The One Within

Paul wrote a little verse in a little letter that highlights a major aspect of how to effectively live the Christian life. Note, I wrote effective, not ‘successful’ because Jesus view of success is generally very different than ours. Paul said he was praying for Philemon;

6  that the sharing of your faith may become effective by the acknowledgment of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus. Philemon 1:6 (NKJV)

Like most passages, putting our verse in context helps.

4  I thank my God, making mention of you always in my prayers, 5  hearing of your love and faith which you have toward the Lord Jesus and toward all the saints, 6  that the sharing of your faith may become effective by the acknowledgment of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus. 7  For we have great joy and consolation in your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed by you, brother. Philemon 1:4-7 (NKJV)

If we read the whole of this short letter we know that Paul was Philemon’s spiritual father, Philemon had been converted through Paul sharing. We know that Philemon was a slave owner (not the issue I am addressing here), loved other believers and was hospitable. We also know that his slave Onesimus had run away, found Paul in prison, and had been converted under his ministry. Now Paul was sending him back to Philemon and asking that Philemon receive him not as a slave but as a brother in Christ.

There is more in this small letter but this is sufficient for our purpose. Paul noted that while Philemon was well known for his love for others Paul thought the key to the effective sharing of his faith was not more love, more friendship or other things. He thought it was Philemon’s recognition of something – who Christ was in him! Seems odd, yet think about it. How many times have you seen someone become passionate and excited so that what they share is contagious? That is what Paul had and wanted Philemon to have, a recognition of the One in him that would energize and enliven him with wonder!

So breaking it down further what was Paul saying to Philemon. There are a couple of key words, one of them is ‘effective.’

  1. ἐνεργής energēs adj

Effective, something that is working, active.

Complete Biblical Library Greek-English Dictionary, Delta-Epsilon.

The other is acknowledgement.

  1. ἐπίγνωσις epignōsis noun

Knowledge, recognition, consciousness.

Complete Biblical Library Greek-English Dictionary, Delta-Epsilon.

So let’s look at verse 6 again with some adding understanding.

6  that the sharing of your faith may become effective (be active and working) by the acknowledgment (recognition, consciousness) of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus. Philemon 1:6 (NKJV) emphasis added

Paul was telling Philemon, and by extension us, that the way to effectively share our faith was through the recognition or consciousness of the good things that are in us in Jesus. This isn’t a matter of making a list, though reading through all the ‘in Christ’ references in Ephesians is a good idea, it is something more. Imagine you wanted to learn how to swim so decided to sign up for lessons. What would you think if you showed up for swimming lessons and the instructor talked to you about breathing techniques, showed you strokes, and explained everything in great detail but you never actually got in the pool?

I think that is what some of our theology is like. We live in a culture that prizes information, yet generally I don’t think we need more information. I have said many times over the years that we live in a culture gorged on knowledge and starving for wisdom! We need to know the reality of what Paul wrote to Philemon about; yet that reality will not come through more information. We need experience with something, and in the case of our faith, Someone. We need to experience what Paul wrote and prayed about in Ephesians 1:17, we need ‘the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him.’

Though our text does not tell us I think this ‘spirit of wisdom and revelation’ had opened up to Onesimus in his encounter with Paul. The name Onesimus means ‘profitable.’ Paul used a play on words to get Philemon’s attention.

10  I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten while in my chains, 11  who once was unprofitable to you, but now is profitable to you and to me. Philemon 1:10-11 (NKJV)

What would be more profitable to us as a believer than being with a fellow believer who knew and understood the reality and life of the one within them! I have prayed and will continue to pray that each of us know the reality of ‘the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him.’ Will you join me?

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