2 Timothy 4. 6-13 For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day - and not only to me, but all who long for his appearing.
Do your best to come to me quickly, for Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, and Titus to Dalmatia. Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry. I sent Tychicus to Ephesus. When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, and my scrolls, especially the parchments.
Demas is known as the man who abandoned Paul because he loved the world (2Tim.4.10). However, some people think our view of him is too harsh. They say that perhaps he left Paul because he wanted to help save the world. In John 3.16 God is said to love the world, so why do we think badly of Demas for the the same thing?
Look at the two statements:
2Tim. 4.10 Demas loved the world: Abandoned Paul.
John 3.16 God loved the world: Gave his son.
They look a little alike. But we need to look at three of the words in more detail.
Both verses use the same word for love: agape. That is why some people think that Demas loved the world in a good way, since agape is "Christian love." The word agape was not invented by Christians, it was used by the world in everyday speech and writing. There were two words that the writers of the New Testament most often used to express love: agape and phileo. Agape is the one most commonly used for “Christian love,” but it is simplistic to say that agape is only used for Christian love. Agape and phileo were sometimes used interchangeably:
John 3:35 "The Father loves the son and has placed everything in his hands" agape was used here.
John 5:20 "The Father loves the son and showed him all he does" and phileo was used here.
Also, just because agape was used doesn't mean that the object a person is said to love is a good thing. Look at 1John 2.15 "Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him." The word that John used for "love" is agape and he said that a person can love the world and it is wrong. The word “love” is not going to help us understand what Demas’ motivations were.
The next word in the verse about Demas that we need to look at is “world.” It is different than the word translated "world" in John 3.16.
John 3:16 is kosmos
2Tim 4:10 is aeon
The two words have very different meanings. While kosmos refers to the physical world or the people in it, aeon refers to the age or moral character of the time we live in. Some examples of aeon in the New Testament are:
Matt. 13:22 "...the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful," aeon here is translated "life."
Luke 16:8 "For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light,"
Gal. 1:3-4 "...the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age...."
Demas didn’t leave Paul because he loved humanity and wanted to start his own mission work. He loved the very things that Jesus gave his life to rescue us from.
The final word we need to look at is one translated "deserted." It is not just the idea of leaving someone, it is the idea that you leave them and you are not coming back. Some places it is used are
Matt. 27:46 "My God, my God why have you forsaken me,"
2Cor. 4:9 "persecuted but not forsaken," and
Heb. 13:5 "I will never leave you or forsake you."
Paul used the word one other time in 2 Timothy: "At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them" (2Tim.4.16). When Demas left Paul he was not planning to come back and report on his success in the mission field.
After studying the words in 2Tim. 4:10 I am sure that Demas abandoned Paul because he loved the pleasures of the world more than he loved the church. As nice as it would be to believe otherwise the text doesn't support that idea.
There is another question to ask: What caused this change in Demas? Demas is mentioned two other times in the New Testament: Col. 4.14 and Philemon 24. He was a "fellow worker" with Paul. He must have been a special young man for Paul to have brought him on missionary work.
Think about what was going on: Paul was in prison, in chains waiting to be executed. And Demas was with him there. Paul had given everything for the church. Demas may have thought about his own future and seen that if he continued to follow Jesus he would end his days like Paul. Demas decided that he wanted to have fun, not sit in prison and die for the gospel. Demas made a very conscious choice that Jesus wasn't worth it.
Paul didn't say that Demas had "wandered away from the truth" like Hymenaeus and Philetus (2Tim. 2.17), and Demas didn’t get scared or homesick. Demas abandoned Paul because of love. The things of the world that people love are the "...cravings of the sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does..." (1John 2.16).
What happens to a person who makes this choice? Heb. 10.26-29 "If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgement and of a raging fire that will consume the enemies of God...How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of Grace?."
Demas couldn’t look further than that prison cell. But Paul did look further and he knew that death wasn’t the end. He looked further and saw a crown of righteousness. That reward is not only for him. It is the reward that awaits everyone that longs for the return of our Lord Jesus.