2Ti 1:16-18 “The Lord give mercy unto the house of Onesiphorus; for he oft refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain: But, when he was in Rome, he sought me out very diligently, and found me. The Lord grant unto him that he may find mercy of the Lord in that day: and in how many things he ministered unto me at Ephesus, thou knowest very well.”
In verse fifteen of this chapter, Paul speaks of a turning away by those in Asia and particularly mentions Phygellus and Hermogenes as being among that number. The name Phygellus means “fugitive” (unstable, fleeting) and Hermogenes means “son of Hermes.” Hermes was one of the gods of Greek mythology and was known to be a trickster (fraud). These names are very telling concerning Paul’s view of the situation in Asia.
Given that he has just mentioned some for Asia who have turned away, it is reasonable to infer that Onesiphorus was one who had remained faithful. The name means “bringer of profit.” Onesiphorus and his household were profitable to the cause of Christ and to Paul personally. Since Timothy was at Ephesus (in Asia) when Paul wrote this letter, Paul felt it necessary to remind him of the situation, who could be relied on, and who could not.
Paul desired that the Lord would show compassion unto the household of Onesiphorus. Compassion is defined in Webster’s Dictionary of American English (1828) as “compounded of love and sorrow.” With so many in Asia turning away, it is likely that Onesiphorus was in danger of persecution. His boldness can clearly be seen in the fact that he purposely sought Paul out while he was imprisoned in Rome.
Onesiphorus was apparently more concerned about Paul and the cause of Christ than he was his own safety. Paul was considered a criminal, yet Onesiphorus openly visited him and had fellowship with him. We know by Paul’s writings that his first concern was for the cause of Christ. It is likely that the refreshing he received from Onesiphorus was not only in physical comforts (food, raiment, etc.), but also in encouragement from God’s word.
Paul often spoke of the fact that he was a prisoner of Jesus Christ. He did not refer to himself as a prisoner of Rome or any other entity, although he acknowledged that he was at times in prison. I believe the chain that Paul refers to here was referring to his being a prisoner of Jesus Christ. Like Timothy, Onesiphorus was not ashamed of this chain, but rather chose to bear the afflictions of the gospel.
It is reasonable that Paul felt that Onesiphorus had painted a target on his own back in his devotion to both the cause of Christ and to Paul. In these few lines, we see that Onesiphorus was bold in both endeavors. Paul again expressed his hope that Onesiphorus would find loving compassion from the Lord on the day that persecution caught up with him. Even though Paul was probably in a Roman prison when he wrote this letter, his concern was for other faithful servants more than himself.
While we, as servants of Jesus, need to be aware that many may turn aside, our focus should always be on the cause of Christ. We need to remember to pray diligently for those who are not ashamed of our chain. Bringing profit (refreshing) to our brothers and sisters should be a desire of our hearts. We should be looking out for each other and encouraging one another.
May God grant us the grace, in a world filled with filled with men like Phygellus, to be an Onesiphorus!