Onesiphorus


Onesiphorus from 11th century Byzantine illuminated manuscript known as Menologion of Basil II (Vaticanus graecus 1613) picturing 70 disciples in Luke 10. (Wikimedia Commons)

Betrayed and abandoned by those who should have been friends.  Imprisoned in a foreign country on false charges and expecting execution.  If there was ever a time for despair, this was it.  Enter Onesiphorus.  He crossed an ocean, searched the largest city on earth and took on the most complicated bureaucracy the world had yet know to find Paul and bring him help, food and comfort.  He was not ashamed to be seen as a friend of the condemned prisoner, even though that might involve personal risk.  (Indeed, the awkward way Paul refers to him in II Timothy 1:16-18 may indicate that he has died.) 

Paul speaks of Onesiphorus not only as an example of one who held fast to the faith in difficult times, but also as one who consistently helped others who were working for the sake of the gospel. (Tradition has it that he was one of the seventy chosen by Jesus in Luke 10.) The extraordinary service he rendered to Paul in Rome was not out of character—he had offered similar refreshment and encouragement in Ephesus earlier.

The mention of Onesiphorus is clearly meant as an example to be followed.  Do you provide refreshment for those you know who are engaged in ministry?  Do you offer them friendship and fellowship without always expecting them to be at their best?  Are you alert to their need to be encouraged and ministered to at times?

There is another example here also.  Paul, the great apostle who taught encouraged and rebuked so many also gratefully accepted refreshment offered by an otherwise unknown disciple.  If you are actively involved in ministry, is this an example you follow?  Do you also allow others to minister to you?  Or does that seem to you an unacceptable show of weakness that might harm your “position” among those you are called to serve? 

Consider this: Do you take opportunities to enjoy the life & blessings God has given you?  Or do you always place “work” before “pleasure” to the extent that your family does not know you consider them a blessing?  Is your service to others only self-sacrificing work, or is it a joyous exercising of the gifts God has given you for His service?

Let us learn from Onesiphorus to give and receive refreshment:

  • Allow others to minister to you.
    • Galatians 6:2; I Corinthians 16:18; II Corinthians 8:14-15
  • Seek contact with those who give refreshment.
    • Proverbs 3:8; 17:17; Romans 15:32
  • Enjoy with those you love the activities God gives for your happiness.
    • Deuteronomy 14:26; Proverbs 5:18; Ecclesiastes 3:12-13; 11:8
  • Give “a cup of cold water”.
    • Matthew 10:42; cf Revelation 3:15
  • Offer hospitality.
    • Genesis 18:5; Romans 12:13; I Peter 4:8-9
  • Practice taking a Sabbath rest.
    • Exodus 23:12; Matthew 11:28-29; Mark 6:31; Hebrews 4:9-10

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