Colossians 4:14

I. EPAPHRAS.

1. His relation to the Colossians. "Who is one of you." A native of their city, like Onesimus.

2. His office. "A servant of Jesus Christ" - a title often applied to the apostle by himself, and once applied to Timothy (Philippians 1:1) - to indicate his considerable services in the cause of Christ's gospel. He was the founder of the Church at Colossae.

3. His love to them. "Always wrestling for you in prayers that ye may stand fast, perfect and fully assured in all the will of God." His love was manifest in his constant and anxious prayers for his flock. Consider:

(1) The manner of his prayers. "Always wrestling for you in prayers."

(a) He was in an agony of prayer for them

(α

) because of the greatness of the dangers that encompassed them;

(β

) because of the fear of his prayers being lost;

(γ

) because of the tenderness of his love for them. He was truly "fervent in spirit."

(b) He was always wrestling in prayer for them,

(α

) We must be constant in prayer (1 Thessalonians 5:16).

(β

) It maintains fervency of spirit.

(γ

) It has the greater prospect of a favourable answer.

(2) The matter of his prayers. "That ye may stand fast, perfect and fully assured in all the will of God." It is a prayer for the stability of the Colossians, in view of the possible dangers of apostasy. "Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he felt" (1 Corinthians 10:12). "God is able to establish us" (1 Corinthians 15:1). This stability is manifest in two things.

(a) Maturity. "Perfect." Epaphras prays that the flock may stand fast in a complete and universal obedience. This they cannot do without labouring for much knowledge (1 Corinthians 14:20), exercising themselves in the Word of righteousness (Hebrews 5:14), allowing patience to have her perfect work (James 3:1; James 1:5).

(b) Firm persuasion. "Fully assured in all the will of God." There was to be no vacillation or falling away, but a sure conviction of the truth of God's will. The Judaeo-Gnostics made a pretension to a perfection of wisdom, and found its sphere in the secrets of heavenly existence. Believers find it in the sphere of God's will.

4. His zealous labours for the welfare of all the Churches in the Lycus valley. "For I bear him witness, that he hath much labour for you, and for them in Laodicea, and for them in Hierapolis." He was probably the founder of all three Churches, which were within a short distance of each other. The apostle commends him to the Colossians that he may increase their respect and love for him on his return from Rome.

II. LUKE. "The beloved physician." This was the evangelist, who had travelled with the apostle on his last journey to Jerusalem (Acts 21:1), and then from Jerusalem to Rome two years later (Acts 27:2), and now again was in his company. He was apparently the apostle's only companion at the end of his second imprisonment (2 Timothy 4:11): "Only Luke is with me." He was doubly beloved, both as physician and evangelist, for the weak health of the apostle, both in prison and out of it, needed his professional care.

III. DEMAS.

1. He was probably a Thessalonian. (2 Timothy 4:10.) Twice again his name occurs in company with that of Luke (Philemon 1:24; 2 Timothy 4:10).

2. There is here a bare mention of his name, without a word of commendation. Perhaps the apostle had an insight into his real character. His name occurs significantly last of all among the six who greet the Colossians.

3. He deserts the apostle in the near prospect of his end. "Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world" (2 Timothy 4:10). Yet, at present, he keeps his standing among the companions of the apostle and receives a due recognition. - T.C.







