Let’s look in our Bibles at Matthew chapter 10. Looking back again at verses 16 through 23. Matthew 10:16 through 23. We began examining this passage last Lord’s Day and just really got started. We’re going to finish this morning these most important verses. I want you to listen carefully as the Spirit of God teaches us what our Lord would have us to know.
As the Lord Jesus Christ, in the tenth chapter of Matthew is sending forth the Twelve, He’s sending them into a hostile world. He has seen the harvest. He knows that laborers are needed. He asks them to pray, and then He sends the very ones He asked to pray.
Earlier, in the tenth chapter, He told us who they were by name. Then in verses 5 through 15, He gave them their instructions for ministry. And now, in verses 16 to 23, He tells them how to react when the world rejects them. In other words, in their very commissioning is the anticipation of rejection.
I remember when I was ordained to the Christian ministry, I had just graduated from seminary, and I was called before a council of pastors. I had to answer in three different sessions questions on the Scripture. And I remember standing at my ordination and having a man say to me, “Do you believe you’re called to preach the Gospel?”
And I said, “Yes.”
He said, “If you were forbidden to preach the Word of God, what would you do?”
I said, “I’d preach it anyway.”
He said, “If this group decided not to ordain you, determined that you were unfit for the ministry and refused to give you their sanction to preach, what would you do?”
I said, “I’d preach anyway.”
And I think what he was really doing was setting me up for the anticipated rejection that could come. And in a sense, that’s what our Lord is doing right here. He has ordained and commissioned, and now as He sends them, He says, “By the way, you are going forth,” verse 16, “as sheep in the midst of wolves. Don’t expect it to be easy.”
These were the original missionaries, and they were sent with a very honest sending. You have power – divine power – on the one hand. There is a certain invincibility in that power. ON the other hand, you are sheep, and there is a certain vulnerability in that. And so, in the ministry, that’s how it is. There is the tension between invincibility and vulnerability, the power of God and the weakness of man.
Now, as they go, they’re going to have problems because the hating world will reject them, and they need to know how to deal with those problems, and that is why he writes in verses 16 to 23. And I want to remind you of what I said last time. The passage telescopes from the moment in which our Lord was sending out the Twelve on the short-term first missionary assignment. It telescopes all the way to the time of the tribulation, and there are principles here that can relate to believers facing a hostile world in any age.
Verse 23 ends with the coming of the Son of Man. And so, it sweeps through all of the history of God’s people. Some of the things here are directly and specifically related to the Twelve, and others sweep beyond that in principle to relate to all of us, and especially that generation that’ll be alive just prior to the coming of the Lord.
Now, in order to understand the passage, we have to ask four questions. Let me remind you of the two we talked about last time. First of all, who are the wolves? And if you notice verse 17, it says, “Beware of men.” And if you notice verse 22, it says, “You’ll be hated of all men.” The wolves are our own kind. Though it is true that we wrestle against spiritual wickedness in the heavenlies, principalities, and power, rulers of the darkness, it is true that we wrestle against demonic enemies, they find their form in the world through human agencies so that men become the dupes and the pawns, and the agents of demons so that we will find our enemy attacking us through the human system. The wolves then are men.
Secondly, why are they so vicious? Verse 18 says, “They do what they do, bringing you before their governors and kings for My sake.” Verse 22 says, “For my name’s sake.” They’re viciousness comes because they are so against Christ. It is not that they really do not like us; it is that they do not like the one we represent.
Who are the wolves? They are men. Why are they vicious? Because of Jesus Christ who is so despised and hated by Satan and his demons. And thus men, as his dupes, will relate that hate toward us.
Third question, how do the wolves attack? And that’s very important, and the Lord is very explicit on that. How do the wolves attack? Let’s see, first of all, they attack through religion. Verse 17, “Beware of men, for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you” – that is they will beat you, sometimes with whips, but most often with rods strapped together that flail against the flesh – “and they will do it in their synagogues.”
Now, the “synagogue” is the key word to verse 17 because it puts us in a religious context. The Jews had synagogues, meeting places, gathering together places – that’s what the word really means. They had gathering places in every town and every village. And in the synagogue, they would carry out their own particular brand of law. If someone violated their law, their standard, the law of Moses, or their rabbinical tradition, they would be brought before the local synagogue. There was a tribunal of 23 judges who would render a verdict. And when those judges had rendered a verdict, a sentence would be carried out, and very frequently the sentence amounted to scourging or smashing this band of sticks together into the back which flayed and flagellated the skin.
