Purity In Morals
(Could A Lack of Moral Purity Have Caused the Downfall of Demas?)

Marc Smith

Recently, I read of a discovery made in the nation of Greece, this year, that stunned quite a number of anthropologists digging below the ancient city of Thessalonica. They unearthed a vast system of overly large tunnels and chambers which had only been hinted at in various ancient texts, some texts well over 2,000 years old. It seems that this city's subterranean realm was very well known in its own time throughout the Roman Empire. It was devoted to the commercial exploitation of prostitution and all other kinds of sexual wickedness. In fact the complex is so large that it must have employed thousands of people and so was of major social and economic significance. The walls of these tunnels and chambers are richly and graphically embellished with murals, caricatures, and other artistic but very obscene etchings and paintings of a pornographic nature. These pictures tell the story that this place was intended to impress the reveler in Roman times with the idea that when one had descended into this place they had entered "the underworld" in which every sexual deviancy imaginable could be experienced. This place was in its "heyday" and at full swing during the life of the apostle Paul.

"For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed to Thessalonica" (2 Timothy 4:10a). Is it possible that Demas went to Thessalonica for other reasons than this awful place below the city? Maybe, but the fact that this underground system of brothels was mainly what that city was known for is a good reason it must figure prominently in our conclusions. We can say that it was a strong possibility this is what appealed to Demas.

This abandonment of the apostle Paul by Demas has always bothered Christians and we are left only to conclude from Paul's statement that Demas had gone to Thessalonica specifically to involve himself in worldly activities and so abandoning Christ at the same time. How could a child of God be so tempted that he would succumb to these types of evil and lose his soul?

This question is especially bothersome when we contemplate passages like, "Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall" (1 Cor. 10:12). Just because we are Christians does not in any way make us immune to immoral temptations the world will offer us on every side. The child of God is to be elevated in the things he desires to dwell on in his mind and heart. The knowledge of God's word is supposed to provide us with understanding and to know to value greater than any other consideration the saved status of our souls.

We should be able to continue with the aid of God's word and be able to withstand the temptations of the world. With understanding we should not be as susceptible as those who are spiritually unarmed. The Lord protects us spiritually to the degree that we don't have to sin. He says we will all commit sins (ref. Rom. 3:23) but the decision to do so or not do so is always ours completely. 2 Cor. 10:13, "There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it." Christians have the power to resist any type of sin. I cannot help but refer here to the wise man's sayings found in the book of Proverbs 4:7, "Wisdom is the principle thing; therefore get wisdom and with all thy getting get understanding." And also 4:23, "Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life."

Demas must not have remembered another passage from Proverbs 6:32, "But whoso committeth adultery with a woman lacketh understanding: he that doeth it destroyeth his own soul." You see, he lacked spiritual understanding.

Think on 2 Peter 2:20-22, "For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them. But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire." Everyone will occasionally do something that as a Christian one knows is wrong. This one will immediately repent and ask forgiveness for this sin and continue on as a faithful Christian subject to the will of God. But what 2 Pet. 2:20-22 is addressing is the Christian who willfully puts the word of God behind him, rejecting the council of God, His knowledge to us, and descends into the moral morass of serving evil.

This is a path chosen without the benefit of the reason and knowledge God provides in His word. The Christian is to grow and become more and more capable of resisting temptations and therefore, the immoral behavior preferred by the world, by application of the gospel. Dwelling upon excellent values instilled by the gospel of Christ will banish the desire for evil if the Christian will remain faithful in his desire to grow in Christ. "Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. And besides this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherlikindness; charity; For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins" (1 Pet 1:4-9).

For a moment let us only focus on the word "virtue" it is so closely akin to "purity." W. E. Vines Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words defines it on page 189, that virtue "properly denotes whatever procures pre-eminent estimation for a person or thing; hence, intrinsic eminence, moral goodness, virtue (a) of God, I Pet. 2:9." The moral goodness Vines mentions is what I mean about purity. This means that if a person shows this quality in his life and others can see it in him it gives him the noticeable characteristic of "virtue." We can also call this "moral purity" because it is very much the same thing. In 2 Peter 3:1 the apostle said, "This second epistle, beloved, I now write unto you; in both which I stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance." It was his intention when this epistle was written to appeal to their pure minds. They could demonstrate their virtue and he had witnessed it and so was appealing to their "pure minds."

How does one acquire a morally pure mind? Pure minds have to be cultivated. This takes work and the Christian actively must strive to rid himself of the effects of the world. "Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever thing are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things" (Philippians 4:8).

Let us begin here to make application of what we have studied together.

In our time there are many and diverse ways to be tempted and morally corrupted. Television is one of the main culprits. With "R" ratings and some worse than that accessed from movie channels hooked up to our homes by cable companies or satellite dishes, rented video movies we take into our homes and show the entire family, magazines, books, Internet access to indecent material through our home computers are just the main areas of extreme concern. The fact that we live along side a "drug culture" that popularizes types of music with criminal overtones, rebellion and other wicked themes is one of the main contributors of the moral decline we have witnessed in our time.

This influence is so pervasive and strong that we see Christians, without giving any thought, involve themselves in social drinking so will seem as "sophisticated" as nonbelievers, and go to dances which in and of themselves are immoral and cause jealousy and divorce and further exposure to wickedness. It is more common now to hear a Christian use an obscenity or curse using the Lord's name in vain.

Cannot Christians see anymore that going swimming at public places with mixed participation of both sexes is indecent and morally wrong? Yet I suspect that many Christians, when they want to go swimming, put on their indecent and immodest swimming garments, what there is to them, and without any thought given, go right ahead and join with the worldly sinners already there. You may say, "Well I make sure we are dressed 'modestly' (really?)." While this might be possibly true what about the non-believers there with you at the pool or beach? Oh, so you will be wearing blinders so that you can not see the indecently dressed people all around you? You won't be affected by their near nudity? Men and women ogling eachother in states of nearly complete undress in public will consistently lead to all kinds of immoral activities. Desires can be started here and countless are the "affairs" which will lead to the destruction of the family and have started so many times under so-call "innocent" circumstances as swimming together. Seeing others and being seen by others will lead to evil thoughts that cause us to commit adultery in our hearts. And remember, Jesus said this was sin, too. No matter how much you love to swim, stay away from public, mixed company-type swimming. Make some other arrangements to fulfill this desire to swim and cool down in the summer heat.

These are all moral blunders that weaken Christians and will cause them to be eternally lost. Where is the desire to put God first? Why are not Christians consulting God's word before they involve themselves in sins that cause their "garments to be spotted?"

It may be hard for us to understand how Demas could have done what he did in leaving the side of the apostle Paul and abandoning his relationship with Christ in so doing but can we not realize that he was no worse off than Christians today who flirt with worldliness?

Read with me from the epistle of James 1:27, "Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world." And 4:4, "Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God." We must avoid at all costs involvement with the world which will corrupt us and cost us our souls.

Jesus had a different view of what the child of God would be. Matthew 5:8, "Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God." Unlike brother Demas, can you say your heart is pure? Do you want to see God?

e-mail this author at marcsmith@juno.com

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