In the early days of the Civil War, Private William Scott of the Union Army was assigned to keep watch at an important bridge guarding the way to the Capitol. Around 2 a.m., an officer found him asleep at his post. The penalty? Death. But when Scott faced the firing squad, he received a last-minute pardon from President Lincoln with a warning about how important it was to remain vigilant.
In today’s reading, the apostle Paul concludes his charge to Timothy with a command to “guard the deposit that was entrusted to you” (v. 14). Paul admonished Timothy to be vigilant in teaching and preaching the gospel that he had received (v. 13). His teaching should be marked by a life that has been transformed by the message—“with faith and love in Christ Jesus” (v. 13). This kind of life is only possible “with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us” (v. 14).
In order to drive his point home, Paul provided Timothy with two examples. He reminded Timothy of Phygelus and Hermogenes who abandoned Paul and the gospel. We do not know many details about this situation, but the consequences were severe. Paul declared that “everyone in the province of Asia has deserted me” because of their unfaithfulness (v. 15).
In contrast, Onesiphorus displayed courageous faithfulness. In many countries today, identifying as a Christian can be costly. When Paul was arrested by Nero, Onesiphorus had regularly sought him out to bring him refreshment and support. He identified himself with a condemned leader of the church. He was a great help to the church in Ephesus (v. 18).
>> What does it mean for you to be “not ashamed” of the gospel? While you may not face imprisonment for your faith in Christ, you may be quiet about your faith fearing ridicule from friends or family members. Like Timothy, we can use this reminder to be bold in our convictions.
What a wonderful example Paul gives us when he describes the faithfulness of Onesiphorus! As we reflect on 2 Timothy 1, ask God to teach you how to make disciples and how to be a faithful disciple.