If you have your Bibles, I would invite you to turn with me to Matthew, chapter 10. From Matthew 10:24, to the end of this chapter, the Lord Jesus Christ is continuing this message in which He commissioned His disciples on their first journey to spread the word of God abroad in the villages and towns of the surrounding countryside. We said that in this commissioning, some of the things He told them were specifically related to that first mission, although there were points and applications that we could all draw for ourselves from those points. However, much of His message is a universally applicable message. It's far broader than just that particular place and time, particularly today from verse 24 through the end of the chapter. This section of Matthew 10 tells us much about what it means to be a disciple. Christ is teaching His disciples here the meaning of true Christian discipleship. So let's attend the word of God together, beginning in Matthew 10:24:
Oh Lord, we thank You for this word. It is a glorious challenge, filled with much graceful truth. But we sense also, Lord, hard words. Words not just hard to understand, but hard to live. So by the grace of the spirit we would ask that You would help us understand this truth, and to make it a reality in our own lives as we become disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. For we ask it in His name, amen.
In this passage the Lord Jesus is teaching His disciples what being His disciples will involve. He's teaching them about the true meaning of being His disciples. You remember we said before that His disciples had some misnomers about what His kingdom was going to be like. They conceived of it in triumphalistic and earthy terms. They saw themselves as being important, sitting at His right and left hand, judging in a renovated or rejuvenated Israel, perhaps ruling over all the people of God who had come back to God in a great revival. And the Lord Jesus wanted to disabuse them of misunderstandings of the nature of His kingdom, lest they be discouraged. They imagined thousands upon thousands coming to Christ through their preaching of the gospel of the kingdom. And He wanted to remind them, though there would be thousands and thousands who would come to Him through their preaching, yet there would be many thousands who rejected them because they rejected Him. And they would hate them, and they would pursue them, and they would oppose them. So He wanted to prepare the disciples for what they would face.
And isn't what the disciples were going to face a perennial issue for Christians? The disciples were going to face opposition from a world, a world that hated Christ. And we as believers, every time that we are faithful to Christ in every generation, we will face opposition. It comes in different sizes and shapes. It comes in different forms, and yet, when we are faithful to Christ, we face opposition. Ryle once said, “If you leave the world alone, it will probably leave you alone. But if you attempt to do the world spiritual good, it will hate you just like it hated your Lord.”
And that's very important for us to remember. We live in a country which was once characterized by a wholesale societal commitment to Christianity. We are moving into a phase, it appears, where Christianity is very much a minority report, societally speaking. Even though the churches are relatively full, we see signs of opposition to Christianity and to the gospel. Aspects of the gospel message are openly criticized in the society as narrow minded, things which we should leave behind. And so we ourselves need to be reminded of these truths which the Lord Jesus told to the disciples here in Matthew 10. And I'd like to point you to four or five of them this morning.
I. It is the destiny, privilege, and blessing of the Christian disciple to receive the Master’s treatment
The first one you'll see in verse 24 and 25. There we learn that it is the destiny, it is the privilege, and it is the blessing of the Christian disciple to receive His master's treatment. It is the destiny, it is the privilege, it is the blessing of a Christian disciple to receive the same treatment as our Lord, our Master received. Notice what He says to His disciples there. “A disciple is not above His teacher, a slave is not above His master. If they had called the head of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign the members of the household.” The Lord Jesus is telling His disciples that they are not to be surprised if they are treated in the same way that He is treated. In fact, He says, you ought to be surprised if you're not treated in the same way that I am treated. It is very interesting in this passage, Matthew tells us that there are apparently some of the Pharisees who are actually calling Jesus “Satan.” We know that in Matthew 12, that they have attributed His power to heal people and to cast out demons to the work of Satan. But here, the Lord Jesus says there are apparently some people, and you'll see it in verse 25, who are calling him “Beelzebul, the Lord of the demons, Satan.” Can you imagine it? The Lord Jesus, come to the world to save us from our sins, and there are some people who called him the prince of the demons. It is still so today my friends. There are some who look upon what the Lord Jesus did with repugnance. They reject Him They hate Him. And the Lord is saying to His disciples, “Look if they feel about Me that way, don't be surprised if they hate you, if they oppose you, if they attack what you're doing.” He is reminding them that a disciple is not privileged above the privileges of His teacher, is He? A slave doesn't have more privileges or a different reception from the general multitude as His master does, does He? And so the Lord Jesus reminds them that they will be disparaged, just as He has been disparaged.
