Therefore Do Not Be Afraid

by Mike Ratliff

καὶ μὴ φοβεῖσθε ἀπὸ τῶν ἀποκτεννόντων τὸ σῶμα, τὴν δὲ ψυχὴν μὴ δυναμένων ἀποκτεῖναι· φοβεῖσθε δὲ μᾶλλον τὸν δυνάμενον καὶ ψυχὴν καὶ σῶμα ἀπολέσαι ἐν γεέννῃ. (Matthew 10:28 NA27)

And do not be afraid of those killing the body, but are unable to kill the soul, but fear instead the one who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. (a personal translation of Matthew 10:28 from the NA27 Greek text)

I had intended to write another piece contrasting the prevalent false teaching (heresies) in the visible church in our time with the proper handling of God’s Word, His doctrines, and the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ through good preaching. This rightly dividing of God’s Word  is used by the Holy Spirit to accomplish God’s Will in the hearts of men. Some believe and are saved. Others, through their unbelief do not believe and never will. In both cases, to accomplish His will, He uses the preaching of His Word. Some are His others are not. Some are given the gifts that God uses to do this. 

In this post we will look at Matthew 10:16-33 which is part of our Lord’s instructions to His disciples as He prepared them for what was coming when they were eventually sent on their worldwide mission to the Gentiles. They had to understand that persecution would inevitably accompany their mission wherever God sent them.

Ἰδοὺ ἐγὼ ἀποστέλλω ὑμᾶς ὡς πρόβατα ἐν μέσῳ λύκων· γίνεσθε οὖν φρόνιμοι ὡς οἱ ὄφεις καὶ ἀκέραιοι ὡς αἱ περιστεραί. Προσέχετε δὲ ἀπὸ τῶν ἀνθρώπων· παραδώσουσιν γὰρ ὑμᾶς εἰς συνέδρια καὶ ἐν ταῖς συναγωγαῖς αὐτῶν μαστιγώσουσιν ὑμᾶς· καὶ ἐπὶ ἡγεμόνας δὲ καὶ βασιλεῖς ἀχθήσεσθε ἕνεκεν ἐμοῦ εἰς μαρτύριον αὐτοῖς καὶ τοῖς ἔθνεσιν. ὅταν δὲ παραδῶσιν ὑμᾶς, μὴ μεριμνήσητε πῶς ἢ τί λαλήσητε· δοθήσεται γὰρ ὑμῖν ἐν ἐκείνῃ τῇ ὥρᾳ τί λαλήσητε· οὐ γὰρ ὑμεῖς ἐστε οἱ λαλοῦντες ἀλλὰ τὸ πνεῦμα τοῦ πατρὸς ὑμῶν τὸ λαλοῦν ἐν ὑμῖν. Παραδώσει δὲ ἀδελφὸς ἀδελφὸν εἰς θάνατον καὶ πατὴρ τέκνον, καὶ ἐπαναστήσονται τέκνα ἐπὶ γονεῖς καὶ θανατώσουσιν αὐτούς. καὶ ἔσεσθε μισούμενοι ὑπὸ πάντων διὰ τὸ ὄνομά μου· ὁ δὲ ὑπομείνας εἰς τέλος οὗτος σωθήσεται. Ὅταν δὲ διώκωσιν ὑμᾶς ἐν τῇ πόλει ταύτῃ, φεύγετε εἰς τὴν ἑτέραν· ἀμὴν γὰρ λέγω ὑμῖν, οὐ μὴ τελέσητε τὰς πόλεις τοῦ Ἰσραὴλ ἕως ἂν ἔλθῃ ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου. Οὐκ ἔστιν μαθητὴς ὑπὲρ τὸν διδάσκαλον οὐδὲ δοῦλος ὑπὲρ τὸν κύριον αὐτοῦ. ἀρκετὸν τῷ μαθητῇ ἵνα γένηται ὡς ὁ διδάσκαλος αὐτοῦ καὶ ὁ δοῦλος ὡς ὁ κύριος αὐτοῦ. εἰ τὸν οἰκοδεσπότην Βεελζεβοὺλ ἐπεκάλεσαν, πόσῳ μᾶλλον τοὺς οἰκιακοὺς αὐτοῦ. (Matthew 10:16-25 NA27)