Now, the Old Testament law had required no more than 40 such stripes to be given in Deuteronomy. And so, they always gave 39 just to be sure they were within the letter of the law. One judge would call out the sentence. Another judge would call out the number to be given. Another judge would say, “One,” and then the person would be hit, and then a third judge would count. Another would say, “Two,” and he would be hit. And a third judge again would count. And so, they were really involved in the carrying out of this punishment.
We know from the reading of Maimonides that while it was going on, they would read appropriate Scripture, or they would even sing psalms. So, it was a part of the function of the synagogue to discipline. Now, if you think church discipline is tough nowadays, you really haven’t got any idea what it was like. They would actually beat the people in the front of the whole congregation.
And so, the Lord says, “You can expect this.” They will deliver you up to the council - and the council there has reference to these local courts in the synagogues which found their supreme court in the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem – and you can expect that you will be scourged in the synagogue.
And by the way, that did happen. We know, for example, in Acts 22:19 that the apostle Paul was actually engaged in doing that, going from synagogue to synagogue, dragging in the Christians and scourging them for heresy. And we also know, from 2 Corinthians 11:24 that he himself was scourged five times. Probably all five of those happened in synagogues someplace. So, it did happen in the early Church.
“It has often been true,” says William Barclay, “that the man with a message from God has to undergo the hatred and enmity of a fossilized orthodoxy.” The fact of the matter is that our Lord Jesus Christ was actually sentenced by religionists. It was men of religion who wanted rid of Him. Chief priests, scribes, Pharisees, elders. The religionists were the ones who wanted Jesus dead. And so, the Jews persecuted the Christians up until 70 A.D. After the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D., we have no record of Jewish persecution of Christians up until the present day even. Now, it is probably true that there have been times where a Jewish person has come to Christ in a family. We know this, and there’s been an individual rejection, an individual persecution there. There may have been some other isolated persecutions, but there’s been no wholesale persecution of Christianity by Judaism since 70 A.D.
And further, let me say this, that in the time in which we live today, there may be a coming persecution of Christians in the Holy Land itself. They are making laws rather rapidly now to stop the spread of Christianity over there, and it could come to the point where the government – the religious forces of the government would persecute Christianity.
So, our Lord says in Matthew 10, then, you can expect persecution from Jewish sources. But also, I have to add – and in case you think I’m anti-Semitic, which I’m not – people I love most in the whole wide world are all Jewish: Jesus, Paul, Peter, all their friends. Next to my wife and kids, I spend more time, I think, with Jesus and Paul than anybody in the world. And they’re just as alive to me as any of you, by the way.
But what I’m saying her is what the Bible says, that the Jews would persecute the Christians, and they’ve done that. But they are representative, I think, of religious persecution. There will be other councils, and there will be other gathering places of religionists that will persecute Christianity. And you see that all through history.
For example, in the time of the apostle Paul, the Romans persecuted the Christians religiously, because they were involved in so many pagan religions. For example, in the Roman world, you had in the city of Ephesus the worship of Diana or Artemis. And when the Gospel was preached there in the nineteenth chapter of Acts, they put the idol makers out of business and a riot broke out, and persecution started against Christians because they were affecting the religion of the day.
The Romans were committed to emperor worship, and Christianity posed a tremendous threat to the worship of the emperor. Pliny, the governor of Bithynia, wrote that he was taking steps to check the rapid growth of Christianity, because Christianity was growing so rapidly that the pagan temples were doing a low business. Nobody was buying sacrificial animals, and nobody was buying idols and all of that. And they had to stamp out Christianity because it was affecting their religion.
You can look at the demons that had influenced the pagan people living out in the bush country of foreign mission fields who massacred missionaries again and again, century after century in the history of the Church. And you will find throughout all of human history that religion has killed true believers, because Satan is behind that false religious system, and he desires to wipe out the Church. And believe me; he’ll do it in our time if he can do it. And it may well be coming.
You know something? Even within Christianity, the false people in Christianity would be happy to kill the true. Acts 20:29, Paul says, “I know that from among you shall rise wolves, not sparing the flock.” Things had been done even in the name of Christianity against true Christians, as well as in the name of Judaism, as well as in the name of paganism.
Religion is a persecutor, and it will be in the end - look at Revelation 17 - when all is summed up, in the ultimate and final persecution. It’ll happen in the tribulation, and the true saints will be being massacred all over the place.
