Again this morning, we are coming to the tenth chapter of Matthew, and I would call your attention to verses 5 through 15. I would like to read those verses as you follow along, and that will become the setting for our message to you from the Lord’s Word.
Matthew 10, beginning in verse 5. After having named the 12 apostles, Matthew writes, “These twelve Jesus sent forth and commanded them, saying, ‘Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter not. But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as you go, preach, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons. Freely ye have received, freely give.
“‘Provide neither gold, nor silver, nor copper in your purses, nor a bag for your journey, neither two coats, neither shoes, nor yet a staff, for the workman is worthy of his food.
“‘And into whatsoever city or town you shall enter, enquire who in it is worthy, and there abide till ye go from there. And when you come into an house, greet it. And if the house be worthy, let your peace come upon it. But if it be not worthy, let your peace return to you. And whosoever shall not receive you nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet. Verily I say unto you, it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah, in the day of judgment, than for that city.’”
Now as we look at this text, we are reminded again that our Lord has trained the Twelve, and He is now about to send them out for the first time. This is part of their training, but it is also part of their sending. That is they are going not only to be trained, but they’re going to preach the Gospel as well to a harvest of lost, scattered, shepherdless souls.
Don’t think for a minute that the Lord has only in mind their education in them being sent; He has in mind the salvation of open-hearted people as well. And so, it’s a twofold mission: evangelism is the primary job, and secondarily the training of the Twelve so that they’ll be better ready when they are fully and finally and officially sent out in their permanent ministry after the coming of the Holy Spirit.
The Lord, then, is in the process of discipling them, of building them up so that they can reach their generation with the Gospel. Our own college pastor, Allen Hadidian, has written a very insightful book called Successful Discipling that all of us should read and be familiar with. And in that book, he has an excellent definition, I think, of discipling. He writes this, “Discipling others is the process by which a Christian, with a life worth emulating, commits himself for an extended period of time to a few individuals who have been won to Christ, the purpose being to aid and guide their growth and maturity and equip them to reproduce themselves in a third spiritual generation.
Now, the heart of what he says is this: discipling is a process whereby an individual commits himself to others for an extended period of time to bring them to the place where they can reproduce themselves in the next generation. That is exactly what our Lord did. Our Lord was committed to giving Himself, for an extended time, to a few men so that they could be brought to maturity and equipped to reach their generation.
Now, we are in the midst of this process as we study the tenth chapter of Matthew. And it is a key stage in their training. They’re going to get a taste of what it is to evangelize. They’re going to get a taste of what it is to step out of the fold, if you will, out of the flock, away from the protecting care of the Shepherd, and hit the world.
And we see in verses 5 to 15 the principles for their mission. In the next section, verses 16 to about verse 23, the reaction to their mission. And finally, the cost of being a representative of Christ closes out the chapter.
Now, they have been for some time with our Lord, many months by now. They’ve seen his miracles. They have heard His unequaled teaching about the kingdom. They have learned how to live. They have learned how to believe and trust. They’ve learned how to pray. And they are now ready to be said to evangelize the towns and villages of Galilee to reach that vast harvest of souls that our Lord saw in verse 37 of chapter 9. Those shepherdless sheep of verse 36. They are prepared, in a way, that that is the multitude. They’ve seen enough and heard enough so that the ones of them who are open are open, and all they need is someone to give them the message.
So, the Lord sends forth what we call “the original missionaries,” the first 12 sent by Christ Himself. And in sending them, though they are humanly speaking unqualified, He has poured His power into them and made them able to change the world.
In chapter 10, verse 1, He called them, and He gave them power. And it was power that could enable them to go way beyond anything their humanness ever dreamed possible in the advance of the kingdom.
Now, as He sends them, He gives them principles for their mission. And although there is a sense in which this is a very isolated situation, you can never reproduce it in any point in history. There never has been another 12 disciples of Jesus; there never has been another time such as this time, when the kingdom was being specifically offered to Israel. So, there are some dispensational limits to the specifics of this passage. But nonetheless, as we look at what Jesus said to them, I believe they are some timeless principles for any mission or any missionary.
Now, we asked the question last week, “What are the principles for an effective missionary?” And I believe they’re here. I believe what our Lord tells them is a summation of the tremendously important principles for representing Jesus Christ in the world. And all of us, though we may not be officially sent as the Twelve, or as a pastor/teacher or evangelist is, nonetheless sent as representatives of Christ into the world.
Now, let me remind you of the first few that we looked at last time. The first principle for an effective mission is a divine commission. A divine commission, verse 5, “These Twelve Jesus sent forth and commanded them.”
In other words, they were under orders from the living God. Going out to represent the Lord Jesus Christ, you are not on your own. You do not make your own choices, call your own shots, determine your own direction. But you are under orders. You are under responsibility. You are answerable for everything you do and say to God Himself, who scrutinizes your ministry.
So, as one who represents Christ, you are under a divine commission. And I believe that is the first and essential element of Christian service: to know that Christ has sent us. He has gifted us and trained us and prepared us and sent us out. For all that it means to be sent, for the sense of authority, for the sense of rightness about the mission, and also for all that it means about submission, for the sense of responsibility to the one who is our Lord, we need to recognize that we are divinely sent.
