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As the Jewish church arose from twelve patriarchs, so did the Christian church become planted by twelve apostles; the person commissionating them, was Christ. None are to undertake the work and calling of the ministry, but those whom Christ appoints; and the persons commissioned were disciples before they were apostles. To teach us, that Christ will have such as preach the gospel to be disciples before they are ministers; trained up in the doctrine of the gospel, before they undertake a public charge.
Note farther, The power here delegated by Christ to his apostles, over unclean spirits, and for healing diseases, in his name. And after Christ's resurrection, they were enabled to confer this miraculous power upon others, by laying their hands upon them; an eminent demonstration of the truth of the christian faith.
Learn hence, That to the intent the apostles might preach the gospel with more authority and greater efficacy, Christ gave them a power of working miracles; namely, to cast out devils, and heal all manner of diseases, in his name. When he had called together his disciples, he gave them power against unclean spirits.
Observe here, Of the twelve apostles Peter is named first, and Judas last. Peter is named first, because first called, Matthew 4:18 or because probably elder than the rest; or because, for order-sake, he might speak before the rest: from whence may be inferred a primacy, but no supremacy; a priority of order, but no superiority of degree. As the foreman of a grand inquest has a precidency, but no re-eminency. Judas is named last, with a brand of infamy set upon him, that he was the traitor the person that betrayed his Lord and Master.
Learn hence, That though the truth of grace be absolutely necessary to a minister's salvation, yet the want of it doth not disannul his office, nor hinder the lawfulness of his ministry: Judas, though a traitor, was yet a lawful minister. Inward holiness is not necessary to render the offices belonging to the ministerial function valid and effectual: Judas preaches Christ as well as the rest, and was not excepted when Christ said, He that receiveth you, receiveth me.
This was only a temporary prohiition whilst Christ was here upon earth, the Jews being Christ's own people, of whom he came, and to whom he was promised; the gospel is first preached to them; but afterwards the apostles had a command to teach all nations; and after Christ ascension, Samaria received the gospel by the preaching of Philip.
From the character which Christ gives of the Jews, calling them lost sheep, we learn, 1. That the condition of a people, before brought home to Christ by the ministers of the gospel, is a lost condition; sinners are as lost sheep, wandering and going astray from God, till the ministry of the word finds them.
2. That the great work and office of the ministers of the gospel is to call home, and to bring in, lost sheep unto Jesus Christ the great Shepherd. Go, says he, to the lost sheep, &c.
Mark, Christ calls the Israelites sheep, though they were not obedient to the voice of their Shepherd, because they were God's chosen people; and he calls them the lost sheep, because they were both lost in themselves, and also in great danger of being eventually and finally lost, by the ignorance and wickedness of their spiritual guides.
Observe here, 1. The duty enjoined the apostles in order to the bringing home of lost souls to Christ, and that is, preaching; As ye go, preach.
Note thence, That the plain and persuasive preaching of the gospel, is the special mean appointed by Christ for the salvation of lost sinners.
Observe, 2. The doctrine they are enjoined to preach, namely, that the kingdom of heaven is at hand; that is, that the promised Messiah was come, and had set up his kindom in the world, and expected their obedience to his laws.
Where note, How that the preaching of John, of Christ, and his apostles, was one and the same; namely, the doctrine of repentance: repent, say they all, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand; that is, the time of the Messiah's appearing, which has been so long expected, is now come.
Here our Saviour empowers his apostles to work miracles for the confirmation of their doctrine; but gives them a charge to work them freely, without making any private advantage to themselves.
Where observe, 1. How beneficial the miracles were (which Christ and his apostles wrought) to mankind. Moses' miracles were as great judgments as wonders; but these were beneficent, they delivered men from miseries, from bodily diseases, from the power and malice of evil spirits; they healed the sick, and cast out devils.
Observe, 2. That Jesus Christ, to show himself a free Saviour, and that whatever came from him was the effect of free grace, gave his apostles a charge to dispense their power in working miracles freely, without money, and without price.
This command of Christ was temporary, and extended only to the apostles' first journey, which they were soon to despatch: our Saviour encourages them to trust to God; first for protection; take no staves with you, that is, no striking or smiting staves for your own defence.
Preachers must be no strikers, though a walking-staff they might take with them: itinerant preachers might be wearied with travelling, as well as with speaking.
Next for provision; he would not have them over-solicitous for that neither; saying, the workman is worthy of his meat. As it is a minister's great duty to trust God for his maintenance; so it is the people's duty to take for the minister's comfortable subsistence. The labourer is worthy of his hire, and the workman is worthy of his meat.
Our Saviour proceeds to direct his disciples how to manage this their first journey in preaching the gospel: he enjoins them, 1. To observe the rules of decency in their going from one place to another; not like beggars wandering from house to house, but having entered a city, or village, to make enquiry who stood best affected to the gospel, and there turn in.
2. Our Savior enjoins them civil and religous courtesy towards those whom they applied themselves unto. When ye come into a house, salute it; give it a civil salutation, but especially a Christian and spiritual salute, wishing them mercy, grace, and peace.