But there’s an interesting designation in Revelation 17:5. It designates the final form of world religion, and it calls it Mystery Babylon The Great, The Mother Of Harlots And Abominations Of The Earth. Now how’s that for a title for a religion? You see that out on the front of your building? Mystery Babylon The Great, The Mother Of Harlots And Abominations Of The Earth welcomes you Sunday morning at 11:00. But that’ll be the false form of final world religion. And it all came from Babel. You see, it was at Babel that false religion found its form. And then when the Lord scattered them all from Babel, they took the roots of the religion of Babel, the mystery religions of Babylon and spread them all around the globe. And you can take all of the pagan religions of the world, and you can trace them back to that original false system.
And so, in the end, it’s as if they run full cycle. They started at Babel. They spread around the world, and they come together in an incredibly satanic ecumenism, and the final form of world religion is seen, all brought together. And as he sees in this vision, this fullness of false religion – verse is a very key verse – he says, “I saw this woman” – that is this consummate, ultimate, final representation of world religion – “drunk with the blood of the saints and the blood of the martyrs of Jesus.”
Now, what he’s saying is that one thing is for sure, false religious systems have made themselves drunk on the blood of the saints. And that has been true; that is true; and that will ultimately be true as they slaughter and massacre the believers even in the time of the tribulation. We shouldn’t be surprised, in Matthew 7:15, our Lord said that there would be wolves dressed as shepherds. And they would be ravenous wolves coming in the name of religion.
Satan disguises himself, 2 Corinthians 11 says, as an angel of – what? – of light. So, don’t be surprised if his ministers are disguised as angels of light. Watch out for religion. Religion masks itself as respectable, but it is a persecutor of the truth. It does everything to destroy the truth, even taking life, if it has the authority to do that, because it’s run by Satan who is a liar and a murderer.
There’s a second source of attack in the text, verse 18, that is government. Not only is religion going to be a persecutor, but government is. You’ll be brought before governors, literally procurators like Pilate, Felix, and Festus in biblical days. And then it would refer to any lesser than a king, any government official - and kings even, monarchs such as Agrippa I, Agrippa II, Herod Antipas and others in the biblical picture. “And you’ll be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles.”
Now, that last phrase is kind of hard to interpret. Some think that in the persecution, you stand as a living rebuke against them, a living testimony against them. Others think that it means that you’ll be brought before them to give your testimony. I kind of tend to lean that way. “You’ll be brought before them for a testimony.” In other words, God has in mind that you will proclaim the truth.
On the other hand, as I said, it could mean that you’ll be a testimony against them and other such pagans who persecute Christianity. But when you’re brought before them to give that testimony, whether it’s a testimony of positive message to the Gospel, or whether it’s an indicting testimony to condemn them, just realize you’ll be brought before them – governs and kings. In other words, that’s government. That’s not religion; that’s the state. And the state will persecute.
And the Romans did that, apart from their religion. They really were scared to death – for one thing, about a slave rebellion. They had 60 million slaves in Rome, and they taught that slaves and – for example, slaves and free people could never marry because a slave wasn’t considered a person. Such a marriage was utterly and totally illegal in the Roman system. But when people became Christians, they were immediately confronted with truth that said there is neither bond nor free. Right? So, they saw Christianity as an imminently dangerous problem, because it gave slaves equality with everybody else, and they could see that there could become a slave rebellion. And if they could even imagine 60 million slaves revolting, it would be enough to scare them to death.
And so, they were threatened by Christianity. And so, they began to make up charges against the Christians such as they accused them of cannibalism. They misinterpreted the eating of the flesh and the blood of Christ in the communion. They accused them of immorality in their love feasts. They accused them of a revolution because their eschatology taught that the earth would be destroyed by fire. And, of course, they even blame them for burning Rome. They accused them of disloyalty to the emperor because they wouldn’t bow down to him. They accused them of breaking up marriages and destroying the family. Anything they could do, they moved against them because they were so panicked by the liberation of slaves to an equality that it might destroy their empire.
And so, the Roman Empire did persecute the Christians. Most of these disciples who heard Jesus say this, died at the hands of some government – namely the Roman government or some ancillary government. And the government will attack the Church. It will; believe me. It has through all its history. Governments – little governments and big governments, weak ones and powerful ones, ones dominated by men in groups, ones dominated by individual men throughout history have persecuted the Church.
