Journal of Grace Theology
Demas was a Christian. We first read of him in Colossians 4:14, “Luke, the beloved physician, and Demas, greet you.” Again in Philemon 24, “Marcus, Aristarchus, Demas, Lucas, my fellowlaborers.” Our final Scripture concerning Demas is II Timothy 4:10, “For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed to Thessalonica; Crescens to Galatia, Titus unto Dalmatia.”
Suddenly he has become Demas the deserter, Demas the forsaker, Demas the world-lover.
Preachers and ministers use him to describe all those, both saved and unsaved, who fail to meet the standards of the local assembly. He is used to describe those who depart from the Lord and have become reprobates.
Demas has become Christendom’s most maligned Christian. We are taught that he departed from Paul because he loved this present EVIL world. It is felt that in having done this he deserted the Lord Himself.
Is this what the Apostle Paul intended? Did he intend that Demas be maligned? The context of II Timothy 4:10 shows that Paul wrote at a time of extreme loneliness. There is nothing in the Greek New Testament to show that the Apostle intended this as material for castigating backsliders and passing judgment on the professing ones who do not STAND.
The Greek word egkatelipen does not necessarily mean “to desert,” as it is implied. The basic meaning is “to leave.” The context shows that Paul certainly felt deserted.
“For Demas has left me,” is a complete clause. The word translated “having loved” (agapeesas) is a nominative participle and is both subject and verb of the following clause: “For Demas has left me, loving the ‘now age (ton nun aiōna)’ and has departed into Thessalonica, Crescens into Galatia, and Titus into Dalmatia.”
Note that the verse ends with THREE PERSONS departing from Paul: Demas, Crescens, and Titus. The verb action of “departed” absolutely applies to ALL THREE. Since Paul says that the reason for the departure of Demas was “love the ‘now (nun)’ age,” he may well have been the leader of the departure of the three. If Crescens and Titus had reason to leave, then ALL THREE left for the SAME reason.
There is nothing in the Greek which even IMPLIES that there was anything evil here, or that there was a love for the world system which is fitly described by the word kosmos. The Apostle Paul does not speak of Demas as he does of Alexander the coppersmith in II Timothy 2:14. Our word “present” for nun says too much. The word aiōna is best translated “age,” not “world.”
Did Demas forsake Paul for the age in transition, or the age of grace? The phrase “the ‘now’ age” (ton nun aiōna) is interesting and cannot be ignored as to its meaning. What was this age? We certainly know that the dispensation of the mystery was in effect. Did the “transitionary period” end with Acts 28? The evidence that answers this question is the writing of Hebrews and the General Epistles. The evidence shows two dispensations, or ages, still overlapping in the day of Demas. Paul does not indicate which age he had in mind.
Let us be careful concerning a brother in the Lord. King David was very careful in touching the Lord’s anointed. Demas was a fellow-laborer. More good is said of him than that which could be construed, or misconstrued, as evil.