2 Timothy 1:15-18
This you know, that all they which are in Asia be turned away from me; of whom are Phygellus and Hermogenes.…
I. PHYGELUS AND HERMOGENES. "This thou knowest, that all that are in Asia turned away from me; of whom are Phygelus and Hermogenes." The defection here referred to was from Paul and his interests. It extended to all that were in Asia, i.e. all Asiatics who at one time had been attached to the apostle, and whose attachment was put to the test when in Rome during his imprisonment. It was to have been expected of them that they would have found their way to his dungeon; but, as if they had put it to themselves whether they would go or not, they chose the latter alternative. They turned away from him. They probably found some excuse in the pressure of business; but in the real character of their action it was turning their back on the imprisoned apostle. In this not very numerous class Phygelus and Hermogenes are singled out for notice, probably because they had showed the greatest unbrotherliness. We know nothing more of them than is mentioned here. It has been their destiny to be handed down to posterity as men who acted an unworthy part toward a noble man in his extremity. They did not know that such an evil immortality was to attach to their action; but their action was on that account only the more free. Let all our actions be upright and generous; for we do not know by which of them we shall be known among men. This defection is referred to Timothy as being within his knowledge; for by their example he was to be deterred from cowardice, and his bravery was to be all the greater that these men were cowards.
II. ONESIPHORUS. There is a distinction observed between the house of Onesiphorus and Onesiphorus himself. With regard to the house of Onesiphorus they are objects of present interest. Blessings are invoked upon them in the sixteenth verse, to the manifest exclusion of Oncsiphorus himself. At the close of the Epistle the same thing is observable: "Salute the house of Onesiphorus." With regard to Onesiphorus himself, nothing is said about his present: the past tense is used of him, and a wish is expressed about his future. It may, therefore, be regarded as certain that Onesiphorus was dead.
1. Interest in departed friends shown in kindness to beloved ones left behind. "The Lord grant mercy unto the house of Onesiphorus." There are around us the three circles of lovers, friends, acquaintances (Psalm 88:18). Our love to the innermost circle is to be most intense, which it can be without interfering with our love to the second circle of friends. The proper cultivation of our affections in our homes will the better qualify us for loving our friends. There is an absence of reserve, and openness to influence, in friendship, which makes it, when properly based, a great blessing. There are duties which we owe to our friends when they are with us, and our duties do not end with their death. Onesiphorus had been the friend of Paul, and, now that he is gone, the large-hearted apostle, in writing to Timothy from his dungeon, breathes a prayer on behalf of the house of Onesiphorus. The Lord, i.e. Jesus Christ, the great Overseer of the Churches, and Appointer for the several households of which the Churches are composed, grant them mercy. They were objects of sympathy, in being deprived of their earthly head on whom it devolved to provide for them, to assist and counsel especially the beginners in life. The Lord mercifully make up for them what they had lost. Would this prayer return from heaven unanswered? Would not this kindly remembrance of them, read in their desolate home, bring good cheer to their hearts, and be an influence for good in all their future life? Would it not also be the means of raising up friends for them?
2. Interest in the living founded on the past kindness of the dead. "For he oft refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain; but, when he was in Rome, he sought me diligently, and found me." This was after his first answer, apparently during his second imprisonment, when awaiting his second answer. Paul leaned very much on human sympathy. On one occasion he said, "The Lord that comforteth them that are cast down, comforted me by the coming of Titus." So the Lord refreshed him by those visits of Onesiphorus. This friend was true to his name; he was a real help bringer - bringer of comfort and strength to the great warrior whose battles were nearly over. He was a helper in presence of difficulties. He was not ashamed of his chain, i.e. braved all the dangers connected with his being regarded as the prisoner's friend. There was difficulty of access to him, such as there had not been during the first imprisonment, when he had his own hired house, and received all that came to him; but Onesiphorus sought him all the more diligently that he knew of his unbefriended condition, and overcame all official hindrances. In the strange working of providence, Onesiphorus came to his end before Paul, but his good deeds lived after him, and caused him to be remembered by Paul, and in that form which, had he been conscious of what was taking place on earth, would have been most pleasing to Onesiphorus. And this was not to be wondered at. Onesiphorus loved his home circle - this is an element in the case; but it did not absorb all his attention. He had a place in his heart for friends, and was ready to render them services. And this was acting more truly for the interests of his loved ones than if he had selfishly confined his attention to them. For when he was gone - taken away at a time when he was greatly needed by his children - there were those who were their well wishers for the father's sake. There was the missionary, by whom there had been so much benefit, invoking his blessing on them. The psalmist says, "I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread." And this can be explained without bringing in a special miracle. Indeed, the psalmist so explains it in the following verse: "He is ever merciful, and lendeth; and his seed is blessed." That is to say, by his good deeds when he is alive, he raises up friends for his children when he is dead.
3. Interest in departed friends shown in pious wishes with respect to their future. "The Lord grant unto him to find mercy of the Lord in that day." The following is to be noted as the teaching of Luther: "We have no command from God to pray for the dead, and therefore no one can sin who does not pray for them. For in what God has neither commanded nor forbidden, no man can sin. Yet because God has not granted us to know the state of the soul, and we must be uncertain about it, thou dost not sin that thou prayest for the dead, but in such wise that thou leave it in doubt and say thus, 'If this soul be in that state that thou mayest yet help it, I pray thee to be gracious unto it.' Therefore if thou hast prayed once or thrice, thou shouldest believe that thou art heard, and pray no more, lest thou tempt God." Beyond that Paul does not go. He follows Onesiphorus into the next world, and, when he thinks of him coming to the settling for what his earthly life had been, he devoutly breathes the wish that he may be mercifully dealt with. Such an expression of feeling is not to be forbidden us as we think of departed friends going forward to judgment; it is to be found in inscriptions in the catacombs. But it has no connection with a belief in purgatory, and is very different from the formal inculcation of prayers for the dead.
4. Reference to Timothy as to services rendered by Onesiphorus at Ephesus. "And in how many things he ministered at Ephesus, thou knowest very well." This was additional to services rendered by Onesiphorus to the apostle at Rome. He had not mentioned it before, because it had been within the sphere of Timothy's own observation. But he brings it in now, as what was fitted to support the charge of constancy he is laying on Timothy. - R.F.
Parallel VersesKJV: This thou knowest, that all they which are in Asia be turned away from me; of whom are Phygellus and Hermogenes.