Summary: A study of Demas, a servant of God who quit when matters got tough.

2 TIMOTHY 4:10



“Demas ... has deserted me..” [1]

“Well begun is half done.” This adage was quoted on numerous occasions during an earlier day—I certainly was on the receiving end of the saying repeatedly during my childhood. I even made this statement to my own children. However, the old saw is only conditionally true. Regardless of how well one begins, if the individual quits before completing the race, he still loses. If they are to be considered winners, Christians must complete the race. Moreover, they must strive to excel throughout the contest. As the Apostle has written, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it” [1 CORINTHIANS 9:24].

How tragic, how pitiful is the Apostle’s summation of the manner in which one erstwhile Christian named Demas quit serving. He precipitously resigned his appointment before the Lord, quitting when the going got rough. Unlike Epaphroditus [see PHILIPPIANS 2:25-30], though enjoying a good reputation with other servants of the Risen Saviour, Demas shredded his reputation—he quit when the going got rough. In his final missive written to Timothy, Paul has written of this erstwhile servant of the Living God, “Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica” [2 TIMOTHY 4:10]. That one sentence tells us more about the character of Demas than he might have wished to be revealed.

There is no indication that Demas was a lost individual. While there will always be weeds planted together with the Lord’s wheat, there is no indication in any of Paul’s letters that he questioned Demas’ salvation. Let’s be clear that just because an individual should cease to serve Christ, cease to walk in harmony with the people of God or cease to live boldly for the cause of Christ does not mean that they are unsaved. If such a person is a Christian, God will call that one to account. A believer does not cease to be saved because they are disobedient. They do, however, expose themselves to divine discipline. And that discipline can be severe.

While we do not know the outcome of Demas’ life or how God dealt with him following his defection, his life can still serve as a caution to those who long to honour the Lord Christ. Join me in a review of the life of Demas; he serves as a caution against quitting when the going gets tough. This is the question that looms before us—Can we quit when the going gets tough?

DEMAS: HIS SERVICE — Many Christians counted Demas as a trusted servant of the Risen Saviour. At first glance this is a stunning piece of information to Christians today. We are fully aware of the final statement concerning Demas; but that dark statement must be balanced against the instances when he was commended for his service with the Apostle. For instance, during his first imprisonment, Paul wrote a letter to the Christians of Colossae. As he drew that letter to a close, he included this statement: “Luke the beloved physician greets you, as does Demas” [COLOSSIANS 4:14]. Note that Demas was with the Apostle during his first imprisonment.

Added to that statement is the Apostle’s recognition of Demas in his Letter to Philemon. The Letter to Philemon was written at the same time that the Letter to the Colossians was written. In that personal letter to Philemon, Paul includes recognition of those sharing his imprisonment. He wrote, “Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends greets to you, and so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas and Luke, my fellow workers” [PHILEMON 23, 24]. In this instance, the aged saint not only names Demas as being present with him, but Paul identifies him as one of those noted as a “fellow worker.” Demas is named with other individuals whom we know to have been esteemed by the Apostle. While we may not say much about Epaphras or Aristarchus, we are on solid ground in giving recognition to Luke and Mark. These writers of the Gospels that bear their names were not only fellow workers together with the Apostle, but their service was highly valued.

Let’s refresh our memories concerning Paul’s first imprisonment. Paul had been seized by the Romans when his life was threatened by Jewish agitators. Paul had gone to Jerusalem with gifts for the impoverished saints. When he arrived, he met with James, the Pastor of the Jerusalem congregation, together with all the elders of the church [see ACTS 21:17, 18]. These elders had concerns about the impact of Paul’s visit to Jerusalem. Remember, though these early believers were Christians, they maintained the Jewish customs. No doubt the choice to act in this manner was in part to avoid provoking the Jews among whom they lived.

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