We do not determine our own destiny; we do not mark out our own patterns and plans; we are under His orders. And that is necessary in any effective mission, that overarching awareness that I am sent by Christ Himself, and He is the one who determines what I am and what I do.
Secondly – and we saw this last week – one who goes out representing Christ not only has a divine commission but a central objective. A central objective. And we talked about how important it is to have some precision in your ministry, to have a track, to have a focus, to know what it is you’re called to do, gifted to do, sent to do, and to do it – and to not become so diversified that you wind up doing nothing very well.
In verse 5, He says to them, “Don’t go to the Gentiles and don’t go to the Samaritans.” In verse 6, He says, “Go only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Now, we discussed why He said that. Three reasons. Reason number one, the specific place of the Jews. They were God’s chosen people. They were the people of the promises and the covenants. They were the people who were given the law. They were the people who were to be the channel to reach the world. It wasn’t that God was going to ignore the Gentiles; it was that Israel was being given the opportunity t be the vehicle to reach the Gentiles.
The message was, “If Israel repents, and the kingdom comes to Israel, then Israel will be used by God to draw all nations to the Messiah.” So, God was going for a tool. Israel was not a cul-de-sac; Israel was a channel, a thoroughfare to the rest of the world.
And so, God was calling out a witnessing people, calling out His covenant people, “Will you be my witness in the world to reach the nations?” And so, He says, “Go to them and give them that first opportunity.” That’s why He sent them to the Jews only - in order to fulfill the special place of the Jews.
But secondly, because of the special problem of the Twelve. They weren’t equipped for Gentile evangelism. The cultural gap was too great. There was too much hatred and too much bitterness and too much animosity to try to hurdle. These were young recruits. The responsibility of going to the Jews was enough without crossing cultural barriers and trying to go to the Gentiles and Samaritans.
And thirdly, the specific point of attack. Our Lord also knows that when people go out on a mission, they need to have a very specific target. And I think that’s a third reason He narrowed the target. It made it so simple; they knew exactly where they were to go.
Now, we realize today that we are not dispensationally oriented like this. We’re not offering the kingdom to Israel. We’re not instructed to go to the Jew only, but rather to go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature. But nonetheless, there is a perspective here that I think is important, and that is that we are to function in precision.
In other words, knowing our gifts, understanding our callings, we move out. Paul was that way. He said, “I desired not to build on any other man’s foundation. I went where Christ was not named.” In other words, “I had a clear focus of what God wanted me to do.” And based on our gifts and our callings, we are to have that same precision.
Thirdly, one who represents Christ, one who goes on a mission for Christ, must have a clear message. And in verse 7, He said, “As you go, preach, saying, “‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’” And that means that their message was very, very clear. It wasn’t psychology; it wasn’t philosophy; it wasn’t human wisdom; it wasn’t politics. It was not economics. The message was the kingdom of heaven and its imminence. The nearness of the kingdom. “Tell them that heaven is coming to earth. Tell them of God and all of His reign, and all that it means internally and externally, in men and around men and over men. Talk about the kingdom. Their ministry A to Z, alpha to omega, was the kingdom of heaven, and it was clear and precise. So, they had a divine commission, a central objective, and a clear message.
Now, let’s come to the fourth point and pick it up where we left off last time. Those who represent Christ – and this is essential – those who represent Christ must have a confirming credential. If you were to go out and preach Jesus Christ, what reason would people have to believe anything that you said was really from God? Why should they believe that? Why should they believe the Twelve when they went out and said, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand”? Why should they believe that? And when they said, “The Messiah is here, and it’s none other than Jesus of Nazareth,” and when they preached the principles of the king – and maybe they would repeat much of the Sermon on the Mount – while they were preaching all of this, why would the people want to believe that? Why should they believe it? Because they had credentials; because there was some confirmation.
If you go to a doctor, and he gives you a diagnosis, why do you believe that? Well, because he’s a doctor; he’s got something hanging on the wall that says he graduated from a medical school somewhere and he knows his stuff. I mean there’s credentials. If you and your company are going to hire a man, he comes in and tells you he’s got all these degrees and all of this training, and he’s got his Ph.D. in the field you want to use him for, you say, “Well, he must be able to do the job; he’s been approved. He has credentials.”
But what do you do with a preacher when there weren’t any seminaries? How do you know he’s really on target? In fact, these guys were the very opposite of the existing religious establishment. They had not been educated in the right place. They were from Galilee, not Jerusalem. They didn’t belong to the Pharisees or the Sadducees or the Essenes or the zealots or anybody else.
I mean what was the reason to believe them? There wasn’t any New Testament to compare what they said with, and nobody had a copy of the Sermon on the Mount; why believe them? There were credentials; that’s why. Verse 8, “Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons. Freely ye have received, freely give.”
Now, beloved, those are the credentials of the apostles. They had to have something that made them convincing. Now, we’ve already discussed the specifics of healing, and cleansing lepers, and raising the dead, and casting out demons. All of that’s gone on in chapters 8 and 9. We’ve seen the Lord do that already, and I don’t want to spend time going over all of those things again. But I want you to see some rich truth here about the nature of these specific things. The credentials were the key to marking them out as representatives of God.
In 2 Corinthians 12:12, the apostle Paul says, “I am an apostle. I don’t come behind even the very chiefest apostle, though personally I’m nothing.” How do you know that? “For the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds.”
