KANSAS CITY, Mo. (BP)–The biblical character Onesiphorous was the subject of Paige Patterson’s address during Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s academic convocation Jan. 29.
Patterson, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C., preaching from 2 Timothy 1:16-18, said the servant Onesiphorous is only mentioned one time in the Bible, where it is noted that he refreshed and ministered to the apostle Paul.
“Paul is the greatest missionary statesman and theologian who ever walked the planet; we do not think of Paul as someone in need of spiritual assistance,” Patterson said. “He is certainly one who would be giving spiritual assistance. The fact of the matter is we never come to the point where we do not have need of one another.”
Patterson said he believes that Onesiphorous was one of the most remarkable people in history because he took it as his assignment in life to minister to a minister — to wait on one who is busy in the work of the Savior.
Addressing students who are preparing for fulltime church-related vocations, Patterson asked them to include in their ministry refreshment to those who are discouraged and disillusioned. He also recommended that ministers take a “Onesiphorian Oath,” similar to doctors’ Hippocratic Oath.
“You can make a mark by being a refreshing cold drink of water to those who need that sustenance; you can make a mark that is felt all the way into eternity,” Patterson said.
The 2 Timothy passage notes that Onesiphorus was not ashamed of the circumstances in which he found Paul. “Usually when someone is in prison we consider them to be worthy of that and we do not think of them as leadership material necessarily. Of course, we know that the apostle Paul was there unjustly. While others might have been ashamed of his circumstance, Onesiphorus determined that he would not be ashamed to walk with him.”
Patterson said the spirit of being unashamed makes a difference in the life of churches. “Greatness has little to do with the size of the church,” he said. “Every great church where there was excitement and adventure going on and where obviously God was at work had a ministry or two or three to a portion of the world that nobody else seemed to care about: street people, homosexuals, prostitutes, [deaf] people, or blind, and yet this church has singled them out and said that we are going to have a ministry to them.”
“That ought to be characteristic of ministry,” Patterson continued. “We ought to be the ones who wait upon others.
“Two out of three missionaries who lost their lives in Yemen were graduates of this school,” Patterson told the Midwestern convocation. “Most people would never have heard their names and they certainly would not have had their names on the front pages of newspapers across the world if they had not died for their faith. Why did they die for their faith? They died for the faith ministering to the physical and spiritual needs of a people that most folks would say are essentially not very civilized. And yet there they were loving those people and ministering to them.”
As Onesiphorus eagerly sought Paul, believers ought to zealously seek out those in need, Patterson said. “God put it in your heart to minister to somebody, maybe somebody that you wouldn’t think of or other people wouldn’t think of needing a ministry. Will you seek them out zealously and will you minister to them?” he asked.
The symbol of the minister of Jesus Christ needs to be the bowl and the towel — to become the washing of the feet of the saints and of sinners, Patterson suggested. “I would say that the next generation of ministers to our world needs to recover the symbol of the bowl and the towel. It is the symbol of the servants of God,” he said.
As part of the convocation ceremony, Walter Norvell and Thomas Johnston, who were elected to Midwestern’s faculty last year, signed a copy of the Baptist Faith and Message 2000.
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: CELEBRATING A SERVANT.