And they are not to lose heart because of that. In fact, they are to take heart, because it is a privilege to be treated like their Master. And He tells us in verse 25, in the first phrase, it is enough for a slave to be as his master, to be like his master, to be treated like his master. It is a privilege for us to be able to walk in the same footsteps of the Lord Jesus as the world opposes us. Now what Jesus is going to do in the remaining verses of this passage, is to give His disciples encouragement to go on, even though they are going to face this kind of opposition. But you see how important what He's saying to them is. They were expecting a general outpouring of support in Israel for the message that they were going to preach. It was so important for Jesus to say, ‘O My beloved brothers, My friends, My disciples, though many will come to faith through your ministry, there are going to be many who hate you with an equal and an opposite intensity. And you must be prepared for that opposition, because that opposition will not be a sign that you're failing. It's a sign that you are Mine. It's a sign that you are united to Me.’ And that's something so important for us to learn, my friends.
There are many applications in this verse, which is before us now. Let me just remind you of a couple of them. First of all, notice how Jesus relates to His disciple. He uses the image, the model, the illustration of a disciple and a teacher and a slave and a master, and He relates appropriately to His people as both a teacher and a master. He related to us as a teacher in that He teaches us what is good, what is true, and He teaches us with authority. The Lord Jesus is the one who teaches His disciples what is good. The world will try and tell you what is good. And the world will try and tell you what true happiness consists in. And the world will try and tell you how to get that true happiness. But a disciple of Jesus believes only in the happiness of which the Lord Jesus teaches him, and in the way that the Lord Jesus says that you find that happiness. And that's one of the great contrasts between a disciple of Christ and a disciple of this world. There are all sorts of plans for how to be happy in life on the market today. But the disciples of the Lord Jesus follow His way. He says, “seek first the kingdom, and all these things will be added to you.” Now that's a radically opposite and different plan than is on the market in the world today. But the Lord Jesus is the one who tells us how to find happiness, what is good.
He's also the one who tells us truth. The Lord Jesus's words are true. Even if the general population doesn't happen to agree with the Lord Jesus, Jesus's disciples believe His teachings to be true. And that is because we receive His teachings as authoritative. They are not just the words of a wise man, or a great prophet, a tremendous orator, a moral man, a social critic. They are the words of the Son of God. And we believe these words to be authoritative. And one of the great tests of our discipleship is when we are faced with one of those crunch times, where we must either believe what God has said in His word and follow it, or where we are tempted to do what we think might be in our better interest. And a true disciple of Christ learns to do what the word says, despite all the evidence to the contrary. And so in all those ways He is our teacher. That's one thing the Lord is to us. He teaches us what is good, what is true, and His teaching is authoritative for us.
But He's also our master. The Lord Jesus rules over His people. He is our King as well as our Savior. And we are to be obedient to our Lord and Savior. He is not only our friend, He draws close to us, does He not as our friend? He is a friend of sinners, but He's more than just a friend of sinners. He's also a teacher of sinners. To lead us in the pleasant ways of truth, and He is also the master of sinners because He is going to transform us from sinful creatures to one day to being perfect before the heavenly father. He's going to lead us in that way, both by example and by command. And so the Lord Jesus in using those little words, master and teacher, teaches us much about how He relates to us.
