“Emmanuel’s Ambassador’s Part 2” – Matthew 10:17-31

August 16th, 2015 

Matthew 10:17-31

 (see also: Lk 6:40; 12:1-12, 49-53; 21:12; Jn 13:16; 15:18–21)

“Emmanuel’s Ambassador’s Pt 2”


Service Orientation: Jesus as a Good Shepherd wants to prepare His sheep that He loves to thrive in this world by making sure they are prepared to face the wickedness the Fallen World Syndrome wages against them.  


Bible Memory Verse for the Week:  But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. — 1 Peter 3:15-16


Background Information:

  • We saw that it was Matthew’s custom to collect in one place all the material on any given subject, even if it was spoken by Jesus on different occasions. Matthew was the systematizer of his material.  This passage is one of the instances where Matthew collects his material from different times.  Here he collects the things which Jesus said on various occasions about persecution.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 372)
  • Up to now the disciples are to go to the sheep–that is, the crowds who are harassed and helpless, the lost people of Israel (9:36; 10:6). But now they themselves are the sheep, being sent out among wolves (cf. Also Lk 10:3).  Why this reversal?  Because Jesus is dealing with a different subject.  In the first part of the commissioning, he gave instructions to the disciples about their short-term mission to Israel during his earthly ministry.  Now he is giving them instructions about their long-term mission throughout the world after that ministry.

How do we know?  (1) Jesus changes from the present tense to future tense. The future tense marks off a distinctively different future ministry.  (2) This ministry involves a witness to “Gentiles” (10:18), whom the Twelve were warned to bypass (10:5).  This suggests the worldwide mission of the Great Commission (28:18-20).  (3) Throughout this second section Jesus prepares the disciples for intense persecution, which they did not experience during Jesus’ earthly ministry.  (4) The appearance of similar warnings in 24:9-13 and Mk 13:9-13, which record Jesus’ message of the end times, indicates that he is here including warnings about the treatment that missionary disciples will endure until the coming of Jesus at the end of the age.  (Michael J. Wilkins, The NIV Application Commentary: Matthew, 391-2)

  • (v. 23) This verse is among the most difficult in the NT canon. The textual variants (cf. Metzger, Textual Commentary, 28), are complex but affect the main interpretive questions little.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 8, 250)
  • (v. 23) Possible Interpretations: 1. The “coming” of Jesus refers to a coming of the historical Jesus to the Twelve, following their mission.

…2.  The “coming” of Jesus refers to Jesus’ public identification of himself as Messiah after the resurrection.

…3.  The “coming” of Jesus is the second coming referred to in Mt 24:30; 25:31; and 26:64.

…4.  Albert Schweitzer argued that Jesus expected the end of time to arrive so quickly that he did not expect to see the disciples return before the end came.

…5.  Some have linked interpretations three and four to teach that Jesus expected the end of history within a single generation.

…6.  Dispensationalists see this as a distant second coming but bring in their view of the present church as something of a parentheses in the unfolding of prophetic history and so as something entirely overlooked here.

…7.  The “coming” of the son of Man refers to his coming in judgment against Israel at the time of the Roman destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.  (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 1, 178-9)

  • (v. 23) I think it is better to see verse 23 as stating a general principle: We will always have work to do and we will never get to all the places we ought to go before Christ’s second coming.  Reference to “Israel” here would be an application of the principle to this particular setting.  The disciples would not get to all the cities of Israel, just as we will not get to all the world’s cities in our day, but we should get on with the Great Commission anyway.  We need to keep moving.  (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 1, 179-80)
  • (v. 27) What Jesus had told them privately they were to proclaim publicly. These parallel phrases (dark and light; what you hear whispered and proclaim from the housetops) describe bold, public proclamation of the truths that Jesus had taught the disciples privately.  To “proclaim from the housetops” pictured the common practice (since roofs were flat) of using roofs as platforms for making public announcements.  The disciples had a mission and a responsibility to teach what they learned from Jesus.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 211)
  • (v. 28) The word “destroy” is used here in the sense not of annihilation but of the infliction of everlasting punishment upon a person (25:46; Mk 9:47, 48; 2 Thes 1:9). As to the word “hell,” which here in the original is Gehenna (and so also in 5:22, 29, 30; 18:9; 23:15, 33; Mk 9:43-47; Lk 12:5; Jam 3:6), it generally refers to the abode of the wicked, body and soul, after the judgment day.  When that same abode is called Hades the reference is to the time before the judgment day, though Hades also has other meanings in Scripture.  (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Matthew, 471-2)
  • (v. 29) In such a context the word fall makes us naturally think of death; but in all probability the Greek is a translation of an Aramaic word which means to light upon the ground. It is not that God marks the sparrow when the sparrow falls dead; it is far more; it is that God marks the sparrow every time it lights and hops upon the ground.  So it is Jesus’ argument that, if God cares like that for sparrows, much more will he care for men.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 389)
  • (v. 29) In some Greek usages, the word for all is translated as “hop”–in which case a little sparrow cannot even hop on the ground without God’s knowledge! (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 223)
  • (v. 30) The average hair count on the human head is said to be about 140,000, which means that some people have many more hairs even than that. God, who has all knowledge of every person, illustrates that omniscience by this mundane and spiritually inconsequential bit of information pertaining to the number of hairs on a person’s head.  If He takes notice of such things as that, how much more is He concerned about spiritual matters of far greater consequence?  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 223-4)
  • Matthew makes no reference to the Twelve either actually going out or returning from their mission. In this way, the commission is sufficiently open-ended to include both instructions for an immediate mission to Israel and the ongoing mission to the nations until the end of the age.  (Michael J. Wilkins, The NIV Application Commentary: Matthew, 392)


