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Biblical People

Biblical People: Jude

Jude is another name that only appears once in the Bible. It’s the first word in the opening sentence of the letter that bears his name. Though the introduction gives hints as to who Jude is, no one knows for sure.

Jude calls himself a servant of Jesus and a brother of James. One speculation is that Jude is a nickname for Judas, which could make him, along with James, a half-brother to Jesus.

Regardless of who Jude is, he writes a generic letter, not to a church or an individual, but to all who follow Jesus. He blesses them with abundant mercy, peace, and love.

Though he planned to write about their common salvation, instead he writes to encourage them to contend for their faith. 

Why is this? Because ungodly people have slipped into Jesus’s church.

What are they doing? They’re turning God’s grace (undeserved favor) into an excuse to act immorally. They claim they can behave however they wish because God will forgive them.

Though immorality covers a range of improper behaviors, it especially refers to sexual issues. In short, these people act out sexually because they claim what they do doesn’t matter. 

In addition to their sexual depravity, they also deny that Jesus is their Savior. How they can do this and still assume he’ll forgive them doesn’t make sense. But they advocate it just the same.

To combat this, Jude reminds his friends about the past, urging them to persevere in standing true to their faith in God.

We must guard against improper sexual behavior in the church. And we must guard against people who claim Jesus isn’t the way to salvation.

Where do we draw the line between accepting those who believe differently than we do and standing up against people who try to corrupt our faith?

[Discover more about Jude in Jude 1:1–25.]

Read more about other people in the New Testament in The Friends and Foes of Jesus, now available in e-book, paperback, and hardcover.

A lifelong student of the Bible, Peter DeHaan, PhD, wrote the 700-page website ABibleADay.com to encourage people to explore the Bible. His main blog and many books urge Christians to push past the status quo and reconsider how they practice their faith in every area of their lives.

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Biblical People

Biblical People: Diotrephes

In John’s letter to his friend Gaius, he not only mentions Demetrius, whom everyone respects, but he also names Diotrephes. Unfortunately, Diotrephes is not so highly esteemed. This guy has issues. He’s a control freak.

To start with, Diotrephes loves to be first. He wants to be in charge. 

At one time, John wrote a letter to the local church Diotrephes is part of, but he refused to accept what John said. On John’s next visit he promises to publicly call out Diotrephes’s inappropriate actions. 

In addition to loving to be first and not accepting John’s message, Diotrephes compounds the problem by gossiping about John and other disciples. Diotrephes’s smear campaign promotes spiteful rumors. It must stop.

Not only does Diotrephes refuse to welcome John and his crew, he also refuses to welcome other believers when they visit. But this isn’t only a personal attack. He also stops others in the church from welcoming visitors and kicks them out if they try.

Diotrephes is part of Jesus’s church, but his actions certainly don’t honor Jesus or support his followers.

Diotrephes serves as internal opposition to Jesus. He is a foe of Jesus from within the church.

Do we ever seek to be in control? Do we love to be first? If so, what do we need to change to honor Jesus and support his church?

[Discover more about Diotrephes in 3 John 1:9–10.]

Read more about other people in the New Testament in The Friends and Foes of Jesus, now available in e-book, paperback, and hardcover.

A lifelong student of the Bible, Peter DeHaan, PhD, wrote the 700-page website ABibleADay.com to encourage people to explore the Bible. His main blog and many books urge Christians to push past the status quo and reconsider how they practice their faith in every area of their lives.

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Biblical People

Biblical People: Demetrius (2)

Luke writes about Demetrius (1), the silversmith, who opposes Paul and the followers of Jesus. 

But John writes about a different Demetrius, Demetrius (2), one highly esteemed. This occurs in John’s letter to his dear friend Gaius. The letter is a short message full of encouragement, affirmation, and teaching.

Then, inserted into the letter are two seemingly random and obscure sentences about Demetrius. Apparently Gaius knows Demetrius. Or maybe John anticipates the two of them will one day meet.

Of Demetrius, John simply writes, “Everyone speaks well of him.” Then John adds, “We do too, and we don’t lie.”

We don’t know why John feels it’s important to communicate this truth about Demetrius to Gaius. Even more so, we’re left to speculate why Demetrius is so highly esteemed. He must be a man of noble character and impeccable integrity.

Regardless, Demetrius is an example for us to emulate. For when we are well-spoken-of by everyone, we most effectively represent Jesus to them.

