Paul’s concern in 2 Timothy 1 has been to prepare the Christians after him, represented by Timothy, to endure the suffering that often accompanies the faithful proclamation of the gospel. Without the Spirit of God, the assaults of men would indeed cause us to deny the Lord; but He has sent the Spirit to empower us to find honor in His truth (vv. 7, 14). In His unfathomable mercy, our Father chose to save us “before the ages began,” and we can trust this same mercy to vindicate us at the last day, making all of the travail we undergo for the gospel’s sake worth it (vv. 8–13).
With this theological foundation laid in favor of suffering for the gospel, Paul in verses 15–18 recalls two real-life examples of how professing Christians in his time responded to the onslaught of the world. The apostle first mentions two men who failed to persevere. Hermogenes and Phygelus both abandoned Paul — the Lord’s appointed emissary — thereby revealing that they had made an empty profession of faith and were not truly in the flock of God (v. 15; 1 John 2:19). We do not know anything else about Phygelus or Hermogenes, but clearly they lacked the faith empowered by God’s Spirit as they did not hold on when trials came. Perhaps they were afraid they would meet the same fate as Paul or did not want to be associated with a state criminal.
Contrariwise, Onesiphorus chose rightly when faced with the possibility of suffering for Christ and His servants (2 Tim. 1:16–18). This man searched for Paul “earnestly,” implying that the apostle was hard to find in Rome, probably sequestered in an obscure neighborhood. Looking for Paul, asking about his whereabouts, certainly could have raised questions about Onesiphorus’ allegiances and lead to his arrest. But Onesiphorus was unafraid of shame and risked himself to refresh Paul’s needs, likely meaning that he gave the apostle food and drink, for prisoners back then depended on the kindness of friends and family to survive in jail. Knowing that even these good deeds could not save Onesiphorus and his house, the apostle asks the Lord to show mercy to his friend — to keep him in the grace of God that he might persevere until the very end.
The Lord is able to keep us safe and secure in the faith until that final day, but one of the ways He does this is through the prayers of His people. Just as Jesus prayed for Peter (Luke 22:31–32), so too should we be praying that those who have professed faith will actually possess faith and persevere in it, especially if they do not appear to be walking with God. For whom do you need to intercede today for the sake of his perseverance?