3. He encourages his apostles in the want of success; if they hear you not, shake off the dust of your feet. This action was emblematical, and signified, That Almighty God would in like manner shake off them, and esteem them no better than the vilest dust.
Note, That those who despise the message which the ministers of the gospel bring, shall hereafter find the dust of their feet, and the ashes of their graves, to give a judicial testimony against them in the day of Christ. Wherever the word is preached, 'tis for a testimony against them; for if the dust of a minister's feet bear witness against the despesers of the gospel, their sermons much more.
Here Grotius well notes, that the sin of those who reject the gospel must be a wilful sin, which it was in their power to avoid; because it rendered them obnoxious to greater punishment them Sodom and Gomorrhah were to suffer at the day of judgment; and because committed against greater light, and greater confirmation of the truth: doubtless the higher a people rise under the means of grace, the lower they fall if they miscarry.
Our Saviour, in this and the following verses, arms his apostles against all the difficulties, dangers, and discouragements, which they might meet with in the course of their ministry: he tells them, he sent them forth as sheep amongst wolves; intimating thereby unto them, that the enemies of the gospel have as great an inclination, from their malicious nature, to devour and destroy the ministers of Christ, as wolves have from their natural temper to devour sheep: he therefore recommends to them prudence and innocence; be ye wise as serpents, to avoid the world's injuries, and harmless as doves, in not revenging them. The ministers of Christ must not be altogether doves, lest they fall into dangers; nor altogether serpents, lest they endanger others. For as piety without policy is too simple to be safe, so policy without piety is too subtle to be good. Our Saviour in this text teacher us that wisdom and innocency should dwell together. Offend none by word or example.
Here our Saviour lets his apostles know that for their owning him, and preaching his gospel, they shall be brought before all sorts of magistrates, and in all kinds of courts: but he advises them, when they are brought before kings and princes, not to be anxiously thoughtful what they should say; for it should be given them in that hour what they should answer.
Learn hence, That though truth may be opposed, yet truth's defenders should never be ashamed; and rather than they shall want a tongue to plead for it, God himself will prompt them by his Spirit, and suggest such truths to their minds as all their opposers should not be able to gainsay.
Yet, note, That Christ doth not here forbid all fore-thoughts what to say, but only distrustful thoughts; that they should not, like orators or advocates, strive to make studied pleas or rhetorical apologies for themselves, since the Spirit would be in their mouths, and give them immediate supplies.
Note also, That because Christ here promised his apostles and immediate assistance from the Holy Spirit, how vain the Anabaptists and Quakers are, who by virtue of this promise do now expect the same assistance in prayer and preaching: but they may as well pretend to cast out devils as the apostles did, by virtue of the same assistance which the apostles had; whereas these extraordinary gifts have long ceased.
Our Saviour goes on in a farther discovery of the world's hatred and enmity against the gospel, and the preachers of it; and gives all Christians in general, and his ministers in particular, to understand, that such is the enmity of the world against holiness, and the professors of it, that it will overcome and extinguish even the natural affections of the mearest and dearest relations towards each other. Grace teaches us to lay down our lives for the brethren, but corruption teaches a brother to take away the life of a brother; The brother shall deliver the brother to death.
Yet observe, Our Saviour comforts his disciples that there will be an end of these sufferings; and assures them, that if their faith and patience did hold out unto the end, they should be saved. This is our comfort, that if our sufferings for Christ end not in our lifetime, they will end with our lives.
Our Saviour here directs his apostles to a prudent care for their own preservation, and allows them to flee in time of persecution; assuring them, that before they had gone through all the cities of the Jews, preaching the gospel, he would certainly come in judgment against Jerusalem, and with severity destroy his own murderers and their persecutors.
Learn, That Christ allows his ministers the liberty of flight in time of persecution, that they may preserve their lives for future service. Surely it is no shame to fly, when our Captain commands it, and also practises it, Matthew 2 . Christ by his own example has sanctified that state of life unto us, and by his command made it lawful for us.
Our Saviour here teaches all Christians but especially ministers, how unreasonable and absurd it is for them to expect kinder usage from an unkind world than he himself met with. Are we greater, holier, or wiser then he? Why then should we expect better usage than he? Was he hated, persecuted, reviled, murdered, for the holiness of his doctrine and the usefulness of his life? Why then should any of us think strange of the fiery trial, as if some strange thing had befallen them? 1 Peter 4:12
Is it not enough that the disciple be as his master and the servant as his Lord, but must he hope to be above him?
Christ here exhorts his disciples to a free profession and open publication of the doctrine of the gospel, from this consideration, that whatever they say or do shall be brought to light, proclaimed and published to the world. I will make the excellency of your doctrine and the innocency of your lives shine as the light; your integrity in dispensing of it, and patience in suffering for it, shall redound to God's glory and your commendation, at the revelation of your Lord from heaven. As wicked men have cause to fear because their evil deeds shall be made evident, so good men have cause to rejoice because their goodness and good deeds shall be made manifest. Let it be our care to do good, and it shall be Christ's care to discover the goodness which we do, to vindicate it from misconstruction, and set it in its clearest light.
