Devotionals April 8 – May 7, 2020
April 8 Read Titus 1:1
Paul likely wrote his epistle to Titus around AD 62–64, during the time between his first imprisonment in Rome and his second imprisonment (ultimately resulting in his execution). Paul had been forced to leave the church at Crete sooner than he had planned, but he left behind his friend and colleague, Titus, to continue working in the fledgling church. This letter was meant to encourage and instruct not just Titus, but the entire congregation in Crete.
In his greeting, Paul reminds the reader that he had been called to be an apostle in order to encourage the elect in their faith and impart to them the knowledge that leads to godliness. This was also the calling of Titus as the missionary pastor of the Cretan church. Although these new Christians believed the truth, in many ways their lives still resembled the wicked world around them. Is this a problem that you face in your life as well? I encourage you to take the time today to read through the entire book of Titus and notice how many times the central theme of godliness is emphasized.
Sing or pray Psalter #90.
April 9 Read Titus 1:2–3
God cannot lie. This little phrase tucked into Titus 1:2 carries so much assurance for the believer. Our faith is based on the promises of a God who is unable to lie and who cannot change his mind. Therefore, the Bible, the word of God, is absolutely true as well. God states in his word that his promises are true, and we have evidence from the history of the church and God’s work in our own lives that he is faithful to keep his promises.
As sinners we are undeserving of this faithfulness, because we do lie and break our promises. Yet God in his grace still keeps his promises to his people. He promised to send his Son to save his people from their sins. He promises eternal life in a kingdom that will never be conquered or destroyed. Our heavenly Father graciously uses the preaching of the gospel to bring his elect people to faith and remind them of these great promises. Thank God today for his trustworthiness and for the gift of pastors who bring us the promises of the gospel each week.
Sing or pray Psalter #187.
April 10 Read Titus 1:4
Titus was a close friend and trusted colleague of the apostle Paul. We read of him serving with Paul in several different cities. We also read of Paul entrusting critical tasks to him on several different occasions, such as organizing a collection in Corinth, dealing with the conflict between Paul and the Corinthian Christians, and here taking charge of organizing the Cretan church and dealing with the troubles there. He seems to be a faithful, godly man who had been given gifts of leadership and organization. If Paul had a problem, he was confident that Titus could help. What a blessing he was to the early church!
It is important to note that Titus was a Gentile Greek and Paul was a Jew. In Galatians 2 it is mentioned that Titus was not circumcised. Before his conversion Paul would have had nothing to do with someone like Titus. Yet now they were both saved by grace and brothers in Christ. Paul even calls Titus “mine own son” (v. 4). As part of the united body of Christ, we are all brothers and sisters, no matter how different we seem to be.
Sing or pray Psalter #369.
April 11 Read Titus 1:5–6
Since circumstances had forced Paul to leave the church at Crete before it was completely organized, he trusted his faithful co-laborer Titus to complete the task. One of the most important things for Titus to take care of was the ordination of elders in each city. In this portion of the first chapter, Paul reminds Titus that elders need to be appointed and goes into detail about why elders are necessary and what kind of men are appropriate for church leadership.
The first qualification for an elder that is mentioned here is that he must have a peaceful family life. This emphasizes the fact that church and family are inseparable. The church is fundamentally one large family made up of many different families. The roles of men and women in the church are similar to their roles in marriage as well. Therefore, good, faithful family leadership is an indicator of good, faithful church leadership potential. “For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?” (1 Tim. 3:5).
Sing or pray Psalter #278.
April 12 Read Titus 1:7–8
The next qualification for an elder that Paul emphasizes is blameless personal conduct. This means that the man has not been accused of wrongdoing by others in the church. He must not be overbearing or quick-tempered. He must not be a drunk, a violent man, or one who is dishonest in his business dealings. Rather, he must be generous and self-controlled. He must be honest in his dealings with others, have a close relationship with God, and be disciplined. Although no man will be perfect in all these aspects, it is important that men who are officebearers show that they are pursuing godliness to the best of their ability as empowered by the Holy Spirit.
The blameless man that I just described is not the kind of man that the world applauds and appreciates. In fact, they would probably call him boring and old-fashioned. But this is the kind of man that Paul sought to serve as an elder in the Cretan church. And it is also the kind of man that we should seek to fill the leadership positions in our churches.