The question to be answered is . . . Why does Jesus give us all these dark warnings to those who would be His ambassadors?


Answer:  Jesus told us He was sending us as His ambassadors as sheep among wolves.  Therefore forewarned is to be forearmed.  Jesus doesn’t want us to be stupid, ignorant and foolish sheep.  He wants us to be wise, informed, shrewd, prepared and intelligent sheep who have learned to trust in the Lord for all we need to thrive on this planet with its FWS.


The Word for the Day is . . . Prepare


“Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.” — John Wooden


I-  As an ambassador of the divisive Christ, be prepared for a world that hates you.  (Mt 10:17-18, 21-25; see also: Mic 7:1-6; Mt 5:10-12, 43-44; 7:21-23; 10:34; 13:21; 24:9-10; Mk 3:22; 4:17; 13:9, 13; Lk 6:22; 21:12, 17; Jn 3:19-21; 13:16; 15:18-16:4; 17:14; Acts 8:1; 11:19; 12:1-3; 13:50-51; 14:6; 20:24-29; 22:4; 26:11; Rom 8:31-39; 12:14; 1 Cor 4:12-13; 9:19-22; 2 Cor 4:9; 2 Tm 3:11-12; Heb 11:37-38; Jam 1:12; 1 Pt 2:20-23; 4:12; 1 Jn 3:13)


Augustine was right when he said that we love the truth when it enlightens us, but we hate it when it convicts us.  Maybe we can’t handle the truth.  (Norman L. Geisler & Frank Turek, I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist, 36)


The more we are like our Master, the more likely we are to incur the hostility of unregenerate men.  The disciple is not exempt from the persecution received by the Teacher.  If He had to carry a cross, shall His followers claim immunity?  But we must ensure that any persecution we may incur is because of our identification with Him, and not because of personal idiosyncrasies and angularities.  (J. Oswald Sanders, Bible Studies in Matthew’s Gospel, 60)


The real Jesus, the authentic Jesus, the authoritative but compassionate Jesus, the Jesus who confronts the world, is quite frankly a divisive Jesus.  This divisiveness is unavoidable, not only because of the unyielding truth-claims he makes for himself, but because at the heart of his message and purpose is his bold insistence that men and women can be rightly related to God only if they know him and come to him on his terms.  This unabashed, exclusivistic, either/or mentality lies at the heart of the NT, and can be removed only by radical surgery on the documents.  To resort to such devices because we are uncomfortable with the historical Jesus is merely another way of saying that we reject him in favor of a tame Jesus, a domesticated Jesus who will not challenge us or tell us we are wrong, force us to rethink our most fundamental assumptions, or question our most cherished priorities. (D. A. Carson, Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, 263)


The reality we must face is this:  The danger of our lives increases in proportion to the depth of our relationship with Christ.  That is an unavoidable conclusion from what Matthew is telling us.  (David Platt, Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in Matthew, 138)


The Bible teaches us that in our inherent humanity we have a natural hatred for God.  Of course, if I were to stop an average non-Christian on the street and ask him, “Why do you hate God?” he would reply indignantly:  “I don’t hate God.  What gives you the idea that I hate God?”  I might say, “God gives me the idea that you hate God,” and I could cite Rom 8:7 (“the carnal mind is enmity against God”) or Jn 3:20 (“everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light”).  If we have any love for God in our hearts today, it did not come to us naturally.  Because of that built-in hostility to God and His Son, we, too, will experience that enmity from unbelievers.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 321)


The world shows little objection to a gospel that is only “positive,” that only mentions God’s offers of peace, joy, and blessing.  An unbeliever is not offended by those elements of the gospel, true as they are.  But he is terribly offended when he is told that he is a sinner under God’s judgment and destined for hell.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 221)


“A lot of folks who have become so angry about Christians in the public square have come to their hostility because they thought they had Christians figured out.  Christians are supposed to be ‘nice’ and ‘insipid’…I believe that Christians who have moved outside the walls of their militarily-defensible church buildings and into the public square are hated, not only for the things for which they stand, but because they aren’t supposed to stand at all.”  (Steve Brown; Living Free, 14)


The further a society drifts from the truth, the more it will hate those that speak it.  George Orwell


