“Onesimus hasn’t been of much use to you in the past, but now he is very useful to both of us.”Philemon 1:11 (NLT)
Onesimus was a runaway slave. By Roman law, Philemon, his slave owner, could have had him executed for running away. Yet, both Philemon and Onesimus had come to faith in Christ through Paul’s ministry, and Paul tells Philemon,
“I am sending him back to you, and with him comes my own heart. … So if you consider me your partner, welcome him as you would welcome me.” (Vs. 12; 17)
When Paul penned this very personal letter to his friend Philemon, he used a play on words in his appeal for Philemon to forgive Onesimus and accept him back – now as a brother in Christ. In verse 11, Paul writes,
“Onesimus hasn’t been of much use to you in the past, but now he is very useful to both of us.”
Onesimus’ name means “useful.” Through his faith in Christ, this runaway slave had gone from useless to useful! That’s the miracle of grace! God takes what was once useless and makes it useful for His Kingdom!
Paul not only writes to Philemon, but he also sends a letter to the Church in Colossae that probably met in Philemon’s home and says,
“I am also sending Onesimus, a faithful and beloved brother, one of your own people. He and Tychicus will tell you everything that’s happening here.” Colossians 4:9 (NLT)
What a difference grace made in Onesimus’ life and in his relationship to Philemon and the church. Grace transforms our lives and our relationships. It makes us useful to the One who created us and gave His life as a ransom for our sins. In his letter to the church at Colossae, Paul writes,
“In this new life, it doesn’t matter if you are a Jew or a Gentile, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbaric, uncivilized, slave or free. Christ is all that matters and He lives in all of us.” Colossians 3:11 (NLT)
Does Christ live in you? Sin may have left you feeling useless to God, to others and even to yourself. Grace can transform what was once useless to useful when we come to Christ! Receive His life today and become a new creation in Christ.