Series 11

Study 9 DEMAS: THE SNARE OF WORLDLINESS

(Scripture Portion: 1 John 2: 15-29) 

Almost every character of whom we read in the Word of God is known for something; each is associated with some deed of glory and honour, or of shame and dishonour. The subject of this study is Demas, who is mentioned in Colossians 4:14. Here was a man who lived and worked with the apostle Paul but who afterwards, like John Mark, deserted him (Luke 9:62). When Paul wrote this Colossian letter all was well (Colossians 4:14), but things had tragically changed when, some four years later, he wrote to Timothy –- see 2 Timothy 4:10. Demas had been a man of great privilege. He had been converted at Thessalonica, most likely through the ministry of Paul. Added to this, he actually worked with the great apostle. But though he was so privileged, he suffered a serious spiritual breakdown; and we must remember that his backsliding started in his heart before it became manifest in his life –- look up Proverbs 14:14, and compare 2 Timothy 4:10. What was the cause of his going back? In Demas’ case the cause was worldliness, but there are other scriptural reasons why people go back:-

1. A LOVE FOR THE WORLD

2 Timothy 4:10 warns us of the snare of worldliness. This does not necessarily mean that he attended places of worldliness, for it is possible to be a worldly Christian without ever participating in the world’s pleasures. Worldliness is everything around us which excludes the Lord Jesus Christ. Demas probably began to adopt the world’s standards; possibly he began to view missionary endeavour from the world’s standpoint and found himself asking, “Is it worth it?”, and consequently he lost the heavenly vision (Acts 26:19). It is sad when the world’s icy grip begins to affect a Christian. Consider the serious words in 1 John 2:15-17.

2. SEVERE PERSECUTION AND TESTING

Look up Matthew 24:9-10; compare Matthew 5:10-12 and 1 Peter 4:12-19 –- and then look up Luke 8:13. Is this a commentary upon the experience of Demas? It frequently happens that those who have trusted Christ and have confessed their faith in Him “falter” when the fires of persecution begin to burn. Many young believers who have been nurtured in a Christian home and church discover, when they leave home to go to college or to work out “in the world”, that their faith is very severely tested. Some, like Demas, turn back! All such tested ones need our prayers, (not our criticisms), and all the encouragement we can give them.

3. FALSE TEACHERS

It is improbable that this was true in the case of Demas, though there were many in his day, as in ours, who were side tracked by false teachers –- look up Matthew 24:11, and compare 2 Timothy 4:3-4. Be on your guard lest the subtle endeavour of some of the cults turn you from your hope and from the simplicity that is in Christ (2 Corinthians 11:3) – – look up Acts 20:29-30; 1 Timothy 4:1; 2 Peter 2:1-3.

4. FORSAKING THE HOUSE OF GOD

When those who have at one time loved the Lord begin to “cool off” in their love and zeal, it is usually detected by their less frequent attendance at the services of their church – –look up Hebrews 10:24-25. How many folk used to go to church, be at the prayer meeting, attend the Bible study, or used to be a keen worker for the Lord! Their spiritual experience is now all in the past tense; like Demas, they have gone back –- look up Acts 2:42, and compare Colossians 1:9-11.

5. INDULGING IN SOME SIN

There is a solemn warning about this in 1 Timothy 1:19-20. One “little” sin harboured and indulged in (Psalm 66:18) is enough to precipitate a headlong spiritual downfall. Give no ground to the enemy! (Ephesians 4:27); “keep short accounts with God”, and confess all sin to Him immediately! –- look up 1 John 1:9, and compare Proverbs 28:13.

6. FAILURE TO RECEIVE THE WORD OF GOD

Look up John 6:66. It was when the Lord Jesus began to reveal some of the deeper truths concerning Himself and His mission that many turned back. The only way to go on in the Christian life is to receive the Word of truth as the Holy Spirit reveals it to us; not to do so is to go back, for there is no standing still. To live in disobedience is to do what Demas did –- to experience a spiritual lapse (1 John 2:5) – – compare Hebrews 4:2 with James 1:22.

7. DEFECTIVE KNOWLEDGE OF CHRIST

Look up 1 John 2:19, which suggests that some who turn back like Demas do so because they have never been truly born again; they have only professed to be Christians (2 Timothy 3:5); they have never possessed Christ (John 1:12; Galatians 2:20). What about doing a little of 2 Corinthians 13:5?

What are the safeguards against spiritual relapse? –- for we must give heed to the injunction in 1 Corinthians 10:11-12. Turn to 2 Timothy 4:6-10 and 17-18, and see how Paul himself stood firm against any kind of relapse:

  1. Paul was fully yielded to the will of God (verses 6 and 7). Are we fully yielded to His will?
  2. Paul lived in the light of the Second Advent (verse 8, and compare 1 John 2:28 and 3:1-3). Do we live in the light of His near return?
  3. Paul had absolute confidence in the Lord to deliver and to preserve him (verses 17 and 18). This can and should be our confidence also.

By God’s grace, let us press on –- until Jesus comes!