Remember My Bonds
PAUL’S FINAL SALUTATION
1. Paul signs this epistle with his own hand.
a. Paul salutes the congregation in his own handwriting at the beginning and end of the letter. (1:1-2; 4:18)
b. He usually had a scribe write the body of the letter…
c. But he always signed it himself.
d. Kenneth Wuest suggests that Paul followed this practice because of an oriental eye disease he contacted on his first missionary journey in the lowlands of Pamphilia, where the disease was prevalent. (I have never been able to verify this information…)
e. Gal. 4:13-14 – Paul preached the gospel with a physical infirmity in Galatia. The Galatian believers were so grateful that they would have plucked out their own eyes for Paul if they could… This indicates a possible eye disease.
f. Gal. 6:11 – he mentions that he wrote a large letter. The epistle was not large, although he may have used large capital letters in writing it… due to an eye disease.
g. Paul often used an amanuensis—a scribe—to record what he dictated to them.
h. Romans 16:22 – I Tertius, who wrote this epistle, salute you in the Lord.” (There is no doubt that PAUL wrote Romans – see 1:1)
i. Paul wrote the final words in his own handwriting… including his signature ending, “Grace to you.” (Rom. 16:24)
2. II Thess. 3:17-18 – this was the “token” in every epistle.
a. Token: sign, a sign that indicated something; a mark; a designation…
b. It was the apostle’s “signature” that served as a designating mark on ALL of his epistles. This token or designation was necessary because there were phony epistles being circulated in Paul’s name… and Paul wanted to separate the true from the false epistles.
c. II Thess. 2:2 – That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us.
d. However, it is likely that the final greeting, “Grace be with you” was what Paul meant here — as his signature trademark in all his epistles.
REMEMBER MY BONDS
A. The Request to Remember
1. Remember my BONDS.
a. Bonds: chains or fetters that bound Paul to his prison guard… that he was forced to wear day and night.
b. Paul’s secretary was finished recording what Paul dictated to him—the bulk of the letter. Picture the scene.
c. Now Paul reaches his arm to take the pen and scroll from his secretary… and he again hears the awful sound of the clanging of his chains. Paul is once more reminded of his “bonds.”
d. He writes: Remember my bonds.
e. His readers wouldn’t hear their clang. They wouldn’t have slept with hands bound. They would be sleeping in the comfort of their home… and it would be easy to FORGET Paul’s condition… hence, he asks them to remember his chains…
f. Consider the simplicity and brevity of this final exhortation.
2. Paul’s bonds are mentioned OFTEN in the New Testament.
a. Often in Acts, Philippians, Ephesians, Colossians, II Timothy, etc.
b. If you were chained day and night in shackles—it would be hard NOT to think of those chains. Paul was human.
3. BUT—there is not one ounce of whining in his statements.
a. There is not a hint of frustration, resentment, or anger at the Lord for allowing his imprisonment.
b. He gives no tear jerking sob story…
c. Paul isn’t asking for their pity.
d. There is no long list of his awful deprivations… illnesses or wounds…
e. He’s not trying to put them on a guilt trip for never having visited him… (I have not seen your face in the flesh—he never went to Colossae and they had never came to him.)
f. He is not complaining about his lot in life.
4. In fact, he had learned (the hard way) HOW to be content… through experiencing difficulties through Christ and the power of the resurrected life! (Phil. 4:11-13)
5. No, Paul isn’t complaining about his lot in life. He simply and briefly asks that they would “remember his bonds.” It’s not a complaint, but a simple prayer request.
6. Far from complaining, Paul actually USES his earthly condition (unfavorable as it was) for at least four good purposes:
a. To draw closer to Christ personally…
b. To goad other believers to be faithful in their service for Christ…
c. To further the gospel message…
d. For the glory of God…
• Imagine if we ALL saw our trials, restrictions, and limitations from that vantage point… as opportunities for good!
• God can bring good out of any tragedy or calamity.
