New Testament minor figure, Demas

  • Colossians 4:12-14
  • Philemon 23-24
  • 2 Timothy 4:9-10

What if you were in a time of great need and those you have trusted and counted upon not only are absent but have left you on your own. Imagine the feeling of being totally alone in your greatest need. Over time many would suffer this betrayal. Moses for one often was alone, save for God in trying to bring Israelites to the promise land.

Judas the traitor, one of the disciples, informs on Jesus and is present to point Him out to the Guards at the garden. Upon the arrest of the Christ, He would suffer the departure of the rest of his disciples as He fore-told would happen. They would run away upon his arrest; Peter would follow only to deny Him three times before the Rooster crowed. But our Lord’s most wrenching experience came on the cross, covered in his own blood & the sins of mankind, as God was obliged to let Him suffer alone. Mark 15:34. Now it is Paul the apostles time to be alone, void of trusted friends, and brothers.

Paul often mentioned several Christians who assisted him in his travels, imprisonment and missionary efforts. Some of these lesser known Christians we have studied in this class over the last few months. As the letter to the Colossians closes, he mentions three “of the circumcision”, Mark the cousin of Barnabas and Justus who were “my only fellow workers for the kingdom of God”. Aristarchus a “fellow prisoner” perhaps meaning a prisoner for the same cause as Paul. Apparently Mark and Justus were able be of assistance to them both.

Three gentile Christians were also mentioned, Epaphras, who apparently brought the Gospel to his hometown Colossians 1:7 and (who was the first to come from Colossae to help Paul in the first imprisonment) whose labor was so intense on behalf of Paul and other Christians he became ill and was close to death before recovering. Luke the “beloved physician” who wrote both the Gospel of Luke and Acts and probably took down the letters of Paul to various churches making him the one who penned much of the New Testament.

“and Demas greet you.” While a small amount has been said about all the minor figures, we have studied in this lesson series almost nothing is revealed about Demas. Apparently, the church at Colossae knew Demas as he is remembered to them both in the Colossians letter, 4:14 and the letter to Philemon, 24. Colossians and Philemon was written during the first imprisonment of Paul by the Roman government and was generally upbeat as Paul was expecting to be set free, as well he was.

2 Timothy was written during what Paul expected to be his final imprisonment 2 Timothy 4:6 For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. It is in this epistle we learn the most we can know concerning Demas. 2 Timothy 4:10 for Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world, and has departed for Thessalonica…” In the Apostles Paul’s most desperate need of comfort, encouragement and brotherly kindness Demas departs and leaves him alone.

As we read concerning Demas, one may presume is a love for secular gain which Demas was after and that may be so. However, Adam Clark offers the following: Having preferred Judaism to Christianity; or having loved the Jews and having sought their welfare in preference to that of the Gentiles. The words olam hazzeh, which answer to the Greek ton nun aiwna, are generally to be understood as signifying, either the Jewish people, or the system of Judaism.

By the writing of this epistle Paul is in prison and expecting to die there. The date is around 63AD and the times for Christianity is becoming much more difficult. The Jews connected as they were to Rome were against them. Rome was seeing a rising tide of animosity among all Roman provenances and was becoming greatly concerned. It would seem prudent to the less than committed disciple to return to the safety of Judaism and it would seem this is what Paul references.

The desertion of Demas may not rise to the level of Judas Betrayal, at least in the mind of some. However, many, indeed most of the choices Christians make today are between the love of this present world and the love of Christ. We make choices between assembling, studying, worshiping, giving and in general Christian service and the present world desires and demands. The choice Demas made was hurtful to Paul and most likely to others and the church. Likewise, when Christians today chose the affairs of the present world over the rewards of the Lord Jesus Christ many in fact are greatly deprived and countless others hurt deeply.

Questions:

  1. What and when were other people in the Bible deserted in time of need?
  2. Who brought the Gospel to the church in Colossae?
  3. What did Paul say in his letter to the Colossians concerning Aristarchus?
  4. Who was Barnabas cousin who was also sent greetings in Colossians?
  5. What did Paul say about the occupation of Luke? What else do we know of Luke?
  6. Under what circumstances was Paul writing the second letter to Timothy?
  7. Why did Paul say Demas had deserted him?
  8. Where did Demas go when he left Paul?