For five years, I lived within a few hundred feet of a number of friends. We all lived in the same neighbourhood, in the same complex, and for many of us, in the same house. We talked about life, ladies, and God. We were all studying at the local Bible college. We all spent our days and evening pondering the things of God and bouncing ideas off of one another. We would eat together, play together, serve together, worship together. We were doing life together in many ways. It was beautiful—and often hard, frustrating, and annoying.
Demas is mentioned in the New Testament only three times. He is a dear friend and labourer with Paul (Col 4:14, Phile 23-24). We don’t know how long he was with Paul, but he had been with him and was ministering with him, staying beside him even while he was in chains for the sake of the gospel. Alongside Epaphras, Luke, Mark, and many more, Demas was there in the midst of it.
After five years of friendship with these guys during my undergrad, one of the biggest surprises came when we were all eating dinner together. Jerry started talking about the energies he was feeling within himself—a feeling he was going to pursue more of. Questions were asked, people were worried, opinions were heard, and warnings were given but none of that changed anything: Jerry left us. He moved away and started pursuing a life of uninhibited hedonism and pure pleasure. Drugs, sex, and alcohol became his life’s pursuit.
Paul was in prison when he wrote the letter to Colossae. When he was going to Jerusalem preparing for his death, he was imprisoned again. This time we read a different story, as Paul writes to his dear disciple and son in the faith in 2 Timothy 4:9-10, “Do your best to come to me quickly, for Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me and has gone to Thessalonica…” Demas, Pauls close friend and co-labourer in the gospel, left. The pleasures of the world overcame him. One who seemed so sure, one whose root seemed to be firmly working its way into the soil, was choked out by the weeds.
When a close friend walks away from the faith, there is deep sorrow and pain at the loss. Demas abandoned Paul; Jerry abandoned us. The pleasures of the world were too tantalizing for them to give up.
There are many people in life that follow this same pattern. It’s devastating, heartbreaking, and a warning to us all. We ought to take heed to Pauls warning to Timothy in his first letter to him, “Guard your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them…”
In the end, as the author of Hebrews reminds us, fix your eyes upon Jesus. He is the pioneer and perfecter of our faith (Heb 12:1-2). He ran his race before us, as an example to us, that we may persevere in our faith to the end.
Demas is an example of what can happen even to those who diligently serve to advance the gospel.
Demas is a warning to us all.
Don’t let a love for the world draw you away.
Don’t let the pleasures of this age strip you of the inheritance that is assured through the work of Christ.
Don’t be a Demas.