Onesiphorus [Ŏne sĭph'o rŭs]—bringing advantage. A believer in Ephesus who befriended Paul (2 Tim. 1:16; 4:19).
From the description Paul gives us of Onesiphorus, he must have been a lovely character. In his revealing essay of this rare character, Alexander Whyte speaks of him as “an elder in the Church of Ephesus, and a better elder there never was.”
Much controversy has raged around Paul’s cameo of Onesiphorus. Was he adorning the brow of a living man with a garland? Or was he placing a wreath upon the tomb of a saint? Some see in Paul’s reference to “the house of Onesiphorus” a proof for the lawfulness of prayers for the dead. But Paul’s language does not constitute a prayer, but only a wish or exclamation. The dead are beyond the influence of our intercessions.
There are several traits of the admirable life of Onesiphorus we can profitably meditate upon:
I. He was repeatedly kind. “He oft refreshed me.” In the overwhelming heat of his trials, Paul found himself revived when this dear saint came his way. What a blessed ministry it is to refresh the needy children of God!
II. He associated himself with Paul’s suffering. “He was not ashamed of my chain.” Some of the apostle’s friends did not like to own any connection with a chained man. But not so Onesiphorus. He had a big soul and brought consolation to the manacled prisoner. Many of God’s best servants are harassed with chains of sorrow and of affliction. Let us not shrink from helping them.
III. He made it his business to find Paul. “He sought me out.” Matthew Henry says, “A good man will seek opportunities of doing good, and will not shun that offer.” Is there someone you should hunt up and cheer?
IV. He and his house were blessed for kindness shown. “The Lord give mercy to the house of Onesiphorus.” Paul was not able to reward his friend for all his gracious solicitation, but the Lord could, and would. In ministering to Paul, Onesiphorous had ministered to the Lord, and of the Lord would be blessed.