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name does not occur once in that book, yet he is often before us as we read it. The use of the pronoun in the first person
of course intimates that the writer formed one of the company of which he writes. The first intimation we have of his being with Paul is in Acts xvi. 10–17. He seems to have joined him at Troas and to have accompanied him on his journey into Macedonia as far as Philippi. When the apostle went forward to Thessalonica and Berea, Luke was evidently not with him, but he joined him again some years afterwards on his last journey to Jerusalem, to which city he went with him. (Acts xx. 5, 6-xxi. 18.)
This however does not prove that they did not meet in the interim, and there is a passage which implies that they did. In 2 Cor. viii. 18, 19, Paul speaks of sending with Titus "the brother whose praise is in the gospel throughout all the churches” to receive the contributions for the poor saints at Jerusalem. The supposition that it is Luke who is mentioned in this honourable way is confirmed by the fact, already stated, that he rejoined Paul in that journey which was taken expressly for the purpose of carrying alms to his nation. (Acts xxiv. 17.) He was with Paul at Jerusalem, and, if he did not accompany him to Cæsarea, he followed him, and was doubtless one of those friends who ministered unto him. (Acts xxiv. 23.) In the apostle's perilous journey to Rome as a prisoner, Luke was with him, and was also his companion in his imprisonment there. (Ch. xxvii.1xxviii. 16.) It was during this captivity that Paul wrote those letters in which Luke sends salutations, being named once as “the beloved physician," and once as a “fellowlabourer." Whether Paul was set free as he hoped he should be (Phil. i. 24-26), and then imprisoned again, is not positively stated in Scripture, though probably it was so; but it is very certain that some time later he wrote as a prisoner who was ready to be offered, knowing that
the time of his departure was at hand. Here also Luke was with him. One had “ forsaken” him and others had gone to various spheres of service, but here is the faithful companion still by the side of the suffering apostle, with whom doubtless he remained to the end.
What a beautiful portrait is this ! Instead of following what at that time was a very lucrative profession, Luke evidently gave himself to the service of the Gospel and became the devoted friend of the great apostle of the Gentiles. In this unwearied and loving service his praise was in all the churches, and he was used of God to give us that precious record of the birth and ministry and death and resurrection of Christ that bears his name, and that other record of the mighty works of the Risen One wrought by means of His servants.
That Luke is unnamed in these narratives, that he never speaks of himself, that he says nothing of his movements or service during the periods of his absence from Paul, and that when he has to include himself in the history he is always hidden under the little words “we” and “ us, are evidences of a deep and genuine humility which could only be learnt in the school of God, and manifest the true greatness spoken of in words which he records from the lips of the Lord," he that is least among you all, the same shall be great.” (Luke xiv. 48.) He chose the path of lowly service here, and great, we are sure, will be his reward in the day of Christ.
But when we turn to the brief statement with regard to Demas, what a solemn contrast we find! When Paul wrote his letters to the Colossians and Philemon, Demas, as well as Luke, was by his side, apparently not ashamed to identify himself with one who was a prisoner for the Gospel's sake. He also is spoken of as a “fellow labourer,” and his name is linked with other companions of Paul. We pass over
a brief space of time and then come to the sad record, "Demas forsook me, having loved this present world [or age), and went to Thessalonica.” (2 Tim. iv. 10, R. V.) This does not of necessity mean that Demas renounced Christ, or became an apostate, but rather that he ceased to walk with Paul in his course of single-hearted devotedness to the Lord. Through the subtlety of Satan, it may be, the eye of Demas was drawn from heavenly things to earthly; and whereas the heart of Paul glowed with love to the Lord, and he held life itself of no account so that he might finish his course, the heart of Demas became absorbed with present things, and Christ ceased to have the place in his affections which He had once occupied. The pathway of the beloved apostle grew steeper and narrower as he neared the end, and it would seem that at some testing point Demas, who had found such companionship irksome, suddenly broke it, and, leaving Paul, took his own course.
There were many, doubtless, who never attempted to walk with Paul; but how sad is the picture of one so walking for a time, learning something of the blessedness of such a life, and then turning from it to pursue other things! But if his forsaking of Paul was sudden, we may be sure that the love of the world which led to it was a thing of growth. The word for world here signifies age, and refers to the moral state of things in the world. Demas had so learnt the truth that Christ "gave Himself for our sins that He might deliver us from this present evil age,” as to become fellow-labourer of him who preached it. The cross was planted, so to speak, between him and the age from which it rescued him, and had that cross been kept before the eye “the present age" could never have charmed him. Thus it was with Paul and with Luke; the consciousness of deliverance from the present world had strengthened them to live for the future and to the Deliverer. But in the case of
Demas the present re-asserted itself, his affections gradually became alienated from Christ, he could no longer “endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ," but turned aside to the ease and comforts of this age, and po sibly to the gain to be found in the great mercantile city of Thessalonica.
This brief description of Demas furnishes a solemn warning that is by no means uncalled for now.
It is a sad fact that in by far the greater part of the preaching of the day no mention is made of deliverance from the present age,” and even among those who look to Christ for salvation few indeed profess to know anything of such deliverance. The hope of heaven in the future, as the fruit of Christ's death in the past, is considered by many to be a very good attainment, while a present salvation from this “evil age” is all but ignored. Sad indeed is this, but it is sadder still to see love of this present world creeping in where once there was the profession of being crucified to it by the cross of the Lord Jesus. It is not now fear of persecution that turns aside, but the attractions of things around engage the heart and lead us to live for the present rather than the future. The secret of any such yieldingness on our part is our feeble apprehension of Christ and His wondrous work. We enter but little into the reality of His cross in the past, His priestly ministry for us now, the glory and joy of His second coming, and the account to be given at His judgment seat. Then Luke and Demas, and such as have followed in the steps of either, though partakers of the same salvation as the fruit of the atoning death of Christ, will wondrously differ as to the reward that each will receive.
Let us not overlook the force of the word “present.” This age is emphatically a present thing; all connected with it—its joys, its glories, its ease, its luxuries, its gains,
all are present, but not abiding, “ for the fashion of this world passeth away.” (1 Cor. vii. 31.) We are sent into the world that we may live in it as those who are not of it, that we may glorify Christ, and lay up that which shall abide and be found to our praise in the day of Christ ; and His grace is sufficient to enable us to do this.
We have reached the time of year when it is customary with most to think particularly of both the past and the future; and as we review the past many of us must feel that
; we have been influenced more by the things of " this present evil age,” and less by the things which are unseen and eternal, than we could wish. It is a great consolation that God in His wondrous way of grace makes full provision both for recovery and progress. If we are conscious of having lost ground, let us not be content to go back any longer; and if through God's mighty keeping we have not to make such a confession, we shall certainly feel that we have not done all that we might have done, and we may well stir our souls to press onward in the way of the Lord.
The passing from one year into another is a special opportunity given us from God, and is calculated to stimulate us by reminding us how swiftly our brief day of service below is passing. Let us all then seek to yield ourselves afresh to our God, and brace ourselves for obedience and conflict. Let us beware of the alluring influence of the age, let us be on our guard against conformity to it, let us remember that “the kingdom of God is not in word but in power” (1 Cor iv. 20), and that according to our present sowing will be our eternal harvest.
W. H. B.
EXTRACT. —No days are lost days in His sight who measures our life by love and not by “labours oft.” Bodily affliction is good manure for the soil of love, causing the beautiful plants of patience and long-suffering to bud and blossom. In Grace's prison, the Beloved is our gaoler; He binds us with His golden fetters, and gives us good food.