Sing or pray Psalter #2.
April 13 Read Titus 1:9–10
The last qualification for an elder that Paul mentions is the man’s gospel stance. A man who is equipped to be a leader in the church must have a firm hold on the truth of the scriptures and recognize their trustworthiness. He must know and understand the word of God and be able to teach it to others. A man who is “[h]olding fast the faithful word” (v. 9) is one who does not compromise sound doctrine to cater to the feelings or opinions of other people.
The elders of a church are called to use the gospel that they hold fast in both a positive and negative way. Positively, they must use the truth of the gospel to encourage the congregation. Christians who are struggling with the attacks of Satan and their own weakness need to hear the hopeful message of the kindness and love of God. Negatively, elders must also use the truth of the gospel as a tool to refute heretics. They must be the diligent watchmen of the church, keeping an eye and ear out for the threat of false doctrine.
Sing or pray Psalter #42.
April 14 Read Titus 1:10–12
As we noticed yesterday, a very important part of a Christian leader’s calling is to oppose false teaching. False teachers must be silenced because their deceptive words have the power to draw people away from God. They may try subtly to twist the meaning of certain scripture passages or even replace the authority of scripture with something else entirely. Yet some people are willing to listen, because false teachers say things that people want to hear. They prey on the natural self-centeredness of man.
The people of the island of Crete were well known for their propensity towards dishonesty, and the false teachers used this to their advantage. Dishonesty was identified as part of their national character, in the same way that British people are generally known to be more reserved or German people are usually more disciplined. Be aware that the devil knows our flaws. He uses false teachers to tempt us in just the right way that appeals to our unique weaknesses. What is a lie that you are prone to believing? What truth from scripture can you use to fight against this deception?
Sing or pray Psalter #103.
April 15 Read Titus 1:13
False teachers must be sharply rebuked. Heresy is a serious matter and not to be taken lightly. The prevailing belief in today’s postmodern society is that anyone should be able to believe whatever they think is right. We must be careful not to let that attitude creep into the church as well. Although there are certain gray areas in matters of Christian liberty, the basic truth of the gospel is black and white. There is true doctrine and false doctrine, and the difference between them is a big deal—a matter of eternal life or eternal death.
The sharp rebuke that Paul commands in verse 13 is not motivated by hatred for those who have gone astray, but by love and a desire for repentance. By the power of God even false teachers and their followers can be rescued from error. They can once again be “sound in the faith” (v. 13). And we must remember that it is only by God’s grace that we ourselves will be kept from falling into error. Therefore, we rebuke others in love, not with a superior attitude but a humble one.
Sing or pray Psalter #328.
April 16 Read Titus 1:14–16
From the context of verse 14, we can conclude that the false teaching in Crete was related to Jewish legalism. This makes the meaning of verse 15 more clear. Paul is pointing out to the Cretan people that, contrary to what the false teachers said, they could not obtain purity by following certain man-made rules or customs. “The pure” refers to those who have been washed in the blood of Christ. “Them that are defiled” refers to those who are reprobate. For the elect, “all things are pure,” meaning they are free from the bondage of the Old Testament Jewish laws.
We also need to remember that following the customs of our social group or just trying harder to be “good people” is not a way that we can earn salvation or favor from God. Outward rituals and purity have no benefit unless we are first made pure from within by faith in Jesus Christ. As Jesus teaches in Matthew 15:19–20, “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: These are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man.”
Sing or pray Psalter #401.
April 17 Read Titus 2:1–2
Belief in a false gospel will result in ungodly living. Contrary to the false teachers, Paul instructs Titus to preach faithfully about “the things which become sound doctrine” (v. 1), meaning a godly life. This godly life that is in accordance with the gospel is the natural fruit of hearing and believing the truth. In the verses following, some of the basic principles of Christian living for men and women, young and old, are set forth, beginning with a focus on older men.
A mature man is encouraged to be self-controlled in all aspects of his life and to behave in a way that is worthy of honor. He is to show wisdom when making decisions about himself, his family, and the church. This godly behavior results from inwardly being sound in doctrine and filled with the fruits of the Holy Spirit, such as love and patience, in his heart. Young men, can you think of an older man in your life who displays some or all of these characteristics? What can you learn from his life? How can you cultivate these godly traits in your own life?