Anyone who takes it upon himself to enter the arena of God-talk in a meaningful and substantive way had better be prepared to joust with humility, for there is no subject which exposes the finitude of man quite like the infinitude of God.  (C. Samuel Storms, The Grandeur of God, 33)


Christianity preaches a view of man which no totalitarian state can accept.  Christianity deliberately aims to obliterate certain trades and professions and ways of making money.  It still does–and therefore the Christian is still liable to persecution for his faith.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 378)


Over the centuries, these simple words have been fulfilled in vast arenas of persecution.  Christians have been flogged, drowned, burned alive, racked, as well as suffering more esoteric punishments like having boiling oil poured down their throats, or being covered with pitch and set alight as human candles.  Like the heroes of the faith listed at the end of Hebrews 11, “the world was not worthy of them” (Heb 11:38).  (D. A. Carson, Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, 265)


Whoever has fear and reverence for God will not spare his own relatives, but will rather choose that all of them should perish, if it be found necessary, than that the kingdom of Christ should be scattered, the doctrine of salvation extinguished, and the worship of God abolished.  If our affections were properly regulated, there would be no other cause of just hatred among us.  (John Calvin, Commentaries, Vol. XVI, 455-6)


The world will continue to make raids on the church just as wolves make raids on flocks of sheep.  “I know that after my departure,” Paul said, “savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock” (Acts 20:29).  In his Romans letter he spoke of believers being looked on by the world as “sheep to be slaughtered” (8:36).  Jesus had already warned His followers of “the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves” (Mt 7:15).  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 200)


The stripes, lacerations, bruises, and scars on Paul’s body were the “brand-marks of Jesus” (Gal 6:17).  They were made on his body, but they were intended for his Lord.  Paul’s persecutors did not despise him because of who he was but because Christ worked so powerfully through him.  When they eventually took his life, it was because his life was Christ’s life.  Because the church is Christ’s Body, it is faithful believers in the church who, like Paul, fill up “Christ’s afflictions” (Col 1:24).  It is for that reason that Paul longed for the privilege of sharing in “the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death” (Phil 3:10).  “If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed,” Peter says, “because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you” (1 Pt 4:14).  It is the “Spirit of glory and of God” in the believer’s life that the world hates and seek to destroy.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 206)


As Christianity began to spread throughout the empire, Rome became especially fearful of its slaves.  Because of their great numbers (perhaps as many as 60 million) slaves had long posed the threat of rebellion.  They were not permitted to marry free citizens, even free men in the lowest level of society, because slaves were considered less than persons.  But when slaves and free Romans alike became Christians, they discovered there was no longer any barrier between them, that they were equal in Christ.  Christianity therefore came to be looked on as a threat to the entire Roman social system and economy, and consequently false charges were repeatedly made against Christians.  They were accused of cannibalism because they claimed to eat Christ’s body and drink His blood during the Lord’s Supper.  They were accused of immorality in their love feasts and of promoting revolution by preaching about Christ’s return to establish His earthly kingdom.  Many were martyred.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 207)


Thus the call to discipleship is the call to be like Christ, including being treated like Christ.  To people who are truly seeking God, the lives of His faithful saints are beautiful and attractive.  It is often the Christlike qualities of love, joy, peace, and kindness in Christians that attract unbelievers to the Lord.  The more we emulate Christ, the more attractive we will become to those God is calling to Himself.  But at the same time we will become more unattractive to those who reject God.  Because they want nothing of Him, they will want nothing of us.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 218)


“I’m not comfortable . . . so God can’t want me there.”  (Fred Saunders at Sunday School Class 2-8-09)


Jesus was making use of ideas and pictures which were part and parcel of Jewish thought.  We have seen again and again how it was the custom of the Jews, in their pictures of the future, to divide time into two ages.  There was the present age, which is wholly bad; there was the age to come, which would be the golden age of God; and in between there was the Day of the Lord, which would be a terrible time of chaos and destruction and judgment.  Now in Jewish thought one of the ever-recurring features of the Day of the Lord was that it would split friends and kindred into two, and that the dearest bonds of earth would be destroyed in bitter enmities.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 373)


When Jesus spoke of the terrors to come, and of the divisions which would tear apart the closest ties of earth, he was in effect saying:  “The Day of the Lord has come.”  And his men would know that he was saying this, and would go out in the knowledge that they were living in the greatest days of history.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 374)


There were certain slanders current about the Christians.  They were accused of being cannibals because of the words of the sacrament, which spoke of eating Christ’s body and drinking his blood.  They were accused of immorality because the title of their weekly feast was the agapē, the love feast.  They were accused of incendiarism because of the pictures which the Christian preachers drew of the coming of the end of the world.  They were accused of being disloyal and disaffected citizens because they would not take the oath to the godhead of the Emperor.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 376)


It was the truth that Christianity often split families, as we have seen.  And to the heathen, Christianity appeared to be something which divided parents and children, and husbands and wives.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 377)


