Lessons from Demas

According to the Bible, Demas was a man who professed faith in Jesus Christ and joined Paul as a “fellow worker” for the gospel. He (twice) merits mention at the close of Paul’s letters as one who sends greetings to the recipients (Col. 4:14; Philemon 23-24). Sadly, however, those are not the only times Demas appears in the Holy Scriptures. In 2 Tim. 4:9-10, which was one of the last things Paul ever wrote, Paul says that “Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica.” The one who seemed to begin so well stumbled – forever or not we do not know, but the Scriptures are clear that, at some point, he walked away.

Why? What would cause a “fellow worker” of Paul to desert him. According to Paul’s own words, this happened because Demas was “in love with this present world”. It is a damning indictment: declared in such a way that, no doubt, the arrow can lodge deep in the hearts of every person who reads it even down to this day. You see, if we had been told precisely what Demas did, it might be easy for us to evade or sidestep the warning. But the general nature of the declaration stares every last one of us in the face: “in love with this present world”. We would do well to stop and heed the warning found there.

You see, even though Demas is not mentioned often, the issue of the world is a frequent topic in the pages of Scripture. And God, through His Word is clear:

In the Bible, “the world” is, usually, everything (and everyone) in this created order that opposes, and refuses to submit to, God. Satan is called “the god of this world” (2 Cor. 4:4). John is clear that “the whole world lies in the power of the evil one” (1 John 5:19b). “All that is in the world – the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions – is not from the Father but is from the world” (1 John 2:16). “The world” which enticed Demas, and entices us, is that which is opposed to God.

Moreover, the Bible makes clear that all of us either were or are part of that sinful, rebellious world. Even believers were once “following the course of this world (Eph. 2:1-3). Every human being is, by nature, a part of “the world” that has rebelled against God. Why does that matter? Because the Bible is also clear that God’s wrath burns against “the world”. God is holy, and He opposes everyone, and everything, that opposes Him. James says that “friendship with the world is enmity with God” (James 4:4). John also makes clear that “the world is passing away along with its desires” (1 John 2:17) – presumably because God is going to bring it into judgment at the appointed time (2 Pet. 3:10). And Paul, similarly, says, “…the present form of this world is passing away” (1 Cor. 7:31b). “The world” which is opposed to God is under God’s righteous, holy wrath.

That said, though, the Bible is also clear that – even in that wrath – God loves this sinful world and has made a way for “the world” to be saved. John is clear: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him” (John 3:16-17). Jesus Himself declared, “I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness” (John 12:46). Even though it hated Him and opposes Him, God send His Son to “the world” so that “the world” might be saved.

So what does all of this mean for those of us who have repented of our sins and believed in Jesus Christ? At least a few things:

1) We are no longer part of “the world”.

Jesus said clearly: “…you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world” (John 15:9). Though we once belonged to the world, we have now been called out of it by our Redeemer and Savior.

2) We should live like we are no longer part of “the world”.

In light of that truth, we should live differently – as those who are no longer “of the world”. We should not love the world or the things in the world because they are contrary to the love of God (1 John 2:15). We should not be conformed to the pattern of this world but transformed into the holy image of God (Rom. 12:1-2). We should do everything we can to remain “unstained” by the world – that is the essence of pure, undefiled religion (James 1:27).

3) “The world” will hate us.

We should also recognize that the world will hate us because we are no longer part of it. Jesus said, “If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you” (John 15:19; 17:14,16). Jesus also promised that we would have “tribulation” in the world (John 16:33). The world hates God, and if we seek to follow Him, we should expect it to hate us as well.

4) Our hope is that our Savior is stronger than “the world”.

At the same time, though, we should recognize that our Savior has overcome the world (John 16:33). This is not a fight with an uncertain outcome. And because our Savior has overcome, we will overcome, because the One who is in us is greater than him who is in the world (1 John 4:4-6). If we believe that Jesus is the Son of God, then by our faith, we will overcome the world. This is a comforting reality in the midst of tribulation and strife.

5) We are called to go to “the world” as ambassadors for Christ.

As those who have been called out of the world and who have overcome the world, Jesus has now sent us back into the world (John 17:16) in order that we might be salt and light in the midst of the rebellious world. Even as we refuse to love that which is opposed to God, we are called to go and make disciples and love our neighbors – all of whom are part of “the world”. Truly, though we are not “of” the world, we are still “in” it, and that is God’s doing so that His purposes will be accomplished.

Brothers and sisters, do not love the world like Demas. It will deceive you and lead you away from God. Instead, recognize that it is passing away, and seek to shine light into its darkness in every way you can. Amen.