Do people speak well of us? If not, what should we do to change that?

[Discover more about Demetrius in 3 John 1:12.]

Read more about other people in the New Testament in The Friends and Foes of Jesus, now available in e-book, paperback, and hardcover.

A lifelong student of the Bible, Peter DeHaan, PhD, wrote the 700-page website ABibleADay.com to encourage people to explore the Bible. His main blog and many books urge Christians to push past the status quo and reconsider how they practice their faith in every area of their lives.

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Biblical People

Biblical People: Onesimus

The focus of Paul’s letter to Philemon is Onesimus, the runaway slave. Ironically, Onesimus means useful. An escaped slave isn’t too useful to his master.

After Onesimus flees, he encounters Jesus through Paul. Paul mentors Onesimus and the two begin working together. However, it isn’t right for Onesimus to remain with Paul—even though what they’re doing is important. To do so would defraud Philemon of Onesimus’s labor.

Paul encourages Onesimus to return to his master, despite the risk it involves. A recaptured slave could be punished. To facilitate a positive reunion, Paul writes a letter to Philemon, pleading for him to offer Onesimus mercy.

While we don’t explicitly know the outcome of this drama, we can reasonably deduce it.

First, Paul’s petition on Onesimus’s behalf is so powerful that it’s hard to imagine anyone not complying.

Second, in the only other mention of Onesimus in the Bible, Paul announces he is sending Tychicus and Onesimus to the people of Colossae. Paul also affirms Onesimus as a faithful and dear brother.

Since this trip could not have reasonably occurred prior to Onesimus returning to Philemon, we can assume that Philemon did as Paul requested, allowing Onesimus to return to Paul to work with him on Philemon’s behalf.

This would put Onesimus in a position to take that trip to Colossae.

At last Onesimus can be useful, to both Paul and Philemon, as well as to the Colossians and to God. This all happens because Onesimus does the right thing, returning to his master despite the risk.

Do we do the right thing regardless of the cost?

[Discover more about Onesimus in Philemon 1:8–21.]

Read more about other people in the New Testament in The Friends and Foes of Jesus, now available in e-book, paperback, and hardcover.

A lifelong student of the Bible, Peter DeHaan, PhD, wrote the 700-page website ABibleADay.com to encourage people to explore the Bible. His main blog and many books urge Christians to push past the status quo and reconsider how they practice their faith in every area of their lives.

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Biblical People

Biblical People: Archippus

Archippus pops up twice in the Bible, both times in letters from Paul. The first is in Paul’s message to his friend Philemon. In addition to Philemon, Archippus (along with Apphia) is listed as a recipient of the note.

Though the letter is mainly to Philemon, for some reason Archippus is also included. The message must be relevant to him as well. He may be a leader in the church that meets in Philemon’s home.

Regardless of the reason, after listing Archippus, Paul affirms him as a colleague, a fellow soldier in the cause of Jesus.

Then in Paul’s letter to the church in Colossae, he adds a personal message to Archippus. It’s a seemingly random insertion as Paul wraps up his communication.

Paul encourages Archippus to be sure to finish the work God gave him to do. We don’t know what this job is, but we do see that Paul feels it’s important to encourage Archippus to not leave things undone.

Over the years, many people have enthusiastically told me that God called them to do something for him. Yet when I run into them later, I learn they never followed through. Distractions, life, and their preconceived ideas get in the way. They may even question if they correctly heard God. 

When God calls us to a task, we must complete it. We must be faithful to his request.

Inaction is not an option. 

What has God called us to do that we must strive to complete?

[Discover more about Archippus in Colossians 4:17 and Philemon 1:1–3.]

Read more about other people in the New Testament in The Friends and Foes of Jesus, now available in e-book, paperback, and hardcover.

A lifelong student of the Bible, Peter DeHaan, PhD, wrote the 700-page website ABibleADay.com to encourage people to explore the Bible. His main blog and many books urge Christians to push past the status quo and reconsider how they practice their faith in every area of their lives.

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Biblical People

Biblical People: Philemon

The name Philemon only appears once in the Bible. It’s in the letter from Paul to his friend. We refer to this letter by the name of its recipient: Philemon.

Paul opens his letter affirming Philemon’s actions and character. 

Then Paul gets to the purpose of his letter. It’s a big ask.

It seems Philemon is well-off: the church meets in his home, and he owns slaves. One of his slaves is Onesimus. Onesimus runs away, meets Paul—who tells him about Jesus, and becomes a believer.

