Regular Christians (Part 3): Onesiphorus

Regular Christians

Onesiphorus was one who took advantage of opportunities to do good. We can read about him in Paul’s second letter to Timothy.

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).

We learn from Paul’s letter to Timothy that the young evangelist knew who this individual was. Paul explained that Onesiphorus had an opportunity to do good that was unique to him and he took advantage of it – something he must have done regularly, considering the fact that Paul referred to the “services he rendered at Ephesus” (2 Timothy 1:18). He was evidently from Ephesus, yet he happened to be in Rome while Paul was in prison there (2 Timothy 1:17). Because of this, he had an opportunity to help the apostle. Timothy could not help Paul, even if he wanted to, since he was in Ephesus. But Onesiphorus, because he was in Rome at the time, was able to refresh Paul while he was imprisoned. In doing so he ignored the potential hazard of aiding one who had been imprisoned for preaching the gospel.

This is similar to the actions of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37). In this familiar parable, a man was beaten by robbers and left for dead on the side of the road. A priest and a Levite both saw him and passed by on the other side before a Samaritan saw him and helped him. This man did not know he would find a man in such dire need. There is nothing to indicate that he was actively looking for someone to help. Yet he was confronted with the opportunity and he did not let it pass without doing whatever he could do to help, despite the possible danger or stigma of helping this particular unknown individual.

We are to make the most of our time. Paul wrote, “Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:15-16). One of the ways we can do this is by taking advantage of the opportunities before us. Paul told the Galatians, “So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:10). Each one of us has opportunities that no one else has:

  • Opportunities to teach others – As Christians, we are to be examples to those around us and take advantage of opportunities to teach them (1 Peter 2:12; 3:15). Yet there is often the temptation to think that it is the responsibility of “somebody else” to teach the lost (usually the preacher). While others may be teaching the lost, the reality is that there are people around us for whom we – because of our relationship with them (family members, friends, neighbors, co-workers, etc.) – are the best one (or sometimes the only one) in a position to lead them to the truth. Even if we do not feel that we are equipped yet to teach them all they need to know to believe and obey the gospel, we can work to generate an interest and then connect them with someone else (a preacher or more mature Christian) who can teach them further.
  • Opportunities to encourage others – We all have people we encounter who need encouragement. Like we noted with the opportunities we have to teach, there are some people for whom we – because of our relationship with them – will be the best one (or only one) who can provide the encouragement they need. This is why the Hebrew writer said that we are all to “encourage one another day after day” (Hebrews 3:13). We are to speak words that are “good for edification according to the need of the moment” (Ephesians 4:29), because those moments quickly pass by before others can step in and provide the encouragement that is needed.
  • Opportunities to help others – Like Onesiphorus and the Good Samaritan, we may encounter individuals in need of help and be the only one with a real opportunity to provide assistance. Individually, we are to “visit orphans and widows” (James 1:27), “show hospitality to strangers” (Hebrews 13:2), and “share with one who has need” (Ephesians 4:28) according to the opportunities before us.

Opportunities like these are distinct moments in time – moments that are unique to us. If we put them off, thinking that we can do these things at a more convenient season, they will pass by and be left undone. Therefore, we need to be looking for these opportunities and use them, not let them pass thinking that others can step up in our place.

Onesiphorus was remembered because of what he did for Paul in Rome. There are not many details given, only that he “eagerly searched” for Paul while he was in prison and “often refreshed” him (2 Timothy 1:16-17). The emphasis is not on what he did exactly; rather, the apostle emphasized that Onesiphorus saw an opportunity to do good and did it. Let us simply try to make the most of our time and look for opportunities to help in whatever way we can.

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