Tuesday, December 16, 2014

People Who Minister – 2 Tim 4:19-22

Greet Prisca and Aquila, and the household of Onesiphorus. Erastus remained at Corinth, but Trophimus I left sick at Miletus. Make every effort to come before winter. Eubulus greets you, also Pudens and Linus and Claudia and all the brethren. The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you. (NASU)
Prisca and Aquila
Paul was well acquainted with Prisca (Pricilla) and Aquila. He first met them at Corinth where they settled down after Claudius forced all Jews out of Rome. He stayed with them and worked in their tent making business. This enabled Paul to evangelize during his free time (Acts 18:1-4). They then accompanied Paul back to Ephesus where they stayed and Paul continued on (Acts 18:18-19). After Paul left, they heard Apollos speak but they also took him aside and corrected his theology (Acts 18:26). Their influence on the Gospel is significant. They used their business to aid Paul, they traveled extensively ending back in Rome (Rom 16:3), they risked their lives for Paul (Rom 16:4), they had sound theology and influenced Apollos.
How can we be like them? We many not all have businesses where we can hire people who need work while they concentrate on their ministry. But we can support missionaries. Paul was supported by the Philippian church (Phil 4:15-16); they set a good example for us. Perhaps you know of a young seminary student or family that could use some help while they are going to school training for a life of ministry. We should not fear when we are forced to pick up our family and move to a new city or even country. What would have happened to the gospel if Claudius had not kicked them out of Rome? Would they have met and helped Paul or Apollos? When we travel, even if it is to the grocery store, we should look for opportunities to serve others and engage people with the good news of Jesus. It isn’t all about evangelism either. Sometimes we need to take the time to disciple others.