You think about Russia and the slaughter of Christians that occurred after the revolution there. You think about China, the slaughter of Christians that occurred there. And that’s happened in many places throughout history in the world. Governments have moved against the people. You think about recently Ethiopia and Uganda particularly, where the government of Uganda, under Idi Amin, just massacred Christians. I always remember the story that Kefa Sempangi tells about one of his elders. And Amin’s men came there and cut the tongue and all the eyeballs out of an entire family, leaving only one little boy alive to discover his whole family so utterly mutilated and dead. And that’s just a piece of the action that’s gone on through history.
Governments have persecuted the saints. And they’ll continue to do that. And finally, in the end, in the tribulation time, the government of Antichrist will do exactly that. In fact, in the thirteenth chapter of Revelation, you find Antichrist coming to his full power and beginning to exercise his power. And it says in verse 7, “It was given to him to make war with the saints, overcome them, power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations.” And it talks about the fact that he will go forth and kill with a sword. Antichrist will do that, too.
You know, I kind of get upset whenever post-tribulationalists, people who believe we’re going to go through the tribulation, say, “Well, you want to get out of the tribulation because you’re trying to avoid trouble.” That has never been the reason. We never have avoided trouble. Throughout all the history of the Church, there has been this same reaction toward the truth. Because, you see, even though government, as an entity, is ordained by God for the preservation of social structure, the government is a representation of Satan’s work, because he is the one animating the actual function. God keeps government together and enough restraint in government to preserve human society. But it also manifests the control of Satan. So, there’s a very interesting tension that government is ordained of God, yet manipulated by Satan himself. That is why Daniel saw behind the governments, and Isaiah saw behind the governments, and Ezekiel saw behind the government demonic forces. Governments will persecute Christianity because Satan is the prince of this world.
You say, “Well, certainly not the American government.”
You just wait. If the Lord tarries and we live long enough, we’ll see the time when our government will deny us some of the freedoms we’ve had, if they’re not already beginning to try to encroach on that now.
Third, there is one more attack that Satan takes through the wolves, and it is in verse 21. He says, “And the brother shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the child. And the children shall rise up against their parents and cause them to be put to death.” Persecution also comes through the family. Through the family. And that’s why in verse 36, He says, “A man’s foes will be they of his own household. And if you love your father or mother more than Me, you’re not worthy of Me; and if you love your son or daughter more than Me, you’re not worthy of Me.”
In other words, it’s going to come down, folks, to the family. I’ve known people who came to Jesus Christ, and their family had a funeral service for them. And there are some situations – I know one situation where one child is dead because of his Christian faith. That was really the issue. And only God knows how many people have killed their own kind. Only God knows how many Christians were betrayed in the persecutions in the second and third centuries in Rome, how many Christians turned their parents in, how many parents turned their children into the government.
Only God knows in how many countries, throughout the history of the world, people have revealed to the authorities that one or another of their family were Christians, and they had turned them over to be slaughtered. And only God knows how many people who were eaten by the lions were there because they had been turned in by members of their own family. Only the Lord knows that, but here the Lord says it’ll happen, so expect it. If you’re looking in your family for some solace, you might find the worst enemy right there in your own house. That’s the way it’s going to be.
Besser wrote that two things are stronger than natural love, and one is born of hell, and one is born of heaven. I think that’s right. Stronger than natural love is the love of God, and stronger than natural love is the love of hell. That’s what makes people in Romans 1 forsake natural affection, because they’re so evil.
You might be interested in an interesting reverse parallel to this in the thirteenth chapter of Zechariah. In the future time, the time of the coming of Messiah – and I see this as an end time, after the Valley of Megiddo – you come into chapter 13. It’s the time of salvation for Israel. It seems to me the time may well be the time of the kingdom. And it says, “If anybody comes along who’s a false prophet and prophesies, he’ll not live, for his father and mother who begat him shall say, ‘Thou shalt not live, for thou speakest lies in the name of the Lord.’ And his father and his mother who begat him shall thrust him through when he prophesieth.”
It may be – there may come a day, says Zechariah, when actually parents will kill their false prophet children. Unbelievable conflict in the family. Jesus said He came not to bring peace, but a sword, to set a man against his father. Families become persecutors, and that maybe hurts the most deeply. But that’s the way it is.
I think that’ll happen in the tribulation. I think families will be set against each other. Mark records the teaching of our Lord in chapter 13. And our Lord repeated the same teaching in the occasion of the Olivet Discourse. He gave the same teaching again. And the context this time is the tribulation.