Behold I send you as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore, be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. And beware of men. For they will deliver you up to the councils and in their synagogues, they will scourge you. And you will be led before governors and kings for my sake as a testimony to them and to the gentiles. But when they deliver you up, do not be anxious about how or what you are to say for it will be given to you in that hour what you are to say for you are not the ones speaking, but the Spirit of your Father will be the one speaking in you. And brother will deliver up brother to death and a father will deliver up his child and children will rise up against their parents and put them to death. And you will be hated by all on account of my name, but the one having endured to the end, this one will be saved. And when they persecute you in this city, flee to another. For amen I say to you, you will by no means finish going through the cities of Israel until the Son of Man comes. A disciple is not above the teacher. Neither is a slave above his master. I is enough for the disciple that he be like his teacher and for the slave to be like his master. If the master of the house they called Beelzebub, how much more the members of his household. (a personal translation of Matthew 10:16-25 from the NA27 Greek text)

What do wolves do to unprotected sheep? This analogy is a contrast of those whom Christ sends with His truth who will be attacked and be persecuted by “wolves.” These false prophets persecute the true ones and seek to destroy the church. We are to be as wise as serpents and innocent as doves in dealing with them. The serpent was the symbol of shrewdness and intellectual cunning while the dove was emblematic of simple innocence. I know some professing Christians who abhor anything we do that smacks of what has been derisively referred to as “discernment stuff.” My brethren, this is necessary work. We must not stoop to the level of some of these jokers, but neither Paul nor John had a problem naming names of those whom they were warning the Body of Christ about in their epistles. Neither should we. On the other hand, we had better be sure of our facts and we should always approach these things prayerfully and innocently not bearing grudges.

Our Lord used a term several times in this passage that I translated as “deliver..up.” For instance, in v17, the word is the verb παραδώσουσιν which is the future tense, indicative mood, active voice case of παραδίδωμι or paradidōmi, a technical word, in this context, used for handing over a prisoner for punishment. Persecution of believers has often been the official policy of governments. These persecutions give opportunity for testifying to the truth of the Gospel (John 16:1-4; 2 Timothy 4:16). In the biography of William Tyndale, we read that he not only understood this, but also experienced it. His friend John Frith did as well. John was lured back to England from the safety of Brussels where he was assisting Tyndale in his translation work with the promise of being able to do the same work there. However, what he encountered was treachery. He went into hiding, but was eventually discovered living in poverty. He was arrested, tried, and burned alive as an unrepentant heretic in 1533. Why? He preached Justification was by Grace through Faith alone. He, like Tyndale, was among England’s best scholars yet evil men were bent on destroying them because they refused to compromise with the false doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church. Tyndale followed his friend in martyrdom in 1536.

However, in v19 our Lord gives us some comfort. He does not say that rescue is on the way. He does not say that God will intervene and the persecution will stop. Both could happen of course, but the comfort is that we should not be anxious about what we are to say after we have been delivered up.  The words “be anxious” translates the verb μεριμνήσητε, which is the aorist tense, subjunctive mood, active voice case of μεριμνάω or merimnaō, “take thought.” In other words, Jesus is telling us to not be concerned about the words we are to speak when we give an account to those who are persecuting us. When that happens, God will give us the words that will both glorify Him and give evidence to those to whom God will speak to through it. Now consider this my brethren.  Our focus as disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ is to be doing what He has commanded no matter the cost. We can do this only as we count that cost. We do that by knowing that no matter the cost here, what really matters is what we attain in the resurrection. That was Tyndale’s and Frith’s understanding as well and it must become ours.

