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7. The Messengers of the Kingdom.
1. The Twelve Disciples. (Matthew 10:1-4 .) 2. Their Commission. (Matthew 10:5-15 .) 3. Persecutions Promised. (Matthew 10:16-23 .) 4. Words of Encouragement.(Matthew 10:24-33 .) 5. Not Peace but the Sword. (Matthew 10:34-36 .) 6. True Discipleship and Rewards. (Matthew 10:37-42 .)
We learn now how our Lord, who is truly the Lord of the Harvest, sends forth the laborers. He does it as the King, who came to offer the Kingdom to Israel. He sends forth the laborers into the harvest as messengers of Himself to announce the same message, which He announced, “The Kingdom of the heavens has drawn nigh,” and confers to them the authority and the power to heal the infirm, raise the dead, and cast out demons. This sending forth, as we shall see, was altogether in connection with the Kingdom; it was therefore only temporary and ended with the complete rejection of the Kingdom by Israel. However, there is a time coming when a Jewish remnant will again go forth to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom. This will be during the great tribulation.
It is strange that Christian believers should go to the tenth chapter of Matthew and look upon what is written here as meaning the sending forth of the laborers, missionaries, preachers and teachers to proclaim the Gospel of Grace, when there was first of all no Gospel of Grace and when the words of our Lord so clearly show that it could not refer to anything outside of Israel and Israel’s land. Yet this wrong application is constantly made. It is claimed by some on the authority of this chapter that missionary efforts should consist in not preaching alone, but healing of the sick. They send out, therefore, missionaries who are physicians, and supply them with drugs and surgical instruments, as if our Lord did anything of the kind. Others again claim that the healing of the sick, besides the preaching of what they term, the Kingdom of the heavens, is still in order, and they act according to this belief; however, the raising of the dead they do not include in their powers. The Mormons with their abominable and blasphemous teachings likewise go to this chapter, going forth two by two and trying to follow the other commands given. All this confusion is at once ended, when we look upon the sending forth of the laborers here, as the sending forth of messengers to announce the Kingdom; after the Kingdom had been postponed this special mission of the twelve ended.
The first verse in the chapter tells us that He called His twelve disciples and that He gave them power over unclean spirits, so that they should cast them out, and heal every disease and every bodily weakness. The twelve messengers, whose names are given in the second, third and fourth verses, stand as such always in relation to Israel. He tells them later, “Ye shall also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel “ (Matthew 19:28 ). Even in the New Jerusalem there will be this distinction. “Her shining was like a most precious stone, as a crystal like jasper stone; having a great, high wall; having twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and names inscribed, which are those of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel. And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb” (Revelation 21:12-14 ). The twelve apostles thus stand in prominent and definite relation to Israel. Here among the twelve, who are sent forth, is also the name of Judas the Iscariot, who delivered Him up. After his awful end another was rightly and divinely chosen in his place, that is Matthias. It is astonishing to hear able teachers of the Word talk and write of the mistake which the eleven made in the first chapter in the book of Acts in casting the lot and choosing Matthias. We have heard all kinds of criticism upon their action. They were, however, guided aright, and did not make a mistake, for they acted upon the Word of God in the Psalms, and in the casting of the lot they were fully authorized by the Old Testament Scriptures, and besides this, they did it in dependence on the Lord. It is also said by these brethren who see in the choosing of Matthias an error, that the Lord wanted Paul to be the one who belongs to the twelve. This is the worst blunder of all. The Holy Spirit fully endorses the action of the eleven before Pentecost through Paul himself. In 1 Corinthians 15:5 we read that the risen Lord was seen by the twelve. In the eighth verse Paul says: “And last of all, as to an abortion, He appeared to me also.” It is clear from this passage that Paul does not belong to the twelve. Paul, as apostle to the Gentiles, is an apostle not from men nor through man (Galatians 1:1 ); he received his apostleship from the risen and glorified Lord. It is through Paul as the one who has no earthly connections, but has it all from above, that the Gospel of Grace as well as the mystery hid in former ages is made known.
In the Epistles given through Paul we read, therefore, all concerning the Gospel of Grace, the church and the ministry, which is for this age, an age in which our Lord Jesus Christ is not King, but Lord in Glory. It is from the Glory as Head of the Body He gives gifts. “He that descended is the same who also ascended up above all the heavens, that He might fill all things; and He has given some apostles, and some prophets, and some evangelists, and some shepherds and teachers, for the perfecting of the saints” (Ephesians 4:10-12 ). He ministers then through the instruments He chooses from above, and nowhere in the Epistles do we read anything like that which is contained in the tenth chapter of Matthew. Let us divide the Word of truth rightly and not put the church and the ministry of the church in the chapter before us. All this will become clearer to us as we turn to the different verses.