What is the sign of an apostle? Signs, wonders, and mighty deeds. Reversing those, mighty deeds were miracles. They created wonder, and the wonder was a sign that pointed to God as the source. Paul says, “How did you know I was an apostle and came behind not the chiefest apostle? Because of the signs of an apostle: wonders, mighty deeds, miracles.” That was the proof.
That was the way it was with Jesus. The blind man said to the Pharisees who questioned him, “You mean you don’t know who He is, and He opened my eyes? You don’t know where He came from, and I’ve been blind since birth, and He made me to see?” In other words, he was saying, “It’s pretty obvious to me where He came from. He came from God.”
And so, the ability to do these things points them out as from God. But now watch this: if that is all the miracles were intended to do, it was unnecessary to do these kind of miracles. It wasn’t necessary to do deliverance miracles, healing miracles, raising the dead miracles. It wasn’t necessary to do that. I mean just imagine they could have done anything. They could have leaped tall buildings at a single bound. They could have just stood in one spot and disappeared and then reappeared somewhere else and done invisible routines. They could have just rocketed up in space, flown around over the city, and come down with some swoops over some buildings and little deals like that and just come down and landed.
I mean they could have done some pretty astounding stuff that wouldn’t have been related to any of these kind of things. They could have read minds. They could have done all kinds of things. Why did they do this?
Let me tell you why. Look at the first credential: heal the sick and cleanse the lepers. What does that say to you? Listen, not only did they heal the sick for the sake of the miracle, and cleanse the lepers for the sake of the miracle, but the first credential they manifest – watch this – was compassion and mercy on people in need. See that? It didn’t have to be this.
As I said, they could have done all kinds of astounding, miraculous tricks that district make anybody any better. But they were revealing he great heart of God. And God cares for people who are hurting, and people who suffer, and people who are poor, and people who are sick. Yes, it dramatized the mercy of God. And it showed them that whatever the kingdom of heaven was, when it was at hand, sick people got well. Lepers lost their leprosy. In other words, it would be an element of the coming kingdom that God would remove disease.
And so, they got a little foretaste of what the kingdom was all about. And, you see, this was the first credential. It as compassion and mercy for people who suffer. Jesus always had great concern for the poor. In Matthew chapter 11, John the Baptist asked the question, “Is this really the Messiah? Is this really the Messiah? How do I know?”
And Jesus said, “You go show John this: the blind receive their sight; the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed; the deaf hear; the dead are raised up; and the poor have the Gospel preached to them.” Why tell him that? Because that will reveal that this is God’s Messiah, because He shows forth the compassionate, merciful heart of God. You see it? It wasn’t just a trick or a miracle for the sake of a miracle. It was a miracle for the sake of the true representation of the compassionate heart of God.
Listen; one who truly represents Jesus Christ gives Himself for the poor, and the hurting, and the needy, and the downtrodden. Whenever I see somebody who claims to represent Jesus Christ, and all they want to do is hang around the rich and the famous, I wonder about that. They are under the illusion that the kingdom of God is advanced by money and the rich, and they are wrong. Nothing wrong with that in itself. Most people need Christ, too. But there’s something wrong with the illusion. It is characteristic of God’s representative that they are drawn to the hurting and the downcast and the sick and the poor and the needy. And that is the heart of God revealed.
You find throughout the Old Testament this indication in Psalm 9, for example, verse 18, “For the needy shall not always be forgotten. The expectation of the poor shall not perish forever.” Psalm 12, verse 5, “‘For the oppression of the poor, for the sighing of the needy, now will I arise,’ saith the Lord, ‘and set him in safety.’” In Psalm 35, again – and I’m skipping many – but in Psalm 35, verse 10, we have a similar word, “All my bones shall say, ‘Lord, who is like unto Thee, who deliverest the poor from him that is too strong for him. Yeah, the poor and the needy from him that spoileth him?’”
And all the way near the end of Psalms in Psalm 140, verse 12, “I know that the Lord will maintain the cause of the afflicted and the right of the poor.” And Isaiah 41:17, that beautiful verse about God coming to the rescue of those that are hurting.
Now, in contrast to that, people who are representative of a wicked world, people who are representative of a false teaching do not manifest the compassion of God. That’s why the Old Testament says that wicked men, in Ezekiel 18:12, oppress the poor; in Amos 2:6, they sell the poor; in Amos 5:11, they crush the poor; in Isaiah 3:15, they grind the poor, their faces – they grind the faces of the poor; in Habakkuk 3:14, they devour the poor; in Psalm 10:2, they persecute the poor; and in Amos 5 – or rather Amos 8:5 and 6, they defraud the poor.
People who are of the world and wicked use the poor, and abuse the poor, and step on the poor, and want to eliminate the poor and the needy; they’re just in the way. On the contrary, God cares for them. He not – He forgets them not. He hears their cry. He maintains their right. He delivers, protects, exalts, provides for them. And that lovely statement of Psalm 14:6, “He is their refuge.” I believe they’re even called “My poor” in one text of the Old Testament.