The OT analogy to which Jesus likens this situation is drawn from Micah 7:6: Jesus has come to turn “a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law–a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household” (Mt 10:34-35).  In using words like these, Micah the prophet was describing the gross sinfulness and rebellion in the days of King Ahaz.  As Jesus cites the words, however, he claims he will actually bring about these conditions:  he has come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother.  He does not mean that those he wins as his disciples will turn against their family members, but that by winning men and women to himself their family members will turn against them.  Since that is the inevitable effect of his mission, and he knows it, then in a sense he can say he has come to bring it about.  Moreover, since the disciples by following Jesus and thereby attracting opposition actually align themselves with the prophets who were persecuted before them (5:10-12), the disruptive wickedness in the time of Micah the prophet points to the wickedness that erupts with similar malice against Jesus’ disciples.  (D. A. Carson, Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, 267-8)


They must expect to be put to death (v. 21); They shall deliver them to death, to death in state, with pomp and solemnity, when it shows itself most as the king of terrors.  The malice of the enemies rages so high as to inflict this; it is the blood of the saints that they thirst after:  the faith and patience of the saints stand so firm as to expect this; Neither count I my life dear to myself:  the wisdom of Christ permits it, knowing how to make the blood of the martyrs the seal of the truth, and the seed of the church.  By this noble army’s not loving their lives to the death, Satan has been vanquished, and the kingdom of Christ and its interests greatly advanced, Rv 9:11.  They were put to death as criminals, so the enemies meant it, but really as sacrifices (Phil 2:17; 2 Tm 4:6); as burnt offerings, sacrifices of acknowledgment to the honor of God, and in his truth and cause.  (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Vol. V, 138)


Think not that I am come to send peace, temporal peace and outward prosperity; they thought Christ came to give all his followers wealth and power in the world; “no,” says Christ, “I did not come with a view to give them peace; peace in heaven they may be sure of, but not peace on earth.”  Christ came to give us peace with God, peace in our consciences, peace with our brethren, but in the world ye shall have tribulation.  (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Vol. V, 138)


Acts records times in which early church leaders were first called before Jewish officials of the national council (Acts 4:1-22; 5:17; 7:12), later before the ruling authorities in Israel (12:1-4; 21:27-23:11), and finally before the rulers of the Roman world (14:5; 16:19-34; 17:1-9; 18:12-17; 23:24-26:32; 28:17-31).  At the time of their trials, the mission-disciples will witness to these ruling figures of the truthfulness of the gospel message brought by Jesus.  (Michael J. Wilkins, The NIV Application Commentary: Matthew, 393)


All is obviously not an absolute term in this context.  Believers will not be hated by every single unbeliever on earth.  The idea is that of all people in general, society as a whole.  As verified by the last two thousand years, believers find they are hated by all classes, races, and nationalities of mankind.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 209)


Human nature wants to avoid problems and conflicts, especially if they might bring ridicule and hardship.  People do not naturally want to be thought little of or mistreated, and even less to suffer or die.  Christians who have fallen prey to today’s great emphasis on self-preservation find it especially difficult to confront sinful society with the demands and standards of the gospel.  Our culture has produced an unacceptable “softness” among evangelicals.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 219)


Thus from earliest times Christians have been crucified, burned, impaled, drowned, starved, racked–for no other reason than that they belonged to him.  As with martyrs among God’s people before the coming of Christ, so now:  the world was not worthy of them (Heb 11:38).  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 8, 250)


When anyone persecutes Christ’s disciple he is persecuting Christ himself, a fact that was tamped so indelibly upon the mind and heart of Paul (and through him upon Luke’s consciousness) that, however much the accounts of Paul’s conversion may vary, the words, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” are found in all three (Acts 9:4, 5; 22:7, 8; 26:14, 15).  That means that the persecuted one is never separated from Christ’s love and from the strength and the comfort he imparts.  (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Matthew, 463)


In Mt 12:24-27 (cf. Mk 3:22-27; Lk 11:15-20) the Pharisees call Jesus Beelzebul’s tool.  They say that Beelzebul is the source of Christ’s exorcistic power and activity.  According to Jn 8:48 they call Jesus demon-possessed.  Here in Mt 10:25 we are told that they had said that he himself was Beelzebul, that is, that he was the devil in person.  If Christ’s enemies are bold enough in this vile manner to calumniate Christ, the master of the house (cf. Jn 13:14; Eph 3:15; 4:15; Col 1:18; 2:10), will they not far more readily slander and maltreat “the members of his household,” (1 Cor 12:27; Eph 2:19, 20; 5:30), that is, his disciples?  (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Matthew, 468)