Luke the beloved physician and Demas greet you.
At the moment of the transition of Christianity from Asia to Europe he was enrolled among St. Paul's companions. We ascertain this by a change of a pronoun — "they" (Acts 16:6), "we" (Acts 16:10). The same language is continued in the narration of what took place at Philippi, and so Luke is very pointedly associated with this neighbourhood. But again we lose sight of the succession from the time Paul quits Macedonia, and we do not discern any trace until Paul is in Macedonia again (Acts 20:5, 6). From this time he appears to have been in close companionship with the apostle, and to have gone with him to Rome.(Acts 28:16; Philemon 1:24; Colossians 4:14). A baseless tradition says that he was a painter; and yet in one sense it is most true. In the Acts, besides the minor portraits, we have a full-length picture of the great apostle, without which we could not have fully known St. Paul, and one drawn by the hand of a friend. We see how thoroughly the biographer sinks and forgets himself, revealing his ardent and steady friendship and modesty. But much more is made known to us concerning St. Luke through what is said of him by St. Paul. He speaks of him not merely as his "fellow labourer," but also as "the beloved physician." The mere fact that his profession is specified is full of interest. There are only two other such cases in the record which we have of the companions of our apostle. "Demetrius, the silversmith" (Acts 19:24), though his conduct had much to do with the very important passage of St. Paul's career, can hardly be said to have been one of his companions: and of "Alexander the coppersmith," or "Zenas the lawyer." (2 Timothy 4:14; Titus 3:13), we know little. Lydia, the seller of purple" (Acts 16:14), was probably brought to Philippi, and thus within the sacred circle of apostolic companionship, by the exigencies of her trade — while of Aquila and Priscilla, who were "tent-makers," we are distinctly told that Paul "abode with them, because he was of the same craft" (Acts 18:3). Similarly, there can hardly be a doubt that St. Luke's professional life was the occasion of his coming into close contact with St. Paul. Physicians were men of high education, and this would establish an easy link of connection with one who, besides other great qualifications for his work, was a man of literary culture. But there is a strong probability that a deeper union between the two men subsisted than that of intellectual tastes. St. Paul had been suffering from serious illness in Galatia (Galatians 4:13), and very soon afterwards St. Luke appears with him at Troas. During subsequent years they were frequently associated in the closest manner, and we have the best reasons for believing that the apostle's health was delicate. What so natural as to suppose that the first acquaintance at Troas was marked by the exercise of St. Luke's professional skill, and that the same skill was on many subsequent occasions available for the alleviation of suffering and fatigue? How entirely this explains the peculiar warmth and definiteness of the allusion here! We must carefully observe, too, that it is not merely St. Luke's medical knowledge which St. Paul mentions, but that he calls him "beloved" in connection with this characteristic. There seems to be evidently here the sense of personal gratitude for benefits received. It is natural to attempt to trace out some indications in St. Luke's writings of the fact that he was a physician. Thus it is in his Gospel alone, in the record of that first sermon at Nazareth, that we find the prominent mention of the "healing" of both mind and body as a characteristic of the Saviour's mission; and here only, at the close of that sermon, have we the quoting of that pointed proverb — "Physician, heal thyself" (Luke 4:18, 23). With this may be classed a phrase which is unique in this Gospel, in the account of what took place soon afterwards — "The power of the Lord was present to heal them" (Luke 5:17). So again, we have, twice repeated, in this Gospel, a peculiar phrase having reference to recovery from sickness: "There went virtue out of Him and healed them all " "Somebody hath touched Me; for I perceive that virtue is gone out of Me" (Luke 6:19; Luke 8:46). But, above all, we must notice what is almost an amusing corroboration of the view concerning the existence of this professional feeling in St. Luke's Gospel. In the account which the other evangelist gives of the woman healed a reflection seems to be thrown on the skill of the physicians (Mark 5:26); whereas St. Luke casts no imputation on the skill of those who belonged to his own profession (Luke 8:43). Similarly we trace indications of the physician's mind in the mention of technical details and in the use of appropriate medical terms. In the account of the healing of Peter's wife's mother when St. Luke describes the fever as a "great" fever, and speaks of Jesus as "standing over" the patient, he is really using technical forms of expression; while still by the words, "He rebuked the fever," he is careful to mark the miraculous nature of the cure (Luke 4:38, 39). In the Acts the writer has an evident tendency to dwell on symptoms; and this is a true mark of the medical mind. Thus, in relating the case of the lame man at the temple gate, it is not merely the fact of the recovery which is stated, but it is said that "the feet and ankle bones received strength" and it is added further, as if to mark the stages of the recovery, that "he stood up and walked" (Acts 3:7, 8). So the stages of the blindness of Elymas at Paphos are indicated, and the symptoms of the case, as well as the mere fact of the loss of sight, when it is said that, on the utterance of St. Paul's stern anathema, "there fell on him a mist and a darkness, and he went about seeking some to lead him by the hand" (Acts 13:11). The lash instance may be furnished by the record of St. Paul's stay in Malta, after the shipwreck. A miraculous cure was worked there on the father of Publius, "the chief man of the island," who was suffering from dysentery in an aggravated form; and the language which St. Luke applies to the patient is as exact and appropriate as if he himself had been called in to treat the case professionally (Acts 28:8).

(Dean Howson.)

Note —

I. THE CONGRUITY BETWEEN LUKE'S PROFESSION AND THE RELIGION OF WHICH HE HAD BECOME THE POSSESSOR

1. The predominating characteristic of Christianity among the religions of the world is its humanity. It brings relief to the physical ills which curse the race. Christ acted as the Great Physician. "The works that I do shall ye do also." Where the gospel comes the laws of health and the healing art receive attention such as cannot be found among heathens. In the palmiest days of Greece these matters were terribly neglected.

2. The requirements and tendencies of Christianity involve attention to what is the physician's peculiar care. Physical well-being is essential to vigour of mind, healthy affections, pure morals, both in the individual and in the community. Diseased nervous conditions render the practice of some Christian virtues well-nigh impossible.