B. The CAUSE of His Bonds
1. Preaching the Mystery of the Gospel (Col. 4:3)
a. He preached Christ and ended up in jail.
b. Thus, his bonds became a daily reminder to all the believers of his love for the lost… his desire to see men saved… his belief that the salvation of souls was WORTH suffering for… it was worth being beaten and imprisoned…
c. Philemon 13 – “the bonds of the gospel.”
d. Eph. 3:1 – he was a prisoner for you Gentiles—because he sought to bring the gospel to the Gentile world.
e. Acts 22:21–22 – Paul was preaching in the Temple in Jerusalem, and the Jews listened to every word. But as soon as he mentioned gentiles, they would listen no longer and began to shout for his death!
f. From there, he ended up in prison in Rome.
g. He was in prison FOR the Gentiles… for the Ephesians… and FOR the Colossians… and also FOR us!
2. Godly in Christ Jesus
a. II Tim. 3:12 – “Yea, and ALL that WILL live godly in Christ Jesus SHALL suffer persecution.”
b. Paul lived godly and DID suffer persecution for it.
c. He was in jail because he loved the Lord—the love of Christ constrained him… and yielded his life to Christ and to the will of God—which for him meant preaching Christ to the Gentiles.
d. He was in prison because his heart was yielded to God… and he walked in obedience to the will of God… and made known the gospel.
e. His chains evidenced the godly desire of his heart to see men saved… and brought into the Body of Christ…
f. His bonds also served as a reminder to the believers of the first century of his love for the lost…
g. And more importantly, this was an outward expression of Christ IN Paul… the love of Christ working through him… Christ loved the lost and sought to win them…
h. When a believer yields his members to God—it is really the Risen CHRIST seeking the lost through us.
i. It was the love and life of the indwelling Christ being manifested through a yielded member of His Body.
j. I Tim. 3:15-16 – Paul taught us about the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in human flesh… this was true in the incarnation of our Lord—but it was also true in the church of the LIVING God… the spiritual body of Christ.
k. That’s what true godliness is: God manifested through US—members of the Body of Christ.
l. Paul lived godly and was persecuted for it. THAT was the cause of his bonds.
3. A Willingness to Suffer for Righteousness Sake
a. Paul’s chains loudly testified of that truth day in and day out… like the unceasing testimony of creation which without a word testifies of their Creator. Everyone in the Roman palace heard the testimony of Paul’s chains… and got the message—though the chains never said a word. (Making known the mystery of Christ is worth suffering for! The salvation of souls is worth suffering for!)
4. The Hatred of the World for Christ
a. John 15:18-21 – The world hates Christ and His followers.
b. The world system is an arrangement of ideas, belief systems, religious thought, philosophies, traditions of men—a whole world view that excludes God… and has Satan as its unseen head… the god of this world.
c. In the first century, that world system demonstrated its hatred towards Christ: “Let Him be crucified!” He was spit upon beaten, whipped, and ultimately nailed to a tree.
d. That is the attitude of the world to our Savior… both then and today.
e. But after His death, Christ arose from the grave and ascended into heaven—out of the reach of the world that hates Him.
f. Today the world cannot touch the Risen Savior who is at the right hand of His Father in heaven, the world CAN express their hatred for Him by their treatment of His Body… the church of the Living God.
g. Paul was in prison because he was a follower of Christ… one who preached Christ… KNOWING full well that following Christ could mean a cross—or a chain… and he was willing suffered the wrath of a hateful world.
C. Victory Over Bonds
1. But the expressed fury and WRATH of the world Paul was enduring was NOT a sign that the world was the victor.
a. The world and its god, Satan, thought that the cross meant victory for them. In fact, it spelled out their doom, for Christ rose from the dead and triumphed over them in it!
b. Gal. 6:14 – The cross did not mean defeat for Christ… nor does a cross or a chain mean defeat for the believer in Christ.
c. The World System that persecutes and incarcerates believers is a defeated foe.
d. The believer is more than a conqueror in Christ.
e. For the believer, the cross is OUR way of victory over the world system too… for there we were united with Christ in His death.
f. We DIED with Christ to the world and hence, the world—which had formerly enslaved us, has no more authority over us!
g. And the world was crucified to us!
h. Not the cross—or any other form of persecution the world uses to lash out at the church will never result in victory for the world. They are already a defeated foe… and by faith we can experience their defeat and our victory!
i. In fact, their persecution tends to strengthen the church. The blood of the martyrs is the SEED of the church!
j. The gates of hell shall NOT prevail against the church.
k. Paul’s imprisonment was actually a great VICTORY for the cause of Christ.
l. The book we have been studying for the last 3 years… the book that God has used to strengthen us… and believers for the last 2000 years… was written by Paul from prison!
m. II Tim. 2:9 – “Wherein I suffer trouble, as an evil doer, even unto bonds; but the word of God is not bound.”
n. They could chain Paul’s body—but not his mind, heart, or conscience… and CERTAINLY not God’s Word.
