“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ….God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them….Be ye reconciled to God. For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” (2 Corinthians 5:17-21)
Have you ever heard of Onesimus (oh-NESS-ih-muss)? The apostle Paul wrote a letter for the sake of Onesimus, and that letter was inspired by God to be a part of the New Testament. If you find the book of “Philemon” in your Bible, you can read the whole story, but here it is in a nutshell:
Onesimus was not a powerful king or a famous preacher. In fact, Onesimus’s only claim to fame was that he was an unprofitable servant. He had left his master, Philemon (fai-LEE-munn). Bible scholars think Onesimus had run away or had been sent to prison by Philemon for doing wrong.
But God saved Onesimus during his time away from his master. Onesimus met Paul, and through Paul, Onesimus met Jesus Christ. In his letter to Philemon, Paul describes Onesimus as his own spiritual son, and he asks Philemon to take Onesimus back into his household as a servant again – and not only as a servant, but as a profitable, useful servant. And not only as a profitable, useful servant, but as a much-loved brother and a fellow-laborer in the faith.
Imagine yourself in Onesimus’s situation. The only thing you are known for is being an UN-profitable servant. You have wronged your master, and you haven’t done what you were supposed to do. You have been an unrighteous servant, and no one owes you anything – especially not your master.
Now imagine you read what Paul has written your master: “If thou count me therefore a partner, receive him as myself. If he hath wronged thee, or oweth thee ought, put that on mine account. I Paul have written it with mine own hand, I will repay it.”
The apostle Paul wrote that letter in behalf of Onesimus. He offered to shoulder the blame for anything Onesimus had done wrong. He told Philemon to put Onesimus’s wrongdoings on his account. Paul told Philemon to take Onesimus in as though Philemon were taking in a respected friend and brother like Paul.
How do you think that Paul’s letter made Onesimus feel? He probably felt very special, but it was not because of anything he deserved or earned for himself. If his master let him come home and treated him like a brother, Onesimus would have to realize that it was Paul who patched things up. He would know that Paul was the one helping him to fix that relationship, helping him to get things right with his master.
In the verses at the beginning of the devotional, the word “reconcile” carries that idea of “patching things up” between two people. “While we were yet sinners,” the Bible says, Jesus Christ, Who is God the Son, came to die for us and save us. God Himself came to Earth to reconcile us to Himself. The word “imputed” means that God put our sins on Christ’s account and put Christ’s righteousness on our accounts. Since He was God on Earth, living a perfect human life, Jesus Christ was able to shoulder the blame for all our sins. Through Jesus Christ’s character and sacrifice, God is able to forgive us and adopt us into His family.
If Jesus Christ has reconciled you to God, how should that make you feel? He was able to take the responsibility for you, even though you do not deserve any grace or mercy. All of us, if left to ourselves, are unrighteous servants. We are runaways and rebels, just like Onesimus was. To have Jesus Christ on our side, with His perfect righteousness, going to God on our behalf – that should make us feel special. We ought to be glad that He has made it possible for us to be right with God, for things to be “patched up” between us.
Onesimus is not the star of his reconciliation story, and neither are we the stars of our stories. God is the righteous One Who made it all possible.
Our righteousness and spiritual reconciliation comes from God Himself.
» On my own, can I be a profitable servant?
» How is God’s righteousness “imputed” to me?
» How should I respond when I think about things being “patched up” between me and God?