A Well Woven Storyline . . . .

“Why is it that some people preach for an hour, and it seems like twenty minutes, and some preach twenty minutes and it seems like an hour?” — Haddon W. Robinson


child pilot 2  The Details & Facts Fit The Imagined Storyline

I had heard of Dr. Haddon Robinson over the years, but it was not until the 1980’s that I came to meet him personally.  I was invited to speak at a conference in Perryville, Massachusetts along with Dr. Haddon Robinson.  I spoke after Dr. Robinson and would be hard-pressed today to remember the passage I spoke on — (on which I spoke ). However, I still remember the passage and much of the message which was preached by Dr. Robinson.  It was Psalm 73, and I could almost write out some parts of that message yet today . . . .

One of God’s people looked over at his neighbor farm – and saw his house, his “cars,” the large piece of land, the flocks and herds.  His neighbor was in good health, had a lot of friends, money in the bank . . . . But that was not his life.  As one of God’s people, he could not understand why the ungodly prosper. . . .


An Reasonable Imaginative Weaving

There is always the danger of saying more about a passage, especially a biblical narrative, than the passage rightfully or reasonable allows.  Most teachers of biblical preaching agree that there is a place for a sanctified imagination.  The Bible is about people, just like us.  Dr. Haddon Robinson provides a good example of a sanctified imagination.

As Dr. Robinson lays out a probable storyline, he is setting up the story in such a way as to make the actual parts and verses blend and fit into that storyline.  He already knows what the letter to Philemon contains and is laying out the picture in such a way as to purposefully connect to the facts found in the actual letter.

It really is a masterful example of a reasonable description of what has happened to prompt the letter of Philemon and how to fit the elements of the letter fit into a probable visualization of events.


“The story seems to be something like this . . .

Again . . . .

We don’t know exactly how it happened, but we do know that while Paul was under house arrest in the capital city of Rome he met an essence and Paul told Onesimus the Good News about Jesus and Onesimus too became a Christ follower.


The structure of his message is instructive . . . .

  • The Postal System Of Rome
  • The Person Called Philemon
  • The Decision To Run To Rome By Onesimus
  • Paul’s House Arrest
  • Onesimus Meets Paul & Becomes A Christian
  • Onesimus Tells Paul Of His Offense Against Philemon
  • Onesimus Sent Back To Colossi
  • The Letter & Philemon’s Response
  • Illustration: Story of Nicolas I
  • Back To The Letter & Paul’s Request
  • Illustration: Personal Story


Big Idea: The Good News Means He Pays The Debt & It Puts Us In Him.



If you wanted to send a letter to somebody you found somebody going in the general direction to which you wanted your letter sent and then you would sit down and write your letter and then prevail upon that person to take the letter with them and then you sat back and waited . . . and yet there were folks who carried the mail for the Apostle Paul . . . . and yet there is one mail carrier in the New Testament that had an entire letter written about it — happened to be a thief and a runaway slave but it was also the man who carried Paul’s letter to Philemon.



By Design, The Details & Facts Fit:

After his interesting introduction of “The Roman Postal System,”  Robinson lays out the probable storyline and makes that point, that this is a probable account of what had led up to this letter and what caused the letter’s content to be written.  He states . . . .

“the story behind this letter . . . . seems to be something like this.”


I have highlighted only some of the parts of Robinson’s storyline, the parts which brings up and weaves in elements of the actual letter of Philemon.   I have only included these portions, separated by   “. . . . “   (which indicates that I have skipped some a good number of words within his message).  My intent is to point out how Robinson touches on and weaves the actual content found in Philemon, into his imaginary story.    He knows how he wants to imagine the story because he is aiming to make sure that the details and facts of Philemon fit his storyline.

(For Example – If you know the content of Philemon, you see the allusions. @12:28)

“(Paul and Onesimus)  the two of them became very close . . . as close as a father and a son . . . .  Then one day Onesimus – I can image that Onesimus said —  Paul . . . there is someting that I have to tell you  . . . Philemon . . . . you see when I left Colossi . . . .”



Haddon Robinson – Put That On My Charge  (Link To Video Of The Message)


the story behind this letter . . . . seems to be something like this.


One day when Philemon and the family were gone Onesimus got into the house and stole everything he’d get his hands on took the jewelry the money anything else that wasn’t tied down put them in his knapsack and he went off to Rome.


 Rome provided no amenities the prisoner was responsible for getting his own food getting his own clothes and so I gather that Onesimus must have been a gofer for Paul anything he needed you go out in the city get it bring it back and the two of them became very close as close as a father and a son.


I come from a town in Asia Minor — a little place called Colossi – well – since I – I know about Colossi  — well you see this a man back in Colossi his name is Philemon. 


oh –  you know Philemon — I didn’t know you knew Philemon — why  — I told that old guy about Jesus Christ  — I know Philemon — Look — when you go back you tell Philemon what’s happened to me I’m sure . . . .


Oh wait a minute Paul — I don’t think that Philemon is very interested in seeing me.  You see when I left Colossi – I left in a hurry — Truth is – I’ve robbed him been blind  – I took everything he had and  – and that’s how I finance my trip here — and Paul – I’ve spent it all.


You do have to go back, but I tell you what I do.  I’ll write a letter for you to Philemon and I think when Philemon reads your letter, everything will be alright.


and so with one eye on Onesimus and another eye on the letter Philemon begins to read  — “Paul” . . . . “Paul a prisoner of Christ Jesus” – Is Paul in jail again Onesimus?


to Apphia — I take it that Apia was Mrs. Philemon . . . .


and to Archippus our fellow soldier — I take it that “Archie” was their son . . .


I appeal to you for my son Onesimus who became my son while I was in chains . . . I think Paul thinks you’ve become a Christian — I didn’t think anybody could pull the wool over Paul’s eyes – Until I know he knows what you’ve done . . . .


Formerly he was useless to you — that’s saying the least.


So if you consider me a partner . . . . You charge that to me – to my account . . . Paul knew all about what Onesimus had done.


as I say that’s half of this good news — but there’s even more — I can imagine that after Philemon read the letter he said to Onesimus –  Onesimus Paul says he’ll pay a debt that’s good enough of me — you – you go on out and get with the slaves — get a good night’s rest and you go out in the field again – It’s all over — — Maybe it was Aphia who said – I don’t think you read the letter closely — It says there – If you consider me a partner welcome Onesimus as you would welcome me.  Honey if Paul were here . . .  






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