False prophets and false teachers are merciless. They are without compassion. They use and abuse people. And in Mark chapter 12, the Lord indicts the scribes and the leaders of Israel with a tremendously bitter indictment. He says this, “The scribes love to go in long clothing and love the salutation in the marketplace; they love the chief seats in the synagogues, and the uppermost places at feasts, who devour widows’ houses.” They actually had a situation going where they extorted from the poor. There are people like that today even who name the name of Christ, and all they want is money, and they’ll take it from the widow if it’s her last mite. They have no thought for the needy. The one who represents our Lord is sympathetic; he is tender; he’s drawn to the sick and the poor.
You know, I was interviewed one time by a reporter, and it was a most interesting opportunity. He had done a survey across America of Christian leaders and talked to a lot of them. And he was very disillusioned. He said to me, “You know,” he said, “I’ve talked to everybody from the people on the far right, people involved in what’s known as fundamentalism and evangelicalism, and Moral Majority and all of this real right, hard-line Bible banging, Bible believers clear to the other extreme of Christians who are a little liberal – who maybe don’t believe everything that these evangelicals believe, but they claim Christ.”
And he said, “I’ve interviewed all of these people from one end to the other.” And he said, “You know something?” He said, “I found one person that I thought was more like Christ than any other.” And I asked him who it was, and he told me his name, and I knew who was talking about. And he said, “You know, he’s way over here. I mean he believes in God and Christ and all of that, but he doesn’t believe that all the Bible is necessarily inspired or whatever, and he has some different opinions over here, and he’s not nearly so evangelical as these. But his entire life is given to caring for people who are poor and oppressed and needy.”
And he said to me – this is a quote from an unregenerate reporter – “He appears to me more like Christ than all the rest.” That was really kind of sad for me to hear that. He got a lot of information from people who really had the right message but cared more for the rich and the famous and all of that. And here was somebody who maybe didn’t have the message quite together but manifested the attitude. Pretty sad indictment of Christianity in many ways.
What are the credentials? We can’t heal the sick. We can’t cleanse the lepers. We’re not living in an apostolic era. But we can show the compassion of God that was meant to be demonstrated through those things. Those are the credentials.
And secondly, the second credential is indicated in raising the dead and casting out demons. And when I read that, I only think of one thing, and that’s power. I mean the power to raise the dead and the power to invade the kingdom of darkness, the unseen world of the demons, and overcome that kingdom, that’s power. And I can’t go around raising the dead, and you can’t either, or casting out demons. And neither can anybody else today have the power and authority that our Lord and His apostles had over demons and over death. You say, “Well, then how does this relate to us?” Because it shows us power. The mark of the apostles was power.
You see, you can tell a false prophet, Matthew 7 says, simply. “By their” – what? – “fruits you shall know them.” You don’t see any power; you don’t see any changed lives; you don’t see any dramatic transformations. You don’t see the result of their ministry being the shattering of the kingdom of darkness. You don’t see someone who is dead come to life in Christ. So, you can tell a true preacher, a true representative of Christ, because wherever they go, there’s power. And false teachers and false apostles are impotent, like it says in Jeremiah 5:13, like Jesus said in Matthew 22:29, “You know not the power of God.” You’re impotent.” You can’t change anybody’s life, even your own. You’re impotent.
But when you see one who really represents God, you’re going to see power. Oh, not the power to raise the physically dead, but power to raise the spiritually dead through the Gospel of Christ; to see people redeemed. Power to shatter the demons as souls are released into the kingdom of God. And by the way, when the 12 went forth, they had power. You trace it through the Gospels, through Mark and through Luke and through the book of Acts, all the way to the twenty-eighth chapter, and you’ll see tremendous power. Effective missionaries and effective representatives of Christ have power. And they raise the spiritually dead, and they shatter the kingdom of darkness with the message of light. That’s their credentials. And if you’re going to go out and represent Jesus Christ and be believed, you better have some credentials: compassion and power.
A third one, and this is most interesting, the end of verse 8, “Freely ye have received, freely” – what? – “give.” Now, if I have compassion and mercy, it is not of the flesh; it is of God that I have that. If I have power in my ministry, it is not of the flesh. I didn’t earn that power; I didn’t gain that power; I didn’t get it by doing to seminary or Bible College. I didn’t get that power by being ordained. I got that power from God. Right? Now, what did I pay for my power? Nothing. What should I charge you for my power? Nothing. That’s exactly what he’s saying. And the third credential is unselfishness.
You show me a person who represents Jesus Christ truly, and I’ll show you someone who’s not in it for anything he can gain. The Jewish exorcists, who were in existence at the time of our Lord - went around casting out demons – charged people. And when people got demons in them, and they were aware of the demon influence and the demon power, they wanted deliverance; believe me. And they’d go to these exorcists, and these exorcists would go through all the routine, which, of course, ultimately had no result because demons have a place in the life because of sin in that life, not because of some exorcism or lack of it. But nonetheless, people would pay a great amount of money to get exorcised.
And then there were medical doctors in that period of time, however primitive their science may have been, and people would pay a great amount of money to get physically healed as well. And so, they would put prices on their services as doctors today do, and as psychiatrists and psychologists do today, who are the modern exorcists. And people will pay a fortune to go to these kinds of people to get the kind of deliverance they think they need physically and emotionally or mentally.