But there's another thing we learn from these verses, verses 24 and 25, and that is this. It is a function of our union with Christ that if we are united to Him, if we are joined with Him, we will share His trials and His opposition. The Lord Jesus wants His disciple to understand that when He calls you to discipleship, though He calls you to a salvation which is free, and He calls you to a salvation which is glorious, He also calls you to a costly discipleship. He calls you to be ready to lose everything for His sake, because what He's going to give you is going to be more than you could ever possibly lose for Him. And so He calls you to that kind of discipleship. But He wants you to remember, that even as He calls you to trials and opposition, you will just as surely share the blessings of His glory in the end. As you have shared His trials, as you have shared the opposition to the Master, so you will also share His glory. What happens to the Master, happens to the disciple. That is a set principle of Christianity. If we are united with Christ, we must expect to walk in the way of trouble. If we become Christians thinking that trouble will never again visit our doorstep, we are sadly mistaken, because our Lord lived a life of sorrow and grief. When we are called to walk in that way of sorrow and grief, we cannot be surprised. But we must never forget that just as surely as we are called to endure trials, we will be called to share His glory. Because, what happens to the Master, happens to the disciple, and that cuts both ways: both in the way of difficulty and the way of glory. And so, we learn in these verses that it's the destiny and the privilege and the blessing of a Christian disciple to receive the same treatment as the Master. And we must be prepared for that, my friends.
There was a day, where you could preach the gospel in this land, and there would be many who would respond to it favorably. And there would be many more even though standing on the side lines who would congratulate you for doing a public good, because they would think, “Well, at least they are helping people be more moral.” We live in a day and time now when your proclamation of the gospel in your life and in your words meets derision from many, for we live in a society where there are many who are radically opposed to the tenants of Christianity. And they are radically opposed to the things that our Lord Jesus is. We must be prepared to face this kind of opposition if we are going to be faithful disciples going into a new millennium.
II. It is a key characteristic of the Christian disciple to fear God rather than man
There's a second thing that we learn in this passage. You'll see it in verses 26 and 28. In those verses we learn that it is characteristic of a Christian disciple to fear God rather than man. Christ's disciples are more concerned about what God thinks of them than of what the surrounding multitudes think. Christ's disciples fear God rather than man. Jesus says in verse 26, “Do not fear them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be revealed or hidden that will not be known. Do not fear those who will kill the body, but who are unable to kill the soul, but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” The Lord tells us there, that one day, all those who oppose His disciples, their persons, their deeds, their schemes against Christ's people, those they have victimized, one day all of that will come to light. And He says, ‘Don't fear what these men do in darkness against you. It's all going to be brought to light. It's all going to be judged. There's going to be no injustice that you suffer on My behalf that I'm not going to bring to light and judge. Don't you fear that you're going to walk through this world and never receive justice. You're going to get justice in the end. All those who have opposed you. They will be brought to justice.’ And so He says, ‘Don’t you fear those who are opposing you, and all their plots that they do in secret.’ And furthermore, He says, ‘Don’t fear those people who do not have power over death in hell.’ He is saying, there is no enemy of the Christian that has the power of death in hell. Satan, you see, does not have the power of death in hell. Only God has the power of death in hell, and He's saying, ‘Don't you fear your enemies because Christians don’t have enemies that have power over the soul. Only God has that power.’
Jesus is offering His disciples two encouragements in these words in verses 26 and 28. First, He is saying to them, remember that your enemies cannot prevent you from being publicly vindicated for being servants of God. It doesn't matter how they hate you and it doesn't matter whether they try and bury you in this life. In the last day God is going to raise you from the dead, and He is going to pronounce you to be His child. Don't you worry about them forbidding you from being publicly vindicated.
And furthermore, He's saying, don’t you worry because all their deeds are going to be brought to light too. They're going to be exposed for what they are, no matter whether they paraded as religious people, or wise people, or whatever else, they're going to be exposed. So you remember that. That's His first encouragement to His disciples. You remember, there is going to be a day when everything is put above the table, nothing under the table anymore, it's on the table. It will all be exposed. And right and wrong will be black and white. And nobody will be able to argue about it. And God will have vindicated these people.
But the second encouragement that He gives to them, is this, ‘Don't worry about those who can only kill your body. Instead, you revere, you fear, you be in awe of the one who can kill body and soul.’ He's saying this, ‘Christian disciple, when you go out in the world, what is your great temptation? Your desire is for people to come to Christ. So your great temptation is to so much want them to like what you are, and like what you say, that you actually end up compromising. You fear what they think more than you fear what God thinks.’ And so He says, as you go out as a disciple in the world, you need to go out into the world realizing that God is your audience. He's your primary audience. He's the one that you're aiming to please, or you won't be able to do any good to anyone else. You must fear God rather than man. They may be able to kill your body, they may be able to torture you, He says, but God can send a soul to hell. And so you fear the one who can kill the soul.