2. Not only did Paul’s fetters NOT hinder the gospel. In fact, it helped SPREAD the Gospel!
a. Phil. 1:13 – through Paul’s “bonds,” the gospel made its way into the Roman palaces and to the Roman guards.
b. Col. 4:3-4 – Paul asked for prayer for him to be able to spread the gospel from is prison cell!
3. Paul’s position IN CHRIST also delivered a death blow to those who held him in bondage with fetters.
a. They could chain his arms and legs… but Paul’s real life was lived FROM a place where no chain could go.
b. He was raised up with Christ… and there are no bonds in Christ! (Neither male nor female, bond nor free…)
D. Good That Comes from Bonds
1. Learning to remember the plight of others.
a. This takes our mind off self and seeks the welfare of others.
b. Learning the Need for Empathy (Heb.13:3)
• We are members of the same Body in Christ.
• In a sense, we ARE bound with the believers in China who are bound… or those who are taken as hostages in Indonesia or South America.
• If the hand is in captivity—then the whole body suffers with it.
• We belong to the same Body—the universal Body of Christ.
• I Cor.12:26 – When one member suffers, the whole body suffers… especially in the local church…
• Showing this kind of empathy is greatly appreciated by those who are “bound.”
• II Tim.1:15-18 – Paul was so grateful for Onesiphorus who often refreshed him while he was in prison.
• Paul never forgot that ministry… and it IS a ministry to those who are “bound.”
c. Learning to practice and live this principle is a MOST valuable asset for the Body of Christ.
d. If we can learn to better function as a Body through the suffering of one member, the Body is much stronger as a result.
e. Thus, the enemy’s attempt to harm the Body (by binding a member) actually resulted in strengthening the Body.
f. Sometimes trials, calamities, and tragedies from the human perspective can be the very best thing for us spiritually!
g. Much GOOD came from Paul’s imprisonment.
h. This principle can be applied to many forms of suffering other than just imprisonment. (Shut ins; those afflicted with disease; those restricted or limited through the loss of a limb, eye sight, no longer ambulatory, etc.)
i. As being “bound with them.” That makes it very personal… and brings the body together.
2. Learning the need for prayer for one another
a. In a sense, this was a request for prayer.
b. Paul wanted the believers to remember him… especially before the throne of grace.
c. Paul was not asking for supplies… or money… or for political maneuvering to get him out of prison… or for the believers to take up arms to oppose the government for wrongly incarcerating him.
d. Paul simply says, “Remember my bonds.” Pray for me.
e. Paul TOLD them what kinds of things to pray for: Col. 1:9-11.
3. Added Weight to His Exhortations.
a. Philemon 8-9 –
• As an apostle, Paul could have COMMANDED Philemon to receive Onesimus… based on the weight of absolute, apostolic authority.
• Paul chooses instead to rely on the MORAL weight of the fact that he is the “aged” (elder statesman for Christ)… and a “prisoner of Christ.”
• There was a moral weight that accompanied his words as a prisoner for Christ.
b. Eph. 4:1 – he exhorts them “as a prisoner of the Lord” to walk worthy…
• That is a powerful exhortation.
• There is moral weight behind that.
c. It comes from one who walked worthily—and SUFFERED for his worthy walk!
d. Lightfoot: “He who is suffering on behalf of Christ has a right to speak on behalf of Christ”.
e. Paul was not writing from some lofty, ivory tower… or from a well respected theological think tank.
f. Rather, he was writing from a prison cell… He did not just read and theorize about suffering for righteousness sake. He lived it. He endured it.
g. His bonds added weight, respect, depth, and urgency to his exhortations… because he truly understood the VALUE of such a walk… and was willing to pay the PRICE for a worthy walk.
