Today’s church needs a good dose of preaching on forgiveness. There is no better place to do so than Paul’s one-chapter epistle to Philemon. The letter oozes forgiveness.

If I were preaching a series of sermons on Philemon, one resource I would use is O. S. Hawkin’s Tearing Down Walls and Building Bridges, published by Thomas Nelson (1995).

Hawkins, currently the president of Guidestone Financial Services in Dallas, the annuity arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, served many years as pastor of Southern Baptist churches. Before moving to his current position, he was pastor of the historic First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas.

While there, he preached a series of sermons through Philemon now included in Tearing Down Walls.

There are several reasons why I like this book.

  1. Hawkins is committed to expository preaching. He correctly divides the letter into six paragraphs (1-3, 4-7, 8-11, 12-16, 17-21, 22-25) and from these paragraphs preaches 13 sermons that clearly unfold the meaning of the text.

  2. These sermons are extremely down to earth and practical. Hawkins knows how to get the gospel into shoe leather from Philemon.

  3. His illustrations are well placed and come from a wide variety of sources; from Scripture to modern life.

  4. There is a study guide at the end of the book covering each chapter that is very helpful for personal or small group study.


Self-help books are a dime a dozen. This is not one of them. Preachers will find Hawkins’ treatment of Philemon full of material to aid in preaching on forgiveness and the need for relationships in and out of the church that are gospel-centered, biblically-based, and ecclesiologically-sound.

Go forth . . . preach on forgiveness . . . and forgive.