I love neat summaries. For example, the Bible sometimes will give a succinct principle, with examples, in a few verses. From these examples we can see how the principle works out in the lives of individuals. One such occurrence is found in 2 Tim 4:10-11. These verses come at the end of the book, as Paul looks forward to his very soon martyrdom.
In these verses he turns to personal matters as he mentions a few individuals. Paul says that one of these individuals, Demas, has forsaken the Apostle. Paul even gives the reason why Demas has done so. It is because Demas loved the present world. For the reader of the New Testament, this statement is a little jarring. A few years earlier in Paul’s ministry, Demas is seen as a faithful co-worker with Paul (Col 4:14; Philemon 24).
Paul also mentions Luke. He says that while he is facing death, “only Luke is with me.” In Col 4:14, Luke is also mentioned with Demas. However, we see that Luke has remained faithful to the work Paul is doing for the Lord. This is the consistent picture we have of Luke. In the Book of Acts, he is the faithful companion of Paul during much of Paul’s missionary journeys.
The last man Paul mentions in 2 Tim 4:10-11 is Mark. Paul asks Timothy to bring Mark to him. The reason he gives for wanting to see Mark is because Mark “is useful” to Paul “for ministry.” This is also somewhat surprising in light of Mark’s earlier history. On Paul’s first missionary journey, Mark had abandoned Paul. We could say that Mark did what Demas is said to have done in 2 Timothy 4. Mark’s betrayal was of such a kind that Paul refused to take him along on the second missionary journey (Acts 13:13; 15:38).
I find the mention of these three men very instructive. There is a very popular theology that says that all Christians remain faithful to the Lord. But the example of these men gives us a Biblical principle: Some Christians are faithful, and some are not. Not all believers are like Luke, who is a picture of steadfastness and service to the Lord. He is there with Paul pretty much at the beginning of Paul’s ministry. He is there with Paul at the end.
Some believers are like Mark. They fall. They prove themselves unfaithful. But they repent of that sin and come back to serve the Lord faithfully. Not only did Paul recognize the usefulness of Mark at the end of his life, the Lord Himself used him to pen the Gospel which bears his name in the English translations. If Church history is correct, Peter also saw the usefulness of Mark because there is strong evidence that Peter was the source of the Gospel of Mark.
Other believers are like Demas. We must not, as some do, conclude that Demas was not a believer. He certainly was. But at the end of Paul’s life we see that he is unfaithful. He loved this world, and the rigors of serving with Paul proved to be too much for him. Whatever love he had for the Lord grew cold.
Did Demas, like Mark, later return to faithful service? We are not told. Maybe he did. Maybe he did not. The Bible is realistic. Our experiences verify what the Bible says. Some believers love this present world and continue to do so.
The principle of these verses is that Christians serve the Lord with various levels of faithfulness. Paul gives us examples. Like Luke, some remain faithful servants throughout their lives. Like Mark, some experience a dramatic fall that negatively impacts the ministry of the church. But they realize that our Lord is gracious and invites them back to service. They accept that invitation, repent of their sins, and faithfully serve.
But there are also some like Demas. They quit serving. They seek their own pleasures and what the world can offer. While they, like Mark, can repent, some never do so.
Not all believers continue being faithful. Some believers fail in Christian living and service. This does not mean they were never saved to begin with. Unfaithfulness will result in the loss of rewards, not the loss of salvation.
When we look at our own lives, which man is a picture of us: Demas, Mark, or Luke?