Sing or pray Psalter #69.
April 18 Read Titus 2:3
The life of a godly older woman must be marked by self-control, not self-indulgence. Many women whose children are grown naturally find themselves with extra free time that they did not have in their youth. This time must not be filled with the pursuit of earthly pleasures, such as drinking to excess, or by engaging in activities that are harmful to the church, such as gossip and slander. Rather, Paul encourages these older women to devote their time to teaching the younger women. This teaching can be done directly by offering personal advice and indirectly by simply being an active example of godliness.
For a beneficial mentoring relationship to develop between the older and younger women in the church, both age groups must put forth effort. Younger women must be willing to seek out advice from older women instead of turning to the latest self-help book or a popular Facebook group. Young women, do you have a godly older woman in your life that you consider to be your mentor? If not, think about how you could develop a relationship with an older woman from your church.
Sing or pray Psalter #172.
April 19 Read Titus 2:4–5
The image of the ideal young mom that is set before us today idolizes appearances. This mom is always taking her adorably dressed kids to all the coolest places. She has gotten her pre-pregnancy body back and would love to tell you what products she used to do it. In her perfectly decorated kitchen, every night she cooks delicious, healthy dinners that look like they should be on the table at a five-star restaurant. How do you know all this about her? Because she takes the time to snap pictures of everything that she does and post them on social media several times a day.
The godly young mother that is described in Titus 2 will not often pop up in your social media feed, but you will hear her name from the lips of those she has helped and served. Her faithful work is evident from the fact that her husband and children are loved and well cared for and she maintains a home that they are eager to return to each afternoon. She honors God by showing self-control and not trying to exercise authority over her husband. Young women, which of these mothers do you aspire to be?
Sing or pray Psalter #271.
April 20 Read Titus 2:6–8
The pattern of godly living for young men is summed up in one phrase, “sober minded” (v. 6), which has a similar meaning to “self-control.” One helpful definition for self-control that I found was “the ability to regulate one’s emotions, thoughts, and behavior in the face of temptations and impulses.” Young men, full of strength and energy, often channel their vigor into all the wrong things. They must be encouraged to use wisdom when making decisions by thinking about how they can serve God instead of themselves.
I do not think that it is a coincidence that the verses directly following Paul’s exhortation to young men speak about how important it was for Titus to be a godly example to the people of Crete. This is especially key for young men. Teachers and parents alike will tell you that most young men (and young women) do not like simply to be told what to do. A more effective way of teaching them to have self-control is to encourage and nurture them through mentoring relationships and to be a godly example in your own life for them to observe.
Sing or pray Psalter #428.
April 21 Read Titus 2:9–10
The next section on godly living is particularly addressed to slaves, because they were a common part of many households in first-century Crete. One application that we should not make from this passage is that the practice of owning slaves is condoned in the Bible. Rather we should recognize that this exhortation refers to situations where God has placed someone in a position of authority over us. In ancient times that could have been slavery, but we can also make application to our modern employers and workplaces. Christians today are called to labor faithfully in order to show the beauty of the gospel to those around us, just as the slaves were in the households of Crete.
Do your fellow employees know, based on your behavior at work, that you are a Christian? Is your reputation one of a hardworking, respectful, honest, and trustworthy employee? The conduct of a Christian in the workplace should not be motivated by individual materialism, but by bringing glory to God. As an employee, do you “adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things” (v. 10)?
Sing or pray Psalter #246.
April 22 Read Titus 2:11
So why should men be sober and self-controlled? Why should women be kind and serve their families? Why should servants be subject to their masters? We can see that verse 11 has the answer to these questions, because it follows the exhortations about godly conduct and begins with the conjunction “for,” which has a similar meaning to “because.” Our motivation for godly living is the fact that “the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men.” We know that the grace of God is responsible for our salvation; it is not a product of our own godliness. But the wonder of this saving grace does inspire godly living in those who receive it. By the power of this grace those who have been redeemed can endeavor to live a life that is God-centered instead of self-centered.
This undeserving grace that God shows to his people is personified in the sending of his Son. It is so amazing that the salvation which all of the Old Testament stories and pictures represented came as a wonderful reality in the incarnation, death, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ!
Sing or pray Psalter #394.