When we find ourselves rejecting difficulty, we may find that we are really rejecting the cross–and therefore Christ Himself.  It was not just John of the Cross who wrote about this.  Consider Thomas a Kempis’ words: “Christ’s whole life was a cross and martyrdom; and dost thou seek rest and joy for thyself?  Thou art deceived, thou art deceived, if thou seek any other thing than to suffer tribulations; for this whole mortal life is full of miseries, and signed on every side with crosses.  And the higher a person hath advanced in spirit, so much the heavier crosses he oftentimes findeth.  (Gary L. Thomas, Seeking the Face of God, 164) (Thomas a Kempis, The Imitation of Christ, III:19:1)


II-  As an ambassador of Christ, be prepared to submit to Christ and His Spirit when you are under pressure.  (Mt 10:19-22; see also: Mt 5:10-12; 24:3-13; Mk 4:17; 13:10-13; Jn 14:26-29; 16:33; Acts 4:8-14; 2 Cor 12:10; 1 Thes 3:7; 2 Thes 1:4; Col 4:6; Heb 4:14; 6:11-12; 10:39; Jam 1:12; 2 Pt 1:10; Rv 2:10; 3:21)


Jesus told the disciples that when (not “if”) they were arrested and handed over to the authorities, they should not worry about what to say in their defense. (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 207)


Jesus described the Holy Spirit as a defense lawyer coming to the disciples’ aid.  This verse and 3:11 are the only places in which Matthew mentions the Holy Spirit.  This promise of an infilling of the Holy Spirit was fulfilled in Acts 2, where the Spirit empowered the disciples to speak.  Some mistakenly think this means believers do not have to prepare to present the gospel because God will take care of everything.  Scripture teaches, however, that we are to make carefully prepared, thoughtful statements (Col 4:6).  Jesus was telling his followers to prepare but not to worry.  He promised special inspiration for times of great need.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 207)


Without previous thinking, planning, imagining, at the time of their trials in court the apostles will receive directly from God just what to utter.  It will come into their minds just as it is needed, and thus they will utter it aloud. . . . The apostles, indeed, make utterance, and yet they do not, for their act is due to the Holy Spirit, so that most properly he is the one who does this uttering.  Everything that is mechanical, magical, unpsycholgical is shut out .   . . .  The apostles will not be like the demoniacs, their organs of speech and their very wills being violated by a demon.  Absolutely the contrary:  mind, heart, will operate freely, consciously, in joyful, trustful dependence on the Spirit’s giving, who enables them to find just what to say and how to say it down to the last word, with no mistake or even a wrong word due to faulty memory or disturbed emotions occurring.

This, of course, is Inspiration, Verbal Inspiration.  (R.C. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Matthew’s Gospel, 402)


Persecution quickly burns away chaff in the church.  Those who have made only a superficial profession of Christ have no new nature to motivate them to suffer for Christ and no divine power to enable them to endure it if they wanted to.  Nothing is more spiritually purifying and strengthening than persecution (cf. Jam 1:12).  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 210)


God’s purposes can never be accomplished if we react to our own pain by inflicting pain on others.  Nor can we continue growing as the people of God if we seek vengeance on others.  That spoils our reconciliation, not only with them, but also with God and with ourselves.  To curse our persecutors is surely always more destructive to us than to them.  (Marva J. Dawn, Truly the Community:  Romans 12, 229)


Although there is no way of determining exactly what the Lord may have had in mind when he said this, he probably meant that the disciples should watch out for men’s evil intentions.  Probably one or more of the following items could be arranged under this general idea:  a. Do not naively entrust yourselves to men; b. Do not without good cause make them angry; c. Do not fall into the traps of their catch-questions, but pray for grace to give them the appropriate answer; and/or d. Do nothing that might enable them to bring a valid charge against you (cf. 1 Pt 4:15, 16).  (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Matthew, 462)


III-  As an ambassador of Christ, prepare in advance when it is an appropriate time to skedaddle. (Mt 10:23; see also: Mt 24:15-16; Mk 13:14-20; Lk 17:26-36; Acts 8:1; 11:19)


While Jesus told the disciples to expect persecution, he also warned them against foolhardiness.  If they faced persecution in one town, they were to flee to the next.  They ought not cast their pearls before swine (7:6), nor should they abort their ministry in fear.  They were to leave and move on if the persecution became too great.  Perhaps this is part of being “shrewd as snakes” (10:16).  Persecution was a regular experience of the early church.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 209)


Courage is not recklessness; there is no virtue in running needless risks; God’s grace is not meant to protect the foolhardy, but the prudent.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 380)


When persecution became so severe in one place that he could no longer minister effectively, he left and went to another.  He was not afraid of persecution, and many times he was severely beaten before he left a city.  At least once he was stoned and left for dead.  But he did not try to test the limits of the opposition.  He endured whatever ridicule, reviling, beatings, and imprisonment were necessary while he ministered.  But he left a place when his effectiveness there ceased.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 211)


There always were those who actually courted martyrdom; they were wrought up to such a pitch of hysterical and fanatical enthusiasm that they went out of their way to become martyrs for the faith.  Jesus was wise.  He told his men that there must be no wanton waste of Christian lives that they must not pointlessly and needlessly throw their lives away.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 378)


