Tuesday after the Fifteenth Sunday after Trinity Sunday
Scripture: Philemon 1:1-25 (NKJV)
1:1 Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother,
To Philemon our beloved friend and fellow laborer, 2 to the beloved Apphia, Archippus our fellow soldier, and to the church in your house:
3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
4 I thank my God, making mention of you always in my prayers, 5 hearing of your love and faith which you have toward the Lord Jesus and toward all the saints, 6 that the sharing of your faith may become effective by the acknowledgment of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus. 7 For we have great joy and consolation in your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed by you, brother.
8 Therefore, though I might be very bold in Christ to command you what is fitting, 9 yet for love’s sake I rather appeal to you—being such a one as Paul, the aged, and now also a prisoner of Jesus Christ—10 I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten while in my chains, 11 who once was unprofitable to you, but now is profitable to you and to me.
12 I am sending him back. You therefore receive him, that is, my own heart, 13 whom I wished to keep with me, that on your behalf he might minister to me in my chains for the gospel. 14 But without your consent I wanted to do nothing, that your good deed might not be by compulsion, as it were, but voluntary. 15 For perhaps he departed for a while for this purpose, that you might receive him forever, 16 no longer as a slave but more than a slave—a beloved brother, especially to me but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.
17 If then you count me as a partner, receive him as you would me. 18 But if he has wronged you or owes anything, put that on my account. 19 I, Paul, am writing with my own hand. I will repay—not to mention to you that you owe me even your own self besides. 20 Yes, brother, let me have joy from you in the Lord; refresh my heart in the Lord. 21 Having confidence in your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I say.
22 But, meanwhile, also prepare a guest room for me, for I trust that through your prayers I shall be granted to you.
23 Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, greets you, 24 as do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, Luke, my fellow laborers.
25 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.
The apostolic office is the means by which the Lord delivers grace to the saints. For this reason, the Lord Jesus chose the twelve and sent them into all the world: that they would deliver the grace of God which was won by Christ on the cross, and everyone who heard and believed the words of the apostles concerning the Christ were saved. When St. Paul writes his epistle to Philemon, he writes as an apostle—one chosen by the Lord Jesus to deliver the grace of God by preaching the Gospel of the Christ.
Therefore, when St. Paul declares to Philemon the grace of the Lord Jesus, it is more than a pious wish; the epistle itself, written by the hand of the apostle, which teaches and confirms the saving faith in Christ which Philemon already possesses, actually delivers the grace of God to him.
The called and ordained pastors of the Church are the heirs of that apostolic office, of which St. Paul was a member. Likewise, the grace of God is delivered to the saints when the pastor preaches the Word of God and administers the sacraments. The faithful pastor is the Lord Jesus’ chosen means through which He speaks to His people, even as the Augsburg Confession declares, “That we may obtain this faith, the Office of Teaching the Gospel and administering the Sacraments was instituted” (Article V:1).
We pray: O Lord, we beseech Thee, let Thy continual pity cleanse and defend Thy Church; and because it cannot continue in safety without Thy help, preserve it evermore by Thy help and goodness; through Jesus Christ. Amen.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.