2 Timothy 4:9-22
Do thy diligence to come shortly unto me: for Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica; Crescens to Galatia, Titus unto Dalmatia. Only Luke is with me. Take Mark, and bring him with thee: for he is profitable to me for the ministry. And Tychicus have I sent to Ephesus. The cloke that I left at Troas with Carpus, when thou comest, bring with thee, and the books, but especially the parchments. Alexander the coppersmith did me much evil: the Lord reward him according to his works: of whom be thou ware also; for he hath greatly withstood our words. At my first answer no man stood with me, but all men forsook me: I pray God that it may not be laid to their charge. Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me; that by me the preaching might be fully known, and that all the Gentiles might hear: and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion. And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom: to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. Salute Prisca and Aquila, and the household of Onesiphorus. Erastus abode at Corinth: but Trophimus have I left at Miletum sick. Do thy diligence to come before winter. Eubulus greeteth thee, and Pudens, and Linus, and Claudia, and all the brethren. The Lord Jesus Christ be with thy spirit. Grace be with you. Amen. (vv. 9-22)
A section such as this might not seem to have very much in it that is for real spiritual edification, and one might ask whether divine inspiration was needed to give us these greetings and salutations. But God had a special reason for causing the Apostle to put these things into his letters. In the first place, in order that they might be preserved for our instruction and help in a future day, and then to enable us to understand the circumstances in which Paul found himself at this time much better than we otherwise could.
We have noticed that Paul wrote this particular letter during his second imprisonment, while awaiting execution as a martyr for Christ’s sake. He was anxious to see his friend, Timothy, to whom this letter is written, once more before his impending death. So he urged him, in verse 9, to do his “diligence to come shortly unto” him. A little farther down, in verse 21, Paul says, “Do thy diligence to come before winter.” This might have a double suggestion. Possibly he already knew that he was to be martyred that winter, or because the cold weather was near at hand he wanted Timothy to bring him the needed supplies that would help to make the winter in an underground dungeon more comfortable.
Then he spoke sorrowfully of one of his former companions: “For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica.” He also mentioned two other associates who had gone away on evangelistic tours: “Crescens to Galatia, Titus unto Dalmatia.” Luke, the beloved physician, remained with him, as we are told in verse 11, “Only Luke is with me.”
Then there is a very interesting request: “Take Mark, and bring him with thee: for he is profitable to me for the ministry.” This is the John Mark who went out with Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey, but who left them at Perga in Pamphylia and returned to his home in Jerusalem. Paul felt that Mark had manifested a rather poor spirit at that time, and later on when Barnabas wanted to take him on another journey, Paul refused to agree to this, as he considered Mark had proven untrustworthy before. You see, with Paul, a missionary journey was no pleasurable excursion, and he wanted a man who would stay with him, endure the hardship, and not go back home if things became difficult. So he said, “No, we will not take Mark with us.” Paul and Barnabas were both very godly men, but this was something on which they could not agree. Barnabas, who was closely related to John Mark, pleaded with Paul to give the boy another chance, but the latter was adamant. So we are told that the contention became so sharp between them that they separated. Barnabas took Mark and returned to Cyprus, while Paul went another way and chose Silas to go with him. God blessed and used both Paul and Barnabas in spite of their difference of opinion, and they were warm friends later on, as we know (1 Cor. 9:6).
As the years went on, we find this difference had passed away. Paul speaks very tenderly and lovingly of Mark, and expressed his desire to see him again.
I am glad that Barnabas gave Mark another chance, for he made good the second time. He went on in the Lord’s work, and Paul recognized that God had made Mark a profitable servant. It was he who wrote the second gospel.
Next Paul mentioned Tychicus, who had traveled with him, “Tychicus have I sent to Ephesus.”
In verse 13 he says something that is rather interesting: “The cloke that I left at Troas with Carpus, when thou comest, bring with thee, and the books, but especially the parchments.” Evidently he had been entertained in the home of a man named Carpus. Just where, we are not told, but he had left his heavy coat there until he should send for it. Now he felt the need of it. He requests also that Timothy bring his books and, especially, some parchments. These parchments may have been simply plain material on which he could write letters, but if they contained parts of Scripture we can well understand why he would be anxious to receive them.
“And the books”—that he might pass the time profitably in prison. Here I am reminded of what Francis Newman said of that devoted servant of God, J. N. Darby: “Never before had I seen a man so resolved that no word of the New Testament should be a dead letter to him. I once said, ‘But do you really think that no part of the New Testament may have been temporary in its object? For instance, what should we have lost if St. Paul had never written, “The cloke that I left at Troas…bring with thee, and the books, but especially the parchments”?’ He answered with the greatest promptitude, ‘I should have lost something, for it was exactly that verse which alone saved me from selling my little library. No! Every word, depend upon it, is from the Spirit, and is for eternal service.’”
