Note how Paul models the transforming love of the gospel as he asks Philemon to “charge that to my account” (v. 18) since Christ already paid the price for all of them. This gospel paradigm reminds us of the “charge it to my account” that Christ himself has said to us. Likewise, when Paul asks Philemon to “receive him as you would receive me” (v. 17), this request that Philemon regard Onesimus as he would Paul himself draws our minds to the gospel. For in the gospel, God regards us as he would his own Son. God receives us as he would receive Christ.
Ever so gently and subtly, then, Paul’s words undermine the cultural norms that are contrary to the gospel by transforming worldly perspectives with the realities of grace. This grace is so powerful that it makes a slave not only a brother (v. 16) and a partner (v. 17) without debt (v. 18); the slave even becomes one to whom a master becomes indebted by the relational ties of the gospel (v. 19).
This series of posts pairs a brief passage of Scripture with associated study notes drawn from the Gospel Transformation Bible.