The Ashamed and the Unashamed - 2 Timothy 1:15-18

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We probably all know what it is like to be in a situation where we are hesitant or slow to stand up for the truth of the Gospel. We are a people who are prone to struggling with fear and pride and timidity. For us, the first chapter of 2 Timothy is an important reminder.

In 2 Timothy 1 Paul is exhorting Timothy to be bold and courageous and to stand firm for the sake of the truth. He’s calling on Timothy to be unashamed, willing to suffer, and to be a faithful guardian of the truth of the Gospel. As Christians it is a message that we need to hear and take to heart.    

While the heart of Paul’s charge is in 2 Timothy 1:8-14, in verses 15-18 he provides some examples for Timothy to consider. The first is a negative example of many people who were ashamed of the Gospel and who failed to be faithful. The second is a positive example of one man who was unashamed and who remained faithful to the Gospel even when it was inconvenient and dangerous.

A Negative Example – Those who Turned Away from Gospel Faithfulness (1:15) 

  • What triggered the turning away? In the context it seems that Paul is referring to his arrest and how at that time many chose to turn away. Paul was a key leader in the church, and his arrest may have been the signal for some that this faith wasn’t what they expected. For others, they may have simply turned away for fear of risking their own freedom – or even their lives.
  • What does it mean that they turned away? While Paul specifically says that they turned away ‘from me,’ the context of the chapter makes it clear that in turning away from Paul they were also turning away from faithfulness to the Gospel. While this may not mean that they left the faith completely, Paul does use this language two other times to describe those who seem to be outside of the faith (2 Timothy 4:4; Titus 1:14).
  • Two Significant Defectors – In verse 15 Paul mentions two men by name. While we don’t know anything else about these men, it seems that Paul mentions them either because of their leadership among those who turned away or because they were men who Paul knew and previously trusted. In the latter case, Paul mentions them as an example how even those who were once considered faithful can be tempted to turn away. 
  • Application: This verse serves to remind us that not all who profess Christ will remain faithful. In fact, there may be those who we know and love who will turn away. At the same time, we should consider this negative example as a call to Gospel faithfulness. We must remember that following Christ will require sacrifice, but that faithfulness will always be worth it (Luke 9:23-36). 

A Positive Example – One who Remained Unashamed of the Gospel (1:16-18)

  • The faithfulness of Onesiphorus
  • He searches out and finds Paul in Rome – While Paul’s arrest causes many to turn away in fear, Onesiphorus responds differently. He goes to Rome in search of Paul in order to care for him in his imprisonment.
  • He is not ashamed of Paul’s chains – Onesiphorus is not ashamed of Paul’s imprisonment, which can be expanded to say that he is not ashamed of the reason why Paul is imprisoned. While his care for Paul could lead to his own arrest or suffering, Onesiphorus is undeterred and remains faithful.
  • He refreshes Paul – Many have pointed out that Onesiphorus probably sought out Paul in order to care for his physical needs (to refresh his body with food and clothes). However, the context pushes us to consider that this refreshment is also emotional and spiritual. Onesiphorus is a loyal and faithful friend and brother.
  • He was a faithful help to the Church in Ephesus - Paul had spent an extended period of time in Ephesus, and it seems that while he was there he saw all the ways that Onesiphorus was serving faithfully in that place.
  • Application: Onesiphorus is an example of Gospel faithfulness. He is unashamed and undeterred by the threat of harm. We should all desire to live this kind of courageous, others-focused, Gospel faithful life.
  • Paul’s prayer of blessing for Onesiphorus and his family
  • In asking for God’s mercy on Onesiphorus’s family Paul is asking God to show them kindness, blessing and favor in honor of Onesiphorus’s faithfulness. For Onesiphorus this prayer for ‘mercy on the last day’ is a prayer for God to reward him in eternity for his good works. 
  • Conclusion – As Christians we have been called to be stewards of the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ. While we may be tempted to fear, we should long to be faithful and unashamed in our obedience to the Gospel and in our proclamation of the Gospel.