Joy in the midst of suffering and confusion

by Mike Ratliff

28 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 NA28)

28 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. (Matthew 10:28 translated from the NA28 Greek text)

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.

16 Ἰδοὺ ἐγὼ ἀποστέλλω ὑμᾶς ὡς πρόβατα ἐν μέσῳ λύκων· γίνεσθε οὖν φρόνιμοι ὡς οἱ ὄφεις καὶ ἀκέραιοι ὡς αἱ περιστεραί.
17 Προσέχετε δὲ ἀπὸ τῶν ἀνθρώπων· παραδώσουσιν γὰρ ὑμᾶς εἰς συνέδρια καὶ ἐν ταῖς συναγωγαῖς αὐτῶν μαστιγώσουσιν ὑμᾶς· 18 καὶ ἐπὶ ἡγεμόνας δὲ καὶ βασιλεῖς ἀχθήσεσθε ἕνεκεν ἐμοῦ εἰς μαρτύριον αὐτοῖς καὶ τοῖς ἔθνεσιν. 19 ὅταν δὲ παραδῶσιν ὑμᾶς, μὴ μεριμνήσητε πῶς ἢ τί λαλήσητε· δοθήσεται γὰρ ὑμῖν ἐν ἐκείνῃ τῇ ὥρᾳ τί λαλήσητε· 20 οὐ γὰρ ὑμεῖς ἐστε οἱ λαλοῦντες ἀλλὰ τὸ πνεῦμα τοῦ πατρὸς ὑμῶν τὸ λαλοῦν ἐν ὑμῖν.
21 Παραδώσει δὲ ἀδελφὸς ἀδελφὸν εἰς θάνατον καὶ πατὴρ τέκνον, καὶ ἐπαναστήσονται τέκνα ἐπὶ γονεῖς καὶ θανατώσουσιν αὐτούς. 22 καὶ ἔσεσθε μισούμενοι ὑπὸ πάντων διὰ τὸ ὄνομά μου· ὁ δὲ ὑπομείνας εἰς τέλος οὗτος σωθήσεται.
23 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.
24 Οὐκ ἔστιν μαθητὴς ὑπὲρ τὸν διδάσκαλον οὐδὲ δοῦλος ὑπὲρ τὸν κύριον αὐτοῦ. 25 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 NA28)

16 Behold I send you as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore, be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.
17 And beware of men. For they will deliver you up to the councils and in their synagogues, they will scourge you. 18 And you will be led before governors and kings for my sake as a testimony to them and to the gentiles. 19 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 20 for you are not the ones speaking, but the Spirit of your Father will be the one speaking in you. 21 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. 22 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.
23 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.
24 A disciple is not above the teacher. Neither is a slave above his master. 25 It 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. (Matthew 10:16-25 translated from the NA28 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.

26 Μὴ οὖν φοβηθῆτε αὐτούς· *οὐδὲν γάρ ἐστιν κεκαλυμμένον ὃ οὐκ ἀποκαλυφθήσεται καὶ κρυπτὸν ὃ οὐ γνωσθήσεται. 27 ὃ λέγω ὑμῖν ἐν τῇ σκοτίᾳ εἴπατε ἐν τῷ φωτί, καὶ ὃ εἰς τὸ οὖς ἀκούετε κηρύξατε ἐπὶ τῶν δωμάτων. 28 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. 29 οὐχὶ δύο στρουθία ἀσσαρίου πωλεῖται; καὶ ἓν ἐξ αὐτῶν οὐ πεσεῖται ἐπὶ τὴν γῆν ἄνευ τοῦ πατρὸς ὑμῶν. 30 ὑμῶν δὲ καὶ αἱ τρίχες τῆς κεφαλῆς πᾶσαι ἠριθμημέναι εἰσίν. 31 μὴ οὖν φοβεῖσθε· πολλῶν στρουθίων διαφέρετε ὑμεῖς.
32 Πᾶς οὖν ὅστις ὁμολογήσει ἐν ἐμοὶ ἔμπροσθεν τῶν ἀνθρώπων, ὁμολογήσω κἀγὼ ἐν αὐτῷ ἔμπροσθεν τοῦ πατρός μου τοῦ ἐν [τοῖς] οὐρανοῖς· 33 ὅστις δʼ ἂν ἀρνήσηταί με ἔμπροσθεν τῶν ἀνθρώπων, ἀρνήσομαι κἀγὼ αὐτὸν ἔμπροσθεν τοῦ πατρός μου τοῦ ἐν [τοῖς] οὐρανοῖς. (Matthew 10:26-33 NA28)

26 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. 27 What I say to you in the darkness speak in the light, and what in your ear you hear, preach on the housetops. 28 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. 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And one of them will not fall on the earth without the knowledge of your Father. 30 And even the hairs of your head are all numbered, 31 therefore, do not be afraid. You are worth more than many sparrows.
32 Therefore, everyone who confesses me before men, I will also confess him before my Father in Heaven. 33 And, whoever will deny me before men, I will also deny him before my Father in Heaven.
(Matthew 10:26-33 translated from the NA28 Greek text)

If you have not read the biography of John Bunyan you should do so. 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 site of the old Globe Theater in London, huge crowds would come to hear him. 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.

You should also visit your local “Christian bookstores. Do a simple inventory. It can be quite shocking, but there is quite a bit of what is in some of these storefronts that are anything but Christian. Not long ago I saw a book in one titled Jesus Lied – He is not God. Now my brethren, that is what is called denying Jesus before men. The fellow who authored that 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!

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