Lesson 32: "Prepare Me Also a Lodging" (Philemon v.22)
Paul's Prison Epistles. This is lesson #32. With this lesson we hope to close out the book of Philemon and with this lesson we shall close out our study of Paul's Prison Epistles also. Those books written while Paul was connected to that chain, in his own hired house, in or near, the imperial prison. Now, we won't use this lesson to review all of that; but, as YOU close out this study and as YOU think back over these four books and as YOU come back to them from time to time for study, YOU need to keep this background in the foreground.
Just so we can say we read it all, let's read right now, Philemon v.22- 25, the rest of the book. Have you got it? Here we go, let's read: "But withal prepare me also a lodging: for I trust that through your prayers I shall be given unto you. There salute thee Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus; Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, Luke, my fellow laborers. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen."
O.K., I think you recognize this list of men... sending greetings to Philemon...as the same list that is appendaged at the end of Colossians. We mentioned each of them briefly as we closed out Colossians, so I won't repeat myself here. It was about this time, if not at this very moment, that Luke was engaged in writing the book of ACTS. I mentioned this before. Why do I repeat it? You need to hang on to this as a bench mark. The book of ACTS was apparently written after the book of LUKE since those two books form a series, you remember. It was this Mark that wrote the book of MARK also. Just when Mark wrote the book of MARK is not so easy to determine; but, I would assume it was written after this time (i.e. after A.D. 62). Information in the N.T. is not adequate to get a perfect chronological outline of all books as they came about, step by step, in the first century. However, to get that outline in mind to the extent it is covered is a great help in trying to rightly divide these things. Verse 25, the last verse (here) is a sentence common to all of Paul's epistles, I trust you recognize and remember; very similar to that sentence or phrase at the beginning of every epistle, for example, making up v.3 in Philemon.
Now, as we try to bring this series to a conclusion; let me ask you, what did you learn? What have we covered. Review with me a moment, please. Paul wrote a letter to the Christians as Ephesus which at that time was a large city on the western edge of Asia Minor, a hundred miles west of Colossae, the center of the Diana cult that worshipped little silver idols. Paul had established that congregation and spent three years there. I suggest you turn the tape player off a minute, put your head down on your desk and ask your self: What did Paul write to the Ephesians? In other words, do your own mental review. He told them: you were lost in trespasses and sins; but now, God hath quickened you (2:1). It's a gift (2:8). Then down in ch. 4, he began what we called a practical section: keep the unity of the spirit (v.4), be renewed in the spirit of your mind (v.23), put away from you all these things: do you remember his listing? Speak to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. Wives, submit yourselves.. .Husbands, love your wives.. .Children obey... servants do this...masters do this. As he drew toward closing the letter, he said (6:10), "Finally my brethren, be strong in the Lord." Isn't that a pretty good, one sentence review?
While you've got your head down, go on to Philippians. To the Christians at Philippi, Lydia, the Philippian Jailer and that congregation Paul and Silas had established on the second missionary journey; but, had to leave town in the very infancy of that congregation. It seems they had less problems than any other congregation from the spiritual point of view; however, Paul had a few warnings for them also. They had sent Paul a gift by Epaphroditus and as Paul wrote a "thank you note" he used that phrase "finally, my brethren" a couple times (3:1, 4:8). Finally what Paul? Keep it positive, strengthen what you have...keep on keeping on. Think on these things... things true, honest, just, pure and lovely, i.e. positive things.
Then finally do a quickie review of Colossians. In the first chapter of all three books, Paul mentioned things he had prayed for in their behalf. To the Colossians, Paul said he ceased not to pray for them (1:10), "That ye might walk worthy.. .increasing in the knowledge of God; [listen now] strengthened with all might."
