Personalities in the Pastoral Epistles – Part 5

Those who were a delight to Paul (continued)


(meaning: ‘light’, ‘bright’, ‘white’)

Luke was a Gentile physician who joined Paul’s party in Troas, the major sea port on the western coast of Asia Minor. For long periods of time afterwards, he was with Paul and, given Paul’s state of health, he would have been well able to minister to his medical needs, cp., Gal. 6. 17. Certainly, Paul was to write of him later as ‘the beloved physician’, Col. 4. 14. We can work out some of Luke’s later movements with Paul from the book of Acts (of which he was the author) by noting the four so-called ‘we’ passages, where he introduced himself into the story. From Troas, Luke travelled with Paul to Philippi in Macedonia and apparently continued there, possibly for some years after Paul had left. The second ‘we’ passage in Acts suggests that, years later, Luke met Paul again at Philippi where Paul stopped off on his way to delivering the proceeds of his relief fund for the poor saints at Jerusalem, Acts 20. 6. The sea voyage is described in some detail.

Luke disappeared from view during Paul’s imprisonment at Jerusalem and Caesarea, and we wonder if he was collecting material for his Gospel from first-hand witnesses in Palestine, Luke 1. 2. The next we hear of Luke being with Paul is in Acts chapter 27 verses 1-28, when he set off with Paul under arrest to go to Rome. This sea voyage is again described in detail, once more showing Luke’s special knowledge of the sea.

During his first imprisonment at Rome, Paul wrote to the assembly at Colosse and a personal letter to Philemon, a member of that assembly. Luke was possibly known personally in Colosse, being mentioned as sending his greetings in these epistles, Col. 4. 14 JND, and Philem. 24. Here, we read of Luke being ‘the beloved physician’ and Paul’s fellow labourer.

Luke was also with the apostle Paul during his second imprisonment in Rome. Indeed, when Paul wrote his Second Epistle to Timothy, he had to say ‘only Luke is with me’, 2 Tim. 4. 11, with most of his other companions having gone to do the Lord’s work elsewhere.

Luke’s view of the life of the Lord (as the perfect Man), in the Gospel that bears his name, was coloured – under the influence of the Holy Spirit – by his medical background. How many ‘beloved physicians’ have followed, brethren and sisters have used their professional and medical skills in the service of the gospel on the mission field. He was an accurate historian, but one who shunned the limelight himself, never mentioning his own name. However, in his Gospel he very much touches on human things, as well as spiritual need, hence the themes he often chooses are normal life, poverty and wealth, women, children, sickness, in addition to sin, grace, prayer, salvation and forgiveness.


(meaning: ‘bringing profit’)

Whereas, in general, the believers from Asia, but presently in Rome, had turned away from Paul, 2 Tim. 1. 15, he highlights the great exception – Onesiphorus. He told Timothy about Onesiphorus’s kindness and care for him; first he reminded him of his previous actions, i.e., ‘how much service he rendered at Ephesus’, which Timothy already knew very well, v. 18 JND. Then he described his more recent behaviour ‘when he was in Rome, he sought me out very diligently, and found me’, v. 17. Obviously locating Paul was no easy matter, given his present confinement, and doing so exposed such a person to danger, but Onesiphorus was ‘not ashamed of my chain’, v. 16. This resulted in the apostle being often refreshed by him at difficult moments. Obviously, Onesiphorus’s home was in Ephesus, the capital of Asia, and Paul asked for the Lord’s mercy for all his household (family) there, v. 16. Perhaps Onesiphorus was not expected to be at home when Paul thought his letter to Timothy would arrive, so he sends his greetings to his family, 4. 19. Paul prays that the Lord would ‘grant unto him that he may find mercy of the Lord in that day’, 1. 18, that is to say that Onesiphorus would receive his due reward at the judgement seat, to ‘find’ mercy in the same way as he ‘found’ Paul. Onesiphorus was very thankful for Paul’s work at Ephesus and was only too willing to express it, first at Ephesus, but now especially during Paul’s second imprisonment, even at great cost to himself.


  1. Acts 16. 10-17; 20. 5-15; 21. 1-18; and 27. 1 - 28. 16.
  2. See ‘The Medical Language of St. Luke: A Proof From Internal Evidence’, Hobart William Kirk, Hodges, Dublin, 1882, with various modern reprints.