For instance, in the sixth verse we read: “Go not off into the way of the Gentiles, and into a city of Samaritans enter ye not; but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel .” This is a limited sphere. They had nothing to do and could have nothing to do with the Gentiles nor with Samaritans. After the death and resurrection of our Lord the Gospel was to be preached, beginning in Jerusalem, in Samaria, to the uttermost parts of the earth. The lost sheep of the house of Israel, that much “spiritualized” phrase, were not Gentiles, nor were they the church, for a church was not and could not be then. Their preaching was only this text: “The Kingdom of the heavens has drawn nigh.” What does it mean? It meant that the promised Kingdom for Israel, and through Israel to the nations, the Kingdom with all its earthly blessings, was about to come. It was heralding the fact of the presence of the King to set up the Kingdom, if His own would have it. Such a preaching of the Kingdom of the heavens is not given now. After the church age closes by the removal of the church from the earth into heaven, as foreshadowed by the vessel which Peter saw coming out of heaven and again received into heaven, then the kingdom will again draw nigh in the person of the returning King and Lord with His saints.
He tells them: “Ye have received gratuitously, give gratuitously. (Christian Science also claims to follow this chapter by healing the sick. But “freely give” is not practiced by this wicked cult. It costs to be healed.) Do not provide yourselves with gold, or silver, or brass, for your belts, nor scrip for the way, nor two body coats, nor sandals, nor a staff, for the workman is worthy of his nourishment.” Some well-meaning persons have tried to follow out these commandments to the very letter, but it was never meant for the servants of Christ to be followed literally during this age. However, two principles are in these words before us, which find their application in this age. They had received the message and power gratuitously and thus they were to give it. The Gospel is to be free, without price and without money. This principle holds good at this time. How great the failure in Christendom, with its salaried ministry, pew rents, fairs and entertainments to make money for the building of churches and other things!
They were to go forth with no provision made. This made them altogether dependent upon the Lord who had sent them. Trust in the Lord, who sends out the laborer, is another principle, which belongs to this age as well. All disappointment and discouragement for the servant of Christ comes in when he looks not to the Lord but to man. The Lord never disappoints. “And He said to them, When I sent you without purse and scrip and sandals, did ye lack anything? And they said, Nothing” (Luke 22:35 ). The Lord who calls His servants and sends them forth always keeps them when they walk in simple dependence upon Himself.
From verses 11 to 15 we read other instructions for this special mission. In city and village they were to inquire for them who are worthy. The worthiness consisted undoubtedly in a desire to know Messiah, “waiting for the consolation of Israel .” The Gospel of Grace, which is preached now, is preached without any such distinction. Its message is: “Whosoever,” even the most unworthy. At the end of this paragraph (Matthew 10:15 ) there is the threatening of judgment when their message is not accepted.
In the next four verses (Matthew 10:16-20 ) we read of how their ministry would be accepted. “Behold I send you as sheep in the midst of wolves; be therefore prudent as the serpents and guileless as doves. But beware of men; for they will deliver you up to sanhedrins and scourge you in their synagogues.” And so they did reject the Lord and the servants He sent. But it was not alone confined to the Jews -- sanhedrin and synagogue -- but the Gentiles would treat them in the same way. “And ye shall be brought before rulers and kings for my sake, for a testimony to them and to the nations.” Part of the fulfillment of all this is found in the book of Acts. We see here also a deeper meaning and refer to these words again when we come to another verse.
“But when they deliver you up, be not careful how or what ye shall speak; for it shall be given to you in that hour what ye shall speak. For ye are not the speakers, but the Spirit of your Father which speaks in you.” We can point to Stephen in Acts 7:1-60 as an illustration how fully this promise has been fulfilled.
The most bitter persecution is now promised them by our Lord: “But brother shall deliver up brother to death, and father child; and children shall rise up against parents and shall put them to death; and ye shall be hated of all on account of my name. But he that has endured to the end shall be saved. But when they persecute you in this city, flee to the other, for verily I say to you, Ye shall not have completed the cities of Israel until the Son of Man be come.” These words are perhaps the most important in the whole chapter. They are a kind of key to the entire chapter.