When Jesus spoke like this, he was speaking in a way which Jews would recognize and understand.  No people were ever more persecuted than the Jews have always been; and no people were ever clearer as to where the duties of the martyr lay.  The teaching of the great Rabbis was quite clear.  When it was a question of public sanctification or open profanation of God’s name, duty was plain–a man must be prepared to lay down his life.  But when that public declaration was not in question, a man might save his life by breaking the law; but for no reason must he commit idolatry, unchastity, or murder.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 379)


The case the Rabbis cited was this:  suppose a Jew is seized by a Roman soldier, and the soldier says mockingly, and with no other intention than to humiliate and to make a fool of the Jew:  “Eat this pork.”  Then the Jew may eat, for “God’s laws are given for life and not for death.”  But suppose the Roman says:  “Eat this pork as a sign that you renounce Judaism; eat this pork as a sign that you are ready to worship Jupiter and the Emperor,” the Jew must die rather than eat.  In any time of official persecution the Jew must die rather than abandon his faith.  As the Rabbis said, “The words of the Law are only firm in that man who would die for their sake.”  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 379)


In several ancient Near Eastern cultures, snakes were proverbial for prudence, shrewdness.  But this virtue easily degenerates into cheap cunning unless it is married to simplicity, innocence.  Doves are retiring but not astute:  they can easily be snared by the fowler.  Such innocence quickly degenerates into ignorance, even naiveté, unless married to prudence.  Jesus’ disciples must therefore be shrewd, prudent, avoiding attacks where possible, behaving wisely and with far-sighted realism; but they must also be innocent, open–not so cautious, suspicious, and cunning that they become paranoid, elusive, fearful.  Doubtless the balance is difficult; but if we find it hard to articulate in the Western world, it is because we have experienced relatively little opposition.  (D. A. Carson, Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, 265)


It is neither wise nor loving to be needlessly accusatory or inflammatory.  When the Pharisees attempted to trap Jesus into either defending or condemning the Roman government by asking Him about paying taxes to Caesar, He did not take the occasion to vilify Caesar or the Roman government–vile, debauched, unjust, and ungodly as they were.  Nor did He condone their wickedness.  He replied simply, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s” (Mt 22:21).  It is neither brave nor wise, and neither spiritual nor loving, to needlessly incite anger or court trouble.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 201)


IV-  As a fearless, courageous, hope-filled ambassador of Christ, prepare now to never forget in the dark why you chose in the light to be an ambassador for Christ.  (Mt 10:26-31; see also: Jn 3:16; Rom 5: 1-11; 1 Jn 3:1; 4:7-21)


Three times in this short passage Jesus bids his disciples not to be afraid.  In the King’s messenger there must be a certain courageous fearlessness which marks him out from other men.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 384)


The Lord challenges us to suffer persecutions and to confess him.  He wants those who belong to him to be brave and fearless.  He himself shows how weakness of the flesh is overcome by courage of the Spirit.  This is the testimony of the apostles and in particular of the representative, administrating Spirit.  A Christian is fearless. —  Tertullian


When Christianity costs something we are closer than ever we were to the fellowship of Jesus Christ; and if we know the fellowship of his sufferings, we shall also know the power of his resurrection.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 384)


IVa-  Truth will prevail.  (Mt 11:25-26; Mk 4:22; Lk 8:17; 12:2-6; Jn 3:19-21; Acts 4:8-14; 1 Cor 4:5; Heb 4:13; )


When the Christian is involved in suffering and sacrifice and even martyrdom for his faith, he must remember that the day will come when things will be seen as they really are; and then the power of the persecutor and the heroism of Christian witness will be seen at their true value, and each will have its true reward.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 385)


When the Lord returns, He “will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts; and then each man’s praise will come to him from God” (12 Cor 4:5).  What greater motive could we have for faithfully serving the Lord and fearlessly facing the world?  Why should we worry about unpopularity in this life when we know we will be fully vindicated in the next?  Paul calls this great coming event “the revealing of the sons of God” (Rom 8:19) and “the freedom of the glory of the sons of God” (8:21; cf. 1 Tm 5:24-25).  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 220)


Dorothy Sayers writes, “In the world it calls itself Tolerance, but in Hell it is called Despair.  It is the accomplice of the other sins and their worst punishment.  It is the sin which believes nothing, cares for nothing, loves nothing, hates nothing, finds purpose in nothing, lives for nothing, and only remains alive because there is nothing it would die for.”  (Charles Colson, The Good Life, 119-20)


It’s one thing to suffer persecution, and another to walk stupidly into the middle of a fire.  “Beware” alerts us to study human nature, know the world we live in, and exercise caution without cynicism.  If you’re basically clueless about how the world works, find a mature Christian who can teach you street smarts without compromising standards.  There is no harm in knowing the other party’s game plan.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 207)


They are not to be afraid because there is nothing covered that will not be unveiled, and nothing hidden which will not be known.  The meaning of that is that the truth will triumph.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 385)


