September 7, 2014

The End

Colossians 4:14-18 14 Our dear friend Luke, the doctor, and Demas send greetings.

As believers in Jesus Christ, we are thankful people. When we are placed into that relationship with Jesus, what He has becomes ours. The joy and peace, spiritual gifts, and eternal life are freely given to us. Not because we did something to earn these things, but because Jesus Christ earned salvation for us. And as a people who have been given such incredible gifts, we cannot help but to be thankful, for the wealth that we have been showered with in Christ.
And we see that Paul was also thankful for all things in Christ. He gave God glory in everything. Another reason Paul was thankful was because of his friends. We see who some of these people are in the final verses in Colossians. Paul considers these friends to be a blessing from God. I wonder if we do the same thing. Good friends are rare and we should consider ourselves blessed by God if we have such friends.
In his closing remarks, Paul reminds the Colossians of some of the good friends and kingdom laborers that God had brought into his life. These were trusted friends who stayed with him when the going got tough. They didn’t abandon him.
Some of the people that were involved in Paul’s life were Tychicus, who Paul describes as “our beloved brother and faithful servant and fellow bond-servant in the Lord.” Paul entrusted him with the job of delivering this letter to Colosse.
There was Onesimus – who Paul calls “a faithful and beloved brother.” He was a run away slave who came to know and worship Jesus, under Paul’s ministry. He was returning to Colosse with Tychicus to return to his master, regardless of the consequences.
Aristarchus was a “fellow prisoner” with Paul. He had sacrificed his freedom for the opportunity to minister for the Kingdom of God.
Mark – he was a companion of Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey, who deserted them. Later he and Paul were restored to fellowship, and he became one of Paul’s biggest helpers. Paul told Timothy that Mark was “useful to me for service.” And we also know that Mark authored the gospel of Mark.
Paul also mentions Justus – and all we know about him is that he was a Jew and a fellow worker of Paul’s.
Then there was Epaphras – he was the one who started the Colossian church, and most likely was their pastor. In Colossians 1:7 Paul calls him a “fellow bond-servant, who is a faithful servant of Christ .” Epaphras was the only one Paul specifically acknowledged for his prayer ministry. He literally agonized in prayer for the churches.
Paul mentions Luke next:
Colossians 4:14 Luke, the beloved physician, sends you his greetings, and also Demas.
And what is known about Luke? He was Greek, he was educated, and he wrote the gospel of Luke and the book of Acts. He was a researcher. In Luke 1 and Acts 1 it talks about how he researched all the facts about Christ:
Luke 1:1-4 1 Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, 2 just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. 3 With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, 4 so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.
So two writers of the gospels are with Paul during his imprisonment, and at this point in time, both the gospels of Mark and Luke have already been written.
Paul calls Luke “the doctor.” This word is used 7 times in the NT and it always means “Physician.” We know he went with Paul on his journeys quite often, and Paul no doubt benefited from having his own personal doctor with him in his travels. Nothing is revealed to us in the New Testament about Luke’s background.
I imagine that Luke was living well as a doctor, and then the Apostle Paul came along preaching Jesus Christ. The gospel transformed Luke’s life. What else could make someone leave all their creature comforts to travel with the Apostle to get ridiculed and persecuted along with Paul? They weren’t traveling on interstate 81 in an RV with reservations at the Holiday Inn. They were going about on foot, and on crowded and smelly boats, not knowing where they would sleep that night, or even how they would eat.
But both Paul and Luke had that desire to fulfill the command of Christ to take the gospel into all the inhabited world.
Mt 28 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
After Luke joined Paul on his second missionary journey, in the book of Acts, the writing changes from “he” and “they” to “we” and “us”:
Acts 16:10 And when he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.
Luke made it clear that this was when he joined the apostle Paul. Luke left his comfortable old life behind and devoted the rest of his life to helping the apostle in the ministry of the gospel. Luke stayed with Paul all the way to Rome. Luke writes in Acts 28:16 “When we entered Rome!” In Paul’s last letter, 2 Timothy, he is back in prison again. What most likely happened to Paul was that he was executed by the command of Nero. After the fire in Rome, in 64 AD, it was illegal to be a Christian. There was a great persecution of the church under Nero. But in 2 Tim 4:11, Paul says:
2 Timothy 4:11 Only Luke is with me. Pick up Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for service.
Luke was one who stayed with Paul to the end. That was a great friendship, wasn’t it?
At the end of verse 14, Paul adds, “and also Demas.” That’s all Paul says about Demas – “Luke, the beloved physician, sends you his greetings, and also Demas.”
What do we know about Demas? During Paul’s first imprisonment, Demas was a faithful Christian and fellow worker with Paul:
