One day, as a prisoner in a Roman prison, a young man came face to face with the challenge of the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ. This young man had been a servant in a wealthy home in Colossae. In that home he had seen for himself the love and care of Christ. Yet, he had run away, and in all probability taken from that home that which wasn’t his own. He made his way to the city ‘lights’ of Rome, and somehow found himself in a prison cell with a preacher of the gospel. Coincidence or providence? God’s ways are truly ‘past finding out’, but one thing is sure, His sovereign will is never worked out at the expense of man’s personal accountability, nor is that will ever put at risk by abandoning it to the fickle sin-marred human will. That does not mean these two truths are on a level, but rather that the way in which these are harmonized truly requires the gracious, divine mind. What a blessed day when the Lord opens a heart and an individual receives Christ, Acts 16. 14!
Oh the grace that pursued a rebellious Onesimus! Oh the wonder of the grace that pursued me!
But more; grace that saves, is grace that changes lives. Indeed, the message of the gospel has the unique power to change lives. This should challenge everyone who professes Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour. We should understand that repentance is not simply regret. Regret is not enough. Nor is repentance merely a resolve to be better or different. Resolve is not enough. Repentance is a complete change of mind, and the attitude of the penitent toward sin and all things that are unholy is aligned with God’s attitude. Then, faith lays hold and rests in the only hope which God has provided for sinners, Christ, and new birth occurs, which brings to the individual the Spirit of God – the power to live for the glory of God, Rom. 6. 4.
It was the possession of this new life that changed a thieving, runaway servant into a ‘brother beloved’! I am sure that as Onesimus stood on Philemon’s doorstep, letter in hand, having been converted, he wondered what reception he would have, but what is clear is that his salvation was being demonstrated by his works.
In so many areas of our lives, we should be challenged as to whether our works demonstrate our salvation; as Peter poses, ‘what manner of persons ought ye to be?’ 2 Pet. 3. 11.
We do thank those who have given freely of their time to write the articles which are in this issue and are sure that their desire, with ours, is that the thoughts will encourage a closer walk with our Lord as we wait for His coming.