All spiritual and moral truth that man needs to know and can know, God has already fully made known; and His desire is for that truth to be proclaimed, not hidden.  Christians are not elite defenders of man-made secrets but bold proclaimers of God-given truth.  Secrecy has no part in the gospel.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 220)


I submit to you that the real crisis of our time is spiritual.  Specifically, our problem is what the ancients called acedia.  Acedia is the sin of sloth.  But acedia, as understood by the saints of old, is not laziness about life’s affairs (which is what we normally think sloth to be).  Acedia is something else; properly understood, acedia is an aversion to and a negation of spiritual things.  Acedia reveals itself as an undue concern for external affairs and worldly things.  Acedia is spiritual torpor, an absence of zeal for divine things.  And it brings with it, according to the ancients, “a sadness, a sorrow of the world.”  Acedia manifests itself in man’s “joyless, ill-tempered, and self-seeking rejection of the nobility of the children of God.”  The slothful man hates the spiritual, and he wants to be free of its demands.  The old theologians taught that acedia arises from a heart steeped in the worldly and carnal, and from a low esteem of divine things.  It eventually leads to a hatred of the good altogether.  And with hatred comes more rejection, more ill-temper, sadness, and sorrow.  Spiritual acedia is not a new condition, of course.  It is the seventh capital sin.  But today it is in ascendance.  (William J. Bennett; “Getting Used to Decadence: The Spirit of Democracy in Modern America”)


It was Kierkegaard who said, “The tyrant dies and his rule is over; the martyr dies and his rule begins.”  (Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, Jewish Literacy, 245)


The naive assumption that what a politician does in his private life is irrelevant to his or her capacity to function well in public life had no place in biblical thinking.  They were closer to believing that “what a man is in the dark on his own is what a man really is.”  One set of standards ruled at home and in business.  (Stuart Briscoe;  Choices for a Lifetime, p. 34)


Every time a church family gathers for worship, we come as idolaters or recovering idolaters.  We all fight allegiances to someone or something other than God that make a claim on our lives.  To pretend otherwise is to be naive and unprepared for the serious work of realignment we need.  (Mark Labberton, The Dangerous Act of Worship, 62)


Martyrs are men who know what they believe.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Romans, Exposition of Chapter 1, 21)


Christians are not called to naiveté.  We shouldn’t be thoughtless and needn’t be conned.  We’re not fools and don’t have to play the sucker to anyone’s shell game.


That ever God whispers to us through His Word is to be proclaimed on the housetops (v. 27).  We’re reminded of the Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus says not to light our lamps and then put them under a basket; rather, we are to let them shine (5:15-16).  Speak the truth of God everywhere–speak it often, speak it clearly, and speak it boldly.  (David Platt, Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in Matthew, 139)


IVb-  Fear God and not men.  (Ps 111:10; Prv 1:7; 9:10; 29:25; Heb 10:31)


We may tremble to think that by going on mission to a certain region of the world we will be killed, but Jesus encourages us by telling us that that’s all they can do.  The only way that can sound comforting is if you realize that you have already died with Christ (Col 3:3).  Your focus must be on eternal things, so that nothing man can do to you matters.  It has been said that saints of old feared man so little because they feared God so much.  Likewise, when you and I fear God alone, then we can stand boldly in front of people that we would previously have been afraid to share the gospel with, even those who would take our lives.  For in the end, death for the follower of Christ is actually gain (Phil 1:21)!  (David Platt, Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in Matthew, 140)


The remarkable thing about fearing God is that when you fear God you fear nothing else, whereas if you do not fear God you fear everything else. — Oswald Chambers


The man who does not fear God becomes so proud that he cannot detect his own sinfulness.  (Patrick Morley; The Man In The Mirror, 242)


To fear God means to be struck with awe in His all-consuming, holy presence; to stand always and forever in breathless exaltation of who He is and what He has done and how vastly and infinitely His greatness overshadows our brief, vaporous existence.  (David Jeremiah, Searching for Heaven on Earth, 311)


To put it very simply, what Jesus is saying is that no punishment that men can ever lay upon a man can compare with the ultimate fate of one who has been guilty of infidelity and disobedience to God.  It is true that men can kill a man’s physical body; but God can condemn a man to the death of the soul.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 386-7)


We do well to remember that the penalties which men can exact are as nothing to the penalties which God can exact and to the rewards which he can give.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 387)


It is far more fearful to disobey God than to face martyrdom. The worst that people can do (kill the body) does not compare with the worst that God can do.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 211)


It was said of John Knox, as they buried him, “Here lies one who feared God so much that he never feared the face of any man.”  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 386)


IVc-  God in His sovereignty, providence, omnipotence, omnipresence, omniscience, compassion, patience, grace, mercy forgiveness and love cares for you.    (Ps 91:14-15; 139; Mt 10:29-31; Lk 12:6; 21:18; Jn 14:27; 16:33; Rom 8:28-39; 1 Pt 5:7)


