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Sketches From The Life of Paul

by Ellen G. White

Chapter 26: Sojourn at Rome.

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Part:  A  B  C

Demas was now a faithful helper of the apostle. A few years afterward, however, in the same letter to Timothy which commends Mark's fidelity, Paul writes, "Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world." For worldly gain, Demas bartered every higher and nobler consideration. How short-sighted, how unwise the exchange! Those who possess only worldly wealth or honor are poor indeed, however much they may proudly call their own. Those who choose to suffer for Christ's sake, will win eternal riches; they will be heirs of God, and joint-heirs with his Son. They may not have on earth a place to lay their heads; but in Heaven the Saviour whom they love is preparing mansions for them. Many, in their pride and ignorance, forget [p. 284] that lowly things are mighty. In order to be happy, we must learn self-denial at the foot of the cross. We want no earthly hope so firmly rooted that we cannot transplant it to paradise.

Paul was not alone in the trials which he endured from the love of ease and desire for worldly gain in his professed brethren. His experience is still shared by the faithful servants of Christ. Many, even of those who profess to believe the solemn truths for this time, feel but little moral responsibility. When they see that the path of duty is beset with perplexities and trials, they choose a way for themselves, where there is less effort needed; where there are fewer risks to run, fewer dangers to meet. By selfishly shunning responsibilities, they increase the burdens of the faithful workers, and at the same time separate themselves from God, and forfeit the reward they might have won. All who will work earnestly and disinterestedly, in his love and fear, God will make co-laborers with himself. Christ has hired them at the price of his own blood, the pledge of an eternal weight of glory. Of every one of his followers he requires efforts that shall in some degree correspond with the price paid and the infinite reward offered.

Among the disciples who ministered to Paul at Rome was Onesimus, a fugitive slave from the city of Colosse. He belonged to a Christian named Philemon, a member of the Colossian church. But he had robbed his master and fled to Rome. Here this pagan slave, profligate and unprincipled, was reached by the truths of the gospel. He had seen and heard Paul at Ephesus, and now, in the providence of God, he met him again in Rome. In the kindness of his heart, the [p. 285] apostle sought to relieve the poverty and distress of the wretched fugitive, and then endeavored to shed the light of truth into his darkened mind. Onesimus listened attentively to the words of life which he had once despised, and was converted to the faith of Christ. He now confessed his sin against his master, and gratefully accepted the counsel of the apostle.

He had endeared himself to Paul by his piety, meekness, and sincerity, no less than by his tender care for the apostle's comfort and his zeal to promote the work of the gospel. Paul saw in him traits of character that would render him a useful helper in missionary labor, and he would gladly have kept him at Rome. But he would not do this without the full consent of Philemon. He therefore decided that Onesimus should at once return to his master, and promised to hold himself responsible for the sum of which Philemon had been robbed. Being about to despatch Tychicus with letters to various churches of Asia Minor, he sent Onesimus in his company and under his care. It was a severe test for this servant to thus deliver himself up to the master he had wronged; but he had been truly converted, and, painful as it was, he did not shrink from this duty.

Paul made Onesimus the bearer of a letter to Philemon, in which he with great delicacy and kindness pleaded the cause of the repentant slave, and intimated his own wishes concerning him. The letter began with an affectionate greeting to Philemon as a friend and fellow-laborer:—

"Grace to you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God, making mention of thee always in my prayers, [p. 286] hearing of thy love and faith, which thou hast toward the Lord Jesus, and toward all saints; that the communication of thy faith may become effectual by the acknowledging of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus." The apostle sought gently to remind Philemon that every good purpose and trait of character which he possessed must be accredited to the grace of Christ; for this alone caused him to differ from the perverse and sinful. The same grace could make the debased criminal a child of God and a useful laborer in the gospel.

Though Paul might with authority have urged upon Philemon his duty as a Christian, yet because of his love for him he would not command, but chose rather the language of entreaty: "As Paul the aged, and now also a prisoner of Jesus Christ, I beseech thee for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my bonds, which in time past was to thee unprofitable, but now profitable to thee and to me."

Part:  A  B  C

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