Lesser Known Saints: Onesiphorus

“You are aware that all who are in Asia turned away from me, among whom are Phygelus and Hermogenes. May the Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains, but when he arrived in Rome he searched for me earnestly and found me – may the Lord grant him to find mercy from the Lord on that Day! – and you well know all the service he rendered at Ephesus.” 2 Timothy 1:15-18

This is the third in my series of posts on lesser known saints, those mentioned in Paul’s letters who so often go overlooked. I wrote about Epaphroditus here and Epaphras here. Today I want to talk about Onesiphorus. While it may be difficult to pronounce or spell his name, it’s not hard to see how he lived up to its meaning. Onesiphorus means “bringing profit.”

2 Timothy is the last letter Paul wrote before he died. He’s writing from a prison cell in Rome. In the letter, he talks of several people by name who have deserted him, but Onesiphorus stands in stark contrast. Paul pronounces a blessing of mercy upon his friend who was determined to serve and refresh the one who had brought the gospel, the message of mercy, to him and his household in Ephesus.

What does it mean to refresh others? It means to give rest and to restore strength. Onesiphorus often refreshed Paul and wasn’t ashamed of his chains. Why would others be ashamed? Perhaps they saw Paul’s chains as a sign of weakness or were afraid of the risks Paul took in proclaiming the gospel. Whatever the reason, Onesiphorus didn’t care. He didn’t let the indignity of Paul’s situation deter him from serving him in a way that gave him rest. We’re not told specifically what this service was but whatever he did, it eased Paul’s burdens and made his struggle more bearable.

And do you notice his courage and commitment? Keep in mind that Onesiphorus had to travel from Ephesus to Rome. The trip itself would’ve been filled with potential peril. But then Paul says that when Onesiphorus arrived in Rome, he sought for him earnestly until he found him. What must it have been like to search earnestly for a prisoner in Rome? A Christian prisoner for that matter? I’m sure that task also involved great risk and difficulty. Onesiphorus showed an enormous amount of commitment in seeking out his friend who was condemned to die. In good times and in bad, he stuck with Paul.

This little passage is a great example of sacrificial gospel friendship. I pray that I can be that kind of friend to others and, in my own hour of need, that I will have such friends.

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