The coming of the Son of Man which is mentioned is His second coming. The giving of the testimony by Jewish disciples concerning the Kingdom of the heavens is according to the words of our Lord to continue till He comes again. How are we to understand this? The testimony which was begun by the apostles up to the time when Israel rejected once more the offers of mercy from the risen Lord, when He was still waiting for their repentance as a nation, is an unfinished testimony. After that offer was again rejected the great parenthesis, the church age, began, and during this age (which is not reckoned in the Old Testament) there is no more Jewish testimony of the kingdom of the heavens. Israel nationally is set aside, blindness in part is theirs till the fulness of the Gentiles is come in. When the church is complete and the rapture of the saints has taken place, then the Lord begins to deal with His people Israel again. There is the seventieth week of Daniel 9:1-27 yet to come, and this week of seven years forms the end of this dispensation. In this coming last week of seven years the church testimony is finished and Jewish believers will take up the unfinished testimony to the nation and proclaim once more “The Kingdom of the heavens is at hand.” The 24th chapter in this Gospel is a continuation of the 10th chapter, inasmuch as Matthew 24:1-51 shows us the unfinished testimony of the 10th chapter, finished and completed. (Read Matthew 24:5-32 .) In Matthew 24:1-51 we read of the great tribulation, so likewise here in the tenth chapter. In Micah 7:1-20 we read of a dark picture and there the Spirit of Christ reveals a tribulation, which His lips on the earth proclaim to His disciples. Then during the tribulation (never now) it will mean enduring to the end and salvation will come then by the visible return of the Son of Man from heaven. What our Lord said in Matthew 10:17 and Matthew 10:18 about persecutions from Jews and Gentiles for these witnesses will find its final great fulfilment in that great tribulation, when not alone the unbelieving nation will persecute the believing and witnessing Jewish remnant, but nations as well.
From the twenty-fourth verse to the end of the chapter our Lord continues to speak to the twelve, who were about to go forth. His words are now words of encouragement, not to fear; they were safe in the hands of His Father. While all these words had a special significance for the Jewish disciples our Lord sent forth, they also contain precious comfort and instruction for every true believer living in this day. It would be extremely one sided to pass over these words of our Lord and treat them as not containing truth for us. Every word which our God and Father has been pleased to give us has a meaning for us.
First of all our Lord speaks of the position of the disciple. “The disciple is not above his teacher, nor the bondman above his Lord. It is sufficient for the disciple that he should become as his teacher, and the bondman as his lord. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more those of his household?” (Matthew 10:24-26 ). (Beelzebub means “Lord of the house,” that is, Satan as the possessor of the house.) The position of the disciple is then according to these words identification of the closest kind with His Lord. However, to learn fully of this identification with Him, who is our Saviour and Lord, we do not go to this first Gospel. The Gospel of Matthew was not written with this purpose. In the Gospel of John, the Gospel of Life and Resurrection, and the First Epistle of John as well as the Epistles given by the Holy Spirit through Paul, we learn of the blessed identification which exists by Grace between the Lord and His own. How preciously it is revealed by Himself in that Holy of Holies in the Gospel of John, the seventeenth chapter. And this chapter itself is but the germ out of which the Holy Spirit develops in the Pauline Epistles, the Gospel of Grace and the truth concerning the Church as the Body of Christ. In that marvelous chapter our Lord intercedes before His Father for the very disciples (as well as ourselves) whom He sent forth in the beginning of His earthly ministry. Altogether one with Him, is the golden thread which goes through His prayer. And He said; “The world has hated them, because they are not of the world, as I am not of the world. I do not demand that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them out of evil.” In the First Epistle of John the Holy Spirit says: “Do not wonder, brethren, if the world hate you,” and in the upper room He said to His own: “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated Me before you” (John 15:18 ). It is therefore an identification of the closest nature in which we stand with our Lord. And do we ever stop and think on these things? How little we do, how little all this is real to us? It is true little of the reproach of Christ is seen in these days; but little hatred from the side of the world, nor any names of rejection. We ask why? The answer is soon given. The professing church has turned her back upon her heavenly calling and with that upon the Lord. She has committed adultery in loving the world and has returned to the beggarly elements of this world. But let the true believer leave this camp and go outside of that which professes His name and soon enough the reproach will have to be borne. Christendom and the world has little use for one who walks in true separation. Still how precious is that place. If it is reproach it is His reproach; hatred, it is the same with which He was hated. Reproach, hatred and persecution is the seal of identification and fellowship with Him.
But with this our Lord does not leave it. He comforts those He sent forth. And now He speaks the word which is to calm their fears: “Fear not.” What meaning it has coming from such lips! Angels spoke the word “Fear not” in olden times. They are but creatures sent with a message from the Throne. But He who speaks here is the Creator Himself made a little lower than the angels He had created; the Omnipotent One, our Lord speaks, “Fear not!” “Fear them not therefore; for there is nothing covered which shall not be revealed, and secret which shall not be known. What I say to you in darkness speak in the light, and what ye hear in the ear preach upon the houses.” In other words, He tells them of the day when all is to be uncovered, and the secret things to be made known. This fact is ever to be before them. It is to be daily before us. Oh, brethren, let us learn to look at all things in the light of the Judgment seat! “Do not judge anything before the time, until the Lord shall come, who shall also bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and shall make manifest the counsels of hearts; and then shall each have his praise from God” (1 Corinthians 4:5 ). In view of this revelation of the secret things our Lord tells us to be bold and to declare the whole counsel of God.
