Demas the apostate

23 Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, greets you, 24 as do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, Luke, my fellow workers. (Philemon 1:23-24 NASB)

14 Luke, the beloved physician, sends you his greetings, and also Demas. (Colossians 4:14 NASB)

world in hand

10 for Demas, having loved this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica; Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia. (2 Timothy 4:10 NASB)

How does a man go from faithful companion and fellow worker in the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, only to return to the filth from which he came?
Scripture does not leave us without answers to these kinds of questions. Whether it is Jesus regarding the four types of soil: see Matthew 13:1-23, Mark 4:1-20, and Luke 8:4-15, or 2 Timothy 4:10, the Word of God instructs us regarding apostasy.

 1 John 2:19 They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, in order that it might be shown that they all are not of us. (NASB)

In these passages we see a brief mention of a man named Demas.  He is listed only three times in scripture: Philemon 1:24, Colossians 4:14, and 2 Timothy 4:10.  In two out of the three passages he is listed as a fellow worker with Paul and his companions.

In the 2 Timothy 4:10, Demas abandons the apostle Paul for the love of the world.  Sometimes we might think that the world in the past had no lure for people to abandon the faith, but the world system has always been tempting.

In 2 Timothy 4 there are several interesting aspects to consider.

1.  I normally use the NASB or ESV translations, but I think they have missed the emphasis Paul gives to Demas’ abandoning him.  In the Greek the sentence begins with “Demas deserted me,” stressing his leaving, and then the reason why, “having loved this present world.”  Just imagine the jolt to Timothy, when he read the words, “Demas deserted me.”   Timothy believed that this man was a brother, and now he has shown that he was a fraud, that he was not a believer.

The NET translates it much more accurately:
2 Timothy 4:10 For Demas deserted me, since he loved the present age, and he went to Thessalonica.  Crescens went to Galatia and Titus to Dalmatia. (NET)

2.  ἀγαπάω (agapao)-love

This word means a kind of love based on a decision of the will, instead of a love based on affections or emotions.  When used of God, the love God shows sinful man in the cross is the greatest example of this kind of love.  It is an unconditional love, and a self-sacrificial love.  See John 3:16 for example.


This kind of sacrificial love is commanded of a husband toward his wife in their marriage, see Ephesians 5:25.

For Demas, this love, has become twisted because of the object.  Anything that a person loves more than forgiveness of sins in Jesus, will send that person to Hell.  He loved the pleasures of the world more than God, and by doing so, he breaks the first commandment perpetually.  This world is not the Christian’s home, we are strangers and pilgrim’s (Ephesians 2:19, 1 Peter 1:17, 2:11, Hebrews 11:13, Psalm 39:12, Leviticus 25:23) during our time on the earth.  If the proper perspective about the world is not kept, the temptation to abandon Christ can be great, especially during trials and persecution.

Matthew Henry wrote:

“The love of this world, is often the cause of turning back from the truths and ways of Jesus Christ. (cp 1Ti 6:9)”

3.  αἰών (aion)-world

This word typically has both a time element and an ethical/ moral aspect.  In this text the ethical/ moral use is in view, another example of this is: 2 Corinthians 4:4: in whose case the god of this world (aion) has blinded the minds of the unbelieving, that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. (NASB)  

In other words, leaving Paul for the world is not about leaving Paul, to relocate to some other place.  It involves abandoning an ethical system, leaving the kingdom of God, for the kingdom of Satan.

The ethical/ moral use of this word also parallels the use of another word commonly translated “world” κόσμος (kosmos).

4.  It is also enlightening to compare how Christians are instructed to deal with the world, with how Demas responds to the world.

Galatians 6:14 But may it never be that I should boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world (kosmos) has been crucified to me, and I to the world (kosmos). (NASB)

1 John 2:15 Do not love the world (kosmos), nor the things in the world (kosmos). If anyone loves the world (kosmos), the love of the Father is not in him. (NASB)

James 4:4 You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world (kosmos) is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world (kosmos) makes himself an enemy of God. (NASB)

Demas was unable to resist the attraction to the evil world system.  This world system is in rebellion against God and seeks to conform us to its image.  We err by adopting the same false human wisdom as the rest of the unbelieving world.

5. Though we do not have complete certainty regarding the timeline, the fact remains that Demas goes from fellow worker, to abandoning the work and becoming a lover of the “present world.”  The first two mentions of Demas, were likely recorded during Paul’s first imprisonment, and 2 Timothy 4, during Paul’s last imprisonment. Philemon and Colossians were written between 60-62 A.D., and 2 Timothy about 66-67 A.D.

There is glitter in the world.  There is glamour in the world.  It is consummately organized and presented.  It has an appeal.  Lot’s wife leaving it—her heart was there, her interest was there.  She could not keep from looking back upon it [Genesis 19:12-17, 25-26].  It was offered to Jesus—the kingdoms of the world and the glory thereof: “Just bow down and worship me” [Matthew 4:8-9].  He refused it [Matthew 4:10].

Demas took it “having loved this present world” [2 Timothy 4:10].  Like a roulette wheel, it promises a price; it promises a reward.  There’s no denying of its interest and its appeal, but the end of it is as dark and as forlorn and as hopeless as is death and night and the grave itself.

Dr. W. A.  Criswell, “Loving the wrong world,” sermon preached on 11-23-58.

6.  Demas lived for the present world, but Paul lived for the world to come.  In the previous verses this becomes apparent:

7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; 8 in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing. (2 Timothy 4:7-8 NASB)

That very man Demas who, during Paul’s first imprisonment, had remained so faithfully at his side, Col_4:14; Phm_1:24, now yielded to fickleness. The love for this present world, its advantages and lusts, took hold of his heart; he refused to bear the cross which the Lord laid upon him. His deserting the apostle at this time was the first step in his denial of the Lord. Tradition has it that he afterward became priest in a heathen temple in Thessalonica. Thus the love of the world, the desire to enjoy the fruits of this life for a season, has resulted all too often in the denial of the accepted truth and a later enmity against Christ and His Word.

-Paul E. Kretzmann’s Commentary on 2 Timothy 4.

three crosses--14604_19016_5

The church has always faced apostasy; Jesus had Judas, Paul had Demas.  I think that in the near future, the body of Christ, will see more of the same, especially in light of the Supreme Court decision on Gay marriage, and the likely persecution to come.  What should we learn from the example of Demas about the temptation to return to the world?

H.A. Ironside instructs us:

It is only as we are occupied with Christ Himself that we are set free from the love of the world. The Spirit of God says to every Christian, “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. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever” (1 John 2:15-17).

May we be encouraged by Luke and warned by Demas to go on faithfully in the path of service to which our God has called us. God grant that it will never be said of any us that we “loved this present world.”

-H.A. Ironside’s Notes on Selected Books, 2 Timothy 4.

Let’s finish our race well!  Lift our eyes to Christ the author and perfector of our faith (Hebrews 12:2).

In Christ,

Jeremy Murphy


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