Now, what's the common thread in all three books? Get it right, correct errors, strengthen each other, keep growing, keep growing, keep growing. What's the message to us? You've got it! "We have redemption through [Christ's] blood." (Eph. 1:7). Our sins are removed by an operation of God when we are buried with Christ in baptism. (Col. 2:11-12-13). It's the gospel! The death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. If you are risen with Christ, seek those things which are above... (Col. 3:1). Get away from negative thinking, we discussed in the letter to Philemon. I get so sick of all this whimpering and whining in our day...the devil made me do. I was born with a gene that makes me homosexual... it's not my fault...I'm not responsible...please feel sorry for me. That's the biggest bunch of bunk that ever came out of a research lab. I'm what I am because my parents did this or that to me 25 years ago.. .please feel sorry for me. Viet Nam did this to me 25 years ago, please feel sorry for me. If your parents treated you that way 25 years ago, or any other time, shame on them. If you're still whimpering and whining and wallowing around in self-pity, after six month, (yea, six weekly), shame on you. Shame on you. Do yourself a favor, keep it positive. Happiness is a state of mind. You can be happy without a leg...I've seen people do it. You can be happy and be blind. You can be happy and be broke. Or you can whimper and whine, make a mountain out a mole hill and be miserable all your life BECAUSE you choose to wallow in negative things. If it's happening to you, turn the coin over, do unto others as you would have them do to you. Be a laborer, that's what Philemon was (v.1), Onesimus was a slave. He changed, he was happy to come back to Colossae and be just a slave in the household of Philemon. In Christianity, you are not just a statistic. You are an eternal somebody. There has never been anyone since time began that is the same size, the same shape, the same blood type, and the same everything else you have. You are unique. God made one person like you and that is you. Your station in life may not be a slave as Onesimus was. Your station in life may not be a prison cell, like the apostle Paul. But, you can be a happy, obedient child of God, whereever you are, regardless of your gene pool, how much money you inherited or didn't inherit. Christianity, is or can be, the greatest, most positive force in your life. They were not reaching their potential at Ephesus... or Philippi... or at Colossae. Paul knew it! Most of our society today, either in war or crime go around with a gun trying to take what somebody else has. Why? They think happiness is connected to material things. Real Christians are concerned about others even willing to pay their debts, like Paul said to Philemon. They take advantage of every opportunity to help others (Gal. 6:10). Always, ready to work in His vineyard. Now, the farce is that some go around hypocritically claiming they are Christian, when in fact, they haven't obeyed the first command; let alone having changed and started seeking those things which are above.
Not long ago, a friend of mine, a brother in Christ told me about a horse he once owned. He said he paid a lot of money (a lot of money) for that horse. He took it to a few horse shows. He said, he was proud of his horse. It belonged to him. He sacrificed a lot to pay for it. He fed it well, he housed it well, he papered it, he provided for it. Nothing was too good for this horse. This was not a race horse, it was draft horse, or what you might call a work horse. In the course of events, one morning his little farm truck would not start. So, guess what! He decided to pull the truck a few yards to where he could work on it...you guessed it! with his horse. He harnessed up this beautiful horse, put a chain to the truck and hitched him up. The truck was on level ground and Morton said a couple men could have pushed the truck, not easily maybe; but, the point is that when the truck was out of gear it was well within the capability of the horse. So, he knew from past experience with horses and trucks, it would be just a matter of getting down to it and putting a little push into it for this horse and it would take only a little while. So, he gave the command to pull, start, go. However, the horse looked around at the truck and the horse thought because of the truck's size apparently, it was going to be very hard to pull...may be beyond what he could pull. So, the horse balked. He quit. He would not do what his master asked him to do. He would not even try. He said from that day on, he had trouble getting the horse to pull. He pulled when he wanted to, he balked when he wanted to and he insisted on doing only what he (the horse) wanted to. Finally, the bottom line, he had to get rid of that beautiful horse. He said it about broke his heart to have to give up this horse.
