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Philemon 1:1-3 Two Misconceptions About Christianity

This is the fifth lesson in a series of lessons on the Book of Philemon. In this lesson I’m going to look at the first three verses of Philemon and correct two misconceptions about Christianity. Watch the video or scroll down and read the transcript.

Transcript:

Thanks for visiting Bible Mountain. This is the fifth lesson in a series of lessons on the Book of Philemon. In this lesson I’m going to look at the first three verses of Philemon and correct two misconceptions about Christianity. 

In earlier lessons I talked about why Philemon is in the Bible. We learned that Philemon is a short little story about Philemon and Onesimus which illustrates for us how to live out various commands we find elsewhere in the Bible about how to exercise authority and how to submit to authority. While that is the main emphasis of the book of Philemon, Philemon also touches on some other topics. Those are topics we’re going to look at in this lesson. 

In this lesson I’m going to explain these two misconceptions. We’ll look at various verses throughout the New Testament to correct these misconceptions. Then we’ll see how Philemon reflects the correct understanding on these two topics. Let’s talk about these two misconceptions that we have in Christianity. 

The first misconception is what I call community versus family. Over the last several decades, there has been a strong emphasis in evangelicalism on small groups. People have been encouraged to participate in, and be a part of, a small group. One of the arguments used in favor of small groups is that we have to build community. 

The problem with that is community is the wrong analogy. Community is not a biblical analogy. The Bible does not call us neighbors-in-Christ. It doesn’t call us friends-in-Christ. Instead, the Bible calls us brothers and sisters in Christ. So the correct analogy for Christianity is family. We are not neighbors, we are not friends. We are brothers and sisters in Christ. We are family. 

Let’s think about why that distinction is important. We have a saying in our society that goes something like “blood is thicker than water”. What that means is the ties and bonds we have with family members and blood relatives is much stronger than the ties and bonds we have with friends, neighbors, and acquaintances. 

Think about it this way. Suppose you live in a neighborhood many years and develop friendships there. You might have some very close friendships in that neighborhood, but if you move away, it takes effort to maintain any sort of connection with those people that you used to live with. If you no longer live in close proximity to those people, there’s a tendency for those relationships, those friendships, to go away. 

Contrast that with your relationships with your family members. Whether it’s your grandparents, parents, siblings, cousins, children, or grandchildren, it doesn’t matter how geographically spread out you are, there will always be a strong bond there. You are always bound to those people because you are blood relatives. 

This is an illustration of the fact that blood is thicker than water. The bonds that we have as family are much stronger and closer than the connections we have with friends and neighbors. That’s why it’s important to understand that the Bible uses family as the analogy, and not neighborhood, because the bonds we have with our brothers and sisters in Christ are much stronger than the bonds we have with neighbors, friends, and acquaintances. 

Let’s take a look at some scripture references that illustrate that family is the correct analogy for Christianity.

Gal. 1:3   Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, 4 who gave Himself for our sins so that He might rescue us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father,

We see here God is called our Father. Father, obviously, is a family relationship. At the end, in the last verse, we see the word Father again. God is called our Father 

Eph. 1:5 He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will,

Here we see that we as Christians are adopted as sons. Sons is a family connection. 

Col. 4:7   As to all my affairs, Tychicus, our beloved brother and faithful servant and fellow bond-servant in the Lord, will bring you information. 

Here Tychicus is called a brother. That is a family connection. 

Rom. 16:1   I commend to you our sister Phoebe, who is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea;

Phoebe is called a sister. That’s a family connection. 

We see in these verses that the correct analogy that’s used in the Bible for Christianity is family. As Christians, as followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, we are family. We are brothers and sisters in Christ. We are more than neighbors. We are more than friends. We are family. 

Now, let me talk about the second misconception that I call selling versus recruiting. Over the last several decades, within evangelicalism, it’s been very common that when we think about evangelism, we have the mentality that we are selling eternal life. While there’s truth to that, that mentality is not complete. It is a misconception. Furthermore, when we have that mindset, we’re actually not being honest about Christianity. 

