Luke, the beloved physician, and Demas, greet you.
These two names in juxtaposition and subsequent separation suggest —
I. THE BASIS OF CHRISTIAN FRIENDSHIP.
1. Society is divided into many classes. Men are bound together by similarity of pursuit, taste, attainment. The basis of their union may be pecuniary equality, political agreement, or common occupation. But such friendships are temporary, being based on what is temporary. A man's circumstances may alter, his tastes change; easy then for friends to be sundered. The poor basis of worldly friendship may resist the sapping waters of change. But this is the exception; hence we say, "What devotion!" Self-interest may bind men together, and even a common consciousness of wrong. But let self be imperilled, and where is the cohesion then?
2. The basis of Christian friendship is common love to a common Lord. "A new commandment give I unto you that ye love one another, as I have loved you." There is the measure and the motive. The coolness of some professors shows how they lack the spirit of Christ. As we are in Him, and imbued with His spirit, shall we be one in Him. In the primitive Church men of different ranks and pursuits, etc., "continued in the apostles'... fellowship." And then Paul, a man of large intelligence, wide learning, good family, etc. — just the man to hold others aloof — after the heavenly vision, gathered into his friendship Luke the physician, Onesimus the runaway slave, and Demas. Beautiful his friendship with men of less degree. And when he writes to distant brethren he says, "Luke, I shall mention your name, and, Demas, yours."
II. COMMON CHRISTIAN LABOUR IS A CEMENTING FORCE IN CHRISTIAN FRIENDSHIP. In writing to Philemon, Paul shows the thing which bound them together. Demas, Luke, my fellow-workers. Paul had an utter impatience of idleness. He had not only the faculty of industry, but of setting others to work. And whoever co-operated with him, however humble, received the title of "fellow-worker."
1. Luke was such; and was very valuable to the oft-afflicted apostle as —
(1) A physician. Invaluable everywhere, especially so in prison, the sedentary life of which told upon the apostle's never stalwart frame. But Luke was with him with his physic and his words, "doing good like medicine."(2) As a congenial fellow-traveller and helper in missionary work.
(3) The hand that could wield a lancet could also use a skilful pen, and by his Gospel and Acts he has laid the Church under perpetual obligations.
2. What of Demas? What he could do is not written. But he did something. He was no idler. Paul calls him a fellow-worker. He was no Luke, but as there are diversities of gifts, so he had his special line, as has every one.
3. Common labour will draw us together. From the general down to the drummer-boy, all in an army, when the battle is expected, feel knit together, for they have a common enemy; and when the enemy is vanquished, they rejoice in a common victory. Let all Christians unite against evil and for God, and that will unite all hearts.
III. WORLDLINESS IS THE DISINTEGRATING FORCE IN CHRISTIAN FRIENDSHIP. Pleasant is our first brief view of Demas — sharer of work and affection with Luke. Later on Paul writes, "Demas forsook me... only Luke is with me." Paul can ill spare a friend now, for "the time of his departure is at hand." On his release from prison Paul had two or three years of Christian labour. Did Demas go with him? Again Paul is cast into a Roman cell. Still Demas is his friend; but only for a while. How much of sincerity mingled with this man's profession of Christ? Did he leave under temptation? Was he recovered? It is worthy of note that in the three times he is mentioned there is no honourable epithet attached to his name. Was Paul in doubt of him? Did his quick eye detect in him an ambitious spirit, or a love of ease, or a hunger for human approbation? He went to Thessalonica. Did his pagan parents seduce him back to idolatry? Or had some heathen beauty captivated and drawn his love from that which ought to have been supreme? Was he ever recovered? Let us hope so; although tradition says he became a heathen priest, and was struck dead with lightning while officiating at the altar. Whatever his end, worldliness was his immediate ruin. Many are the modern confirmatory instances. Many once Christian workers are now idlers. Shall the queen's soldier turn deserter because of his difficulties or comrades? Loyalty to queen and country forbid. Shall the Christian's duty be less binding? God help us to stay with Luke, and not desert with Demas. What did he gain? What is that gain to him now?
(G. T. Coster.)How strikingly these two contrasted characters bring out —
I. THE POSSIBILITY OF MEN BEING EXPOSED TO THE SAME INFLUENCES, AND YET ENDING FAR AWAY FROM EACH OTHER! They set out from the same point, and travelled side by side, subject to the same training, in contact with the magnetic attraction of Paul's personality, and at the end they are wide as the poles asunder. Starting from the same level, one line inclines ever so little upwards, the other imperceptibly downwards. Pursue them far enough, and there is room for the whole solar system in the space between them. So two children trained at one mother's knee, subjects of the same prayers, with the same good influence upon both, may grow up, one to break a mother's heart and to disgrace a father's name, and the other to walk in the way of godliness and to serve the God of his fathers. Circumstances are mighty; but the use we make of circumstances lies with ourselves. As we trim our sails and set our rudder, the same breeze will take us in opposite directions. We are the architects and builders of our own characters, and may so use the most unfavour-able influences as to wholesomely harden our natures thereby, and we may so misuse the most favourable as only thereby to increase our blameworthiness for wasted opportunities.
II. We are reminded, too, from these two men who stand before us like a double star — one bright, one dark — that NO LOFTINESS OF CHRISTIAN POSITION NOR LENGTH OF CHRISTIAN PROFESSION IS A GUARANTEE AGAINST FALLING AND APOSTASY. As we read in another book, for which also the Church has to thank a prison cell — the place where so many of its precious possessions have been written — there is a backway to the pit from the gate of the Celestial City. Demas had stood high in the Church, and had been admitted to the close intimacy of the apostle, was evidently no raw novice, and yet the world could drag him back from so eminent a place in which he had long stood. "Let him that thinketh he standeth," etc.
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Luke, the beloved physician, and Demas, greet you.