Now, along come the apostles. Now, get this now, instantaneously, with a word, whenever they wish, at all times, in the power of God, they can cast out demons, and they can heal the sick of any disease and raise the dead. Now, how much do you think they could make? Inconceivable. You got a dead kid? Let’s see, for so much I’ll raise him. They could have made a fortune.
Simon Magus knew that. In Acts 8, when he saw the power that the apostles had, and he tried to buy it. And he was willing to pay any price, because he knew he could make it back a thousand times over. Peter said, “Your money perish with you. You can’t buy the Holy Spirit.” The Holy Spirit is a free gift.
And so He says, “You received it free; you give it free. Don’t you ever charge anybody for your ministry; don’t you ever put a price on your ministry or your power.” This was the true law of the rabbis. A rabbi was bound by the law to give his teaching freely and for nothing. The rabbi was forbidden to take money for teaching the law which Moses had freely received from God. The only time the rabbi, said the Talmud, could ever take money for his teaching was if he taught a small child, because that was the responsibility of the parents. And if they were shirking their responsibility in favor of having the rabbi do it, they needed to pay him for it, because it was their job.
But the Mishnah said that the rabbi was never to take money for his teaching any more than a judge was to take money for his judging. That would be bribery. Or a witness take money for witnessing in a law court. Rabbi Zadok said, “Make not the law a crown wherewith to aggrandize thyself, or a spade wherewith to dig.” Hillel said, “He who makes a worldly use of the crown of the law shall waste a way. Hence thou mayest infer that whosoever desires a prophet for himself from the words of the law is helping his own destruction.”
In other words, no rabbi put a price on his ministry or his teaching. But false apostles, beloved, are always interested in their own personal aggrandizement. They’re always in it for their own gain. There’s always a price on their service. You find somebody who represents Jesus Christ and puts a price on his service, and I’ll tell you somebody who has just priced himself out of blessing from God.
First Peter says, chapter 5, “We don’t do this for filthy lucre.” Paul says to Timothy, “When you look for an elder, find a man who is not interested in gain.” Paul says to Titus, “When you ordain elders in every city, find a man who’s not interested in personal gain.” This isn’t anything new. Clear back in the fifty-sixth chapter of Isaiah, and in verses 9 through 11, the prophet says, “All ye beasts of the field, come to devour, yea, all ye beasts in the forest.” Going to be a judgment. “His watchmen” – that is the people who were supposed to be guarding Israel – “are blind: they are all ignorant; they’re all dumb dogs; they can’t bark” – not a very helpful watchdog, wouldn’t you say? – “can’t bark; sleeping, lying down, loving to slumber. But they are greedy dogs that can never have enough, and they are shepherds that cannot understand. And they all look to their own way, every one for his own gain.”
If you’re going to serve the Lord for gain, put a price on your ministry, you just priced yourself out of blessing. Through the years, I have been repeatedly asked this question, because so many people, I suppose, have a price, “What’s your fee?” I get letters all the time, “We’d like to have you come and speak. What is your fee,” or, “How much do you charge?” Well, I’ve been preaching 20 years; that seems amazing to me. I should have improved somewhere along the line. But anyway, 20 years. And never once in 20 years of my life of ministry have I ever – ever – set a price for anything I ever did. And I never would. The Bible says I received it freely; I give it freely. Why would I set a price? I have known pastors who say, “Well, I’ll come to your church. My base salary is such-and-such. If you can pay it, I’ll come.” But the credentials of a representative of Christ are compassion for the needy, power to change lives, unselfishness. No price. No price.
Now you say, “Wait a minute, MacArthur, we pay you a good salary.” You’re right. That’s the next point. And we do want to go on to that. There’s another credential – another credential. It’s what I call a confident faith. It’s another – really not a credential; it’s another mark of an effective missionary, the mark of an apostle, a representative of Christ. Yes, a divine commission; yes, a central objective, a clear message, a confirming credential, and now a confident faith.
You say, “Well, you mean you can’t put a price on your ministry? You’re liable to get – you’re liable to go somewhere and spend a lot of money getting there, and what if they don’t give you anything?”
Well, that’s happened. Oh, that’s happened, sure. Sure. I went clear across the United States of America, three days, preached my heart out. Came back, never heard a word. Not a thank you, nothing. This has happened several times.
The other day, I got a long distance phone call, “Do you remember back in – a year-and-a-half ago, when you spoke for us, and we didn’t ever say thanks to you? We’re sorry.”
I said, “Hey, it never bothered me. It’s okay. I mean it’s fine.” But that happens. I mean I’ve gone 3 times in a row, 50-mile round trip, spoken 3 times and gotten a check for $3.00, a dollar each time. That didn’t pay for the gas. And frankly, I sent it back. I thought they must have needed it more than I did. You know? But I never – you know, that’s going to happen, and that’s okay.
And then the – then the rest of the time I get more than I’m worth. But the issue with me is not to set a price. Do you see? I received the power and the call and the gifts free. God gave them to me; I can’t charge you for that. So, I’ll never set a price. I’ll never ask a fee.
But on the other hand, the fifth principle is a confident faith. At the same time, I believe God will meet my needs. Look at verse 9. Now He says to them, “As you go, you guys don’t take gold, or silver, or copper in your purses.” Now, that’s all coinage – different kinds of coinage. There was gold coinage, silver coinage, and copper coinage. He says, “Don’t take any money.”