Μὴ οὖν φοβηθῆτε αὐτούς· οὐδὲν γάρ ἐστιν κεκαλυμμένον ὃ οὐκ ἀποκαλυφθήσεται καὶ κρυπτὸν ὃ οὐ γνωσθήσεται. ὃ λέγω ὑμῖν ἐν τῇ σκοτίᾳ εἴπατε ἐν τῷ φωτί, καὶ ὃ εἰς τὸ οὖς ἀκούετε κηρύξατε ἐπὶ τῶν δωμάτων. καὶ μὴ φοβεῖσθε ἀπὸ τῶν ἀποκτεννόντων τὸ σῶμα, τὴν δὲ ψυχὴν μὴ δυναμένων ἀποκτεῖναι· φοβεῖσθε δὲ μᾶλλον τὸν δυνάμενον καὶ ψυχὴν καὶ σῶμα ἀπολέσαι ἐν γεέννῃ. οὐχὶ δύο στρουθία ἀσσαρίου πωλεῖται; καὶ ἓν ἐξ αὐτῶν οὐ πεσεῖται ἐπὶ τὴν γῆν ἄνευ τοῦ πατρὸς ὑμῶν. ὑμῶν δὲ καὶ αἱ τρίχες τῆς κεφαλῆς πᾶσαι ἠριθμημέναι εἰσίν. μὴ οὖν φοβεῖσθε· πολλῶν στρουθίων διαφέρετε ὑμεῖς. Πᾶς οὖν ὅστις ὁμολογήσει ἐν ἐμοὶ ἔμπροσθεν τῶν ἀνθρώπων, ὁμολογήσω κἀγὼ ἐν αὐτῷ ἔμπροσθεν τοῦ πατρός μου τοῦ ἐν [τοῖς] οὐρανοῖς· ὅστις δ᾽ ἂν ἀρνήσηταί με ἔμπροσθεν τῶν ἀνθρώπων, ἀρνήσομαι κἀγὼ αὐτὸν ἔμπροσθεν τοῦ πατρός μου τοῦ ἐν [τοῖς] οὐρανοῖς. (Matthew 10:26-33 NA27) 

Therefore do not be afraid of them for nothing has been veiled which will not be revealed and nothing hidden which will not be made known. What I say to you in the darkness speak in the light, and what in your ear you hear, preach on the housetops. And do not be afraid of those killing the body, but are unable to kill the soul, but fear instead the one who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And one of them will not fall on the earth without the knowledge of your Father. And even the hairs of your head are all numbered, therefore, do not be afraid. You are worth more than many sparrows. Therefore, everyone who confesses me before men, I will also confess him before my Father in Heaven. And, whoever will deny me before men, I will also deny him before my Father in Heaven. (a personal translation of Matthew 10:26-33 from the NA27 Greek text)

I have been reading the biography of John Bunyan. These statements by our Lord about preaching sound exactly like Bunyan’s approach. It got him into a lot of trouble too. He ended up in prison for 12 years, but God used that persecution to make him one of the most popular Christian writers and preachers in his time. After his release, when it was discovered that brother Bunyan was going to preach somewhere, like the old Globe Theater in London, there was never enough seats. This man was uneducated. All he did was preach the Word. His books contained incredible insights into this Christian walk and our common salvation, but for him to gain all of that cost him years of both persecution and, as a new believer, temptation and torment from our enemy that he had committed the unpardonable sin. His struggles with temptation and his humility through all of that enabled him to go through those years of persecution in prison then come out as a man God used to bless His church. He made it a practice to try to preach in areas where the gospel was either not known or not preached much so those who heard him were usually the dregs of society. The educated “doctors” did not care for him for the most part, but that did not keep him from continuing to preach and serve His Lord until his death.

I have been doing quite a bit of research in “Christian bookstores” lately. I have simply been looking at inventory. I suppose I should not be so shocked, but there is quite a bit of what is in some of these storefronts that are anything but Christian. I saw a book yesterday titled Jesus Lied – He is not God. Now my brethren, that is what is called denying Jesus before men. That fellow has sealed his eternal fate. On the other hand, Those who are truly in Christ are not to fear persecution, but are to obey the Lord in taking the Good News to all no matter the cost. When we are delivered up and persecuted, we confess Christ as Lord and Christ will confess us before the Father. We will have a greater resurrection.

