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Free Books » Bonar, Horatius » Light & Truth: The Lesser Epistles

Chapter 37 - 2 Timothy 1:16-18 - Paul's Loving Helpmeet Light & Truth: The Lesser Epistles by Bonar, Horatius




Paul's Loving Helpmeet.


     "The Lord give mercy unto the house of Onesiphorus; for he oft refreshed me, and was not ashamed of any 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."-2 Timothy 1:16-18.



     Onesiphorus means 'help-bringer.' Thus the character of the individual corresponded with his name. His deeds showed him to be worthy of such a name. He was a true helpmeet or fellow helper in the Lord. He was the apostle's help bringer. He seems to have lived at Ephesus; and certainly had not left his first love. His family were like-minded with himself. The expression is meant to include both him and them,-'Onesiphorus and his household;' and they are specially saluted at the close of this epistle. He seems to have been greatly beloved by the apostle, and to have suited him well. Paul needed such an one, and God supplied the need in giving him this loving, bold, unwearied helpmeet. We notice here-(1) Paul's prayers for Onesiphorus; (2) The reasons given.

     I. Paul's prayers for Onesiphorus.-He helped Paul; and Paul helped him with his prayers. Twice over, in these verses, does Paul ask for 'mercy' in his behalf,-mercy now, mercy hereafter, or 'in that day.' It is to 'the Lord,' or Jesus Christ, that he thus prays; it is from the Lord that he asks mercy now, and mercy hereafter, in the day when He comes again. Onesiphorus was one who had obtained mercy, yet the apostle asks mercy for him; just as, although forgiven men, we need forgiveness hourly. How unscripturally they argue who say,-'You have been forgiven, why ask forgiveness in your prayers? You have found mercy, why be always asking for mercy?' Our whole life is mercy from first to last. Each cry of ours must begin with 'Have mercy,' like David, and like the publican. The word mercy is a wide and deep and large one. It contains everything we need. As grace means everything that free love can give the sinner, so mercy means everything that mercy can give him. This is the well-head of all blessing. Everything we receive or need is to be traced to this. It is the mercy of God; infinite like Himself. 'The quality of this mercy is not strained.' Its breadth, and length, and depth, and height are beyond measure and conception. 'The Lord give mercy,' says the apostle, reminding us of its freeness; and again, 'the Lord grant (or give, for it is the same word) that he may find mercy of the Lord in that day.' Yes; the mercy is the mercy of God, or rather of the Lord,-'our Lord Jesus Christ;' mercy gushing forth just now in fullness, hereafter to gush forth in no less fullness when He comes again. What a prayer! Could he ask more? Did not that include all?

     II. The reasons.-These are given as reasons why Paul prays for Onesiphorus, and why he expects God to answer;-like the reasons given regarding the centurion, 'for he loveth our nation, and hath built us a synagogue.' Let us note these reasons. They are all more or less connected with himself. He had experienced much kindness from Onesiphorus in most trying circumstances, and he feels as if thus he were a debtor to him; nay, as if the Lord had been made a debtor to him also, because of this kindness to the servant.

     (1.) He oft refreshed me.-Paul, though an apostle, needed refreshment. His spirit was often cast down within him and withered. The word means, breathing fresh life into what is dead or withered,-'times of refreshing.' Bodily suffering, imprisonment, tossing to and fro, weariness, and painfulness,-these oftentimes brought him low. Though Christ was in him and he in Christ, yet he felt sorrow and bitterness just as we do. He needed earthly companionship, human sympathy to revive him. He got it in Onesiphorus. He was oft refreshed by him. People mistake much when they think that ministers can so soar above earthly grief and care as to be independent of consolation. They need it as much as any; perhaps more. Let their people seek to refresh them. Let each member be an Onesiphorus; if not by word and deed, at least by prayer.

     (2.) He was not ashamed of my chain.-Paul was a prisoner, in a Roman dungeon, the Mamertine prison. He was bound as a malefactor, and it needed no common courage to visit him, sympathize with him. The chains and the dungeon no doubt repelled many. They were afraid; they were ashamed. They hid their faces from him. But Onesiphorus boldly and lovingly gives vent to his sympathy. He is not ashamed of the prisoner, or the prison, or the chain. The reproach to be incurred (perhaps the danger also) by showing kindness to a criminal, was nothing to him. They were one in Christ; and this oneness drew them together. Nothing could separate them, or produce coldness or distance. Let us be in sympathy with all suffering saints; and rejoice to suffer for our sympathy with brethren.

     (3.) When in Rome, he sought him out very diligently.-He would have great difficulty in finding him. Rome was an immense city, like London. How difficult to find out a poor Jewish prisoner in it! Yet he did it. 'I was in prison, and ye came unto me' (Matthew 25:36).

     (4.) He ministered to him.-Yes; Onesiphorus ministers to Paul; frequently and in many things. For in how many things can the members help each other! Every day; every hour. They may bear burdens, bind up wounds, speak words of comfort, be serviceable constantly. Let us learn the duty of ministry, and feel that we are all, in a measure, ministers. We are called upon to serve. And for this service the apostle asks that he may be recompensed. He can only reward him by his prayers; but is not that enough?

     The day of the reward is coming; 'that day.' Then all shall be recompensed. A recompense for the very smallest favor or service, however feebly and imperfectly performed. Not a cup of water shall be overlooked; not a word spoken or action done but shall have its reward. Let us serve, then, the Master in the servant; let us serve faithfully and freely. The reward of the faithful servant shall be great at the Master's coming. We do not, indeed, work for hire; yet we get recompense,-glorious recompense.  Let our eye rest on it, and on that day which is to bring it to us. 'Let us have respect unto the recompense of reward.'

     Let us remember that we are debtors to all saints,-ministers or not; young or old; debtors to the whole world, but specially to the Church. Let us serve as such, 'looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.' For, 'behold, I come quickly, and my reward is with me.'