Don’t think, “I’m going to go, but first of all, I’ve got to amass a fortunate to support this deal. I mean if I’m not going to charge anybody, and freely I’ve received, and freely I give, then it’s obvious that I’ve got to support myself. So, as soon as I get all my money collected and stuffed into my purse, I’ll be on my way.”
No, He says, “Don’t take a thing. Don’t take any money at all. Not only that, don’t take a food bag.” That’s what the word “bag” probably means, a bag of supplies and so forth, a food bag. “And don’t take two coats, figuring, ‘Boy, if something happens to my one’” – it’s an overcoat – “‘one overcoat, I got to have another one.’ And don’t take an extra pair of shoes, and don’t take an extra staff” – is what that means.
“Wow.” You say, “Well, wait a minute. I can’t tell anybody my price, and I can’t take anything with me. I’m going out there naked. I got nothing.”
Ah, a spiritual principle at the end of verse 10. Just remember this, “The workman is worthy of his sustenance.” Who made that principle up? God says, “I did. And I will manage the resources.”
So, you go in confident faith. You don’t take anything. This is like survival training. You go out there without anything. What are you trying to teach these people, Lord? “Confident faith, confident trust.”
Do you know what the Jews realized in this time? They knew this. This is how the rabbis were. They were never to price anything, they were never to demand anything, they were never to ask a fee, but always the people were to supply their needs.
Rabbi Eliezer ben Yaacov said, “He who receives a rabbi into his house or as his guest and lets him have his enjoyment from his possessions, the Scripture ascribes to him as if he’d offered the continual offerings. I mean God’s going to bless him because he took care of God’s servant. And so, you have a double thing here. You see? God’s man has never to be over-concerned with material things, but the people of God must see it their duty to support him. I can’t put the price, but it’s your responsibility before God to support the one who serves, “For the worker is worthy of his sustenance.”
You say, “Well, how – how should you do that?”
Well, in 1 Timothy 5, for example, it talks about – verse 17 and 18 – let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honor. It isn’t just meeting their need; it’s honoring them. It isn’t just honoring them; it’s double honoring them if they work hard in the word and doctrine. You don’t want to muzzle the ox while he treads.
In other words, if you want the animal to work, you’ve got to feed him. And in 1 Corinthians 9, Paul says, “They that preach the Gospel should live of the Gospel.” And he doesn’t mean live what you preach; he means live by your preaching, be supported in it.
So, we have to live by faith. We’re not allowed to put a price; we’re not allowed to make a demand but to be unselfish, and the responsibility is God’s. God says, “I know the principle, and the principle is a faithful worker is worthy, and I will move through the people to meet the need.” See? It’s all up to Him. And so, it’s all His.
You know, I’ve said this to young men all my life of ministry. I’ve said, “Look, if you never ask for anything, and you never seek anything, and you never put a price on anything, then whatever comes, you can accept as a gift from God. And there’s no confusion in your mind at all, because you didn’t seek to gain it.
That brings me to a sixth principle, and this is where the balance comes together. I call this a settled contentment. A settled contentment. One who represents Christ and is sent out as an ambassador or a missionary for Christ doesn’t put a price on his ministry, trusts God to supply, and God’ll supply through the people according to the diligence and faithfulness of his ministry. But the point is here, whatever he receives he is to be – what? – content.
Verse 11, watch this, “And into whatsoever city or town you shall enter, inquire who in it is worthy” – now what do you mean by this? “Worthy” doesn’t mean wealthy. It means worthy. What does that mean? Somebody whose character, somebody whose lifestyle, somebody whose integrity would be a fitting place for you to stay. For example, if you go into town, and you stay in a horrible, horrible home of dissolute, unregenerate, vile, wicked people, and you walk out of that every day to preach the message of holiness, nobody’s going to believe you. They’re going to identify you with the unholiness of that place you live.
I remember preaching in a meeting in a certain city, and I was – they put me in a particular motel. And when I came home after the meeting, the first night, I noticed there were about 20 big semi-trucks parked along the street and a whole lot of ladies standing in front of the entrance. And it didn’t take a phi beta kappa to figure out what was going on. And I said, “I can’t stay in this place. I mean I’ll get confused with what’s going on around here.”
And that’s essentially what you have here. You find a place that’s worthy for the occupancy of a representative of Jesus Christ; be careful where you stay. But when you find that place, “abide till you leave the town.” In other words, stay there all the time. This is what’s going to happen. You’re going to go into town; every time it’ll happen this way. And I’ve had this happen when you go to a meeting. Some dear saint’ll come up and say, “Oh, would you stay with us? We’d love to have you.”
And you’re so well received, you say, “Of course.” And you to go their home, and it’s a humble, little place, just a humble – and the food is not the bill of fare at some fancy restaurant; it’s just, you know – if you’re in the South, it’s grits and green eggs, whatever, just something real simple.
And you just – and then about two days later, somebody comes along and says, “Now, we don’t know where you’re staying, but we live up on the hill. And we’ve got eight swimming pools, and we’ve got a herd of horses.” You know? “I mean we have a suite that you...”
And you know you’re saying to yourself, “Oh, that would be really nice. How do I get out of this place I...”