And He says, “Brother will betray brother to death, and the father his son” - Mark 13:12 - “and the children shall rise up against their parents and cause them to be put to death. And you’ll be hated of all men for My name’s sake. But he that endures till the end, the same shall be saved. And then when you see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by the prophet Daniel” – etcetera. And you’re right into the middle of the tribulation. So, it’s a tribulation context.
So, I think our Lord here says, “This is how it’s going to be all through history.” And in the Olivet Discourse, He says it’s especially how it’s going to be during the time of the tribulation. The time of the tribulation is going to see the revealing of the same thing. We’re to be persecuted. The world reacts. Religion reacts, because it’s generated by Satan. Government reacts because it’s in the control of the prince of the power of the air, the ruler of this world. And families react because they cannot tolerate a righteous individual in the midst of their unrighteousness. The wolves are going to do all they can to slaughter the sheep.
One final question: what are the sheep supposed to do in response? Who are the wolves? Men. Why are they vicious? Because they hate Christ. How do they attack? Religion, government, and the family. What is the sheep’s response? Now I’m going to go fast, give you six responses. And we will finish, so hang in there. But we’re not here to finish; we’re here to get the message. Right?
Number one – six response – be wise. Be wise. Verse 16, “Therefore, be ye wise as serpents.” In Egyptian hieroglyphics, the serpent is the symbol of wisdom. The ancients saw a serpent as wise, keen mind, cunning, smart, prudent, always, using great skill and caution to avoid danger. The idea speaks of shrewdness, cautiousness, wariness, having a circumspect perspective. It’s exactly what Colossians 4:5 records. Paul said to us – he said, “Walk in wisdom toward them that are outside.” In other words, use wisdom in dealing with the wolves. Use wisdom in dealing with the world around you.
Now, what kind of wisdom? The subtlety, the anticipation, the sensitivity, the cunning, the cautiousness, the wariness, the shrewdness of a serpent. To put it another way, say the right thing at precisely the right time and the right place. This is a serious attempt, I believe, to discover the best means to achieve the highest goal.
As we confront a hostile world, we have to be wise. There’s no sense in just creating havoc all around us. So, you know they’re temper; you know they’re anti-Christian; you know they don’t want your message. So, you must be careful how you approach them. You have to use wisdom.
You can say inflammatory things and start conflagrations every step you take. You can be the proverbial bull in the china closet and just wreak havoc through the world, or you can use discretion. I mean when they said to Him, “Here’s Caesar’s inscription, Lord” – Matthew 22 – “should we pay our tax?”
He could have said, “Caesar is a rotten, wretched, vile, no-good, debauched, evil sinner, damned to hell forever.” But He said, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.” He didn’t compromise the truth, but He was wise enough not to say everything that could be said to perpetrate something that wasn’t supposed to happen. Be wise. Find the best way to handle a confrontation, the best way to handle a conflict. Be careful. The one who faces a hostile world should avoid offensive situations. Don’t court trouble. Don’t just make trouble. Don’t just wreak havoc.
You know, some people become Christians and immediately get fired from their job, and they say it’s persecution, and all it is is stupidity. Be careful; be wise.
Now secondly, when you’re wise, He says, that’s a start. Then He says, “Be harmless as doves.” Now, I can’t imagine being threatened by an attack from a dove, can you? It seems rather innocuous. Lovely little white dove. But there’s more than just harmlessness. Yes, Christians are not to go on creating harm, creating issues, creating problems. Christians are not to be running through the world just fighting back and crushing people and devastating people and being obtrusive and ugly and blatant. They’re to be harmless. They’re to be gentile.
But more than that, the concept here is purity. The concept is innocence. You have a statement in Song of Solomon 5:2, where he says to the one he loves, “My dove, my undefiled.” The dove was a symbol of undefiled, the symbol of purity, of holiness, of innocence. So, while we are wise, we are also pure. In other words, while we seek a wise route, we never compromise the truth, do we? So, they have a twofold thing. The idea of “we don’t fight back,” and on the other hand, “we don’t compromise truth either.”
But sometimes we don’t have to say all that could be said in a vitriolic manner. Be not only wise and shrewd, but be so in a way that doesn’t compromise. Don’t lose your purity. Don’t tell a lie. Have integrity and honesty and purity. A dove is gentle, pure, and uncorrupted and sincere in the imagery. Those who represent Christ are not to cause injury. They’re not to do things to deserve injury. We’re not to employ trickery or deceit in trying to escape from danger. We’re to be wise, but we’re also to be pure and to be gentle.
