"Just and Righteous"
Righteousness - A Biblical Illustration
The Apostle Paul's letter to Philemon provides ones of the most profound New Testament illuminations regarding the dynamic process whereby God's righteousness resident in the heart of believers becomes His righteousness revealed in our hands and feet.
"Paul, a prisoner of Jesus Christ, and Timothy our brother, unto Philemon our dearly beloved, and fellow laborer, and to our beloved Apphia, and Archippus our fellowsoldier, and to the church in thy house: grace to you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ." (Philemon 1:1-3).
Philemon was a friend of Paul, and a convert won to Christ through the Apostle's ministry (Philemon 1:19). Paul writes the epistle to his brother on behalf of Onesimus, an escaped slave owned by Philemon. Onesimus was captured and met the Apostle in prison. The fugitive came to faith in the Lord Jesus, and would upon release return to his owner Philemon. Paul thus writes to plead for Philemon to bestow a gracious welcome upon Onesimus - "Receive him as myself" - and to ask that the escaped slave might be viewed by his owner as an esteemed saint - "Thou shouldest receive him forever; not now as a servant, but above a servant, a brother beloved" (Philemon 1:15-16). Paul seeks grace for Onesimus. Strikingly, he makes his request based on the grace that resides in Philemon:
"I thank my God, making mention of thee always in my prayers, hearing of thy love and faith, which thou hast toward the Lord Jesus, and toward all saints; that the communication of thy faith may become effectual by the acknowledging of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus" (Philemon 1:4-6).
Carefully note the dynamic enabling whereby Paul encourages and challenges Philemon to act in the righteous love of Christ - "the acknowledging of every good thing that is in you in Christ Jesus." First, the Apostle affirms the Lord's presence in Philemon. Then he reminds his friend of the Savior's "every good thing", namely, His nature and character traits. Finally, Paul calls Philemon to consider himself as the dwellingplace of Christ and His traits - "in you in Christ Jesus" (Romans 9:23). Thereby, Philemon's faith will become effectual in the outworking of God's will regarding Onesimus. The reality of Christ's righteousness in Philemon will be realized as he reckons the Truth to be true not only about Christ, but about himself in Christ. This correlates with the oft-stated New Testament call to think rightly about the Lord Jesus, and rightly about ourselves. "Reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 6:11).
We must think Biblically about the Lord Jesus, and about ourselves as united with Him. True faith involves what He does in us, and what we do through Him. Had Paul merely counseled Philemon regarding the good things in Christ, our brother of old would have been left helpless and hapless regarding obedience to God and love for Onesimus. Philemon had to see himself as the repository of Christ's good things, in this case, of the merciful love that enabled him to receive Onesimus as an esteemed brother rather than escaped slave. It was not enough to know that God loved Onesimus. Philemon had to know that through Christ, he could love Onesimus. He had to know righteousness resident in himself - "Christ in you, the hope of glory" - in order to know righteousness revealed by himself - "we shall live with Him by the power of God" (Colossians 1:27; II Corinthians 13:4). This is true and living Christianity, involving both a righteous Redeemer and a righteous receptacle. The former supplies the presence, the life, and and the enabling. The latter responds in faith and expectant submission, again, accounting and affirming "every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus."
"Without Me, ye can do nothing."
"I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me."
Next - Righteousness in Christ - a personal illustration
Weekly Memory Verse
Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.