Let me illustrate the difference between selling and recruiting. Imagine you are a consumer electronics company and you’re selling your latest cell phone. When you go out to potential customers, you’re going to emphasize the benefits and minimize the cost. 

You’re going to emphasize the benefits. You’re going to tell people all the wonderful things this phone is going to do for you. You’re going to tell them how this phone is going to make their lives so much easier and better. 

Meanwhile, you’re going to minimize the cost. You might admit that it costs $1,000, but you’re going to try and persuade people that $1,000 is very small compared to the wonderful benefits they are going to derive from owning this latest cell phone. 

Contrast that with a recruiter who is trying to recruit someone to join the military special forces. A military recruiter is not going to emphasize the benefits and minimize the cost because the benefits are not that great. The pay is not that good. 

Meanwhile, the cost is very high. It’s very difficult to get in the special forces. The training program is brutal. The day to day life once you’re in the special forces is difficult. It’s dangerous. There’s a high probability that you’re going to die, that you will get killed performing a mission while part of the special forces. 

Therefore, when you recruit people to join the special forces, you’re not going to emphasize the benefits and minimize the cost. Instead, you’re going to be upfront about the cost, and you’re going to sell people on the idea of serving something greater than themselves. 

Now let’s talk about evangelism. As I said, over the last several decades, within evangelicalism, the common mentality has been that when we do evangelism, we are selling eternal life. As part of that mentality we emphasize the benefits of being a Christian such as eternal life, but evangelicalism has tended to minimize the cost of being a Christian. 

That is not correct. It is not biblical. And actually, in some ways, it’s dishonest because the Bible makes it clear there is a cost to being a Christian. 

When we do evangelism, our mindset should be more that we are recruiting people to serve the Lord Jesus Christ, because the benefits of being a Christian here on Earth are not that great. Yes, there are benefits, but the cost is very high. When we do evangelism, what we should be doing is recruiting people to be soldiers of the Lord Jesus Christ. We should be emphasizing the benefit of serving someone greater than ourselves. Yes, eternal life is part of the deal, and we should talk about it, but we also have to be honest about the cost. 

Let’s look at some verses in the New Testament that make it clear that when we do evangelism, we should be recruiting people to serve our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 

Rom. 10:9 that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; 10 for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.

These verses are telling us how to be saved. Notice the word Lord in verse 9. Let’s define the word Lord. 

It’s common in evangelicalism to equate the word Lord with the word God, but that is not correct. The Greek word that is used there actually means master. 

If we back up a little bit in verse 9, we see the word confess. The word confess has a couple ideas. On the one hand, confess means that we acknowledge that Jesus is master. But confess also has the idea that we are placing ourselves under the authority of Jesus as master. 

What we see in these verses is that in order to be saved, we have to confess that Jesus is Master. We have to agree and acknowledge that Jesus is master and we have to place ourselves under His authority and submit to Him as our master. 

1Cor. 1:2   To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling, with all who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours:

Here we see the word Lord is used twice. Again, the word Lord means master. We see here that Jesus Christ is called our master. 

What we see in these verses is that when we do evangelism, we are recruiting people to be servants of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Yes, eternal life is one of the benefits that we get from being a Christian, but we cannot ignore the reality that while we are here on Earth, being a Christian is often very difficult. 

Those are the two misconceptions. It’s very common within evangelicalism to use community as the analogy for Christianity, but that’s not correct. We are more than friends and neighbors as followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. We are brothers and sisters. We are family. 

Likewise, it’s very common to think of evangelism as selling eternal life. That’s not quite complete. When we go out and do evangelism, we should be recruiting people to serve our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. One of the benefits of serving Jesus is that we receive eternal life. 

Now let’s see how these truths are reflected in the first three verses of Philemon.