You see in Luke 6, Jesus kind of summed it up, and He says, “Love your enemies, do good to those that despitefully use you.” And that’s really what he’s saying. Maintain your wisdom, your purity, your harmlessness. Show a spirit of gentleness.
Paul says in 1 Corinthians 9, as I approach people, I become all things to all men, that I might by some means win them. You have to be discrete. And while you’re being discrete, you never compromise your truth. So, you maintain your purity. Find that perfect place between the two.
Our Lord, when He was reviled, reviled not again. When He was cursed, He didn’t curse back. When they were doing all they were doing to Him on the cross, He just stood there and forgave them their sin. Such gentleness. That’s where it all begins.
Thirdly, be wise, be harmless. Verse 1, “Beware.” Beware. Be alert. Be on your guard. Be watchful. Be perceptive. You know what evil intentions lurk in the heart of men. And men who are the agents of the devil, and that’s all men that aren’t regenerated, they’re after something. You know, I’m so much aware of this, whenever I talk to the press, or I get into a radio interview, and it’s very easy to get yourself in a position where you can be made sort of in a – you can be made to look bad. You can be put in a bad light, and the Gospel can be evil spoken of. There are some forums that are right, and there are some that are wrong for the proclamation of the Gospel. And you have to understand the intention of evil men. And you have to be watchful and discerning and seek to avoid those kinds of things that discredit.
Now, Paul blew it in Acts 23. He said, “I stand before God with a clear conscience.”
And the governor said, “Smack that guy in the mouth.”
And do you know what Paul said? He looked right back and said, “God smite you, you whited wall.” Oh. I mean you knew Paul had that in him all the time, didn’t you? He just kept it under control. “God smite you, you whited wall.” That’s just name calling.
And then somebody said, “That’s the high priest.”
“Oh,” he said, “I didn’t know he was the high priest. I apologize.” You see, he wasn’t alert. He wasn’t in control. Be careful. Don’t give those wolves an opportunity to condemn you. Don’t play in their court. Be careful. Evil intention is behind the system, and they want to make you compromise. Beware.
Fourthly, be calm. Be calm. Verse 19, “And when they deliver you up, be not anxious.” In other words, when they haul you into the council’s and the courts, and they threaten your life, don’t you be anxious. Just be calm.
You say, “Well, to be arrested and persecuted is a very traumatic experience. How can we be calm?”
Well, first of all, “Don’t worry about what you’re going to say.” And that’s, of course, what you’d worry about. How am I going to get out of this? What can I say? “For it shall be given you in that same hour what you shall speak.” Well, you have nothing to worry about, because God’ll give you what you’re going to say.
Now, in addition, when you’re arrested, to feeling shame and other emotions, you immediately would worry about your defense. How am I going to defend myself? So, He says to the apostles - now listen very carefully to what I say – He says to them, “You just go about your business ministering. You don’t worry about what’s going to happen. You be wise and be harmless and beware and minister. And if it comes to the point where you’re hauled before the councils, I’ll take care of that. So, you’re free. You don’t have to have your hip pocket defense all ready. You just relax and be calm.
Literally, drop all worry completely. Philippians 4, Paul says, “Be anxious for” – what? - “for nothing.” Now, here He says there’s a reason, “For it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak.” Now, I take that – and let’s take it in a broad sense. I believe that anybody, at any age, in any time, when they go before this kind of a thing for the name of Jesus Christ, the spirit of God will bring tot hi mind the right thing say. From their learning and their study of the Scripture, the Spirit of God will pull out things, and He’ll be our defender. I don’t believe the Lord would abandon us in that kind of situation.
I read a little bit in a book this morning, when I got here, testimonies of great martyrs before their death. And some of the most marvelous things imaginable were uttered by these men and women before they died. And the Lord obviously gave them the clarity of mind and the presence of thought to pull together those things which they knew and to speak in that crisis moment.
I never feared that. If I were to be cornered in a situation, on television, in front of the cameras, or in the midst of a hostile situation somewhere in another part of the world, I’ve never even given a second thought to what I would say, because I believe at that moment the Spirit of God would bring to my heart and my mind the things I know to be true. And he would help me to say the right things. If He can lead me anywhere else, He can lead me then. Right?
