“If he hath wronged thee, or oweth thee ought, put that on mine account;” (Philemon 1:18)
There is nothing that surprises the Most High God, nothing occurs that He does not know about, in fact has always known about. The question of how much of man’s daily actions He influences will always remain a question for us. “A man’s heart deviseth his way: but the LORD directeth his steps.”
Proverbs 16:9 does not mean that we are simply actors on a stage whose every breath and thought has been pre-determined, for we have been blessed with free will. The sovereignty of God and the free will of man can never be reconciled in our finite minds.
Onesimus apparently took something from his master’s house and then ran away, met Paul where he went to and was by the grace of God saved, salvation came to him as it does for most of us, totally unexpected. We are not told why, but Paul thought it best for him to return back to the place where he had committed the crime, carrying with him the letter that would be blessed to find its way into the Holy Word of God, the Book of Philemon.
The world calls that luck, chance and coincidence, we call it the providence of God.
I would ask you to look at the verse that follows our opening verse in this short letter. “I Paul have written it with mine own hand, I will repay it: albeit I do not say to thee how thou owest unto me even thine own self besides.” (Philemon 1:19) Paul was doing something that he rarely did, reminding this man to whom Onesimus stole from that if it was not for him that he may not have come to the salvation of the Lord that he now stood in.
Who was it that brought you to the cross? Who was it that the Lord sent to you that brought the good news of the gospels to your attention, that showed you the salvation of God through faith in Jesus Christ? Ask yourself this, what do you owe that person? That is what Paul was saying in that one verse, politely reminding that man that while it was indeed the Holy Spirit that convicted his soul,that it was grace through faith that saved him from the wrath of God, it was Paul that brought that message to him. There was no pride in those words, no commandment that must be obeyed, no mandate of obligation, simply a reminder. “Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give.” (Matt. 10:8)
The message does not come from us, it comes through us, we have nothing within ourselves that can draw anyone to the cross, only the Holy Spirit can convict the heart of a man.
That long walk back home, so to speak, for Onesimus must have been strenuous, to say the least, for to go and ask forgiveness solely on the merits of a letter and a profession of faith in Jesus Christ only days old would have placed in his mind many possibilities. One can only imagine the look on his face when Paul said to him, “You must go back and confess your fault.” During that journey back that letter in his pocket was the most prized possession he had ever received.
The debt of sin that you owed was paid in full by the Lord Jesus Christ, nothing towards your salvation that you could offer to God would be accepted, our salvation rests completely on the work of the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross, His shed blood paid your debt in full. That is, in this sense, that letter in your pocket, as the one in Christian’s pocket was as he journeyed to the Celestial Kingdom. It is the only way that any of us can ever be forgiven.
“Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” (Isaiah 1:18)
We are on that path home my friends, that letter will not fall from your pocket, you will arrive safely home, you have been forgiven even before you arrive there. Onesimus did not know that, we do. Our steps are being directed.