You see, that’s all solved right here. Wherever you go when you get there, you stay. Wherever you are, you remain with a settled contentment. If God wants you up the hill, then they’ll meet you first when you come to town. And they’re – I don’t mind – I’ve stayed in the $150.00-a-day hotel rooms. I feel funny. I feel like people are staring at me, thinking, “How did he get in here?” And I’ve stayed in places that you wouldn’t even stay in. I mean Monty and I have stayed in places where we had to – every time we went into the bathroom, we had to collect the frogs. And – you know? – it wasn’t really a bathroom, but that’s what they told us it was. I mean we’ve – I’ve been in all those places. But the point here is, wherever it is that God in His providence takes you, be content to stay there, and don’t be in the ministry to see how much comfort you can generate for yourself. See? Settled contentment.
Contentment is so elusive, isn’t it? “Godliness” – says Paul to Timothy – “with contentment is great gain.” Some people never know that experience of contentment. Paul says, “I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. And whatever God chooses, I want to be content.”
Public preaching would lead to hospitable invitations. And they were to be careful not to lodge, first of all, in a disreputable place, and secondly, not to start climbing a social ladder, but to concentrate on the business at hand.
Can I give you two final principles very rapidly? Don’t miss them. An effective missionary representative of Jesus Christ has a concentration on the receptive. A concentration on the receptive. When you find that worthy house, go in there and stay there and minister to those dear, gracious, hospitable people, those worthy people. You stay there.
And then verse 12, “And when you come into a house” - now you’re located in that house, and now begins your ministry in that town. And so, you have your place, and now you go from house to house. And you’re going out to house, to house, to house, and you’re preaching the Gospel as you go, the Gospel of the kingdom. And whenever you come to another house, greet that house. And what is the greeting? What was the common Jewish greeting? Shalom, peace. What did it mean? Oh, it meant everything. It mean wholeness, and soundness, and health, and welfare, and prosperity, and well-being, and blessing, and benediction from God. Just pour out your blessing and say, “This house is blessed of God.”
“And if the house is worthy” – says verse 13 – “let your peace come on it” – you can stop right there. If it’s a worthy house, just pour out your blessing. Just pour out your benediction. Just let them have everything that you have to give. Concentrate on the receptive is what he’s saying. Find the open hearts. Find the places where the Gospel has access and receptivity and pour yourself into that place. That’s the concentration we have to have in ministry.
You know, I really believe that’s the focus that I want to have. I talk about this very often with people in the Christian ministry, and we talk about who you preach to. And some people will say, “Well, I just preach to those people; I’m going to get those people committed if it kills me. I’m going to...”
And you wind up preaching to the periphery all the time, to the fringe, and you ignore the dear people that are hungry and thirsty to grow, because all you’re doing is banging the ears of the people who aren’t committed. But I am committed in my heart, and I think this is because of a scriptural mandate to preach to the people who want to learn the most. I want to feed the hungry heart. Oh, now and then, like the book of Hebrews, I’ll fire out a few exhortations at the uncommitted, but basically, feed the people who receive it, because they’re the catalyst to change the world. Don’t just tickle the ears of people, but feed them substance that the people that want to grow, that want to be nurtured. Concentrate on the receptive. When you find a house that receives you, oh, pour out your peace on that house. Give them everything they want. Concentrate on the receptive. In your ministry, that’s important. You find those places where there’s openness and pour your heart into those places. Don’t smash your head against the proverbial wall.
And that leads to the last principle, and the last principle is reject the contemptuous. There must be a rejection of the contemptuous. He says at the end of verse 13, “If the house is not worthy, if they’re not receptive, they’re not interested, then let your piece return to you. Now, that’s a sort of an oriental expression. They would give their peace, and if the house wasn’t worthy, they’d take it back. In other words, they would unbless. They would come to a home, and they would say, “Peace be unto you in the name of Christ.” And the home would be vile and rejecting. And so, they would say, “We take our peace back. This house is unblessed.” They actually would do that. They would confront the situation in that way by removing the blessing that they had verbally given.
And so, He says, “If you find a place where they are not worthy, then let your peace return to you; don’t waste it on them; take it back. Don’t give them God’s benediction if they’re not worthy of God’s benediction. Don’t tell them God’s going to bless them.”
It’s the same thing in the epistles of John, where John says, “Do not, when you have someone come along who denies Christ, do not bid him” – what? – “Godspeed or you become a partaker in his evil deed.” Don’t pronounce benedictions on people who are godless. See? Don’t say, “Bless you, brother,” to someone who isn’t regenerated. God’s blessing is not to be thrown around so indiscriminately. Nor is that person to live under the illusion that they are really redeemed when they’re not, or blessed when they’re not. So, let it return to you.
And then verse 14, “And whosoever shall not receive you, nor listen to your words, when you leave that house or that city, shake off the dust of your feet.” Now, that was an – that was a little physical thing the Jews did. Whenever they went into a Gentile country, of course they got covered with dust. And when they came back into Israel, they didn’t want to bring Gentile dust into Israel, because they believed that Gentile dust would defile things.
