by Roby Ellis
[Scripture Reading: 1 Corinthians 7:20-23]
A. In Paul’s letter to Philemon, we read about the conversion of a slave named Onesimus, whom Paul returned to his earthly master along with some letters he had written (Philemon 10-12; Colossians 4:7-9).
B. Although many slaveholders used this letter to endorse slavery as it existed in the old south, nothing could be further from the truth.
I. Consider with me the story of a man named Zoilos.
A. Zoilos lived within about fifty miles and fifty years of Onesimus in the city of Aphrodisias.
B. Zoilos had been a slave, owned by Julius Caesar and released by Augustus.
C. Zoilos was not only fortunate enough to win his freedom, but also great wealth with which he benefitted his hometown.
II. How does Zoilos’ condition compare to that of Onesimus?
A. Both benefitted from the favor of a highly influential person (Philemon 8-10,18-20; Colossians 4:9).
B. Whether or not Philemon ever emancipated Onesimus, he was free (1 Corinthians 7:22; Galatians 3:28-29).
C. Unlike Zoilos, Onesimus probably never knew the emperor, but he was known by God (1 Corinthians 8:3; Galatians 4:8-9).
A. Between these two men, which do you think fared better: the one returned to his bonds or the one released?
B. Do you want to enjoy the liberty that comes from placing yourself under the yoke of Christ (Matthew 11:29-30)?