But there’s something far more than that in this text. There’s something specific for the apostles that is not even for us. Look again at verse 19. “It shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak.” Now, listen to this. This is the real capper, verse 20, “For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaketh in you.”
Now, beloved, that is a promise to the apostles of divine inspiration. Did you get that? “It isn’t even going to be you speaking, but God, in His Spirit, will speak in you.” And I believe, beyond the general ramifications of this concept, that the Lord will give us from our recall and so forth what we ought to say. I believe He gives these men the promise of divine inspiration. And it even stretched us so that when Stephen stood before the ones who took his life, he spoke the Word of God. And when Paul stood before the ones who brought him to trial, he spoke the Word of God. And I don’t know what else that phrase in verse 20 could possibly mean.
Now, listen to this statement. If God gave them the very words to speak, in the moment they were brought before the councils of men, and it was not their words, and it was not them speaking, but it was the Spirit of their Father speaking, if God promised them that in the moment they met a council, how much more can we know that when they sat down to pen the Word of God they could claim the same promise?
I think this, by implication, is one of the purest texts in all of the Bible on the matter of biblical inspiration and inerrancy. Verse 20 says it. “It is not ye that speak.” All you will do is laloun; you utter. God is the one really speaking.
Commentator Lenski writes, “Without previous thinking, planning, imagining, at the time of their trials in court, the apostles will receive directly from God just what to utter. It will come into their minds just as it is needed, and thus they will utter it aloud. The apostles indeed make utterance, and yet they do not, for their act is due to the Holy Spirit, so that most properly He is the one who does His uttering. Everything that is mechanical, magical, unpsychological is shut out.
“The apostles will not be like the demoniacs their organs of speech and their very wills being violated by a demon. Absolutely the contrary: mind, heart will operate freely, consciously in joyful, trusting dependence on the Spirit’s giving, who enables him to find just what to say and how to say it down to the last word, with no mistake or even a wrong word due to faulty memory or disturbed emotions occurring. This, of course is inspiration. Verbal inspiration.” End quote.
In other words, it’s promised that they’ll be verbally inspired. And I’m just drawing an extrapolation that if they were to be verbally inspired by the Spirit of God to speak in their defense in a council, when you come to the matter of writing Scripture, which is an issue with far wider ramifications, they will have the same promise, and His Spirit will equally inspire them as they write the Word of God.
Be wise, be harmless, beware, be calm. For the apostles, that meant inspiration. For us it means enlightenment and recall as God brings to mind what we should say.
Fifth, be real. Be real, verse 22. “You shall be hated of all men for My name’s sake. He that endureth to the end shall be saved.” What is that saying? He that endures to the end shall be saved. Endures to the end of what? What’s the context? Persecution. In other words, if you make it through persecution, you get saved. It simply really means this: if you survive the persecution, you’re the one being delivered. In other words, it is not saying that people who can make it through persecution can hold onto their salvation. It is saying that endurance through persecution is the hallmark of genuine salvation.
You can tell the ones that are really saved; they survive. Sometimes I pray that God would persecute the Church because it has the effect of purging out the chaff. Do you understand that? You see, when the persecution begins, the phonies get out. Why die for something you’re only playing games with? Right? It’s not worth the price. Nothing is more purifying to the Church than persecution.
And so, He says in the middle of it all, be real. Be one who endures to the end, one who is truly saved. It’s essentially the same principle you find in Romans 2:7, “To them who by patient continuance and well doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life.
In other words, eternal life is given to those who continue in well doing. They’re not saved by continuing in well doing, they prove their salvation in their continuing. You’re not saved because you endured; you endured because you were truly saved.
Same thing in the writer of Hebrews mind, as he writes in chapter 3 of Hebrews and verse 14 these words, “For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end.” In other words, you can tell one truly committed to Christ because he’s true to the end.
Jesus said, “If you follow and continue in my Word, you’re my real disciple.”
John said, ‘They went out from us because they were not of us. If they had been of us, they would have remained with us.” So continuance is the proof of being a real Christian.
So, He says, “If you’re going to get in the heat, be real. Be genuine. Be a true Christian. And you’ll endure to the end and be delivered. Hang on.” You almost could say this is “be patient.” Be patient, because in the end, you’re going to be delivered. The word “saved” means delivered. Just to go through it and you’ll be delivered.
