George H. Morrison - Devotional Sermons
The Tragedy of Renounced Service
Demas...my fellowlabourer--Phm 1:24.
Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world--2Ti 4:10
The Downfall of Demas
The disloyalty of Demas has had a strange grip upon the minds of men. It has appealed to the imagination. The fact that we know nothing of him save in these three texts, his presence in the little company that moves in and out of Paul's imprisonment--these glimpses have arrested men and drawn their thoughts to Demas as to someone mysterious and elusive. Then conjecture has been rife as to the ways in which he loved this present world. Was it lucre that tempted him, as Bunyan thought, or just the pressure of the lower standards? On such things we cannot dogmatize, for the apostle does not give us details; he did not expatiate on things that hurt him. All the same, it seems to me that we do know a little about Demas. These three references, put in their right order, surely betray something of the man--not, of course, of how the world allured him, for that must rest forever hidden, but of the gradual declension of his life. The chronology of the Epistles is not certain, but on many points there is a large agreement. Philemon was written earlier than Colossians and Second Timothy a great deal later. May we not trace, then, in this triple reference something of the soul-history of Demas that ended in such pitable fashion?
An Overcomer as Long as He Served with Paul
In the first reference Demas is described as one of the apostle's fellow-workers. He was one of that company of eager toilers to whom we owe the spreading of the faith. From the fact that he went away to Thessalonica, we might infer that he was a Thessalonian. Backsliders are like dying exiles, they begin craving for the familiar places. Demas, then, would be one of the early fruits of the apostle's visit to that European city, and the fruit, for long, was sweet to the taste. Demas was not content to confess Christ. He must serve and be a fellow-worker. He must do something for the Lord who saved him and for the apostle whom he loved so well. And it seems to me that so long as he was serving he found himself raised above the world: so long as he was serving he was safe. Men talk of the joy and liberty of service, and there are multitudes who have known the truth of that. But there are many who have never realized the spiritual strengthening of service. Christian service is like other work in that it helps to keep our besetting sins at bay, and in drearier hours saves us from ourselves. So was it, I believe, with Demas. He was kept as long as he was serving. He was master of all his timidity's and cravings in the years when he was laboring with Paul. The earliest reference to Demas, full of affection and of gratitude, is "Demas, my fellow-worker."
His Apostasy Began with His Cessation of Service
Then the years pass and he is named again--but this time he is not a fellow-worker. All that we hear in the letter to Colossae is the one word Demas. He is still the companion of the great apostle; but he is not the fellow-laborer now. He seems to have grown weary in the service; perhaps he was disappointed in the fruits of it. He had been dreaming that he would change the world with the magnificent message of the Christ, and Rome was pretty much where he had found it. So far he had not swerved in his personal loyalty to Paul. He loved him. He owed his life to him. There was nothing he enjoyed more than to listen to him. But he did not love to preach now as he used to do nor to go out and brave the ridicule of crowds nor to give himself to the training of the young. Had you told Demas that the day was coming when he would desert his spiritual father, he would have indignantly repudiated the calumny. Yet anyone who knows the human heart knows that he was on the highway to apostasy from the hour that he ceased to be a fellow-laborer. No man can cease to serve without good reason and yet maintain unimpaired the older loyalties. When the spirit of willing service goes, all the enthusiasms begin to die. Prayer is stinted, criticism enters, churchgoing becomes very intermittent, and slowly the whole character is changed. Paul, with his fine delicacy, does not hint at this. He does not exclude Demas from the greetings. But he is perfectly conscious of the change and of the possibilities involved in it. Once (and he wrote it with a grateful heart) it was Demas, my fellow-worker. Now it is simply Demas.
His Return to Thessalonica: No Service, No Prayer, No Fellowship
And then the years go by, the bitter dragging years, and once again we have the name of Demas. And with a great ache in his heart, Paul has to write, "Demas hath forsaken me." It was not in the least a sudden thing. Paul had long foreseen that it was coming. The vessel had been straining at its moorings, and the cable had been gradually fraying. Idle, not serving as he used to do, no longer forgetting everything in labor, Demas was unequal to the strain. It all began when Demas ceased to serve and, ceasing to serve, also ceased to pray. All he had given up began to claim him then. The old life became intensely vivid. And the tragedy is that, going back to it, it never could content his heart again after the glory that had come--and gone. Paul was not only sorry for himself. He was a thousand times sorrier for Demas. He knew the disappointment and unrest that awaited him in the old familiar scenes. I think the tear of an infinite regret would blot the parchment as he wrote, "Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world."
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