In chapter 4 of 2 Timothy the apostle Paul details the relationship he had with various brethren and in particular highlights those who either stood by him or deserted him. We shall look at some of these relationships.
Paul tells us that Demas had forsaken him. That is to say he had abandoned him and had let him down. This was in spite of the fact that earlier he had been a trusted and reliable fellow-worker. The reason for the change in Demas was that he ‘loved this present age’. That is to say that he placed more value on the approval of the world than he did on approval by God. What had brought this to a head was Paul’s imprisonment. Those who clearly identified themselves with Paul would be marked men -marked out for persecution and possible imprisonment. Given the opportunity to choose, Demas chose the easy option. He was, in the words of the Lord, ‘saving his life’, and inevitably he lost it.
It is all very well to identify with the Lord when things are going well and the circumstances are favourable, but it is true that many today go for the easy life and in so doing let down the Lord and faithful believers. There is a difference between this present evil world and this present world. The love of either draws the believer away from the Lord and away from fellowship. Many who would shun this evil world fall victim of this present world, simply by not taking up the cross daily and following the Lord.
Luke was a qualified medical doctor and he had given up his work in order to serve in the gospel. However his training and experience were not lost as he would be able to use them to ease Paul’s physical discomfort and at the same time be a comfort to him spiritually. Luke was a loyal fellow-servant. He accompanied Paul on the way to Rome and into prison. He ministered to Paul’s needs in the darkest hour and sought not to avoid the dangers of so doing. He was ‘losing his own life’ and yet at the same time he was saving it.
It is not Luke’s preaching that he is remembered for or appreciated – it is for his kindness. One has said, ‘Kindness is the quality that lifts a man out of the truck of ordinary men. Eloquence will be forgotten; mental cleverness may live on the printed page; but kindness lives on enthroned in the hearts of men’.
We do well to learn this lesson today. People will forget what I say, but never forget what I do.
John Mark was a relation of Barnabas and possibly prematurely Barnabas had involved him in the work of the gospel. In any case it appears that at one point Mark decided to leave the work and he returned home. Whatever his reason for so doing it appears that Paul felt strongly that Mark had let them down. So much so, that when on a subsequent journey Barnabas had insisted that Mark accompany them Paul absolutely refused. This resulted in a major split between Paul and Barnabas and both went their separate ways.
After many years Paul wrote that Mark had become a comfort to him. How wonderful that this should be so and that it should be recognized by Paui. Now a few years later it is with Mark that Paul wishes to spend his last days. ‘He is profitable’ wrote Paul. In some respects this mirrors the story of Onesimus, the once unprofitable now becoming profitable and necessary to the work. It is good to remind ourselves that while some drift away, others return and many finish the course more strongly than they started. We should beware of the evil of favouring our own relations at the expense and damage to others and to the work as a whole. While Mark learned his lesson it appears that the rift between Paul and Barnabas was never healed – to the loss of both of them and to the church at large. We should also recognize a return to the Lord in brethren who have gone astray and welcome and encourage them as Paul undoubtedly did here.
Alexander, whoever he was, had deliberately set out to hinder the work of the gospel. It is likely that he was an informer – a Judas who went to the authorities to inform on Paul and other believers and thus hinder the work. He was active in word and deed and was certainly still at large as Paul warns Timothy to be ware of him also.
However, it is instructive to notice that Paul is content to leave the position with the Lord. He merely states the fact that the Lord will reward him in line with what he has done. This is still so today. Those who touch us in word or deed are touching the apple of God’s eye. Against such God will eventually take action and their punishment will be great. We can safely leave these matters with the Lord. To act ourselves so as to get revenge or to set the record straight will only result in further pain.
5. The Lord
The men mentioned in this chapter had left Paul. Demas abandoned him; some, like Crescens and Titus had gone away on legitimate service; Alexander made matters more difficult; Tychicus had been sent to Ephesus; only Luke remained. During the time of trial and imprisonment Luke was with him.
Paul records that at his ‘first answer’, or at the preliminary hearing, no man stood with him. What he is saying is really that no man ‘came forward’ with him. Luke was with him, but when the call came to Paul to step forward to defend himself before the magistrates he had to do so alone. Yet he was not alone, for as he stepped forward he records ‘the Lord came forward with me’! How blessed this is. Our Lord Himself was forsaken by all, including His God, but the Lord will never forsake us.
In the book of Daniel when the three children were cast into the fiery furnace, those who ventured to look in saw four men – the fourth like unto the Son of God. Similarly, in the same book, when Daniel himself was cast into the den of lions – it was an angel of the Lord who accompanied him and shut the lions’ mouths. These three children and Daniel trusted the Lord and their trust was rewarded.
There are many things in life we can share, but there are some that we must face alone. How good to know that even as we go forward to death the Lord will, when nobody else can, come forward with us. Little wonder that David said, ‘Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil: for thou art with me’, Psa. 23. 4.
As the Lord ‘came forward’ with him Paul was strengthened and was enabled to see the trial through and to appreciate the fact that be had been ‘delivered out of the mouth of the lion’.
We therefore rejoice in the knowledge that while all may forsake us in our time of need the Lord will come forward with us and we shall be safe.