Phm 1:8-9 “Wherefore, though I might be much bold in Christ to enjoin thee that which is convenient, Yet for love’s sake I rather beseech thee, being such an one as Paul the aged, and now also a prisoner of Jesus Christ.”
In this statement, Paul points to the authority he has as an apostle to make certain demands of Philemon. He indicates that he could be very blunt or outspoken (see Strong’s definition for “bold”) in Christ. We see in many instances in Paul’s writings where he was just that; blunt and outspoken. Certainly, there are situations that require us to be outspoken in our faith in Jesus Christ.
One such situation is in the face of those who call themselves Christian and yet preach to the world that there are other ways to God besides Jesus Christ. In this, brothers and sisters, we need to be bold. Even in our boldness, we need to hold fast to the love of Christ. However, we should never be afraid to openly declare the word of God that no man can come to the Father except by Jesus (Joh 14:6). Neither should we be afraid to declare from the standpoint of His kingdom on earth that Jesus is the only door to the sheepfold (Joh 10:7).
Paul was not dealing with someone who was denying the singular power of Christ. He was dealing with a fellow-laborer and faithful servant of Jesus. Paul knew he had the power to order (enjoin) Philemon to take the proper (convenient) course of action. The indication here is that Philemon would also understand that Paul could bluntly order him to do what was right in Christ.
It is important to understand that Paul was not taking the position of a bully here, but simply standing firm on the principles of grace, mercy, and forgiveness toward brethren who may have wronged us in some way. We need to always remember how the hand of the Lord has been toward us before we raise a hand to a brother or sister. If the situation requires us to be blunt in setting forth a reminder of how Christ has dealt with us, then we should not be afraid to be outspoken. Only let it be done always in love.
It is also important to recognize that an outspoken order is not always necessary or necessarily the best course of action. Rather than exercise a position of authority with a brother who had the church in his house, Paul came in humility and gentleness. He recognized the faithfulness the Philemon had always demonstrated. Paul made himself as a beggar, imploring of Philemon rather than demanding. He took this position “for love’s sake.”
This was not just any love: this was agape love. Paul approached Philemon as one with whom he had feasted on the love of the Savior. Brothers and sisters, we should greatly rejoice when we can come to one another for love’s sake and implore each other to do that which is right in the eyes of the Lord. Scholars place Paul’s age at his death somewhere between 61 and 65 years, but it was not so much his physical age as his maturity in the Spirit that caused him to refer to himself as “Paul the aged (1Co 13:11).” In his maturity, Paul again expressed his position as a captive of Jesus. As a mature prisoner of Jesus Christ, he could implore Philemon, for love’s sake, to do the right thing according to the grace of God.
May we always be bold in the truth and yet remember to approach our faithful brothers and sisters “for love’s sake,” as those who are joyfully bound to the Lord Jesus Christ and have put away childish things!