter of as grave an importance as the forgiveness of a runaway slave to be addressed to the wife and pastor of the offended party. It is likely that the other Christians in the church would also come into play in this decision and Paul has tactfully endorsed Philemon quite highly. This matter would be of importance to all of them in that if Philemon makes Onesimus “more than a slave” it is this household and this church into which Onesimus would be accepted.

    Apphia, while likely a proper name, was either a very common name or a term for endearment in Phrygia. It has been found in many Phyrgian inscriptions. She is addressed as “our sister” indicating that she too was a member of the family of faith. If not Philemon’s wife, she was certainly a close relative.

    Despite their interest and persuasion in the matter, however, the decision would be upon the shoulders of Philemon alone. Paul has effectively “buttered up” Philemon for the coming request. He has also “put him on the spot” in recognizing and affirming the Christian values that he recognizes in him.

    Beginning in verse 4 and until the benediction, the Letter is directed at Philemon alone. Verse 4 reveals to us that Paul during his personal devotions would mention individuals in his prayer. His reason for giving thanks is that he was constantly hearing of Philemon’s love and faith. While these acts of hospitality and generosity were being performed by Philemon, Paul credits God with being the source. Paul has now mentioned a quality in Philemon upon which he is about to draw. He addresses him as “brother” in verse 7. This prepares Philemon for the next part of the Letter.

    Philemon 8-11 Appeal by Entreaty Rather Than by Command

    Because of the joy that Paul had in Philemon he refrains from making any demands from Philemon. He makes it clear that he has every right to do so, but it was important that the decision be Philemon’s alone. Rather than giving a command that the wealthy slave owner may come to resent, the decision on how to handle the runaway slave should come from within, built upon the Christian virtues that Paul had just so highly praised. As Paul and Philemon claimed Christ as their absolute Master, now so too did Onesimus. The slave was still his property in the secular world but was also now a brother in the Christian realm.

    Paul’s circumstances in this instance are nearly as important as Onesimus’. Being incarcerated, there was little more that Paul could do than write this Letter. The best he can do is promise a visit upon his release and give a promissory note on behalf of the slave’s debts. Paul is as helpless as Onesimus in this matter.

    It should be noted that Paul approaches the situation with great care, almost timidly. In the original Greek, Onesimus’ name ends the sentence. Paul explains that a change has occurred in Onesimus. In verse 11 there is a double play on words lost in the translation. Onesimus’ name meant “”profitable,” “gainful,” “helpful,” or “useful.” In the act of running away, Onesimus had not lived up to his name. However, now that he was a brother in Christ, he would indeed become “profitable” for Philemon, Paul, and the church. In addition, the synonym used for onesimus in the text in Greek was euchrestos (useful or profitable) which in Greek sounded very much like Christos (Christ). This play on words was probably received as very clever and even a bit humorous to the Greek reader.
     
  7. Gwyneth

    Gwyneth
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    I have so enjoyed reading the book of Esther this time around,in fact I am enjoying all the readings more this time around; having really only `read` them the first time without much understanding. I am now looking forward to certain `favourite` parts, and am gaining more understanding as I follow the reading plan, thank you so much Clint for your hard work in compiling the commentaries, and extra reading.
    Gwyneth
     
  8. Clint Kritzer

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