Isn't it interesting here, that Jesus is giving His disciples encouragement based on the doctrine of hell. That's so alien to our minds. That the doctrine of hell is a doctrine that most Christians today would love to just forget, just shove it back on the back corner of the shelf, and let the dust collect. We know it's not popular with our contemporaries, and it hurts us to even think about. It hurts us to do exposition of the Scriptures which teach it. But I want you to see your Lord here is giving you an encouragement based on the doctrine of hell. He's saying here, that we must remember that God will set things right. And that is going to involve both reward and punishment. And we must never forget that. He will set things right. He will bring things to light in the end. And He has the power over death and hell. We must take that with deadly seriousness, my friends, no matter how much we are ridiculed for this belief.
Only a few years ago, a Christian minister in Britain was making fun, publicly, in a magazine article about the doctrine of hell, as if there were people out there clamoring for the doctrine of hell to be preached every Sunday. He ridiculed it again, advancing his own reputation by attacking an unpopular doctrine. One of my friends, a very celebrated journalist in Scotland, wrote a response to this man's public attack on the Christian doctrine of hell, and it was published in the largest newspaper in Scotland. This young man had been voted the journalist of the year, and he put his career on the line, in responding in an article. I'll tell you as an aside, his article received more mail than any article in the history of the Glasgow Herald. Not all of it, of course, was positive, but he gave a faithful testimony to Christian belief. And listen to some of the things that he said. “Now your intrepid columnist is an ebullient and cheerful fellow, and nothing would delight him more than to be able to assure his reader that hell is a medieval fiction. But he cannot. Hell flows logically from the teaching of Scripture. The terrible end that awaits the ungodly is stressed from Genesis to Revelation. It is as much a part of the New Testament as of the Old. Indeed, Jesus in the gospel refers more often to hell than anyone else in the Bible. He believes in it, in sober earnest. After all, He created it. For hell is not the kingdom of Satan; hell is Satan's prison.” And so he responded to the charges of those who mocked this doctrine. The doctrine of hell is here in point by Christ, to encourage Christians realizing the seriousness of our discipleship, and realizing that we are not playing games here. The message that we preach has eternal consequences. And we must be prepared to do good to the souls of men and women, because it has eternal significance, how they will respond to the gospel.
III. It is the responsibility of the Christian disciple to speak the words of the Master
We also learn in verse 27, that it is the responsibility of the Christian disciple to speak the words of His master. There the Lord Jesus says to His disciples, “What I tell you in darkness, speak in the light. And what you hear whispered in your ear, proclaim upon the housetops.” The disciples had been taught certain things by the Lord Jesus in early parts of His ministry, when He told them, ‘Now you keep that to yourself.’ Think of the people that He would heal, and they would say, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of God.’ And He would say, ‘Now don't tell anybody that.’ The events of the crucifixion and the resurrection were yet to come, and so the proclamation of the gospel of those events had to await those events occurring. Those things had to be kept privately amongst the disciples. But then, when the day of Pentecost comes, that proclamation must be made everywhere, openly, all the teaching of Christ needed to be proclaimed frankly and openly and courageously every where in the world, no matter how unpopular it was.
That is, by the way, one of the hallmarks of Christian teaching. We don't proclaim some things, holding back certain things that we believe, but not letting the general public know about them. Our truth is an open truth. We proclaim it everywhere. There's not something that we try to reel you in with, and then we sort of pop it out at the end and say, “Oh by the way, we also believe in this, this and this and this.” Come to First Presbyterian Church and we'll tell you exactly what we believe. We've got it in books in the pews. Pick them up and take them with you. That's one of the distinctive marks of Christian teaching; it's open teaching. Cults and sects will attempt to reel you in, and then they'll spring their secret teachings on you. That is a distinctively pagan approach to evangelism. Christians are open in their proclamations. They'll tell you exactly what they think, up front. And so the Lord Jesus calls upon His disciples to preach the whole counsel of God, publicly, when the day of the resurrection comes.
