The words heading this article must surely be among the saddest ever written by Paul. They are found in the last letter he wrote to his young friend Timothy, 2 Tim. 4. 10, shortly before his own execution as a faithful witness to his beloved Lord. It is true that in verse 10 of the same chapter he declared, ‘all men forsook me’, and his naming one fellow-believer specifically, indicates how grieved the apostle felt that one with whom he had enjoyed fellowship should desert him at the time when he most needed his support. It hurt him, too, to consider the reason for his going away. It may well be, that as he spoke of others forsaking him, he fully realized that to be associated with him would be dangerous for others. But sadly he has to explain, that Demas had not left him for this reason, but because ‘he loved this present world’.
About two years before, Paul had written to Philemon at Colossae, and in his letter, v. 24, he had spoken of Demas as a ‘fellow-labourer’. It would seem that Demas had spiritually declined since then, possibly slowly, but nonetheless definitely. One can imagine the beloved servant of God noting the fading interest, possibly seen in less and less time spent with Paul in prayer and fellowship, until it was no more. We may well wonder if others were stumbled by the failure of Demas. As a close friend of Paul, his influence could well have affected others. ‘No man liveth to himself’. It may be that John Bunyan in his Pilgrim’s Progress is rather harsh in describing Demas, with his silver mine. But the love of the world is a subtle thing, and though not necessarily associated with the making of money, it can exercise a very powerful influence, calling constantly for the soul’s protection by our God. It could have been prestige that allured Demas, with a more responsible and exalted position and increased status among men. Many have been beguiled and led away by this means.
We may be permitted to wonder whether, as Paul perused his sad words, he may have heard another’s voice, also with a note of sorrow, saying ‘Demas hath forsaken Me’! It was not only Paul who felt deserted, but in far greater measure it was the Lord Himself. It is true that Demas had never had the opportunity to read the words of the apostle John, 1 John 2. 15, ‘Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him’, but there is little doubt that he had known the words of James written much earlier, James 4. 4, ‘Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God: whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God’. Solemn, searching words, and yet; ‘Demas … loved this present world’, thus becoming the enemy of God.
Whether Demas ever returned to his loyalty and love to his Lord we do not know. We do know that when he left Paul at Rome he headed for Thessalonica where was a live, evangelistic, loving church, and where possibly once again his loyalty and love to his Saviour were renewed.
The day in which we live is a day in which many compromise. The world is more attractive and alluring than ever it has been. Its prizes are more glittering, and many younger believers are in danger of being swept away. But none of us can claim immunity from this danger. It was Paul who wrote, ‘Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall’, J Cor. 10. 12.
Our minds go back to a day when Peter made his bold declaration, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God’, Matt. 16. 16, and to the words of the Lord affirming that this was the Father’s revelation to him. Yet we are startled to find the Lord, almost immediately, rebuking ‘Satan’ speaking through him, Matt. J 6. 23, as he attempted to turn the Lord away from God’s appointed way for Him. How quickly can the prince of this world turn us from our allegiance to our rightful Lord.
What happened to Peter happened to Demas, and it can happen to all who lose their love for their Saviour and devote their love to the world. The word of James 4, 4, already quoted, is startling, almost frightening, ‘a friend of the world is the enemy of God’. Yes, it is strong language, which we ourselves would hesitate to use of a fellow-believer, but it is God’s word. The one who has chosen to love the world has transferred his allegiance to the world’s prince.
Nowhere is it suggested that Demas was an apostate. He still remained a child of God, not because of his faithfulness, but because of God’s faithfulness. How gracious our God ever is, but how grieved He must be when He sees, not just one, but many, alas, who are deserting their Saviour, who died for them, and who loves them with an everlasting love, because of a love which goes deeper than their love for Him.
Have we wandered away? Who, or what do we love most today? Remember, in Luke 15 there was a son whose love for his father diminished, as his love for possessions grew, until he determined to get as far away from home as possible. But even with him, away in the far country, there came a day when he realized his folly and when he determined to go home and say ‘Father, I have sinned’. Human language cannot really describe the joy related to his return. If there had been departure in any one of us there is still a way back. To return is to find a faithful Father waiting for us, whose love has not diminished, and never will.