This thou knowest, that all they which are in Asia be turned away from me; of whom are Phygellus and Hermogenes. The Lord give mercy unto the house of Onesiphorus; for he oft refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain: but, when he was in Rome, he sought me out very diligently, and found me. The Lord grant unto him that he may find mercy of the Lord in that day: and in how many things he ministered unto me at Ephesus, thou knowest very well. 2 Timothy 1:15-18
I have come to realize that many people do not like reading long posts. That is why when I do a long post I divide it into parts, for ease of reading. That also gives the reader the option of reading on only if they want to do so. Karibu!
Upon reading the King James Version of the above scripture, one might be misled into thinking that it was only Phygellus and Hermogenes who had turned away from Paul; but the Swahili Bible says, “amongst whom are Phygellus and Hermogenes”. Which would agree with what that same scripture says, that “all” who were in Asia had turned away from Paul. Not a few, or some, but all.
That is awesome and difficult to comprehend. Can you imagine people – Christians – turning away from Paul, the great apostle? And not just some, but all! And these were people who had been born into the gospel through the ministry of Paul himself. We are so used to holding preachers in such high esteem (which we should) that this scripture appears somewhat odd.
But did you ever know that the Apostle Paul lived a life that one could hardly attribute to a preacher of his calibre? Did you ever know that at various intervals in his life Paul had inadequate clothing (and that’s probably an understatement. It is no stretch of the imagination to envision Paul, at one time or another, attempting to pull a torn piece of raiment over his spare body!); did you know that at times Paul went hungry; and did you know that much of the time he lacked many of the basic necessities of this life? Yes, he lacked. Not that he did not want these things; no, he lacked someone to supply him with them. At times Paul had to work with his own hands to provide a living for himself and those who were with him. And this was a man who had preached the gospel to the entire continent of Europe and beyond!
Today I hear preachers saying they have 5,000 church members, and most live like it. Paul had much more, if it is numbers we are talking about. But apparently there were not many people who were providing for Paul! Despite the ‘greatness’ of his ministry, not a great many people thought of supplying him with his needs. You can read that in Philippians chapter 4.
The Apostle Paul lived a life that would have many an ‘apostle’ or ‘prophet’ of today throw their apostolic garb into the street and ran away very hard if they were confronted with the kind of life he lived! His was a classic case of being rejected for the gospel’s sake.
But let us consider again the question that why would people turn away from Paul? What was it that the Apostle Paul had that made people to want to run away on meeting him? It was the gospel he carried. It is clear from the Bible that the Apostle Paul carried a very dangerous gospel. The gospel that Paul carried and preached had something unsafe about it. It had an aroma of death. And we all know what our reaction to death is – we run away from it!
Paul’s gospel had a price tag on it; and it was not any price, but the highest price. It demanded one’s very life. It commanded a denial of self. But Paul’s gospel simply echoed Jesus’ words, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Matthew 16:24).
Paul refused to compromise and he would not preach any other gospel or ‘water down’ the gospel of the Cross and denial of self that had been commissioned to him by Christ. He tells the Corinthians: “For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” (1 Cor. 2:2) Paul preached the gospel of the cross. Consequently his gospel alienated him from people.
It would appear that initially people accepted Paul’s gospel gladly; but the truth takes time to sink in. Sooner or later these same people realized exactly what the gospel demanded from them, and many (many, not a few) simply found themselves unable to pay the price. They turned away from Paul and his gospel. You can see it all over Paul’s epistles. He became, for example, an enemy to the Galatians. The Corinthians were up in arms against him also. (Paul had to start all over again with these churches!)
In every epistle, Paul had to confront the spirit of anti-christ – the spirit that is against the sufferings of Christ.