This life is like a vapor, why are we living like this is all there is?

Soli Deo Gloria!

11 thoughts on “Therefore Do Not Be Afraid

  1. I am getting quite used to the persecution I receive from the “bretheren,” though it really is a light form when compared to those giants in the faith that walked before us. it really gets comical to have “christians” go off when the Truth is quoted to them and they neither recognize it or accept it. They are quite good really at “amening” others sins, yet they lash out at simple Truth that clashes with the “traditions of men” taught them by the local Diatrophese they tithe to.
    I guess I have to resign myself to the label of narrow minded/critical/judgmental while they are open minded and follow a more broad road theology. Give me the preacher who might make the road a bit too narrow over 10,000 preachers who broaden the Way. After all truly All Roads lead to Jesus…as judge, but the narrow road leads to Him as Savior and Lord.

  2. Mickey, all Bunyan had to do was agree to not preach and he could have gone home to his family. His charge was that he refused to go to a church that conformed to the established Church of England and the book of Common Prayer. Can we say keeping the law and apostate? Those you are talking about think they are “spiritual,” but all they are wanting are for preachers to make them think they are keeping the right rules and so are “okay.” That is why the real Gospel is overwhelmingly offensive to these people. We are not telling them anything except repent and believe. Salvation is found nowhere else but in Christ and it is found only this way, not by being religious.

  3. Dear Mike,

    Our family recently watched Quo Vadis (1951). The scene in which the Christians were put in the arena with the lions was sobering. It gave us an opportunity to share with our children that there may be a day when something unthinkable like that may be required of us if we do not deny the name of our Savior Jesus Christ. Of course I earnestly pray that it will not come to that, but we need not be afraid of anything in this world, man or beast, because our Lord promises “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 2:9.

    May it be said of us that “we endured till the end”.

    Only by His immeasurable grace, charisse

  4. Why is ‘discernment’ so feared among those who call themelves Christian, when His Word exhorts us to discern, to be berean, not to cast our pearls before swine…(how else do we know the swine?),
    not to ‘receive..into our house..or bid godspeed’ to certain people…
    They fear men more than God…is perhaps the explanation..
    I need prayer that I will stand for His Word always.. in meekness, yet boldness..
    Praying for you, too, to be steadfast..

  5. Charisse, the more I study the martyrs and why they were persecuted during the so-called Christian era like now, it was because they refused to subscribe to the state sanctioned form of worship. After Oliver Cromwell died, Charles II was restored as King and one the first things he did was have his body dug up and burned then have the book of Common Prayer instituted as Required in the Church of England. All people were required to adopt it. It was law that everyone had to go to a church that used it. John Bunyan spent 12 years in prison for refusing to stop preaching the gospel and adopting that nonsense. I think that the persecution that is coming upon US will be religious but state sponsored and enforced just like that. When we see the ecumenical melding of the RCC with all these other apostate religious groups and the RCC being a political entity in an of itself, well…

  6. I have considered not shopping at “Christian Bookstores”. I would rather buy a Christian book from at store that does not claim to be Christian, than support a store who claims to be “Christian” and sells (highlights, front and center) heresy. I boycotted a local store for some time, but surrendered when I wanted a book I could not find elsewhere. I did share my view with a salesman whom I believed agreed, but I’m sure he was just thankful for a job and paycheck.

  7. Great post Mike… I particularly like this line from you-”This life is like a vapor, why are we living like this is all there is?

    I hear many worry more about jobs, income, retirement, etc. than they do about lost loved ones, or even their own walk with Christ. There seems to be no desire to go deeper into the things of God, to strive for holiness or Christ-likeness. Their world seems to revolve around this life. America is in desperate need of humbling and powerful preaching of the true Gospel…I pray it isn’t too late.

  8. Pingback: A Documented Case of Persecution « Possessing the Treasure

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