Recently, J. D. Greear wrote about the power of the gospel seen in the book of Philemon. Here’s an excerpt:
Modern readers are often so side-tracked by the question, “Is Paul okay with slavery?” (short answer: no) that they miss the bigger picture: Onesimus’ slavery depicts for us the slavery of sin, and how we are all servants to it. Many of you are enslaved to sinful passions, idolatries, selfishness, lusts, and many other things that are keeping you from being a world-changing leader. It may have started as a diversion or an amusing hobby, but if you start to give your heart to something other than God, it will take the whole heart and make you useless. But God created you to be useful! That’s what Onesimus means, which is precisely Paul’s point: the gospel liberates you to be what God created you to be—not “useless,” not even “useful” in the sense of being a utility in someone else’s life, but useful in God’s purposes, part of a bigger plan.