Paul desires to see Onesimus and Philemon’s estranged relationship made right—because of Jesus. Paul encourages both to do the right thing: for Onesimus to return to his master regardless of the risk of punishment and for Philemon to welcome him back without penalty. 

Reconciliation is the reason Paul writes his letter to Philemon. In doing so, Paul doesn’t address the issue of slavery. Instead he focuses on the restoration of a relationship.

Paul can assume this role of reconciler because he has a personal connection with both parties. This history gives him a credibility that an outsider would have lacked, allowing him to positively influence them both.

Though we don’t know if Onesimus is restored into right relationship with Philemon, given the strong emotional appeal Paul makes and his logic that supports it, we have good reason to expect a joyous reunion.

Has God put us in a position to reconcile an estranged relationship? What should we do about it?

[Discover more about Philemon in Philemon 1:1–25.]

Read more about other people in the New Testament in The Friends and Foes of Jesus, now available in e-book, paperback, and hardcover.

A lifelong student of the Bible, Peter DeHaan, PhD, wrote the 700-page website ABibleADay.com to encourage people to explore the Bible. His main blog and many books urge Christians to push past the status quo and reconsider how they practice their faith in every area of their lives.

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Biblical People

Biblical People: Onesiphorus

Onesiphorus is another obscure character in the New Testament. We only hear of him twice, and both times it’s in Paul’s second letter to his protégé Timothy.

In the opening chapter, Paul writes a prayer of blessing for Onesiphorus—asking God to show mercy to his household. There’s a reason Paul makes this request. It’s because Onesiphorus has often encouraged Paul and wasn’t embarrassed to meet with him in prison.

Paul goes on to say that when he was in Rome, likely in jail, Onesiphorus made a diligent search until he found him. That’s dedication and determination.

Then, after another prayer request that God will grant that Onesiphorus find mercy, Paul also affirms the many ways Onesiphorus helped him in Ephesus.

Later, as Paul wraps up his letter to Timothy, Paul tells him to greet Priscilla, Aquila, and the household of Onesiphorus. This is interesting. Both times we read of Onesiphorus, it’s in conjunction with his household. This would include his family and possibly servants. 

Why does Paul mention Onesiphorus’s household? Perhaps he leads a large, noteworthy clan. Or maybe his family is giving him grief, so Paul knows Onesiphorus needs encouragement. These are conjectures. In truth we don’t know.

What we do know is how Onesiphorus encourages Paul, visits him in jail, and diligently searches for him. As a result, Onesiphorus earns Paul’s appreciation and his prayers, for both him and his household.

When we pray for others, do we also pray for their household? Should we?

[Discover more about Onesiphorus in 2 Timothy 1:16–18 and 2 Timothy 4:19.]

Read more about other people in the New Testament in The Friends and Foes of Jesus, now available in e-book, paperback, and hardcover.

A lifelong student of the Bible, Peter DeHaan, PhD, wrote the 700-page website ABibleADay.com to encourage people to explore the Bible. His main blog and many books urge Christians to push past the status quo and reconsider how they practice their faith in every area of their lives.

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Biblical People

Biblical People: Demas

Demas is another associate of Paul. The Bible mentions Demas three times, which gives us some insight into him.

First, we know Demas is with Paul when he writes to the church in Colossae. This is because Demas, along with Luke, sends their greetings to the Colossian church in this letter.

Similarly, in Paul’s letter to his friend Philemon, Demas is among four people who send greetings. In addition to Demas, we have Aristarchus, Mark, and Luke. Paul affirms all four as his fellow workers.

The third mention of Demas is in Paul’s second letter to his protégé Timothy. In this instance, the reference to Demas is sad. Paul is overwhelmed because most of his support group is gone.

He has dispatched Crescens to Galatia and Titus to Dalmatia. Only Luke remains. This is because Demas deserted Paul and took off for Thessalonica.

However, we don’t know the chronological order of these three events, and Bible scholars can only speculate as to when Paul wrote each letter.

If Paul writes to Philemon before he writes to Timothy, then we see Demas, who was once a fellow worker of Paul, desert him later.

However, if we consider these in the opposite order, we see Demas leaving Paul and later being reconciled to him, earning the status of being called a fellow worker.

The optimist in me hopes that Demas ends well, as a fellow worker of Paul. The pessimist in me fears that in his last action, Demas lets Paul down and brings about one of Paul’s darkest moments.

