Friday, August 19, 2011

Charge that to my Account



“Charge that to my account” (Philemon 1:18)

Philemon is a letter that has forgiveness written all throughout it. The letter is short but packed with great theological truths. The main truth: Forgiveness. This is a theological truth that so many of us need to focus on so when the time comes for us to forgive someone (and they will) we can be prepared to respond in a manner worthy of the gospel.

Near the end of the letter Paul is telling Philemon to accept Onesimus as he would accept Paul. Paul had been the Lord’s agent in Philemon’s salvation and we see Philemon has grown in godly character based on what is written throughout the letter. Paul says he has “derived much joy and comfort” from Philemon’s “love” for the saints. He also speaks of Philemon’s great love for the Lord Jesus (5). But Onesimus had committed a great crime against Philemon which was punishable by death at the time yet Paul had confidence in the work Christ had done in the life of Philemon to send Onesimus back to him. Paul is also testifying to the repentance shown in the life of Onesimus since he has runaway. In the Lord’s providence Onesimus and Paul had established a relationship in which Paul was used by the Lord in the salvation of Onesimus as well. Paul knew what had transpired between the Philemon and Onesimus and he also understood the seriousness of the crime committed therefore he acts as a mediator between the two parties. In his mediation we can clearly see how the gospel transforms us into forgiving people.

The Bible is clear that Christians ought to forgive others the way the Lord has forgiven them (Colossians 3:14). The standard is high but it is possible because of the cross. Near the end of Philemon, Paul is recalling the reality of Onesimus great sin in fleeing and potentially stealing from Philemon. He knows Ovesimus is unable to pay back Philemon so he says, “If you consider me your partner, receive [Onesimus] as you would receive me. If he has wronged you at all, or owes you anything, charge that to my account” (17-18). We ought to read these words and instantly be reminded of the gospel. We should see these words and understand that the gospel is practically working itself out. Onesimus, the fleeing rebellious slave represents the sinner enslaved to sin. Philemon is the master from whom the sinner has run from and is rebelling against. Paul is acting as the mediator. He is bringing reconciliation between the two parties. He is pleading to the master to forgive the crime committed. The sinner has a debt he cannot pay back and Paul says, “Charge that to my account.” When I see those words I cannot help but head back to Colossians 2 where Paul writes, “And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross” (13-14).

Christian, we need to understand Onesimus represents all of us. We all rebelled against our Master. Yet in love Christ came to mediate between us and God. Christ came to bring reconciliation between us and God. Christ came so we could be forgiven and set free from the bondage of sin. How? Christ said to the Father on behalf of those who would repent and believe, “Charge that to my account,” which he bore upon the cross and validated by the empty tomb. He takes our sin and we receive his perfect righteousness in exchange. He commands us to forgive the way he has forgiven but it is only because of his forgiveness that we can truly forgive others. This is why we ought to be more amazed by grace.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

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