April 23 Read Titus 2:12–14
Grace has the power to change the way that we think. It teaches us to abhor sin and love Christlike living. Grace has the power to change what we place our trust in. It teaches us to look beyond this life and to hope in the promise of the glorious second coming of Jesus Christ and the eternal life that will follow for God’s people. Grace has the power to change our hearts. The sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross sets us free from the dominion of sin, so that we are not bound by the false teachings of legalism or antinomianism.
As God’s elect people, we experience his grace by the transforming presence of the Holy Spirit in our hearts that enables us to live in a godly way. But this transformation will never be complete during our life on this earth. Yet we may look forward to the blessed hope of a full transformation in heaven. Only then will we truly be transformed into the image of God and able to glorify and serve him perfectly for eternity.
Sing or pray Psalter #38.
April 24 Read Titus 2:15–3:2
In these verses, Paul reminds the members of the churches in Crete (and us as well) of the duty that Christians have to honor and obey our government officials as authorities that God has set in place over us. Some people tend to idolize freedom from government restrictions, but true freedom comes from obedience to God’s commands, not resisting authority. God has commanded us, “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers…the powers that be are ordained of God” (Rom. 13:1).
With another election season upon us, it is good to keep this in mind. Resentment and aggression as a result of discontent with political leaders is a hindrance to a healthy spiritual life. Following the example of Jesus, we must be obedient and loyal citizens, living with the understanding that we are only pilgrims on this earth. We must show love to our neighbors and seek peace, not confrontation. Do you have a respectful attitude towards the political leaders of our country? Does this show in the way that you speak or type about them? Do you keep them in your prayers?
Sing or pray Psalter #402.
April 25 Read Titus 3:3
In our lives on this earth, Christians should be characterized by a humble attitude when dealing with our neighbors. This is described in the previous verse as “shewing all meekness unto all men.” True humility comes from remembering our natural depravity. We need to remember that we were dead in sin, enslaved to our own passions and desires and unable to keep God’s commandments. Question and answer 8 of the Heidelberg Catechism reminds us that, “except we are regenerated by the Spirit of God,” we are “so corrupt that we are wholly incapable of doing any good, and inclined to all wickedness.”
The way that we can remember our own depravity is by studying the law of God. The law shows us our sin by setting forth a standard for godly living that we will never be able to follow perfectly in this life. God’s commandments show us that we cannot live a godly life in our own strength. They remind us to have a humble attitude towards others, because we are also in desperate need of a savior. Pray that God will work this humble attitude in your own heart.
Sing or pray Psalter #143.
April 26 Read Titus 3:4–6
In his kindness and love, God sent a savior to rescue his people from their hopelessly depraved state. The kindness that we are called to show to others flows from this love that has been shown to us. “And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” (Eph. 4:32). If we have been forgiven so much, why are we so quick to hold grudges against those who have wronged us in relatively small ways?
Thankfully, God does not save his people based on their ability to show kindness and forgiveness to others, but on account of his own mercy. He changes our hearts by giving us the Holy Spirit so that we are washed, reborn, and renewed by the Spirit. This Spirit has the power to give new life to even the most sinful person. Paul, the author of this letter and former persecutor of the church, could attest to that fact. In 1 Timothy 1:15 he confesses, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.” This confession is ours as well.
Sing or pray Psalter #204.
April 27 Read Titus 3:7
When the Holy Spirit works saving faith in us, we are justified by the grace of God, on the basis of the work of Jesus Christ on the cross. As we read in verse 5 yesterday, our justification is not based on our own works. But what exactly does it mean to be justified? It means that in his grace, God has declared that we are legally righteous before him. The great judge has declared us to be not guilty.
Those who have been justified experience many benefits in addition to the forgiveness of sin. “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:1). We are made children of God by adoption, so that we have all the privileges and rights of an heir. And as heirs, God’s children have the right to eternal life. No earthly inheritance can even begin to compare with the glorious privilege of living forever in Zion with our heavenly Father.
Sing or pray Psalter #76.
April 28 Read Titus 3:8
The section of verses that we have been reading the past few days forms an overview of the full, trustworthy message of the gospel. Paul reminds Titus that, as a pastor, he is responsible for constantly teaching these doctrines to the people of Crete and reminding them of the right response to their salvation—a life of good works to the glory of God. Our pastors today are also tasked with this calling.
