We’ve talked before here about the Bible’s affirmation of itself that all its words are inspired and beneficial. Most readers here would not question that principle, but do we really believe that all parts of the Bible benefit us, or are some just trifling details, conjunctions getting us to the next part of the story?
Yesterday at Daily Encouragement, Steven and Brooksyne Weber looked at an obscure Bible character who is mentioned only once, in a passage that most of us would hurry past. Yet look at all he derived from from this one reference in the Bible study below. You’re also encouraged to read this at source — with pictures! — where it appeared under the title, Onesiphorus.
“The Lord grant mercy to the house of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains; but when he was in Rome, he eagerly searched for me and found me—the Lord grant to him to find mercy from the Lord on that day—and you know very well what services he rendered at Ephesus” (2 Timothy 1:16-18).
Typically I (Stephen) prepare these messages first and then Brooksyne sharpens them up by adding content and editing. Last night I told her I was going to write about Onesiphorus but she didn’t know what I meant. Even though she is an avid Bible student it is certainly not one of the usual words in the Bible. She thought it sounded like the botanical name of a flower, osteospermum, and then she guessed it was a color before I told her it was a Bible name. The light came on as Brooksyne recalled where she had seen the name. It’s also easy to confuse Onesiphorus with Onesimus, two names found in the Bible that I have never heard used as a proper name since then.
Onesiphorus is referenced only here in 2 Timothy yet this brief passage highly commends him, and speaks of his blessing to Paul and to others in Ephesus. When reading the Bible we tend to gloss over these brief passages wondering what relevance they may have for us. In view of that observation I see that I have never written about Onesiphorus so I reckon it’s about time. (I’ve kept a log of these messages since 1996!)
We learn from Biblical examples, both positive and negative, such as the negative reference made in the verse prior to this concerning two otherwise unknown men: “You are aware of the fact that all who are in Asia turned away from me, among whom are Phygelus and Hermogenes” (1 Timothy 1:15).
In this reference and the only other reference to Onesiphorus in 2 Timothy 4:19 Paul refers to “the house of Onesiphorus”. Some speculate that he may have died by this point but the phrase could also be a way of saying how his entire household had been a blessing. In our years of Christian service we consider households that just seem to minister together as a family, especially married couples, such as when our ministry friends from New Jersey come to mind, we don’t think of Jim only, but we refer to them as Jim and Dorothy.
Let’s look at four characteristics we can glean about Onesiphorus in our text:
- “He often refreshed me.” Don’t overlook the little word “often” (pollakis) which means many times, again and again, time after time. It conveys a vivid picture of Onesiphorus’ servant heart that he extended to Paul. “Refresh” translates a word that literally means “to cool again, to make cool or refresh.” The Living Bible paraphrase draws a word picture, “He visited me and encouraged me often. His visits revived me like a breath of fresh air.” Onesiphorus’ visits into the squalid conditions of the dungeon prison was like a “cool breeze” reviving Paul’s spirit and soul. A great promise to the refresher is a Proverb that states, “Whoever refreshes others will himself be refreshed” (Proverbs 11:25b).
- He “was not ashamed of my chains.” Knowing the rest of the story I can’t imagine being ashamed of Paul’s chains. We have the whole record since Paul’s imprisonment is now history, but the full understanding of all his sufferings was subject to one’s own interpretation. Some were embarrassed, afraid or even ashamed of his situation. What a great privilege it would have been to to know Paul and to continually refresh him in his otherwise drab, insufferable surroundings. May God give us boldness and discernment to stand with those who suffer, as we by faith see the rest of the story even before it happens!
- “He eagerly searched for me and found me.” It must have taken some effort to locate Paul and Onesiphorus did this eagerly. Many times meaningful ministry to others takes effort. We need to go out of our way or in some way be inconvenienced whether it involves our time, finances, roadblocks or whatever other setback we must overcome in the process.
- “You know very well what services he rendered at Ephesus.” As mentioned above the only reference we have to Onesiphorus is here in Paul’s second letter to Timothy, but perhaps that’s because Onesiphorus was already so well-known and highly regarded among the people. Paul briefly alludes to their familiarity with him through the services he offered in Ephesus. Can you think of people well-regarded because of their service for the Lord?
Spurgeon comments on Onesiphorus, “This good man is here immortalized. When he risked his life to find out and succour a poor despised prisoner, he little knew that he would live forever on the page of the church’s history. His cup of cold water given to an apostle has received an apostle’s reward. Are there any yet alive like Paul to whom we might minister in love after the manner of Onesiphorus?”
Spurgeon’s challenge is one we issue to all our readers today. Is there someone you might minister to in love just as Onesiphorus often did toward Paul. Don’t delay.