A Study of Colossians 4:14
Luke, the beloved physician, and Demas, greet you. (Colossians 4:14)
As we near the end of this epistle to the Colossians, we meet another faithful friend of the Apostle Paul. We also meet one who proved not to be faithful.
Luke is well known among those who know the Scriptures as the writer of the “third Gospel”, the one known as the Gospel According to Luke. It is also almost as well known that along with the “former treatise” (Acts 1:1), he wrote the Acts of the Apostles. Paul, however, speaks of him here, not as the beloved historian, but as the beloved physician. While Paul found himself confined to prison, what wonderful mercy the Lord provided that he had a trusted friend and companion who was also a physician!
It was early in Paul’s ministry that he wrote how he “bear in his body the marks of the Lord Jesus” (Galatians 6:17). How much more he must have bore those marks now that he learned experientially “how great things he must suffer for [the Lord Jesus] Name’s sake” (Acts 9:16). What a toll this would take on the human body:
2 Corinthians 11:23–27 — “…in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.”
Yes, the apostle could rejoice in his sufferings for the saints, to “fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in [his] flesh for [Christ’s] body’s sake, which is the church” (Colossians 1:24), but it surely would be counted as part of the Lord’s all-sufficient grace (2 Corinthians 12:9) to call a faithful travel companion who was also a physician. This is scriptural witness to the fact that this is not the dispensation of divine healing, but the dispensation of the grace of God (Ephesians 3:2). The healings associated with the coming of the kingdom were then and still now no longer being manifest. A ministry to all nations, the whole world without exception or distinction, began, where God “commandeth all men every where to repent¹: Because He hath appointed a day, in the which He will judge the world in righteousness by that Man whom He hath ordained; whereof He hath given assurance unto all men, in that He hath raised Him from the dead” (Acts 17:30–31).
Until that day when our Lord Jesus Christ judges the world in righteousness, God is allowing man to have his day and his way. And if there is any doubt as to who is running the world around us, just watch the news! Folks, it is not going to get better until our Lord Jesus comes to judge the world in righteousness. The best of men running the world right now are men at best! But during this day of mankind’s continued rebellion against God and His Christ, God in grace has given this world the “ministry of reconciliation; to wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God. For [God] hath made [Christ] to be sin for us, [Christ], Who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:18–21).
As Paul told the Corinthian assembly to not receive the grace of God in vain (2 Corinthians 6:1), so I say now to all who read, do not carelessly receive the grace of God that He is granting now, as though His promise to judge the world in righteousness will not happen. It is only His longsuffering that keeps the day of salvation open before the day of wrath begins. We tell all of you now to accept God’s gift of salvation, and all that comes with it by believing on the Lord Jesus Christ and the gospel that He died for your sins and He rose again from the dead to be your Living Savior. When you accept this salvation by faith, God, Who did all to make this possible, will save you. He wants to save you, but do not think that you can be saved on your terms and conditions. He is setting the terms, and has made them very simple — “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 16:31).
So, back to Luke—
While there is much more to be said about this great man of God and New Testament author, the greatest that can be said as a testimony about him is that which the Apostle Paul said concerning him as the time of his departure was at hand:
“Only Luke is with me” (2 Timothy 4:11).
The great adventures chronicled by Luke in Acts culminated in this: Luke did not forsake the Apostle of our Lord Jesus Christ as all others did. As Paul urged Timothy, “Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner”, (2 Timothy 1:8), we have that example in the beloved physician, Luke. Although all in Asia had turned away from the apostle, Luke did not. How much of “church history”, and all of its black marks, could be accounted for in this — that the professing church has forsaken the gospel entrusted to our apostle, Paul. What is the remedy? Follow the physician’s example here, stick with the Apostle Paul as the one that the Lord Jesus Christ sent with His good news of the grace of God.
Along with Luke, we find Demas named, and what a sad story he is. Demas did not stick with Paul, for he loved this present world (2 Timothy 4:10). What of the present world, or age, lured Demas away is not said. Maybe that is so that we may be on our guard against all entrapments of this present evil age, that we may fight the good fight, finish our course, and keep the faith. While much at times can lure us away, remember that what is found only in our Lord Jesus Christ is far better!
- By “repent” here, the apostle is using the word μετανοέω (metanoeō) in its Scriptural usage to change their mind about what they think God to be. As he told the Corinthians : “Ye know that ye were Gentiles, carried away unto these dumb idols, even as ye were led” (1 Corinthians 12:2), he was teaching them as he said of the Thessalonians, to “turn to God from idols to serve the living and true God” (1 Thessalonians 1:9). This is not as many have taken it to mean that there needs to be a certain level of sorrow for sin (who sets the level and how do we know we have reached it?), or that one must fully turn from all of their sins in order to receive the grace of God which is found in Christ. Repentance in Scripture is a change of mind from one thing to another, and in our salvation, it follows belief, and we repent many times after salvation. Before one is saved, repentance is futile. See 2 Corinthians 7:8–12 in this regard. Much preaching regarding repentance seems to go in this direction: A man is drowning in the sea and a boat comes by to rescue him. The rescuer in the boat yells out to the man that he needs to think about the error of his ways and promise to never fall into the sea again (and really mean it). The man, flailing and gulping salt agrees to just about any demand because he is drowning. After the rescue, he is reminded of one of two things: the Calvinist salvation that says that if he does fall into the sea again, he was never saved from it in the first place, because he didn’t persevere in not falling into the sea, or the Arminian salvation that threatens to throw him back in if he is not careful. Both views are practically the same, leaving the poor rescued man with no assurance that the rescuer will get him safely to shore. It all depends on the rescued man to save himself. To the Christian, we came to Christ at the end of ourselves and drowning in sin. He rescued us and brought us safely to shore. After He rescued us, we find ourselves more and more appreciative of all that He is and as we grow in grace and knowledge of Him, we become more and more loyal to Him, and then become more and more in tune with His Lordship. The “Lordship gospel” leaves salvation in the hands of the sinner, either front-loaded or back-loaded, and is totally a works-based salvation. It is the result of not “rightly dividing the Word of Truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).