Philemon 1:24 …as do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, Luke, my fellow workers.
Demas was considered by Paul, a “fellow worker” – the Greek word is sunergos, meaning: “a co-laborer.” He was a co-laborer with Paul in the gospel. The name of Demas only occurs only three times in the NT. In two of these occasions, he is mentioned as sending his greetings to the recipients of the letter and that he was considered to be a “fellow worker.” What makes Demas different though, is found in 2 Tim:
2 Timothy 4:10 for Demas, having loved this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica; Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia.
This text was written after the other references to him. So what does Paul mean and why did Demas desert him?
Some think that perhaps Demas had a farm that needed harvesting or family affairs to attend to. Can we really know what happened to him? Why did he desert Paul? I think we can find the answer in 1 John:
1 John 2:15 Do not love the world, nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
Is this what happened to Demas? The Greek word kosmos, which is used here, refers to both the material and the moral world. But this is not the word Paul used in 2 Timothy 4:10: “Demas, having loved this present world.” The Greek word Paul used is aion.
English: aeon /ˈiːɒn/, also spelled eon
Aion refers to a period of time. It means “an age,” and it is used that way throughout the New Testament. So a better translation would be that “Demas, having loved this present age.”
So now we need to understand what “This present age” means. We already saw in Mt 24 that it means the Jewish age, or the age of the Old Covenant.
Mt 24:1ff Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings. 2 “Do you see all these things?” he asked. “Truly I tell you, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.” 3 As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”
The disciples correctly linked the destruction of the Temple with the end of the Jewish age. For the Jew, there were two periods of time, the Mosaic period and age of the Messiah. The Messiah was viewed as one who would usher in a new world, and that period of the Messiah was called “the age to come.” And in the New Testament we see them mentioned as: “This age” and the “age to come.”
Matthew 12:32 Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come.
The words “to come” at the end of the verse is the Greek word mello, which means: ” about to happen.” So the age that was ready to happen in the first century, had already started in the first century. We live in that age right now. It is the age of the New Covenant. We see from Mt 12:32 that both of these ages have sin in them. The “age to come” that Jesus and Paul refer to, were not sinless periods.
In 1 Corinthians 2, “this age” refers to the Jews under the Mosaic Covenant:
1 Corinthians 2:6-8 Yet we do speak wisdom among those who are mature; a wisdom, however, not of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are passing away; 7 but we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom, which God predestined before the ages to our glory; 8 the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood; for if they had understood it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory;
Paul says that the rulers of “this age” (that is, the age or time period when Paul was writing to the Corinthians) were those who in ignorance, crucified the Lord of glory. So when Paul in our text, uses the term “this present age” it should be understood as meaning the system of Judaism.
So what happened to Demas? I think Paul is saying that Demas returned to Judaism. It was easier for him to be a Jew than a Christian. Christians were persecuted and despised. But a Jew had it easy (at least until God brought the Roman armies against them a few years later.
Demas took the easy path. He was won over by the Judaizers: those who promoted Jewish ways outside and within the church.
In his day it was dangerous to be a Christian and so the temptation was to take refuge in that religion, which was exposed to no persecution. It seems that Demas had fallen prey to the Judaizers. The Judaizers were a group of people who went around in the first century promoting Judaism. Demas left the truth of Christianity behind and turned to Judaism.
Most theologians would call what Demas did, apostasy. Apostasy is a falling away from the truth of the Bible. The most common form of apostasy in the NT was a falling back into Jewish traditions. Some of the Jews who followed Christ didn’t stick with it. When the going got tough, they turned back to Judaism. The book of Hebrews was written to address that very issue.
I don’t believe apostasy is that common, but there is a movement among believers today to return “to the Jewish roots” as they call it. They believe that Christians should meet on Saturday, the OC Sabbath day, and celebrate all the Jewish feasts, and a number of other selected teachings from the Old Covenant. Some in this movement have gone so far as to say that the writings of the apostle Paul are not part of Scripture, because Paul clearly shows that the age of the Old Covenant has been brought to a close, and that the Jews and Gentiles have been formed into one group in Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, but we are one in Christ, says Paul.
What can we learn from Demas example? That’s kind of simple. Don’t follow it. Don’t be a Demas. Instead of falling away when the going gets tough, fall on your knees in prayer, and ask God for strength to carry on. Don’t take the easy way out, take the way of Truth. Take the way of the cross.