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Philemon 6

September 27, 2006

(Note the obfuscationless concision of a title liberated from elephantine circumlocution.)

When I was in college, Philemon 6 was a verse used to encourage us to evangelism.  Here is how it reads in the NIV–

I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ.

Now I hope that you are being challenged by the Lord to grow into a “missional” mindset and that you will be praying for and looking for opportunities to speak salty thrist-producing words full of grace and truth to your neighbors and co-workers. 

But I’m now convinced that Philemon 6 is not about evangelism.  Look at it in the NAS–

I pray that the fellowship of your faith may become effective through the knowledge of every good thing which is in you for Christ’s sake.

The word translated “sharing” in the NIV and “fellowship” in the NAS is koinonia, sharing in common.  The verse is not about evangelism becoming active, it’s about fellowship becoming effective.

I’d like for our fellowship to be effective.  How does fellowship become effective?  Through the knowledge of every good thing we have in Christ.  It is the ministry of the Holy Spirit to make this known to us.  1 Cor 2:12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God.

So Paul is praying, as he also does in Ephesians 1, that we would, by the Spirit, know the unspeakable riches that we have in Christ and that knowing this, our fellowship would be an effective means of grace for our mutual edification. 

So the application seems obvious.  When we get together for fellowship, let it truly be a sharing of Christ in common.  Let us speak of every good thing we have in Christ.  Let us share with one another the things we have in Christ to which the Holy Spirit has opened our eyes this week.


10 Comments leave one →
  1. September 27, 2006 11:07 am

    Amen! Thanks for the encouragement!

  2. September 27, 2006 11:39 am

    The simplicity of your title has been duly noted ;-) (But I hope you know how much fun I had yesterday!)

    I thought the ‘so that’ in the NIV was interesting — it’s not ‘so that the gospel is spread to the ends of the earth’ . . . it’s so that you have a full understanding, which seems like a backward approach for evangelization. And together with the two verses before it (ESV):
    4 I thank my God always when I remember you in my prayers,
    5 because I hear of your love and of the faith that you have toward the Lord Jesus and all the saints

    Reminds me of Eph 3:14-20; Eph 5:15-21; Phil 2:1-18; Col 3:1-17 — the idea of community and the role it plays in maturing us.

    So, thank you for the role your blog (and our CEFC blogring) plays in that!

  3. Egana permalink
    September 27, 2006 3:01 pm

    here’s an interesting thought: why is it that saying someone is “so immature” is a put-down. How can we grow any faster? How can we get more experience and wisdom that we get each day? What a silly standrad we have: everyone must be mature or suffer the teasing of the rest?

    I am slowing coming to terms with this in line with scriptures that command me to mature in Christ, andnot hearing them as Jr. high teasing…

  4. September 27, 2006 8:12 pm

    Egana, good question/thought. Maybe it’s a put-down because of the way we receive it. When you tell me I’m immature, am I offended or take it as constructive criticism? If I take it as constructive criticism, can you elaborate on how I am immature in a productive manner? If our fellowship is Christ-centered, I think such comments can be very useful. And may be the only answer to your question, “how can we grow faster?” Through Christ-centered fellowship.

    I also think this is a very appropriate follow-up post to the MB discussions. Given that we all have completely different personalities and have to learn to work together, it is necessary for our fellowship to be Christ-centered. It is a challenge to be a part of a body that is made of various personalities, and we must lean on Christ or risk become cliquish (sp?)

    Again, back to Egana’s question, how to grow faster . . . some of the quickest growth spurts for me have been through “relational strife” which has revealed my immaturity and forced me to face it now instead of letting it slowly erode away (or not at all).

  5. September 27, 2006 11:48 pm

    Don’t worry Egana- I hear *everything* as junior high teasing. At least you’ve gotten past that point. And let me just tell you- the getting PMS for the first time at 24 doesn’t really help with that whole learning how to interpret things better. At all…

    Mully: But I want to be cliqueish! I like our church! It’s like one big giant humongous fun Christ-centered cliquity clique. Click, click.

    Oh man… I really *do* need to lay off the Gewurtztrammeiner…

  6. September 27, 2006 11:57 pm

    P.S. Mully: ENFPs (and maybe INFPs, too) receive criticism a little overpersonally. Like… Isaiah can say something in a sermon and I’ll think “Oh my goodness, he’s talking about me, and he just said that because he read my blog and what if he thinks *any* doubt is dumb? Ack … he doesn’t like me!” (and you have to understand that being liked is a primary desire of us ENFP types… Egana and I just want *everyone* to like us! Or maybe just me… I don’t know, but anyway…).

    Or, like Carl can say “Where’s the groceries?” and I’ll be like “Oh no, I forgot to put them away, ack!! Why don’t you like me?!” So.. when someone says “immature” or “goofy” or “interesting”… I probably spend the rest of the day trying to decipher exactly what that person meant and putting myself in their shoes and really trying to figure out whether that means they like me more or less…

    It’s really a blessing that God likes us all equally and completely.

  7. September 28, 2006 7:41 am

    Isaiah543, thanks for correcting my view of this passage. good word fruity. :)

  8. September 28, 2006 11:14 am

    Here’s the NLT translation of verse 6 – “You are generous because of your faith. And I am praying that you will really put your generosity to work, for in so doing you will come to an understanding of all the good things we can do for Christ. ”

    Interesting wording.

    Here’s some thoughts on the other internal postings –
    Maturity is propelled by the flame. Suffering is how we grow. Through trials is how we advance. Through pressure and feelings of despair. It is ironic that we avoid the very thing that He uses to make us more like Him.

    Knowing personality profiles has been extremely helpful to me as a leader. I thought they were voodoo for a long time, but now I see their usefulness. They help us to understand the natural bendings and inclinations that one has in accordance with their God-given personality. However, we must take that and temper it by the Spirit. It is too easy to use that as an excuse for not living in the Spirit. An extrovert, for example, needs to learn to be quiet when appropos, it is a matter of self-control.

    We have gone through as a church a great book “The Fear Factor” by Wayne and Joshua Mack. This is a tremendous resource. Wondering what someone thinks of you is usually related to a fear of man not any particular personality type. It is a very common trait. We all have it to one degree or another. The bible exhorts us to fear God instead. Proverbs 29:25 The fear of man brings a snare, But he who trusts in the LORD will be exalted.

    Many mistake this for a ‘i’m scared of people’ notion but it is more than that. Ed Welch also has a great book entitled, “When People Are Big and God is Small” is superb and I believe every believer needs to read it. Since our relationships are the core of fellowship, coming to terms with this topic biblically is essential.

    Good comments everyone. Press on!

  9. September 28, 2006 11:34 am

    Relating back to the original post (good comments everyone) I personally very much like Galatians 6.6, which in my ESV reads “One who is taught the word must share all good things with the one who teaches.”

  10. Egana permalink
    September 29, 2006 4:57 pm

    Isaiah543… did you know there is a little smiley face lurking at the bottom of your blog? How long has HE been there, listening in to everything we say, watching me with thos sinister, way-too-happy eyes, smirking his relentless smiley smirk at every spelling error…

    Oh wait, he’s not sinister… look, he’s smiling…

    “see? it’s a friendly place!”

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