Then, my friend went on to say, this has caused me to think so many times about my Master, the Lord Jesus. He purchased me by great sacrifice, death on the cross. He has given to me and cared for me far beyond my expectations or even what I deserve. He has assured me "my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." In my human wisdom, I have thought some tasks might be beyond my capability; but, I have never balked in his service and somehow, with his help, I have been able to handle every load. It would surely break my Master's heart for him to have to say: "depart from me." Isn't that beautiful. Yes; but, Bro. Horsley, it's just too hard to be a Christian. It's so demanding! It's too hard! May I ask you, compared to what? Life is not exactly easy for those who work two jobs, leave their children with a baby sitter, work so many hours they never have time to study the Bible or attend a single worship service; just so they can buy a few extra labor saving devices, support their habits, or to drive a bigger car. Do you think life is easy for alcoholics, drug users and atheists? Brothers and sisters in Christ, use your time as the Lord has assigned. Use your money as the Lord expects. Don't balk! Don't do it your way! The Lord has not promised a life of leisure, no work, no pain and no problems. But, I'll tell you something, if you will simply make your body a living sacrifice for Jesus (Rom. 12:1), your life will improve far beyond your expectations. Switch to the positive track and simply try your level best to serve the Master. It's still the best life... simply, get away from serving materialism and give up that materialistic grip that inadvertently takes control of your life. Jesus has guaranteed that if you have to give up something for him, he will make up for it many times in this life and in the life to come eternal life. Where do I find that? Luke 18:30-31. Actually, it's not as complicated as you might think. I remember one man and his wife, Christians, that had two fine young sons. They attended the services about half of the time on Sunday mornings. Both the man and his wife smoked more than a pack of cigarettes each day. This man had a pretty good job, the woman worked outside the home and with these two boys, this man on the weekends cut firewood as a sideline. Working people, honest people. Because they worked into all hours of Saturday night, out in the mud and sometimes severe weather, these boys always had a hacking cough, a cold, an injury or something else, which like I said, brought their Sunday morning attendance to about fifty percent. In discussing this and trying to encourage them to attend better; the man told me THEY JUST HAD TO HAVE this extra income to live. After asking him about how many truckloads each year they cut and how much they got paid for each load, I figured out that they were making something in the neighborhood $1,500 a year from this sideline and from this their expenses (chainsaws, gasoline, etc.) took about $300 a year leaving a net take of about $1,200 a year, or $100 a month. Then I pried a little and asked how many packs of cigarettes they smoked each week. With a little arithmetic, multiplying by 52 weeks, and the cost per pack of cigarettes I determined that their smoke bill was just about $1,200 a year or $100 per month. That's right! It cancelled out all their Saturday work and left them paying extra taxes on both the extra income and the cigarettes. In other words, they could quit smoking, sleep to noon every Saturday, have Saturday evening to read the Bible with their boys and get prepared for Sunday worship and actually save money, plus let their trees grow as an investment; to say nothing of their savings in doctor bills. Some things are simply false economy. I'm happy to tell you this young man tried to quit. Is it wrong to smoke? Well, the Bible doesn't mention cigarettes, it doesn't mention tobacco and I'm not trying to put it in there...thou shalt or thou shalt not. The point is simply this, when you decide to forego your Christian duties and concentrate on material things; i.e. put other things first, you play right into the hands of the devil, every time. Paul to the Philippians said about Epaphroditus, "Because for the work of Christ he was nigh unto death, not regarding his life, to supply your lack of service toward me." (Phil. 2:30).
What have you learned in Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians and Philemon? I hope you'll spend a little time thinking about how you can put it to use and then review, review, review. I hope you have enjoyed this study. Beyond that, I hope it's just the beginning of a greater study. I hope we have covered something that will make your life better. If you are not a Christian, the Lord is ready to perform that operation of sin removal in baptism (described in Col. ch. 2) any time you're ready. If you are already a Christian, and you are not as dedicated as you should be...(you know...I don't); why not now? WHY NOT NOW? We can make this a better place to live, a better world, you and I. What's the first step? Teach the Bible. When people learn what the Bible really teaches; they'll change. Faith comes by hearing (Rom. 10:17). The gospel is the power of God (Rom. 1:16). Will you help me? Give out enrollment cards! Some of YOUR friends and neighbors are good honest hearts; but, they have never learned what the Bible really teaches. Let's teach them. Let's make a start. It costs you nothing. It costs them nothing. Who knows where the power of the gospel will reach. I hope (Lord willing) to have another course available on 1 & II Timothy & Titus in the near future. Please pray for me and my help-meet that these courses will spread even faster. Please continue to study, if I can help, let me know. Congratulations on completing another course. Please come and visit us any time. Heaven may be just one heartbeat away. And I say, have a good day.