II. THE ADAPTATION OF THE GOSPEL TO THE LEARNED AND RICH, AS WELL AS TO THE POOR AND ILLITERATE. Religion in the ancient world was often a luxury for the well-to-do. The glory of the Saviour's ministry and its novelty was, "To the poor the gospel is preached." There is no room in it for despising culture. Dependence was placed, not upon the wild outburst of fanaticism or the erratic movements of ignorance, but upon the calm energy of disciplined intelligence. Paul was himself a scholar of rare attainments, as was Moses in the older economy, as also was Luke. Their mark on Christianity is the deepest, their influence the strongest. Crude, misshapen theologies are the product, not of the educated, but of smatterers. Luke was a physician when he believed the gospel.

1. The rich and scientific need its grace as much as the poorest and most illiterate. Its revelations make special demands upon the reason of the wise.

2. Luke's example shows us that cultivated intelligence does not find it impossible to assent either to the evidences or the doctrines of Christianity.

III. HERE IS AN EXAMPLE OF PROFESSIONAL GODLINESS. Luke practised as a physician and preached as an evangelist. For long the healing art was in the hands of ecclesiastics. Modern division of labour has dissociated them. But the two can work together and work into each other's hands. But as the physician has to be with men under the darkest shadows of their lives and in the deepest depths, how essential that the spirit of their work should be the spirit of the Man of Sorrows. Luke was Paul's beloved friend. It is a calamity when the physician is unworthy of such a confidence on the part of an apostle. Luke's faithful consistency is full of practical admonition. Being dead he yet speaks. Faith in Christ Jesus, the Physician of souls, is the only but all-sufficient means of salvation. So Luke, the beloved physician, teaches.

(The Preacher's Monthly.)

I. THE DEFERENCE SHOWN TO MEDICAL SCIENCE. Medicine has always occupied a conspicuous place among the sciences. It has to do with that which intimately concerns us. Our nature is not what it was as it came from the hand of God. Sin has turned this world into a vast lazar-house. No individual ultimately escapes. Naturally men have sought amelioration, and their cry has always been met. Even the most savage tribes have "medicine men." So high was the estimate put on this act that it was regarded as akin to the supernatural and was chiefly in the hands of the priesthood. Among the Egyptians the know. lodge of medicine was a profound secret, and in Greece it was carefully concealed and transmitted from father to son by the priests of AEsculapius, to whom belonged Hippocrates. Although medicine has ceased to be a secret it has lost nothing of its hold on the respect and confidence of mankind. As in religion men speak lightly of the profession, but as soon as a man, however sceptical, is sick he sends for the doctor. And no profession, except that which deals with the healing of the soul, has more claims on our gratitude. When the body is racked with pain or parched with fever the physician comes as a minister of mercy, and without the boon which he brings what is the value of all other earthly blessings. The banquet is spread in vain for the man who has no appetite, and riches, friends, etc., avail nothing.

II. THE BENEVOLENCE OF THE MEDICAL PROFESSION. Their labours are not the most remunerative. Compared with commerce the returns are meagre; yet what deserves ampler remuneration, not only on account of the benefits conferred, but because of the exhaustive character of the work. The merchant is always sure of his evenings and Sundays; the doctor never. And people make allowances when other men fail to keep their engagements, but no excuse is allowed the doctor. Serving all classes self-sacrificingly he is eminently the benefactor of the poor.

III. THE RELIGIOUS DRAWBACKS OF THE PROFESSION.

1. It might seem that no class could be more favourably situated for having the claims of religion enforced upon them. With the memento mori ever before him how can the doctor forget that he, too, must die. Familiarity breeds contempt, however, here as elsewhere, or if not, it blunts the edge of providential appeals.

2. Then, again, there is the temptation to materialism into which so many medical men fall. Scientific research has to do with matter alone, and is incapable of discovering the soul; but that does not prove there is no soul, which scientists too often assume.

IV. THE RELIGIOUS RESPONSIBILITIES OF THE PROFESSION. Obligation is proportioned to opportunity in doing good. Who has such power over the confidence and the affections as the doctor? With what eagerness are his visits expected, and how much better does a patient often feel simply because the doctor has been. But how immeasurably would the happy effects of his visits be enhanced if he combined with his proper office that of physician for the soul. Words of encouragement and consolation would be of more value because less professional than those of the minister, and what could be more imitative of the example of the Great Physician, He comes, too, just at the time for making a religious impression. In health men are callous, but sickness brings home subjects of momentous importance.

(J. Leyburn, D. D.)

(To medical students.) This science is a most pleasing and important study. Its object is the prevention and cure of disease. Next to the health of a man's soul is the health of his body. Without this enjoyment and usefulness is impaired and suffering brought on society in general. A great many men have and are engaged in it, and no class is more worthy of our respect. Witness their gratuitous attention to the poor and at hospitals, their remonstrances against the evils which infest the community.

