How You Finish, Not How You Start

Monday, June 6, 2016

“Do thy diligence to come shortly unto me: For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica; Crescens to Galatia, Titus unto Dalmatia. Only Luke is with me. Take Mark, and bring him with thee: for he is profitable to me for the ministry” (2 Timothy 4:9-11 KJV).

In these verses, we see two saints—profitable and unfaithful, and unfaithful and profitable.

Today’s Scripture is Paul beginning to conclude his farewell epistle. Guilty of preaching an “illegal religion,” the aged Apostle awaits his beheading. Sitting in a cruel dungeon in Rome, he writes to Timothy one last time, urging the young man to come to the prison as quickly as possible. Why? Paul explains that “only Luke” remains with him. His other ministry companions are travelling, possibly visiting local grace assemblies on his behalf. In today’s Scripture, two contrasting names are set in bold relief.

First appearing in Paul and Barnabas’ apostolic ministry at the very end of Acts chapter 12, John Mark is Barnabas’ nephew (Colossians 4:10). He travels with Paul and Barnabas during their first apostolic journey (Acts chapters 13-14). By the start of their second apostolic journey, Barnabas wants to take John Mark with them but Paul refuses because John Mark had previously abandoned them around Acts 14:24. Barnabas and Paul, due to this momentous disagreement, go their separate ways at Acts 15:36-41.

Just over 10 years later, in Acts chapter 28, Demas appears in Paul’s ministry. Paul greets the Colossian believers on behalf of Demas (4:14). In Philemon 24, the companion epistle, Paul calls Demas a “fellow-labourer.” Most definitely, Demas was very useful to Paul’s ministry. Oh, but what a tragedy! A few years later, Paul writes today’s Scripture: Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world….” Demas’ precise motives are unknown.

Friends, just think! The actions of John Mark and Demas are written down forever in God’s Word! John Mark, once unfaithful, returned to Paul’s ministry at the very end. Demas, once faithful, abandoned Paul’s ministry at the very end. Brethren, just think! Those you expect to stay with the truth, they may not! Those you expect to never embrace the truth, they just may!

Luke, the Beloved Physician

Friday, April 19, 2013

“Luke, the beloved physician, and Demas, greet you” (Colossians 4:14 KJV).

As I sat in the emergency room early this morning, I could not help but think about today’s Scripture, Paul’s friend and co-laborer in the ministry….

The Bible only mentions Luke by name in three verses—today’s Scripture, 2 Timothy 4:11, and Philemon 24. Let us look at these verses to learn more about this Christian in the Bible.

In today’s Scripture, we learn that Luke is a medical doctor, described by the adjective “beloved” (dearly loved). Actually, today’s Scripture is one of the closing verses of Paul’s epistle to the Christians in Colosse. Paul writes that Luke says “hello” to them (remember, in biblical times, unlike today, long-distance communication was very limited and just as slow). In fact, Paul is writing from his prison in Rome (Colossians 4:3,18)—Colosse is over 600 miles (966 kilometers) away!

When Paul writes to Philemon sometime later, he refers to “Lucas” (Luke) as one of his “fellow-labourers” (24).

Not too long after writing his epistles to the Colossians and Philemon, Paul pens his last letter, his second letter to Timothy. Paul’s ministry is coming to a close, and he writes, “Only Luke is with me” (2 Timothy 4:11). The beloved physician is still with Paul, right to the end of the apostle’s life. Actually, Luke is a great comfort to Paul in that dank, dark, lonely prison cell.

Although not explicitly stated in Scripture, it is highly likely that Luke wrote the third of the Four Gospels, the book we call “the Gospel according to St. Luke,” and its companion volume, the book of Acts (Luke 1:1-4; cf. Acts 1:1). Furthermore, the pronoun “we” throughout the book of Acts indicates that its author followed the Apostle Paul during his apostolic journeys (Acts 16:10,12,16; Acts 20:5,13; Acts 21:17; Acts 27:1,27; Acts 28:16); it may have very well been Luke.

What happened to Luke after Paul’s writing of 2 Timothy, we do not know. All we know is that this intelligent man was a great friend of the Apostle Paul, his brother and helper in Christ, the “beloved physician….”