4. This weight bolsters our faith too.
a. Paul CLAIMED to have seen the risen Savior.
b. Paul CLAIMED to have received the revelation of the church directly through this Risen Savior.
c. If it were NOT true, it hardly seems likely that this man would allow himself to suffer in prison for that which he knew was a lie!
d. He could have easily have gotten OUT of prison at any moment by recanting… but he didn’t.
e. He chose to remain in jail and suffer the loss of all things for the TRUTH.
f. He KNEW it was true and was willing to suffer to the point of death for it!
g. That strengthens MY faith. It convinces me that this man did indeed see the Risen Savior on the road to Damascus… and did indeed receive revelation of the mystery of Christ from Him.
5. Learning the fellowship of His sufferings. (Phil. 3:10)
Philippians was another epistle written from prison.
In this passage Paul tells us another benefit that was his because of his suffering in jail… a benefit to his bonds.
The benefit is threefold:
• That I may know Him (deeper and deeper)… (vs. 8 – there is an excellency to the knowledge of Christ… excellency – ?pe???? – over and above; supreme; superior; higher) Paul wanted more of that… a higher, experiential knowledge of Christ… (not data)
• That I may know experientially the power of the resurrection… operating in him daily… the power of a resurrected life
» Paul wanted the same power that raised Jesus from the dead to be experienced by him in his earthly life…
» He wanted the Spirit of LIFE in Christ Jesus to so control him that he would experience victory over sin; power to walk in newness of life…
» He had been raised up with Christ spiritually… and he wanted his heavenly position to have an effect on his earthly life.
» Romans 8:11 – “But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.”
» He wanted the Holy Spirit to take his mortal flesh and make it ALIVE—filled with the power of the resurrection… walking in NEWNESS of life…
» He didn’t want theory and speculation… but spiritual reality in his day to day life.
» He wanted the Holy Spirit to be operative in his body… to overcome sin and to produce fruit—Christlike character in him. (requires resurrection power)
• The fellowship of His sufferings… (fellowship = communion; sharing together) — not Christ’s sufferings on the cross but His suffering for righteousness sake.
» Paul shared in that… and it was to his great spiritual benefit!
» It is the sweetest kind of communion with Christ…
But those benefits were Paul’s ONLY as a result of “being made conformable to His death.”
• We are made conformable unto His death, as we RECKON ourselves to be dead with Christ…
• As the believer is willing put self on the cross by faith… thus identifying with the Lord Jesus in His death… and as a result, that union with Christ will CONFORM us… shape us… make us more like the Savior… who also willingly went to the cross.
• Depth in our relationship to Christ comes through suffering… or through being WILLING to suffer for righteousness sake.
• It is only as the CROSS changes us… as we identify with Christ in His suffering for righteousness sake… that we will ever experience this kind of DEPTH in the knowledge of Christ… a higher experiential knowledge… and the depth to our fellowship with the Risen Savior…
• AS we fellowship with Him in His sufferings… and apply the cross—His death to our lives… we are made more like Him.
• It is only then that we experience the kind of selflessness He demonstrated when He left glory for others…
• It is only then that we experience the same kind of sacrificial life, Christ demonstrated when He said, “Not my will but Thine be done”… when He died that others might live… when He was obedient—even to the death of the cross.
• This is to know Christ experientially… not just facts about Him learned in Sunday school.
• Paul could not share in Christ’s death on the cross—but he COULD share in His suffering for righteousness sake… and he did.
• In doing so, he was made conformable to Christ’s death—not His death as a sacrifice for sin… but in Christ’s death to self… exhibited in the incarnation… the selfless, sacrificial life—emptied Himself—a life poured out in the service of God for others… a life of love… and good works… an abundant life.
• There is a price to pay for a deeper relationship to the Lord…
• Whether we are called to suffer persecution or not is irrelevant. What matters is our heart—that we are WILLING to reckon SELF to be dead…
• That and that alone will deepen our relationship to Christ.
• Apart from being identified with Christ in His death, we will never experience the POWER of His resurrection in our lives… you don’t get resurrection power apart from death.
• YES—there was GREAT VALUE in Paul’s imprisonment. Remember his bonds!