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Bible Commentaries

F. B. Hole's Old and New Testament Commentary
Matthew 10

 

 

Verses 1-42

AT THE close of the previous chapter the Lord told His disciples to pray for the sending forth of labourers. This chapter opens with His calling the twelve and commissioning them to go forth. They themselves were to be the answer to their prayer! Not infrequently this is the case. When we pray for this or that to be done in the Lord’s service, often His answer to us would be in effect, “Then you are the ones to do it.” Now for any commission to be effective, there must be the people selected, the power conferred, and the right procedure indicated.

This chapter is occupied with just these three things. In verses Matthew 10:24, we get the names of the twelve chosen disciples; and in verse I we read how Jesus conferred the necessary power upon them. This power was effective in two spheres, the spiritual and the physical. Unclean spirits had to obey them, and all kinds of bodily evils disappeared at their word. From verse Matthew 10:5 to the end of the chapter we have the record of the instructions He gave, so that they might proceed rightly on their mission.

The first item of instruction concerned the sphere of their service— neither Gentiles nor Samaritans, but the lost sheep of Israel only. This at once reveals decisively that the gospel today does not go forth under this commission. In the service of a false theory verse Matthew 10:6 has been wrested into meaning that they were to go to Israelites scattered amongst the nations. The word “lost” however means spiritually lost. If Jeremiah 50:1-46 be turned to, and verses Matthew 10:6; Matthew 10:17 consulted, it will be seen that Israel is both “lost” and “scattered.” They are lost because caused to go astray by their shepherds—spiritually lost. They are scattered by the action of the kings of Assyria and Babylon—geographically scattered. This distinction in the use of the two words seems to be observed through Scripture. The disciples never went outside the land while Christ was on earth, but they did preach to the spiritually lost Jews that were around them.

In verse Matthew 10:7 their message is summed up in seven words. It agrees exactly with that preached by John the Baptist (Matthew 3:2), and by the Lord Himself (Matthew 4:17), save that here the word, “Repent,” is omitted. It was a very simple message, hardly allowing of much amplification or variety. They could not preach things not yet accomplished; but the predicted King was present in His own land, and hence the kingdom was nigh them. That they announced It was the glad tidings of the kingdom, and they were to support what they said by showing the power of the kingdom in bringing healing and deliverance gratuitously.

Moreover they were to discard all the ordinary provision of a prudent traveller, and so be manifestly dependent upon their Master for all their needs; and in entering any place they were to seek out the “worthy,” that is, those who feared the Lord, and who manifested their reception of the Master by the reception of His servants. They were to render testimony against those who did not receive Him, and who consequently refused them and their words; and the responsibility of such would be far greater than that of Sodom and Gomorrah.

Next He plainly warned them that they were going to meet with opposition, rejection and persecution, and they are instructed as to their attitude in the presence of these things. This occupies verses Matthew 10:16-39. In going forth amongst men they would be as sheep in the midst of wolves; that is, they would be as their Master in position, and they were to be like Him also in character—wise and harmless. When accused before rulers they were to rest in God as their Father, and not concern themselves in preparing their defence, since in the hour of their need the Spirit of their Father would speak in and through them. Martyrdom in some cases would lie before them, and in all cases they would have to face hatred of a type that would override all natural affection. For those not martyred endurance to the end would mean salvation.

What “the end” signifies is shown in the next verse (23)—the coming of the Son of man. In Matthew 24:3, Matthew 24:6, Matthew 24:13, Matthew 24:14, we again have the Lord speaking of “the end,” with a similar significance, for there it is “the end of the age.” This mission then, which the Lord was inaugurating, is to extend to His second coming, and barely be completed even then. As verse Matthew 10:6 had indicated, the cities of Israel were the field to be covered while they were persecuted, and their endurance would be crowned by salvation at His coming. As we look back it looks as if there has been some failure in these predictions. How can we account for it?

The explanation evidently is that this testimony to the nearness of the kingdom has been suspended and will be resumed at the time of the end. The disciples are viewed as representative men, and what is said applied to them at that moment and will apply to others who will be in a similar position at the end of the age. The kingdom, as presented at that moment in Christ in person, was rejected, and consequently the testimony was withdrawn, as we see in Matthew 16:20. It will be resumed when the outgathering of the church is completed; and barely carried to its finish when the Son of Man comes to receive and establish the kingdom, as had been predicted in Daniel 7:1-28.

Meanwhile the disciple must expect to be treated as his Master, and yet he need have no fear. He will be denounced and maligned and even killed by men; but in verses Matthew 10:26-33, the Lord mentions three sources of encouragement. First, light shall shine upon everything, and all the malignings of men be dispersed. The disciple’s business is to let the light shine now in his testimony. Second, there is the intimate care of God, descending to the minutes” detail. Third, there is the reward of being publicly confessed by the Lord before the Father in heaven. Nothing but faith will enable any of us to appreciate and welcome the light, to rely upon the care, and to value the praise of God more than the praise of men.

Verse Matthew 10:28 is worthy of special note, for it very definitely teaches that the soul is not subject to death, as is the body. God can destroy both soul and body in hell; but the word for “destroy” is different from the word for “kill,” and is one meaning to cause to perish, or to ruin, and has in it no thought of annihilation. The exact words, “the immortality of the soul” do not occur in Scripture, but here are words of our Lord which assert that solemn fact. The words of verse Matthew 10:34 may seem at first sight to clash with such statements as we have in Luke 1:79; Luke 2:14; or Acts 10:36. But there is no real discrepancy. God approached men in Christ with a message of peace, but He was rejected. At this point in Matthew’s Gospel His rejection is coming into view, and hence He declares the solemn fact that the immediate effect of His approach is going to be strife and warfare. Peace on earth will be established by Him at His second advent, and this the angels foresaw and celebrated when first He came. Peace is indeed the ultimate thing, but the cross was the immediate thing; and if He was about to take up the cross then His disciples must be prepared for a sword, and for the losing of their lives for His sake. That loss however was going to mean ultimate gain.

The closing verses show that the reception of the unpopular disciples would be in effect the reception of their unpopular Master, and even of God Himself. Any service thus rendered, even so small a thing as the giving of a cup of cold water, will not fail of a reward in the day to come.

 


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Bibliography Information
Hole, Frank Binford. "Commentary on Matthew 10:4". "F. B. Hole's Old and New Testament Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/fbh/matthew-10.html. 1947.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, November 13th, 2019
the Week of Proper 27 / Ordinary 32
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