The last implication held out for us in Philemon 1-7 is this:
2) Philemon’s life doesn’t only show us that if we’re true we should have a love for Christ and His Church. Philemon’s life shows us more. Philemon’s life shows us the normal pattern for all believers is to be laboring within the Church.
v6-7 show how Philemon was not only a spectator, attendee, and member of the Church, but that he was involved in the lives of the people, being used by God to refresh His people. This is the normal pattern for all believers. I want to say something here that may catch you off guard: “If you aren’t helping others follow Jesus, I don’t know what you mean when you say you’re following Jesus.” (Mark Dever)
I mean, why do you go to Church? Do you think Church is just about what you can get out of it? Is it just about how myself and the other elders, or the worship team, or the Bible studies cater to your needs? Is it just what we can offer your kids? I hope not. If you’re here and not seeking to help others follow Jesus, you’re nothing more than a barnacle on the bottom of the church boat. If you’re a barnacle don’t be afraid we’ll all still love you for sure, but you can be sure of this – we won’t let you settle for something less than Biblical reality, and because of that we’ll keep pressing into you in as many ways as we can think to get you moved from a barnacle on the bottom of the boat just along for the ride to a worker on deck.
I want all those in my church (and all those in every true church) to be like water to a weary hiker, to be a refreshment to others. That’s how a congregation thrives and how a congregation reaches a city, by asking God to make us a refreshment to the community He’s placed us in.
You can see the temptation here right? In yearning to be a refreshment to our city many churches have watered down the gospel, gotten rid of Church discipline, and put the Bible out of plain sight, and by so doing they’ve have lost the very thing which God intends to refresh the world with – Himself, His Truth, His Word. Could we be a people who are relevant to our community not be removing the Bible but by remembering the Truth that God has been building His Church with for ages?
While we don’t have all the details here in these 7 verses it is crystal clear that Philemon’s life has been radically changed because of the gospel. He now exists to serve His master, the Lord Jesus, by ministering to others. This is what the gospel does. Philemon’s not refreshing in and of himself. You or I are not refreshing in and of ourselves. The thing refreshing about Philemon is the gospel, flowing into us, and flowing through us to others.
May God do such a work among us in our cities.