Gospel-Empowered Forgiveness: Use the Letter of Philemon to Disciple those with an Unforgiving Spirit

Anger and bitterness over hurts and slights tend to grow in our hearts when they’re left unchecked. Many of us have made the mistake of simply ignoring these sinful attitudes and hoping they fade over time, but God has a radically different approach to anger and bitterness.

The apostle Paul in Ephesians 4:31-32 teaches a more active and aggressive approach when he says, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage, and anger.” And what are we to do instead? He says, “Forgive one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”

Every Christian needs to revisit the biblical teaching of forgiveness from time to time, and the small New Testament book of Philemon serves as an excellent biblical case study. It’s a timely reminder to each of us to follow Christ’s example of forgiveness to the people around us.

The Delight in the Word radio program is currently going through Philemon on Moody Radio Cleveland. The first two programs address the posture of heart the gospel produces in us (vv. 1-7), while the final two will teach what the practice of biblical forgiveness looks like (vv. 8-25). Here are the first two programs. Next week, I will post the other two.

To maintain a posture of forgiveness consistent with the gospel, Philemon 1-7 reveals you must cultivate the following disciplines of the heart.

  1. You must discipline yourself to love fellow believers (v. 5a).
  2. You must discipline yourself to preserve the unity of fellowship (v. 6a).
  3. You must discipline yourself to seek knowledge and understanding (v. 6b).
  4. You must discipline yourself to do all for the sake of Christ (v. 6c).
  5. You must discipline yourself to refresh other believers (v. 7).

The Posture of Forgiveness, Part 1

The Posture of Forgiveness, Part 2

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