A life of good works is not an easy thing. It requires great devotion, as pointed out by the phrase “be careful to maintain good works.” And most importantly, it requires the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts. Without the Spirit we could not even do one good work. Even the holiest of God’s children have only a small beginning of obedience in this life, and their good works are still tainted with sin. But that does not mean we should give up trying. Matthew 5:16 reminds Christians to “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”
Sing or pray Psalter #244.
April 29 Read Titus 3:9–11
How can you tell the difference between profitable and unprofitable teaching? Profitable teaching will set forth the truth of the gospel and sound doctrine through careful exegesis of scripture. Profitable teaching makes you look away from yourself and focus more on God and what he has done for you. Profitable teaching results in the hearers striving towards Christlike character and good works, as we saw yesterday in verse 8.
In contrast, the unprofitable and vain teaching that Paul warns against in these verses is focused on foolish, trivial disputes rather than the truth of the gospel. As commentator William Barclay writes, “It is much easier to discuss theological questions than to be kind and considerate and helpful at home, or efficient and diligent and honest at work.” The fruit of this kind of teaching is selfishness and disunity in the church.
If you recognize unprofitable teaching in your church, you must follow the pattern of Matthew 18 to rebuke the false teacher. If he does not repent, he must be cast out. There is no room in the true church for those who try to draw people away from God by creating unnecessary division and controversy.
Sing or pray Psalter #325.
April 30 Read Titus 3:12–15
By following the pattern of godly living set forth in the book of Titus, we can lead a life that is a blessing to others and brings honor to God’s name. Although we will never be perfect at leading a productive, godly life, this must not discourage us. We must pray for the helping grace of God to work in our hearts and lives by the presence of his Holy Spirit. We can learn from reading scripture and studying the sound doctrines which encourage godliness. And we can gain wisdom and spiritual maturity as we grow older.
Maintaining good works does require effort on our part. It must be a priority; otherwise our lives will very quickly fill up with the unfruitful and self-absorbed activities of this world. “As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him: Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving” (Col. 2:6–7).
Sing or pray Psalter #36.
May 1 Read Philemon 1–4
The book of Philemon was written by Paul to his close friend. It concerns the matter of Philemon’s escaped slave, Onesimus. This letter is also addressed to Apphia, Philemon’s wife, most likely because in ancient Colossae the task of governing household slaves was usually part of a wife’s duties. Also mentioned in the greeting is Archippus, who was probably their son or a fellow pastor. Even though it is personal in nature, this letter was meant to be read by the church that Philemon hosted in his home and also by the church today for instruction on brotherly love and forgiveness.
In this book, and in his epistles to the Romans, Ephesians, and Thessalonians, Paul tells various saints that he makes mention of them in his prayers. This sentiment was likely included in many other unpublished personal letters Paul wrote throughout his life as well. One of the most loving things you can do for your friends and family is to make mention of them often in your prayers. Praying for others is an essential part of the communion of the saints (James 5:13–20).
Sing or pray Psalter #339.
May 2 Read Philemon 5–7
In his prayers for Philemon and his fellow Christians, Paul thanks God for their faith and love in the Lord Jesus Christ, which was evidenced by the love that they showed to their neighbors. He rejoices that “the bowels of the saints are refreshed” (v. 7) by Philemon. This could mean that Philemon and his household offered encouragement, prayed for them, or cared for their physical needs. But in all these things Paul also prays that Philemon’s communication of the gospel message is effective.
Philemon recognized that God had met his spiritual needs through his salvation by grace, so he willingly shared this gospel with others by hosting a church in his home and encouraging other saints. He also recognized that God had met his physical needs in abundance, so he willingly shared his earthly goods with others. Every Christian has been richly blessed by God both spiritually and physically. How can you use your own salvation to share the gospel with others? How can you use your physical blessings to show love to your neighbors and refresh your fellow saints?
Sing or pray Psalter #228.
May 3 Read Philemon 8–11
Onesimus was a slave who had fled to Rome in order to escape his master. We do not know whether he intentionally sought out Paul while he was there or whether it was providential coincidence, but it was likely intentional, because Paul was being held under house arrest by the Roman government. Under his godly influence, Onesimus was eventually brought to faith and began to care for the needs of Paul. Paul was not only a friend of Onesimus’ master; he had also been influential in his conversion to the Christian faith. Paul appeals to his dear friend and fellow brother in Christ to be merciful to Onesimus.