IV It is the comfort of the Christian disciple to trust in the Lord’s watch care
Notice again in verses 29 through 31, we see that the comfort of the Christian disciple is in trusting in the Lord's watchcare over him. The Lord Jesus gives a tongue-in-cheek illustration of the Father's care. There were small birds that were eaten as delicacies in the Mediterranean world which could be obtained for a penny. And He said, the heavenly Father cares for those sparrows. They go two for a penny in the marketplace. Don't you think He cares more for you than those birds? The heavenly Father cares even for the most insignificant creatures. This little sparrow, as He falls from the tree, doesn't fall apart from the knowledge and the will of the heavenly Father. So how much more does the Father care for His disciples. Jesus is offering this encouragement in the disciples. There is no enemy who can undercut the father's watchcare over you. There is no enemy who can separate you from the Father's love. You are beloved of the Father. Trust in the Father's watchcare. This is an encouragement for the disciples. You face opposition. You're out trying to do the world good, to preach the gospel, and what does the world do? It hates you. It devalues you. And you are tempted to feel worthless, because of the response you get from a hateful world. The Lord Jesus says, even if they think you're worthless, I want you to know what the heavenly Father thinks of you. He values you. He cares about you. He loves you. There is nothing that can happen to you, apart from His will.
Think of how the Lord Jesus, on the night in which He was betrayed, took comfort in the fact when He said, ‘You could not do this except it had been appointed from the hand of the Father in heaven.’ He said this to His captors, “You could not have done this if it had not been appointed by the hand of the Father in heaven.” That is the way every Christian may respond to every dark providence. This could not have happened, if it had not been appointed from the heavenly Father. This could not have happened if it had not been appointed from the hand of the Father in heaven that loves me. Those are hard words to say sometimes. But don't fail to take the comfort that your Lord took in the reality that the heavenly Father cares for us.
The first question of The Heidelberg Catechism is a question that many of you have memorized and it speaks of just His kind of love and watchcare. It asks, “What is your only comfort in life and in death?” And it answers, “That I, with my soul and body both in life and death am not my own, but belong unto my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ, who with His precious blood has fully satisfied for all my sins, and delivered me from the power of the devil, and so preserves so that without the will of my heavenly Father, not a hair can fall from my head. Yes, that all things must be subservient to my salvation, wherefore by His Holy Spirit, He also assures me of eternal life and makes me heartily willing and ready, henceforth, to live to Him.” That is our comfort in life. Not a hair can fall from our head, not a hair can fall from our head apart from the will of the heavenly Father. Jesus is offering this as an encouragement to His disciples, because He knows that they are going to meet opposition in the world.
V. It is essential that the Christian disciple publicly confess Jesus Christ as Lord
There is finally this, and you'll see it in verses 32 and 33. Jesus expects His disciples to publicly confess Him as Lord. He says, “Therefore, everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven.” Jesus is saying that His disciples must openly own His lordship over them, not only by their public profession of Him, but by their lives. They must show that He is their Lord. When those difficult times of life come, when it's hard to be a servant of the Lord, hard to be a disciple of the Lord, when those come along, we're to show ourselves to be His disciples by obedience.
And Jesus is clearly asserting His lordship here. Notice, He assumes to Himself, the prerogative of determining in the end time, who goes to heaven and who goes to hell. “If you confess Me, I confess you. If you deny Me, I deny you.” The Lord Jesus makes it clear, He has the right to choose. He's the one who will make the final decision. And it's all based on our relationship to Him, if we trust in Him, if we profess in Him, if we confess Him before men.
Jesus is offering this as a last encouragement to His disciples. He's offering this as an encouragement, that those who confess Him, He will confess before the heavenly Father. You see, salvation is a free gift that costs you everything. And the Lord Jesus is saying, though the salvation that I give you, you cannot earn, I must give it to you freely, it may cost everything. Being My disciple may cost you everything. But the everything that you give, will not equal what I'm going to give. So if you're confessing My name costs you everything, you just remember, everything that you lose for Me, will not even compare to what I will give you when I confess you before the Father. Do you believe? Embrace Him today. Believe Him. He will confess you before the Father. Let's look to Him in prayer.
Our Lord and our God, we would ask the grace to follow Christ, confessing Him, losing all that we might gain Him. For Christ's sake we ask it, Amen.