Then what harm can men do to him anyway, who is Christ’s (and Christ is God’s). We belong to God, we are His own. No man can do us any harm with his persecution or hatred. Therefore He says now: “And be not afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.” What if they should even go so far as to kill the body, as they often did and will yet do, especially to the Jewish Saints in the great tribulation. (We mention again that all these words have a future meaning and fulfillment during that time of Jacob’s trouble, after the removal of the church. The Jewish believers will know the comfort of these words, as Saints during this age know them.) If they kill the body they cannot kill the soul and the killing of the body and faithful testimony given through martyrdom will enrich the Lord as well as the disciple. We may not be called upon to surrender thus our bodies, yet the principle of it is ours; fear nothing outward, nothing temporal, whatever it may be. “But fear rather Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Here Gehenna and not Hades. Gehenna is correctly translated hell.) And He who is able to do that and will do it at the great white Throne to the unsaved, is God. He then is to be feared alone. Of course all this is not to be read as referring to the believer. He who has believed is passed from death unto life, he does not come into judgment. Once saved means always saved. We must, however, not overlook the fact that among the twelve there was one who was not saved. It was the first warning coming to Judas. He looked to outward things and was a thief.
Words of comfort come next. “Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall to the ground without your Father; but of you even the hairs of the head are all numbered. Fear not therefore; ye are better than many sparrows.” And where is the child of God who does not rejoice in such a statement? He knows the sparrows upon the housetops as He knew the fish in the sea and the piece of money, which laid on the bottom of the sea. He knows every hair of His own. He speaks of a special providence which watches over every child of God. Happy are we if we walk in the simplicity of a child before our Father and our Lord and ever know by day and by night “He careth for you.” We are all in His hands.
The words of responsibility follow: “Everyone therefore who shall confess me before men, I also will confess before my Father who is in the Heavens. But whosoever shall deny Me before men, him will I also deny before my Father who is in the Heavens.”
He who believes in the name of the Lord Jesus is saved; confession with the mouth follows ( Romans 10:8-12 ).
Every one who believes in the Lord Jesus Christ and confesses with the mouth that Jesus is Lord, such confesses Him before men. This confession of Him is ever to increase not only with the lips but in the conduct and the life. Thus every true believer is a confessor of Jesus as Lord and the Lord in His day will confess him before His Father. Individual faithfulness will of course bring a corresponding reward. The unsaved denies Him before men. He may have the name of Jesus upon his lips but he trusts not in Him and this is the denial and he who has not believed will not be confessed before the Father, because the unsaved is none of His.
In the few verses which follow, 34-36, our Lord describes the characteristics of this age, the age in which we live and which is so rapidly ending up. “Do not think that I have come to send peace upon the earth. I have not come to send peace, but a sword.” Many puzzled Jews have come to us with this word and asked what Jesus of Nazareth meant. How could He be our Messiah when instead “of peace He sends the sword?” “Is not Messiah the Prince of Peace to speak peace to the nations?” However we learn that the words He speaks here, foretelling the history of this age, are blessed evidences of His divinity. This age is not the age of world wide peace. “Peace on Earth” is not yet reached in the divine program for the earth. The King and His kingdom rejected, He Himself absent, strife, confusion and wars, the sword reigns. But the King is coming back. Before His return as King out of the opened heavens the sword will be unsheathed and peace be taken from the earth. The nations may boast of peace among themselves at this time, but it will not last very long and soon the rider upon the red horse will gallop over the earth (Revelation 6:1-17 ). Peace like a river will surely flow after the King has come and all swords have become plowshares. The Lord hasten the day.
And what place and position has the true disciple with Christ in this age? Christ is rejected and scorned. He Himself is to be owned and full devotedness shown to Him, and that means -- suffering.
“He who loves father or mother above me is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter above me is not worthy of me. And he who does not take up his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. He that finds his life shall lose it; he who has lost his life for my sake shall find it.”
But there is another side. Not alone the suffering but the glory which is to follow. The recompense is as sure as the suffering and the recompense will be greater than the sufferings.
“He that receives you, receives me, and he that receives me, receives Him who has sent me. He that receives a prophet in a prophet’s name shall receive a prophet’s reward; he that receives a righteous man in a righteous man’s name shall receive a righteous man’s reward. And whosoever shall give to drink to one of these little ones a cup of cold water only, in the name of a disciple, verily he shall in no wise lose his reward.” The one who receives a prophet shall have the blessing of a prophet -- he who receives the Son of God becomes the Son of God, Heir of God and joint heir with Jesus Christ, and anything done, which has love for its motive, will not be forgotten.
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Gaebelein, Arno Clemens. "Commentary on Matthew 10". "Gaebelein's Annotated Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Fourth Week after Epiphany