Summary: Demas made a tragic mistake and abandoned Paul on the field. Why? This sermon speculates several reasons he may have quit and how he could have addressed them before they developed to a crisis point in his life.

Demas, Why Did You Quit?

Chuck Sligh

January 20, 2013

TEXT: Please turn in your Bibles to the book of Philemon


The Apostle Paul was a team player. You never read of JUST Paul on his trips to establish churches throughout the Roman Empire. It’s always Paul and somebody else—Paul and Barnabas or Paul and Silas. In addition, a number of people were with these the headliner pairs, like John Mark, Luke, Timothy and Epaphras, and the valuable couple, Aquila and Priscilla.

One of these helpers that traveled with Paul was a young man named DEMAS. Note Paul’s mention of Demas in Philemon 23-24 which I asked you to turn to: “There salute thee Epaphras, my fellowprisoner in Christ Jesus; 24 Marcus, Aristarchus, Demas, Lucas, my fellowlabourers.”

Notice that Demas is referred to as one of Paul’s fellow laborers. Scholars place the writing of the book of Philemon in early 60 AD. At this point, Demas was valued enough to be mentioned as one of Paul’s fellow laborers, an honored designation.

But in Colossians 4:7-14, we note something interesting. We won’t read this whole passage, but it is Paul’s closing remarks and as was his custom, he mentions a list of servants by name. Note that Paul says some glowing things about several people in this passage:

• He refers to TYCHICUS as “a brother, and a faithful minister and fellowservant in the Lord… (verse 7)

• He calls ONESIMUS “a faithful and beloved brother…” (verse 9)

• He mentions ARISTARCHUS as “my fellowprisoner…” (verse 10)

• EPAPHRAS is referred to as “a servant of Christ,…always labouring fervently for you in prayers…” (verse 12)

• Luke he calls “the beloved physician.” (verse 14)

These are excellent commendations of each of these men. Demas is also mentioned at the end of this passage, but notice in verse 14 the only thing Paul says about him after this litany of praise for all the others: “Luke, the beloved physician, and Demas, greet you.”

“And Demas”…Nothing more. All these others get accolades of praise…but the only thing written concerning Demas this time was his name.

Now, scholars say Colossians was written in the LATTER part of 60 AD. I wonder what had happened over the months. Had Demas been demoted in Paul’s estimation somehow?

Now go to 2 Timothy 4:9-11 – “Do thy diligence to come shortly unto me: 10 For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica; Crescens to Galatia, Titus unto Dalmatia. 11 Only Luke is with me. Take Mark, and bring him with thee: for he is profitable to me for the ministry.”

Scholars tell us that 2 Timothy was written around 65-66 AD. Demas had abandoned Paul’s team while Paul had been imprisoned. The phrase, “hath forsaken me” in the Greek literally carries the idea of “abandonment in a time of great need.” Today we would say, “He left me in the lurch.”

Ironically, Paul asks Timothy in verse 11 to bring with him Mark, who ironically, had abandoned Paul and Barnabas in Acts 15, but had later been restored to service. I find it wonderful that when Demas had forsaken him, Paul sent for the former deserter John Mark, whom Paul now says was profitable to him in the ministry. This is a reminder to us that no one is unsalvageable to God. John Mark, like Demas, had been a miserable failure earlier in his life, but now he had become a profitable servant.

Getting back to Demas, well…what happened to him? He started off with great promise. ONCE he’d been a valued co-laborer; now he’s a tragic failure of renounced service.

May I speculate a little about what happened to Demas? I can think of several reasons Demas may have left his post.


Perhaps he had not anticipated how tiring ministry was. No doubt, working with Paul involved many hours of tiresome labor. There would be people to witness to, counseling to attend to, study that needed to be done for sermons and teaching responsibilities, meetings to attend. Many times, undoubtedly, he may have “burned the midnight oil.”

Illus. – I can relate: This week was one of my most stressful, tiring weeks in months. There was more visits, phone calls, extra responsibilities and duties than usual. That’s okay, actually because honestly…I LIVE for this kind of usefulness. But I can see myself being in Demas’s shoes if I’m not careful: just getting weary and being tempted to quit if you caught me at the wrong time.

What Demas needed to hear is the same thing we need to hear when we get weary in the Lord’s work: Paul said in Galatians 6:9 — “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.”

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