Yet regardless of Demas’s actions and our actions, Jesus still loves us, offering us his grace and mercy.

When we mess up, like Demas did, will we allow it to define us or seek God’s grace and mercy to restore us into a right relationship with him?

[Discover more about Demas in Colossians 4:14, 2 Timothy 4:9–10, and Philemon 1:23–24.]

Read more about other people in the New Testament in The Friends and Foes of Jesus, now available in e-book, paperback, and hardcover.

A lifelong student of the Bible, Peter DeHaan, PhD, wrote the 700-page website ABibleADay.com to encourage people to explore the Bible. His main blog and many books urge Christians to push past the status quo and reconsider how they practice their faith in every area of their lives.

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Biblical People

Biblical People: Epaphras

Another associate of Paul’s is Epaphras. We don’t know much about him. His name only appears three times in the Bible, all of which are in two of Paul’s letters: one to the church in Colossae and the other to his friend Philemon.

Yet, packed in these three verses is much insight into the godly character of Epaphras.

We learn that Epaphras is from Colossae. He teaches the people there about Jesus and encourages them to grow in their faith.

Paul affirms Epaphras as a cherished servant and faithful minister of Jesus, part of Paul’s squad. These are both significant characteristics, but there’s more.

Epaphras is also a prayer warrior for his people. Paul notes that Epaphras wrestles in prayer for them. His prayers aren’t just occasionally or often, but Paul says that Epaphras always prays for them.

He prays to God that the church in Colossae will stand firm, obey God’s will, and be mature and fully assured in their faith.

Not only does Epaphras work hard for the church in Colossae but also for the churches in Laodicea and Hierapolis.

Epaphras is a beloved servant, faithful minister, and committed prayer warrior. May we follow his example.

What would it take for us to be a prayer warrior? And if always being in prayer isn’t our thing, what else can we do to serve God and advance his kingdom?

[Discover more about Epaphras in Colossians 1:6–8, Colossians 4:12–13, and Philemon 1:23–24.]

Read more about other people in the New Testament in The Friends and Foes of Jesus, now available in e-book, paperback, and hardcover.

A lifelong student of the Bible, Peter DeHaan, PhD, wrote the 700-page website ABibleADay.com to encourage people to explore the Bible. His main blog and many books urge Christians to push past the status quo and reconsider how they practice their faith in every area of their lives.

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Biblical People

Biblical People: Titus

We don’t hear anything about Titus in the book of Acts. However, Titus receives multiple mentions in some of Paul’s letters, especially in his second letter to the church in Corinth. Throughout these letters we see Titus as working with Paul to tell others about Jesus. 

Though sometimes Paul and Titus work together, more often Paul sends Titus to various cities. Paul also writes a letter to Titus, whom he left in Crete to help build the church there. Another time, Paul sends Titus to Dalmatia.

In Paul’s letter to the church in Galatia, we learn that Titus goes with Paul and Barnabas on a trip to Jerusalem.

An interesting side note is that Titus, with Greek heritage and not being circumcised, isn’t forced to undergo this Jewish tradition, which contrasts with Timothy, whom Paul does circumcise. Does the view of circumcision change or is it dependent on individual factors?

One time in Paul’s travels, he goes to Troas to preach because God provides an opportunity for him to do so, but he has no peace because he can’t find Titus.

So Paul leaves for Macedonia. It’s in Macedonia that Titus provides Paul and his team with much comfort during a discouraging situation. 

This is, in part, because Titus’s spirit has just been refreshed from his visit to the church in Corinth. It’s in Paul’s second letter to them that he calls Titus his partner and coworker.

This is a fitting tribute to the important work of Titus in advancing the kingdom of Jesus.

Are we a partner and coworker with those who advance Jesus’s kingdom?

[Discover more about Titus in 2 Corinthians 2:12–13, 2 Corinthians 7:6–7, 2 Corinthians 7:13–15, 2 Corinthians 8:6–24, 2 Corinthians 12:18, Galatians 2:1–3, 2 Timothy 4:10, and Titus 1:4–5.]

Read more about other people in the New Testament in The Friends and Foes of Jesus, now available in e-book, paperback, and hardcover.

A lifelong student of the Bible, Peter DeHaan, PhD, wrote the 700-page website ABibleADay.com to encourage people to explore the Bible. His main blog and many books urge Christians to push past the status quo and reconsider how they practice their faith in every area of their lives.