So, before they entered Israel, they shook all this dust off of them so they wouldn’t bring any Gentile dirt back in. So, He says, “Now, you’re going to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And if they don’t hear your message, you treat them the way you’d treat a Gentile.” It’s exactly what Paul did in Acts chapter 15 – or chapter 13, when he went into the synagogue and they didn’t receive his message, and he says he shook the dust from off his feet and went next door to the Gentiles. He treated the Jews like Gentiles and the Gentiles like Jews. Treat them as a pagan.
Now, you say, “Wait a minute. Does this mean we’re to reject the contemptuous? If I go to somebody and I tell them about Christ, and they say, ‘I’m not interested,’ we just say, ‘Well, nuts to you, fella,’ and split? Is that the idea?”
Not quite. Not quite. A lot of us wouldn’t be redeemed if that was the way we were treated. Right? But the point is this, the assumption is that when they have seen the miracles, and when they have fully heard the message, and when they have been given ample opportunity to respond, and their conclusion is rejection, then you leave and treat them as the pagans that they are.
Sure, Paul says in 2 Corinthians, “We beg you, in Christ’s stead, be reconciled to God. There’s a begging; there’s a pleading; there’s a compelling. But when all the compelling is done, and all the credentials are manifest, and all the signs are given, and they still refuse, then treat them like pagans. Don’t give them the benediction of God; walk away.
And here’s the key, verse 15, “And it’ll be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city.” And it wasn’t very good for Sodom and Gomorrah, was it? I mean it rained fire and brimstone, drowned both those two cities so that they can’t even be found today. We have no trace of them left. In fact, they think they must be under the south end of the Dead Sea because they can’t find any trace of them at all.
And so, as it was in absolute, utter, total devastating and eternal destruction on those two cities, it’ll be worse for a house or a city in Galilee that refuses you. Why? People, that assumes that the town in Galilee or the house in Galilee knew more, heard more than Sodom and Gomorrah did, the point being they must then have had an awful lot of information. So, the idea being that when a city with a greater exposure to the truth of God - namely the representatives of the Lord Christ Himself, giving them the message and authenticating it with their credentials - turns their back on that, you have a Hebrews chapter situation where they have been exposed to all of the data and all of the situation, and they’ve refused; it’s impossible for them to be renewed to repentance; shake the dust and leave. When you’ve done your best, and they are unreceptive but contemptuous, don’t waste your time. Divine judgment is set on that city and that house. Very severe.
What have we learned, beloved? Listen; the Lord sent out the Twelve two by two. He said, “Here are the principles for an effective mission: first, a divine commission, then a central objective, a clear message, a confirming credential, a confident faith, a settled contentment, a concentration on the receptive, and rejection of the contemptuous.
Boy, I believe those are excellent standards for our service to Christ. Now, many of us get a direct hit with this message; I do. People who are pastors and missionaries get a direct hit. And many of you may be thinking about the mission field. You may be thinking about being in Christian service, and this is a direct hit for you. But secondarily, it hits all of us, because we all represent Christ. And as we go through these principles, we can see how they affect all of us and speak to all of our hearts.
Well, let me just ask this in conclusion, if God were to take these standards and lay them up against your life, would you really be a faithful missionary? I mean do you run your life and your representation of Christ by these standards? You know, the world has all the wrong criteria. The world would never have picked any 1 of these 12 to be the missionaries. They have all the wrong standards, but God has all the right ones.
Let me close with this story. Three a.m., cold morning in the winter. A missionary candidate walked into an office for an appointment with the examiner of a mission board. The examiner had told him to report at 3:00 a.m. in the morning. The examiner arrive at 8:00 a.m., five hours later.
The examiner, without saying a word of explanation, sat down and said, “Let’s begin. You want to be a missionary with this mission agency. I’m going to ask you some questions. First, please spell baker.”
“B-A-K-E-R,” the young man said.
“Very good. Now, let me see how much you know about figures. How much is twice two?”
“Four,” he said.
“Excellent. I’m going to recommend to the board tomorrow that you be appointed as a missionary. You have passed the test.” And he left.
At the board meeting, the examiner spoke so highly of the applicant, “One of the finest young men that we’ve seen as of yet. He has all the qualifications of a missionary. First,” he said, “I tested him on self-denial. I told him to be at my house at 3:00 in the morning in the cold. He left a warm bed and came out in the cold and never had a word of complaint.
“Secondly, I tested him on punctuality, and he was there on time. Thirdly, I examined him on patience. I made him wait five hours to see me, and he didn’t even question why I was late. Fourth, I tested him on temper, and he didn’t show any sign of it. Fifth, I tested his humility by asking him questions that a little child could answer, and he showed no offense. He meets the requirements.”
Patience. Humility. Punctuality, which demonstrates that you care for somebody else, that you wouldn’t make them waste their time and wait for you. Sacrifice, that you’d go out in the middle of the night. Those are the things that God can use to make a man into what He wants him to be. He made these 12, and He gave them the principles for their mission. May we be so effective as they.
Thank You, Father, for our time this morning. Thank You for what we’ve learned about how we’re to represent You. Bless every life here. May we all be little christs, Christians, and may the world see in us Christ, His compassion, His power, His selflessness. May we, too, know how to live by faith, trusting You for everything and in contentment for whatever You give, be it little or be it great. And may we focus on the receptive and reject the contemptuous, that we may go to the crying hearts with a message of Christ. Bring us together again tonight with great expectation, we pray in our Lord’s name, amen.
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