“Alexander the coppersmith did me much evil: the Lord reward him according to his works: of whom be thou ware also; for he hath greatly withstood our words.” This may have been the same Alexander referred to elsewhere, whom Paul had delivered unto Satan, because he was leading the believers into false teachings (1 Tim. 1:20). As Paul looked back over his first appearance before Nero, he said, “At my first answer no man stood with me, but all men forsook me: I pray God that it may not be laid to their charge.” Think of that: the aged apostle charged with sedition against the Roman Empire, standing there alone before Caesar. No one to take his part. No one to say, “I know this man. I know him to be a man of uprightness and integrity, and I heartily endorse his message.” But there he stood, alone, faithfully witnessing to the truth of God. Did I say alone? No, he was not alone. He himself said, “Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me; that by me the preaching might be fully known, and that all the Gentiles might hear: and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion.” In a little while he was to die for Christ’s sake, but he could say with confidence, “And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom: to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.”
Then the letter concludes with several salutations. “Salute Prisca and Aquila, and the household of Onesiphorus.” Priscilla and Aquila were friends of Paul’s with whom he had lived in Corinth and Ephesus. They had given him a home when he had none of his own. “And the household of Onesiphorus.” He had spoken of how this man had sought him out (1:16-18). His household is mentioned here. One of his companions, Erastus, remained at Corinth. “But Trophimus have I left at Miletum sick.” Paul was forced to leave this brother behind because of illness. Some people think that Christians should never be sick, and if they are, it is because of their unfaithfulness to the Lord. But Paul had to leave his sick companion at Miletum, and there is no indication of unfaithfulness here. Neither did Paul heal him. Healing from sickness is not always God’s will for the Christian.
Then we have that word, “Do thy diligence to come before winter.” He next mentioned several who sent greetings: Eubulus, Pudens, Linus, and Claudia. Linus is listed in Roman Catholic chronology as the second bishop of Rome. Peter was supposed to be the first. But neither Linus nor Peter knew anything about it, you may be sure of that! Paul then closes the letter with the words, “The Lord Jesus Christ be with thy spirit. Grace be with you. Amen.”
Now, having glanced briefly at this portion, I am going back to note what is said about Demas and Luke. “For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world… Only Luke is with me.”
These two names had been linked together in other Epistles. In Colossians 4:14 we read, “Luke, the beloved physician, and Demas, greet you.” Then in the little epistle to Philemon, in verse 24, these two names are mentioned with others, “Marcus, Aristarchus, Demas, Lucas, my fellowlabourers.” It is very evident that both Luke and Demas were very good friends of the apostle Paul. He counted on them. They worked with him, traveled with him, no doubt relieving him of a great many responsibilities.
Here we read, “Only Luke is with me.” Luke remained faithful to the end. He was found by Paul in Troas, as we gather from the book of Acts. Luke may have been a Greek-speaking Jew; on the other hand, he might have been a Gentile. There is no evidence either way. If a Gentile, then he is the only New Testament Gentile writer, for all the rest were Jews, Hebrew Christians. The word Luke means “light.” He was a scientific man, a physician, a man of culture and refinement. He had investigated Christianity very carefully before accepting it. The introduction to his gospel tells us that he had looked into these things that had been reported concerning Jesus. He gives considerable detailed information regarding the virgin birth of our Lord. Matthew simply mentions that His mother was a virgin in accordance with the prophecy in Isaiah, but Luke gives many particulars that evidence the physician’s personal conversation with Mary.
From the time when he met Paul at Troas until Paul’s death, Luke was always closely linked with him. At different times in the book of Acts we see that he remained behind when Paul went on, doubtless to help build up young converts. Then he would join Paul later.
Not once does Luke mention his own name either in his gospel or in the book of Acts, and he wrote both of these. But in the Acts we are able to know when Luke is on the scene and when he is not. If he is with Paul, he uses the pronouns “we” and “us.” If he is not with Paul’s party, he uses “they” and “them.” Then when he rejoins them, it is “we” and “us” again. In this way we can trace his journeys with Paul in the latter chapters of the book. He was faithful to the end, and what a crown there will be for him in that coming day!
About this other man, Demas, we know very little. He and Luke must have been very intimate. We get this from the way their names are found together in these two Scripture passages. Now Paul is in prison, and Demas must have said, “This business of preaching the gospel isn’t going to pan out very well.” So he did not know whether he could go on or not, and by-and-by, after careful consideration, he determined to leave Paul and return to the world.
Paul says, “Demas hath forsaken me.” He does not say that Demas has forsaken God or given up his faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, but that “Demas hath forsaken me.” There is nothing to indicate that he gave up faith in the gospel that he professed and became an apostate. There is no intimation that he plunged into a life of sin. But he turned away from Paul, having loved this present world. He was more concerned about temporal things than he was about getting a reward at the judgment seat of Christ, and therefore his name goes down on the page of Holy Scripture as a warning to every servant of Christ.
We remember the words of our Lord Jesus, “No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62). Demas lost his great opportunity. He might have been honored of God as a wonderful soul winner, but he loved this present world.
May that speak to everyone of our hearts. 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.” And if I am speaking to any who have never come to Christ, oh, I plead with you, make the choice that Luke made. If you are troubled by doubt and perplexity, then study Scripture for yourself. Look for the evidences of the truth in the Word of God itself, and look for corroborative evidence in the lives of those who have received Christ. See what wonderful things God has done for them. Put your faith in Jesus, and so go on with us to yonder glory-land.