May the Lord show special kindness to Onesiphorus and all his family because he often visited and encouraged me. He was never ashamed of me because I was in chains. When he came to Rome, he searched everywhere until he found me. May the Lord show him special kindness on the day of Christ's return. And you know very well how helpful he was in Ephesus. (2 Tim 1:16-18 NLT)
We don’t know much about Onesiphorus other than this brief description and 2 Timothy 1:16-18 and 4:19, which mentions his household. Paul wanted the Lord to show kindness to him and his family. People generally want kindness for people who have been kind. The makes me believe that Onesiphorus was a kind person and that kindness was reflected in his family. We can be like Onesiphorus when we are kind to others, especially to our own families. One interesting thing about being kind is that is a virtue that rewards us because, “A kind man benefits himself” (Prov 11:17 NIV).
Kindness goes out of its way to help others. Since Onesiphorus lived in Ephesus and the context suggests that he visited Paul more than once, it is possible that he made several trips to bring aid to Paul while he was in prison there. The first time, he didn’t even know where to find him. How many times do we go out of our way to visit prisoners, missionaries, elderly, hospitals, or even across the street to show kindness or comfort to others? Or do you make a half-hearted effort and when the circumstances are not perfect, claim that the Lord closed the door? Many times, a simple act of kindness can open a door to minister to a hurting person or share the Gospel with someone who is ready to hear from someone who is living their life like Jesus – as was Onesiphorus.
Another thing about Onesiphorus, he worked in the local church and didn’t use his expanded ministry as an excuse to neglect involvement his local congregation. I get it, we are all busy, it is difficult to go to work, minister in our neighborhood, and serve in the church. How difficult was it for Onesiphorus? I wonder how long it took to travel from Ephesus to Rome and back. I wonder how much time he had for his family? Yet, he was helpful in his church.
Erastus and Trophimus
So he sent into Macedonia two of those who ministered to him, Timothy and Erastus, but he himself stayed in Asia for a time. (Acts 19:22 NKJV)
Erastus took some missionary journeys as well. He went with Timothy to Macedonia for some time, but ended up in Corinth, where he was the city treasurer (Rom 16:23). Note that he was one of many people who ministered to Paul during his missionary journeys. Trophimus is also one who accompanied Paul on his journeys (Acts 20:4, 21:29). Trophimus is an example of someone who is willing to go and then suffers the consequences of travels, illness. Paul had to leave him in  Miletus.
As we look at different people who help Paul, we find diversity. Erastus was the city treasurer. He was in a position of trust in the government. I see the same kinds of activity among many Christians today. Some are well-know, even celebrities who give their time to help the cause of Christ. These are people who have found the balance between their work, families, and ministry. While we often think that being successful in our work requires putting it before ministry and even family, those who want to be most effective in their lives know that all three are needed in the right balance. Perhaps those who are in full-time ministry find it hardest to balance their live since they can’t see the division between ministry and work. Often, they end up neglecting their families.
Trophimus illustrates the risks that we take when we engage in reaching out beyond our comfortable surroundings. He fell ill while traveling with Paul. He isn’t the only one, Epaphroditus also became ill while helping Paul during his first imprisonment in Rome (Phil 2:25). In fact, he almost died.
… Euodia and Syntyche … help these two women, for they worked hard with me in telling others the Good News. They worked along with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are written in the Book of Life. (Phil 4:2-3 NLT)
Paul often speaks of the women who helped him spread the Gospel. While these two were having some problems, the important thing to see is that Paul called them co-workers. He didn’t look down on them because they were women, as many would contend. Without the assistance and ministry of women, I’m convinced that Gospel would have failed. Not that Jesus’ ministry could fail because He is sovereign, but it is because He has shown throughout His Word that women are an integral part of His plan. In the Old Testament, God’s plan of redemption and women’s integration in that plan was announced to Satan (Gen 3:15). The lessons we have from the O. T. do not just include men, but women of faith and action.
Sarah, Rebecca, Tamar, Jochebed, Miriam, Ruth, the widow of Zeraphath (1 Kings 17:8), the Shunammite woman (2 Kings 4:8-10), and Esther are some of the women that God used to bring about His plan. Each of these had a mission to accomplish. While they were not perfect, just as the men were not, their parts were no less important than the men’s parts.
When we come to the New Testament, we find the same thing. Obviously, we often focus on the Virgin Mary, as is appropriate. However, we also need to see how other women were involved. The prophetess, Ana, immediately knew who Jesus was at His dedication and spoke to others about Him (Luke 2:36-38). Mary sat at Jesus’ feet clearly showing that disciples were not just men. Luke 8:2-3 records that women of wealth supported Jesus’ ministry. The book of Acts is full of women who assisted in ministry (Dorcas in Acts 9:36), were some of the first converts, and opened their homes to Paul (Lydia in Acts 16:14-15). Prominent women became some of the first converts in Thessalonica (Acts 17:4) and Berea (Acts 17:12).
With Your Spirit
And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. (Matt 28:20b NIV)
I hear some people say that we don’t need to ask God to provide what He has already promised. I get it, but Paul pronounced a benediction on Timothy at the end of his letter that echoes Jesus’ promise to be with all of us to the end of the age. If it is already promised, why would Paul do this? Certainly, it is a reminder that Jesus is with us to the end. Whatever our situation, we know He is right there with us.
Paul said “the Lord be with your spirit” (2 Tim 4:22). “The term ‘Lord’ (kurios) was a term pregnant with meaning among Greek-speaking Jews. It was the word used in the LXX [Septuagint] to translate the tetragrammaton (YHWH, ‘LORD’).”[1] The New Testament uses the phrase, “Lord Jesus,” 118 times in the King James Version. There is no doubt that when Paul pronounced this blessing, he was not speaking just of God the Father, but of the Trinity, inclusively of Jesus because he often spoke of the Lord Jesus. Even though Jesus has a physical body, it is a resurrected glorified body. Because He is God, He is just as omnipresent as God the Father and the Holy Spirit. Jesus is with us now and to the end of the age. It is a fitting benediction for Paul’s last letter and a reminder to us.
What is our spirit? There are many definitions, but this one sums it up well. “The nonphysical part of a person that is the seat of emotions and character; the soul … such a part regarded as a person's true self and as capable of surviving physical death or separation”[2]). This agrees with Unger as he states, “The term soul specifies that in the immaterial part of man that concerns life, action, and emotion. Spirit is that part related to worship and divine communion. The two terms are often used interchangeably, the same functions being ascribed to each.”[3] When I see a reference to my spirit in the Bible, I know that it is me.
May the Lord Jesus be with your spirit.

[1] Andreas J. Köstenberger, L. Scott Kellum, and Charles L Quarles, The Cradle, the Cross, and the Crown (Nashville: B & H Publishing Group, 2009), 19941-19942, Kindle.
[2] The New Oxford American Dictionary, Kindle ed., s.v. “spirit,” (Oxford University Press, 2010).
[3] Merrill F. Unger, The New Unger's Bible Dictionary, Updated ed., s.v. “Spirit,” ed. R. K. Harrison (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2006), Biblesoft.

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