Last week, we saw Jesus start to focus on His disciples. He said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” (Matthew 9:37-8 ESV). This week, we will see Matthew’s account of Jesus calling His 12 Apostles from among His disciples and sending them out in training. Jesus is specifically teaching His apostles what they need to know in ministry. Given that these men (minus Judas and later including Paul) would form the foundation of Christ’s Church, with Jesus as its cornerstone, we need to pay close attention to what He is teaching here. For our ministry of evangelism, of the Church, is built upon this foundation and none other. There will not be any more Apostles, for there is no further need of foundation, but we need to understand the foundation upon which we stand.
Jesus Sends Out the Twelve Apostles
Matthew 10 (ESV)
1 And [Jesus] called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every affliction.2 The names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother;3 Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; 4 Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him. 5 These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them, “Go nowhere among the Gentiles and enter no town of the Samaritans, 6 but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 7 And proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ 8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying; give without pay. 9 Acquire no gold or silver or copper for your belts, 10 no bag for your journey, or two tunics or sandals or a staff, for the laborer deserves his food. 11 And whatever town or village you enter, find out who is worthy in it and stay there until you depart.12 As you enter the house, greet it. 13 And if the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it, but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. 14 And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town. 15 Truly, I say to you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town.
In the Matthew’s account, this is where Jesus selected 12 from His disciples to appoint them as His Apostles, sent-ones from God the Son. He gave them authority over unclean spirits to cast them out, and authority to heal every disease and every affliction. Why? Was their charge to eradicate sickness and disease from the land of Israel? Was it to expel all demons from the Land of Israel? Well, let us look at the rest of His charge. In verse 5 we see they are not to go to the Samaritans or the Gentiles… but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. What was their charge, to eradicate sickness and disease from Israel? No. They were given such authority, but their primary charge was to proclaim, “the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand”. They were to proclaim the time for the Promise was at hand, to preach repentance just as John the Baptist did and how they saw Jesus proclaim the Kingdom. Notice the conditional statement He provided regarding the towns/houses in which they stay. If anyone will not receive you or listen to your words… the miracles of casting out demons, healing the sick, raising the dead, or cleansing lepers wouldn’t be enough. Some would still not receive them as Apostles nor listen to their preaching. The authority to perform miracles was granted as a testimony of the Truth of what they preached. There would still be those who witness the miracles and reject the message. Why? Because they lacked faith, and held fast to the teaching of the Elders and Pharisees who taught as commandments the doctrines of men. Those who reject the Gospel and remain in their unbelief remain condemned (John 3:16-18)… and these who reject the proclamation of the Gospel in this manner, full of power and authority will face a tougher judgement than those destroyed in Sodom and Gomorrah in the days of Abram.
What Jesus tells His 12 for this immediate mission, carries on into the first leg of the Great Commission we will see in Chapter 28. Thankfully, the Gospel isn’t limited to the lost sheep of Israel, because the Promise was for all of mankind, for you and for me. I appreciate how the ESV splits this up into sections, because the portions that follow apply to the Church, the Body of Christ. We will face persecution, this isn’t limited to His 12 apostles. He sent them out to lay the foundation, with Himself as its cornerstone, and we are being built up on that foundation as the Holy Temple of God, a temple of living stones indwelt by the Holy Spirit of God. We will see persecution… and it will continue getting worse until the Great Day of Christ’s return.
Matthew 10 | Persecution Will Come
16 “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. 17 Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, 18 and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. 19 When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. 20 For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. 21 Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, 22 and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. 23 When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next, for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.
24 “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. 25 It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household.
Anyone selling a gospel of victorious living, health and wealth, or “living your best life now” is either flat-out lying or simply has never actually read the Bible. In Christ we have our victory in the resurrection. Until then, we will face trials, tribulation, and the open seething hate of a world that first hated Him. Take heart, Jesus goes on to say…
Matthew 10 | Have No Fear
26 “So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. 27 What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. 28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30 But even the hairs of your head are all numbered.31 Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. 32 So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven,33 but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.
Have no fear of men who can only kill the body. Our treasure is in Heaven.
Matthew 10 | Not Peace, but a Sword
34 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. 36 And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household.37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve had my fill of the media’s wimpy portrayal of Jesus. Even the self-identified Christian production companies seem to fail in this regard. Jesus didn’t come to coddle sinners in their sinfulness, He came to call them out of the Kingdom of Darkness. He preached repentance. Families will be split because of Him, but not because of what He does; rather, for who He is. Don’t treat verses 34-39 in isolation from verses 26-33. It is all connected. Those who follow Jesus, die to themselves and to sin daily, will be saved while those who deny Him will continue to hate Him and those who follow Him. The message of the Gospel isn’t to eradicate sin, death, sickness, or poverty on the earth. The earth is cursed because of the sin of Adam. Dominionists, Open Theists, Universalists, all of them are completely confused in their thinking. The Gospel of Jesus Christ calls sinners to repentance and separation from this world of sin and unbelief. When we proclaim the “Kingdom of Heaven is at hand” to this dying world, we are proclaiming “leave the building of destruction” not “all clear, the bomb was defused”. Christ made a way of escape, the ONLY way of escape from the judgment that is due our sin. It is a narrow gate that few will find, though we proclaim loudly and firmly the Way of Salvation in the Name of Jesus.
Matthew 10 | Rewards
40 “Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me. 41 The one who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and the one who receives a righteous person because he is a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward.42 And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.”
The Apostles are being sent out as prophets, proclaiming the Word of the Lord (the Kingdom of Heaven is at Hand). Whoever receives them as speaking the Word of God, receives the prophet’s reward. Jesus is the only righteous person who has ever lived… and whoever receives Him, receives His reward. Whoever received the Apostles, received Christ. Whoever receives Christ, receives His Righteousness.
Romans 3:19-28 (ESV) | The Righteousness of God Through Faith
19 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. 21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. 27 Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28 For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.
By faith we have been saved. Faith comes by hearing the word of Christ. Hearing the Word of Christ comes by having it faithfully preached, both Law (conviction of sin leading to repentance) and Gospel (for the forgiveness of sin).
Romans 10:14-17 (ESV) 14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” 16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” 17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.
Until Next Week…
Be faithful stewards of the Gospel of Grace, and preach the Word. Miracles, signs, and wonders belong to God and are His to work, not ours. We proclaim Christ and Him crucified for our sin. That He was raised from the dead, ascended to heaven at the Right Hand of God the Father, and returning soon to judge the living and the dead. Nothing we come up with, devise, or scheme has any chance of building or granting faith to the unbelievers… only the Word of Christ has that power. Until next week, spend some time in His word. Read in larger chunks, making note of the immediate and general context of what you are reading. Pray for understanding and wisdom from the Holy Spirit.
In Christ Jesus,