People say that God cares about the big things but not about little details.  But Jesus says that God’s sovereignty over the tiniest detail should give us confidence that he also superintends the larger matters.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 8, 255)


Because God places such value on us, we need never fear personal threats or difficult trials.  God our Father is in control.  He sees the sparrow fall; he knows and controls everything that happens to us.  God cares not only about the “big” problems and situations of life, but also about the tiniest details.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 212)


With emphasis Jesus declares that not only the soul and the body (see v. 28) of the disciples are matters of importance to their heavenly Father, but even the very hairs of their head are all numbered; and this in the sense that he both knows how many there are and pays attention to each and to all.  Each of these hairs is of some value to him, since it is a hair of one of his children.  Therefore apart from his sovereign care and loving heart nothing can happen even to any of these hairs.  (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Matthew, 473)


When those closest to you become your worst enemies, you may wonder if faith is worth the hassle.  Consider these four questions:

  1. Who’s closest to you really?
  2. Whom can you count on when even a parent thinks you’re on the wrong track?
  3. Who demands first priority in your life?
  4. Who can work miracles to mend a disrupted family?

If your response to all four questions is “Jesus,” then you also know who loves your family more than you can and who wants to reach them with God’s love, probably through you.  Trust the Lord for each relationship you think is lost.  Jesus is in the miracle business.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 208)


An assarion (cent) was the smallest coin in circulation in Jesus’ day and was worth one-sixteenth of a denarius, the average daily wage for a laborer.  One such cent would buy two sparrows, which were as common and relatively valueless in NT times as they are today.  Roasted sparrows were often served as cheap finger food, as a type of appetizer or hors d’oeuvre.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 223)


Worship Point:  Worship the God of the Universe who loves you far too much to allow you to stay where you are and Who also allows you to face circumstances where you are forced to grow and mature through trusting Him.


Gospel Application:  The assurance and the hope we have to face the FWS with confidence, courage, grit and joy comes only through faith in Christ and the message He gives us of a Loving Father Who cares deeply for you.


In these closing moments of this age, the Lord will have a people whose purpose for living is to please God with their lives.  In them, God finds His own reward for creating man.  They are His worshipers.  They are on earth only to please God, and when He is pleased, they also are pleased.

The Lord takes them farther and through more pain and conflicts than other men.  Outwardly, they often seem “smitten of God, and afflicted” (Is 53:4).  Yet to God, they are His beloved.  When they are crushed, like the petals of a flower, they exude a worship, the fragrance of which is so beautiful and rare that angels weep in quiet awe at their surrender.  They are the Lord’s purpose for creation.

One would think that God would protect them, guarding them in such a way that they would not be marred.  Instead, they are marred more than others.  Indeed, the Lord seems pleased to crush them, putting them to grief.  For in the midst of their physical and emotional pain, their loyalty to Christ grows pure and perfect.  And in the face of persecutions, their love and worship toward God become all-consuming.

Would that all Christ’s servants were so perfectly surrendered.   (Francis Frangipane, The Three Battlegrounds, 93-4)


Spiritual Challenge:  Be prepared.  Know that you are going to be immersed in the dark.  But, never lose in the dark what you knew to be true in the light.


It is said that more Christians have died as martyrs in the 20th century than in all the period from the beginning to 1900.  The “Western” segment of the church today lives in a bubble of historical illusion about the meaning of discipleship and the gospel.  We are dominated by the essentially Enlightenment values that rule American culture:  pursuit of happiness, unrestricted freedom of choice, disdain of authority.  The prosperity gospels, the gospels of liberation, and the comfortable sense of “what life is all about” that wills the minds of most devout Christians in our circles are the result.  How different is the gritty realization of James:  “Friends of the world (kosmou) are enemies of God” (Jam 4:4).  And John:  “If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (2 Jn 2:15).  (Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy, 214)


The one who endures until the end (meaning wholly, completely) will enter into Christ’s kingdom.  This view is more likely because standing firm to the end is not a way to be saved but the evidence that a person is really committed to Jesus.  Persistence is not a means to earn salvation; it is the by-product of a truly devoted life.  Jesus’ point was that persecution will come and his followers must be patient and faithful through it.  Their reward is certain.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 208)



How does this apply to believers in the Western world in the twenty-first century?  There are pockets of hostility against Christianity, and there seems to be a growing disenchantment among public officials toward any influence of the Christian faith in the public square.  For the most part, however, Christianity is tolerated in the community, and we usually do not feel as if we are lambs about to be devoured by fierce wolves.  We may be mocked a little bit, but no one is threatening to send us to the Colosseum to fight with the gladiators, to throw us to the lions, or to put us to use as human torches to light the emperor’s gardens.  That’s not where we are.  And sometimes I wonder why we do not see that kind of persecution happening.  Why is the preaching of the gospel in our day in the West not nearly as dangerous as it was for these apostles on their initial apostolic mission?  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 312)





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