Philemon 1:1  Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy the brother, to Philemon, the beloved and our fellow-worker, 2 and to Apphia the sister, and to Archippus our fellow-soldier, and to the assembly in your house. 3 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

If we take these verses and strip them down to their bare essence we have “Paul and Timothy, to Philemon, and to Apphia, and to Archippus, and to the assembly in your house.”

What’s interesting here is the words that Paul used to describe himself and the other people he mentioned. Paul called himself a prisoner of Christ Jesus. He called Timothy the brother. He called Philemon the beloved and our fellow worker. He called Apphia the sister. He called Archippus our fellow soldier. Let’s go through and look at these one by one. 

Paul called himself a prisoner. This was literally true. Paul was in prison when he wrote this. He was in prison because he had been sharing the good news of Jesus Christ. But even when Paul was not in prison, I believe he still looked at himself as a prisoner of Jesus Christ because his life was devoted to serving Jesus. Paul considered himself a prisoner of Christ because he was always going to do whatever Jesus Christ told him to do. So in that sense, whether Paul was literally in prison or not in prison, Paul always considered himself a prisoner of the Lord Jesus Christ. This reflects the reality that when we do evangelism, we are recruiting people to serve our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We are not merely selling eternal life. 

Paul called Timothy the brother. This reflects the reality that as Christians we are brothers and sisters in Christ. We are not merely neighbors. We are not merely friends. We are brothers and sisters. The bonds we have with our fellow followers of the Lord Jesus Christ are very strong bonds. They are the bonds you would see between blood relatives, not merely the bonds you see between neighbors and acquaintances. 

Then we see he called Philemon our fellow worker. Let’s think about the term fellow worker. Paul was calling himself a worker. When he said fellow worker, he was calling Philemon someone who worked alongside of Paul, serving the Lord Jesus Christ. Again, this is a reflection of the fact that as Christians we are servants of Jesus. When we do evangelism, we are not merely selling eternal life. Instead, we are recruiting people to serve our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 

Paul called Apphia the sister. Sister is a family reference. Paul called Apphia a sister because as followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, we are more than neighbors. We are more than friends. We are family. We are brothers and sisters in Christ. 

Paul called Archippus a fellow soldier. Let’s think about the term fellow soldier. Paul called himself a soldier. He said that Archippus was a fellow soldier, meaning Archippus was serving beside Paul as a soldier of Jesus Christ. That’s a reflection of the idea that as Christians we are servants of the Lord Jesus Christ. When we do evangelism, we’re not merely selling eternal life. We are recruiting people to serve our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 

Let’s review what we’ve looked at. There are two misconceptions in Christianity. It’s very common in evangelicalism to say that as Christians, we need to build community, but that’s not the correct analogy. The Bible does not call us neighbors or friends in Christ. The Bible calls us brothers and sisters in Christ. 

The second misconception in evangelicalism is that when we do evangelism, we usually have the mindset that we are selling eternal life. While there’s truth to that, it is not complete. What we really need to do when we do evangelism is recruit people to serve our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. One of the benefits of serving Jesus is we receive eternal life.

We looked at the first three verses of Philemon and saw these two truths reflected in those first three verses. The terms Paul used to refer to himself, Timothy, and the people he was writing to are terms that reflect the fact that as Christians we are servants of the Lord Jesus Christ. Those terms also reflect the fact that as Christians, we are brothers and sisters in Christ. 

As we go about our lives as followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, let’s make sure we understand that as Christians, we are family. Likewise, when we do evangelism, we are not merely selling eternal life. We are recruiting people to serve the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The benefit of that is we get to serve someone greater than ourselves and another benefit is we receive eternal life. 

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Scripture quotations from Philemon taken from a translation by Bible Mountain.

“All other Scripture quotations taken from the New American Standard Bible®,
Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973,
1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation
Used by permission.” (www.Lockman.org)