It is interesting to note that the name Onesimus actually means “beneficial” or “profitable.” In verse 11 Paul points out to Philemon that now that Onesimus was a Christian, he could truly live up to the meaning of his name. Those who are unsanctified are unprofitable in every way. Like Onesimus, by nature we are completely useless and without a purpose. But in Christ, we are made to be useful and given a true purpose in life—to glorify God!
Sing or pray Psalter #141.
May 4 Read Philemon 12–14
As a leader in the church at this time, Paul could just have commanded Philemon to set Onesimus free. But instead Paul had sent Onesimus back to his master with this letter so that Philemon could willingly release him from service to attend to Paul in Rome. Paul wanted Philemon to make this decision himself, guided by the Holy Spirit and motivated by love for his neighbor. This decision would affirm Philemon’s Christian character and show his spiritual maturity.
Just as Paul would take great joy in the obedience of Philemon (v. 20), God also delights in the cheerful obedience of his people (2 Cor. 9:7). What greater motivation for godly living does a Christian have than the pleasure of our heavenly Father? Yet while on this earth, we still daily struggle with sin in our hearts and minds. So also daily we must pray that God will fill our hearts and minds with love for him and the desire to do what is right according to God’s word. 2 Corinthians 9:8 reminds us that his grace is the cause of all goodness in us.
Sing or pray Psalter #163.
May 5 Read Philemon 15–16
We do not know exactly why Onesimus ran away from Philemon. From Paul’s evaluation of Philemon’s character in this epistle, we can assume that he was a kind and fair master, so Onesimus was not being mistreated. Perhaps it was because he feared the consequences of a crime he had committed. In verses 18–19 Paul offers to pay back whatever Onesimus owed Philemon, so he may have stolen money from the household. No matter the exact circumstances, Philemon had experienced some financial loss and inconvenience because of his escaped slave.
But there was a sovereign design to Onesimus’ misdeeds. Paul reminds Philemon in verses 15–16 that his loss resulted in Onesimus’ eternal salvation, which is far more important than any earthly cost. Has someone in your life stolen from you or sinned against you in some other way? God has a purpose in the hurt that you have experienced, even if you cannot see what it is right now. “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!” (Rom. 11:33).
Sing or pray Psalter #400.
May 6 Read Philemon 17–19
In Paul’s letter of intercession for Onesimus we see many parallels to the intercession of Jesus Christ for us. Despite Onesimus’ rebellion, Paul was willing to intercede for Onesimus and have a close relationship with him. We also were living in rebellion against God and daily increasing our debt to him by sinning. But God sent his Son Jesus to be our mediator, deliver us from the power of sin, and make us his own people.
Paul’s offer in verses 18–19 to compensate Philemon for any loss or debt that Onesimus owed him is a beautiful picture of what Jesus has done for us. The justice of God demands that we be punished for our sins, but Jesus stands before God and says, “Charge it to my account instead.” He took upon himself our debt of sin so that we could be free from the guilt and punishment that we deserve. I encourage you to take the time to read Isaiah 53 today and contemplate how Jesus Christ, as our mediator and advocate, paid a debt that we were unable to pay.
Sing or pray Psalter #398.
May 7 Read Philemon 20–25
It would have been unheard of in Philemon’s day for a master to receive back a runaway slave without punishing him severely. Slaveowners were free to treat their slaves however they wanted without fear of repercussion. And it was even more unheard of for a master to set a slave free. If Philemon were to agree to Paul’s request, he would probably face a lot of backlash from his community. Fear of a slave uprising was common in those days, since slaves comprised between a fifth and a third of the population of most cities. Paul’s request was a difficult one, which is why he includes many convincing arguments in his letter to Philemon.
Are you willing to make a personal sacrifice in order to help a fellow brother or sister in Christ? Are you willing to face ridicule or lose social standing? Are you willing to make do with less to give to someone in need? Pray that God will give you a heart of kindness and generosity so that you may show sacrificial love to your neighbor and bring glory to his name.
Sing or pray Psalter #335.
Originally published April 2020, Vol 79 No 4