Wednesday, 14 March 2018
The Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain; 2 Timothy 1:16
In the preceding verse, Paul spoke of those who had turned away from him – Phygellus and Hermogenes. Now he contrasts their faithlessness to the faithfulness of Onesiphorus. He is mentioned only here, and in 2 Timothy 4:19. In both instances, Paul writes of “the household of Onesiphorus.” For this reason, some scholars feel Paul is conveying that he is now dead, and he is asking for mercy upon his household. Others disagree, and say that he was still living (citing verse 18 as a proof) and that he was simply absent from his home at this time.
The reason for supporting the second view is because Paul’s words of verse 18 almost sound like a prayer for him. If this is so, then it would supposedly be evidence that one can pray for the dead. However, Paul’s words in that verse are no different than anyone else who simply refers to the dead in a manner similar to this. It is not necessarily a prayer, but an acknowledgment that their lives were well lived and we are entrusting their judgment to the Lord’s wise discernment.
Either way, living or dead, Paul desires that “The Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus.” He trusts that the benefit of mercy hoped for because of Onesiphorus’ life and actions be granted upon his whole household. And the specific reasons for this are given by Paul:
1) For he often refreshed me. Onesiphorus was kind to Paul, ministering to him while others had abandoned him. He lifted Paul up when things were grim and difficult. It is reflective of the words of Jesus in Matthew 25:26 which say, “I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.”
2) [He] was not ashamed of my chain. Paul was a prisoner for the sake of the gospel, but this meant that he was an enemy of the empire. By tending to him as a prisoner in this capacity, Onesiphorus was aligning himself with Paul, and he was thus risking himself in the process. And yet, he was more concerned about Christian charity for Paul than he was for his own safety. While others walked away, Onesiphorus stuck fast to his duty to the chained apostle.
Life application: How faithful are you willing to be to those who have been faithful to the Lord? There may be a time when Christian friends are sick at home, laid up in the hospital, or facing some sort of trial or difficulty. Are you ready to refresh them in their time of distress? Or will a simple post on Facebook, hoping for them to get better, be the extent of your effort? People do remember such things. When your time of trouble comes, they will probably respond in kind to how you extend yourself for them.
Lord God, help us to be willing to do more than just post a note on Facebook when friends are having trouble. Give us the sense to reach out to them personally, and to offer help as they may need it. A call and a prayer with someone is surely something that will help them to readjust and refocus. And a personal visit, when possible, shows that we care enough to go out of our way for them. Give us wisdom in this, O Lord, and help us to be people who demonstrate love with more than just platitudes. Amen.