Observe here the following particulars,1. An unwarrantable fear condemned; and that is, the sinful, servile, slavish fear of impotent man: Fear not him that can kill the body.
2. A holy, awful, and prudential fear of the omnipotent God commended: Fear him that is able to kill both body and soul.
3. The persons that this duty of fear is recommended to and bound upon-Christ's own disciples, yea, his ministers and ambassadors; they both may and ought to fear him; not only for his greatness and goodness, but upon the account of his punitive justice; as being able to cast both soul and body into hell, such a fear is not only lawful, but laudable, not only commendable, but commanded, and well becomes the servants of God themselves.
This text contains a certain evidence that the soul doth not perish wih the body; none are able to kill the soul, but it continues after death in a state of sensiblilty; it is granted that men can kill the body, but it is denied that they can kill the soul: it is spoken of temporal death; consequently then the soul doth not perish with the body, nor is the soul reduced int an insensible state by the death of the cody; nor can the soul be supposed to sleep as the body doth till the resurrection; for an intelligible, thinking, and perceivin being, as the soul is, connot be deprived of sensation, thought, and perception, any more than it can lose its being: the soul, after the death of the body, being capable of bliss or misery, must continue in a state of sensation.
Observe here, 1. The doctrine which our Saviour preaches to his disciples: and that is the doctrine of divine providence; which concerns itself for the meanest creatures: even the birds of the air, and the hairs of our head, do fall within the compass of God's protecting care.
2. Here is the use which our Saviour makes of this doctrine; namely, to fortify the spirits of his disciples against all distrustful fears and distraction cares.
Learn, That the condsideration of the divine care and gracious providence of God over us and ours, ought to antidote our spirits against all distrustful fears whatsoever. If a hair from the head falls not to the ground without a providence much less shall the head itself; it the very excretions of the body, (such are the hairs,) be taken care of by God, surely the more noble parts of the body, and especially the noblest part of ourselves, our souls, shall fall under his particular regard.
Observe here, 1. That not to confess Christ, in his account, is to deny him: and to deny him, is to be ashamed of him.
2. That whosoever shall deny, disown, or be ashamed of Christ, either in his person in his gospel, or in his members, for any fear of favour of man, shall with shame be disowned, and eternally rejected by him at the dreadful judgment of the great day.
Christ may be denied three ways;
doctrinally, by an erroneous and heretical judgment; verbally, by oral expressions; vitally, by a wicked and unholy life.
But woe to that soul that denies Christ any of these ways!
We must distinguish here betwixt the intentional aim of Christ's coming, and the accidental event of it. His intentional aim was to propagate and promote peace in the world; but through the corruption of man's nature, the accidental event of his coming is war and division: not that these are the genuine and natural fruits of the gospel, but occasional and accidental only.
Note, That the preaching of the gospel, and setting up the kingdom of Christ in the world, though it be not the natural cause, yet it is the accidental occasion, of much of that war and tumult, of much of that distraction and confusion, which the world abounds with.
Note here, That by worthiness we are not to understand the meritoriousness of the action, but the qualification of the person. He that cometh to Chtist, (that is, will be his disciple,) must, by a deliberate act of the understanding, and well-advised choice of the will, prefer him before all the world, and his dearest relations whatsoever; not that our Saviour by these expressions doth condemn natural love and affection, either to our relations or our own lives, but only regulates and directs it; and shows that our first and chief love must be bestowed upon himself. We may have tender and relenting affections towards our dear relations; but them the consideration of Christ's truth and religion must take place of these; yea, of life itself; nay, when these come in competition, we are to regard them no more than if they were the objects of our hatred. Luke 14:26 If any man hate not his father, &c.
Learn hence, That all the disciples of Christ should be ready and willing, whenever God calls them to it, to quit all their temporal interests and enjoyments, even life itself, and to submit to any temporal inconvenience, even death itself; and all this willingly, cheerfully, and patiently, rather than disown their relation to Christ, and quit the profession of his truth and religion.
2. That such as for secular interest, and the preservation of temporal life, do renounce their profession of Christ and his religion, they do not only greatly hazard their temporal life, but expose their eternal life to the greatest danger. He that findeth his life shall lose it, &c.
Here in the close of the chapter, our blessed Saviour encourages his apostles to faithfulness in their office, by assuring them that he should reckon and esteem all the kindness shown to them as done unto himself: and to encourage the world to be kind to his disciples and ministers, he assures them that even a cup of cold water should meet with a liberal reward. How cold is their charity who deny a cup of cold water to the ministers and disciples of Christ!
Learn, 1. That there is some special and eminent reward due to the faithful prophets of God above other men.
2. That he that shall entertain a prophet and do any good office for him, under that name, that is, for his office sake, shall be partaker of that reward.
3. That the least office of love and respect, of kindness and charity, which we show to any of the ministers or members of Jesus Christ for his sake, Christ accounts it as done unto himself, and it shall be rewarded by himself.
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Burkitt, William. "Commentary on Matthew 10". Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 12 / Ordinary 17