I. ILLUSTRATE THE SENTIMENT IN THE CHARACTER OF LUKE. He was a native of Antioch in Syria, where he probably studied at its famous university. Some say that he was a pupil of Galen, but the dates .seem to disprove this.

1. His practice as a physician is not stated, whether large or small, but "the beloved physician" implies much to Paul and perhaps many others. He was beloved —(1) As a physician. How valuable to Paul to have a companion who understood medicine! How often did he require attention through stripes, bruises, ill-health, and exhausted energies.(2) As a friend. A man whose mind was cultivated by science and who could write those elegant dedications to Theophilus, and the books of which they are the prefaces, must have been very congenial to a mind like Paul's.(3) As a helper. The healing art has been always a powerful help to the gospel. The physician can get a word in where the clergyman cannot.

2. Note the importance of religion to him as a physician.(1) It gave him a decided character. He chose to leave his residence and practice to travel, not for pleasure or in the interests of science, but with a persecuted missionary to propagate the gospel We are not all called to follow this example, but it shows how piety enables a man to prize real excellence, choose and do the greatest good, and not to be ashamed of God when it is fashionable to deny Him.(2) It made him useful. He, like his Master, was cast among the diseased. Miracles were not always necessary, hence Christ was sparing of them. He that cures the body does well; he that cures the soul does better; he that cures both does best. The name of Luke the "beloved physician" is admired, but Luke the evangelist all nations shall bless.

II. PROVE THE SENTIMENT IS RESPECT TO YOURSELVES. Religion is important.

1. To prepare you for study. You of all men require a peaceful, not a torturing, conscience; a mind at rest, not driven to and fro with the speculations of every religious adventurer. The religion of Christ gives this.

2. To accompany scientific investigations. You have to study the noblest work of God. That religion accelerates this study is proved by David (Psalm 139.) and Solomon (Ecclesiastes 12.). Here is a knowledge of anatomy in its most beauteous form. How can you investigate this without right views of God? Wisdom, power, and goodness display themselves in every exhibition of the human body. And that science should lead to materialism is astounding.

3. To aid usefulness in practice. Patients are often dependent for their recovery on the state of their mind. Disease is aggravated by anxiety, murmuring, and irreligious views of God. If without the formality of a clerical visit you can soothe the mind and drop into it a Divine promise, how vastly your usefulness will be augmented. And besides, there will be cases which no medicine can reach. What will you do then if you are not qualified by religion to be a physician for the mind?

4. To exalt the character. The man who reverences God and promotes the highest interests of others may be sneered at by infidels and profligates, and perhaps looked down upon by other members of his profession; but ask the public what they think of such a man. But, better still, such a man will stand well in the estimation of God.

5. To promote your own happiness.

(J. Sherman.)

(Philemon 1:24), perhaps Demetrius. Is the curt mention of this man contrasted with the full affectionate recognition of St. Luke the cloud no bigger than a man's hand which prepares as for the subsequent darkness that hangs over him? (2 Timothy 4:10).

(Bishop Alexander.)We know no more about him except the melancholy record, "Demas hath forsaken me," etc. Perhaps he was a Thessalonian, and went home. His love of the world was his reason for abandoning Paul. Probably it was on the side of danger that the world tempted him. He was a coward, and preferred a whole skin to a clear conscience. In immediate connection with the record of his desertion we read, "At my first answer, no man stood by me, but all men forsook me." As the same word is used, probably Demas was one of those timid friends whose courage was not equal to standing by Paul when he thrust his head into the lion's mouth. Let us not be too hard on a constancy that warped in so fierce a heat. He may not have been an apostate Christian, though he was a faithless friend. Perhaps, away in Thessalonica, he repented him of his evil, and perhaps Paul and Demas met again before the throne, and there clasped inseparable hands. Let us not judge a man of whom we know so little, but take to our selves the lesson of humility and self-distrust. That world that was too strong for Demas will be too strong for us if we front it in our own strength. It is ubiquitous, working on us everywhere, and always like the pressure of the atmosphere upon our bodies. Its might will crush us, unless we can climb to, and dwell on, the heights of communion with God, where pressure is diminished. It acted on Demas through his fears. It acts on us through our ambitions, affections, and desires. So, seeing that miserable wreck of Christian constancy, and considering ourselves lest we also be tempted, let us not judge another, but look at home. There is more than enough there to make profound self-distrust our truest wisdom, and to teach us to pray, "Hold thou me up and I shall be safe."

(A. Maclaren, D. D.)

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.)

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