No Longer Just a Slave (Philemon 12-16)

October 16, 2017

Listening to this letter within the community of his own house church, Philemon hears Paul’s affection for Onesimus. He is not only Paul’s child but Paul’s own “heart.” “I am sending my heart back to you,” Paul writes. This simple statement has several significant rhetorical functions. First, Paul not only does not secretly hide Onesimus […]


How Can I Ask for This Favor Without Wrenching it from You? (Philemon 8-11)

October 9, 2017

Paul could demand it. Paul is “bold enough” to “command” Philemon to grant Paul’s request—whatever that is—because “in Christ” Philemon has a “duty” to obey. Paul could assert his authority, whether that is apostolic (though Paul nowhere uses that title in this letter) or relational (as if “you owe me”). Paul resists asserting his authority. […]


I Give Thanks: Paul on Philemon’s Faith and Love

September 27, 2017

For those familiar with Paul’s letters, it is no surprise that Paul follows his opening salutation with a thanksgiving. Like the opening itself, we should read this thanksgiving as more than formulaic. Rather, it introduces themes and concepts upon which Paul builds in the body of the letter, including his three requests or hopes. Paul’s […]


Today I Kneel

September 24, 2017

“There comes a time when silence is betrayal”. Martin Luther King, announcing his opposition to the Vietnam War in 1967. I love baseball. I’ve been an avid Chicago Cubs fan for over 50 years. But I love the United States of America more. I value its ideals and democratic processes. But I love justice more, […]


The Opening and Closing of the Letter to Philemon

September 19, 2017

As is common in ancient letters from the first century, the letter to Philemon has an identifiable opening (vv. 1-3) and closing (at least 23-25, some say 19-25). Though brief, they are significant for several reasons. First, they introduce us to the people connected to this letter. This includes not only the letter’s primary author […]


The Narrative World of the Letter to Philemon

September 11, 2017

This brief letter contains its own narrative world. What it offers is partial, often ambiguous (to us), but nonetheless profound. I begin this series on Philemon by simply (though it is not all that simple) observing the world this letter evinces. Backstory Paul’s letter presumes a relationship with Philemon who was, presumably, the host of […]


Eating with Jesus: Only Once a Week?

September 8, 2017

We pray for daily bread, and we eat daily meals. Yet, some restrict the Lord’s Supper—the meal where we eat at the table of the Lord—to only and exclusively the first day of the week, Sunday. This restriction is a rather unique dimension of Churches of Christ. Is eating with Jesus (Matthew 26:29) restricted to […]


On Reading Philemon

September 7, 2017

Philemon is a brief letter with only 335 words in the Greek text, and it appears in the New Testament without any specific context. Philemon and Onesimus, the main characters in the letter’s story, are unknown elsewhere in the New Testament. Many, if not most of the details, are lost to us as readers to […]


Out of the Mouth (Matthew 15:10-28)

August 23, 2017

Lesson preached at All Saints Church of Christ, Nashville, TN, on August 20, 2017 by Taylor Bonner. Εκ του στόματος A few years ago I was reliving my high school football glory days on the intramural flag football fields at Lubbock Christian University. This was one of my favorite events to participate in with my […]


Romans 5:1-5 — Boasting in Suffering

August 3, 2017

This is the link to my recent lesson on Romans 5:1-5 at Lipscomb University’s “Summer Celebration.” What does it mean to boast in our sufferings, and what does suffering produce in our lives? Suffering has meaning; suffering has purpose…because we know suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope. Without peace, afflictions […]