First Corinthians 10 says this, “There’s no temptation taken you but such as is common to man. God is faithful, who will not tempt you above that you’re able, but will with the temptation” – what? – make a way of escape.” Be patient. If you’re real, and you’re patient, you’ll endure and be delivered. Is there anything that can destroy you? No, no, there’s nothing.
You say, “Well, what if the persecution gets fearful?”
There is no fearful persecution that can touch you. What shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril, sword? As it is written, ‘For Thy sake we’re killed all day long. We’re counted as sheep for the slaughter.’ But in all these things, we are more than” – what? – “conquerors through Him who loved us. And I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creation shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Nothing can do it. And as you’re in the midst, be patient and be real, and you’ll endure to the end and be delivered.
Your deliverance may come in death; it did for many. It may come another way. How do we respond? Be wise, be harmless, beware, be calm, be real, and last be gone. Be gone. That’s practical, isn’t it? Verse 23, “When they persecute in this city – persecute you in this city, flee into another, for truly I say unto you, ‘You shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of Man be come.’”
What that verse says is, “From now till the second coming, just keep moving till He gets here.” Just keep moving till He gets here. And “be gone” means don’t just stay in one place until they kill you. Leave. Go to another place, because you’ll never cover all the places before the Lord comes. Keep moving. There’s no sense in beating a dead horse. Shake the dust off your feet, as He said in verses 14 and 15, and get out. There’s no sense in standing around, taking harassment, persistent persecution till you die.
I mean let’s say that something happened here, and I preached some things, and we got some issues going, and we started confronting our society, and persecution came on us – severe persecution. This text tells me to leave town and just you all stay with the persecution, and I’ll go somewhere else and start all over again. You know, I’ll preach till I can’t preach anymore, then I’ll go somewhere else. And if I can just stay one step ahead of them, I’m okay.
Paul did that. He preached, started a riot, left town to another town. And when the riot caught him in the next town, he went to the next town. And the riot caught him there, he went to the next town. He just kept moving. He wasn’t going to stand there and die. Life is too precious. Too many towns to reach, too much to be done. And we got to keep moving; we’ll never cover it all before the Son of Man comes.
In the book of Acts, we see chapter 12, 13, 14, 16 17 – in all of those places, they got heat in one place and went to another place. And that’s the way it’s got to be, even to the tribulation. And he’s jumping to the last missionaries, in verse 23, who are there till the Son of Man comes. And even in the tribulation, He says, “Keep moving; they’re going to come after you. The dogs will be on your heels. Keep moving.”
Kind of seems to me that everybody in the tribulation is going to be an itinerant missionary on the move.
During the great tribulation, Christ’s faithful Jewish people, 144,000 are going to go, and they’re going to preach all over the land. They’re going to keep moving and moving and moving until the Lord comes. And when all the cities are reached that He has in the plan, He will come.
Now, what is the sum of our Lord’s instruction to us? This: we have no right to provoke animosity. We have no right to provoke destruction. There’s too much work to be done, too many places to reach. Life is too precious. Every one of us matters to God’s kingdom. We’ve got to move to the receptive places and keep moving and know that all the while God is with us. And in the power of the Spirit, He’ll help us to say the right things and to have the effect that He wants us to have.
We are sheep among wolves, beloved, and we’re going to find that out more and more, I think. In Palestine it’s not uncommon, in the Lord’s time, to read about a shepherd who was found dead among the sheep he was trying to defend. May I add we have no such Shepherd? He ever lives and is able to defend us.
There is a certain invincibility about us. He controls everything. In Alberta, Canada, the Alberta Department of Agriculture Pest Control Branch has come up with a special invention they’re testing on sheep, because the sheep are attacked by the wolves so very frequently they have developed a little collar that they’re putting around; it’s kind of a wide one. They put it around the neck where the attack comes. And on the outside, it has the sheep’s wool skin-like covering so that it looks just like a part of the sheep.
And then inside of that, it has a rubber tube filled with poison so that when the animal sinks its teeth in, it simply goes into the leather, into the tube, and another piece of leather underneath it, and poison is immediately drawn into the animal’s mouth, and the animal dies. And that’s how they protect – or are trying to protect the sheep.
Kind of reminds me of Zechariah 2:8, where it says, “He that toucheth you, toucheth the apple of His eye.” If you think it’s tough on the sheep, from God’s end, it’s tough on the wolves for what they’re doing to the sheep. And God will make it right in the end.
A poet has written, “Jesus is our Shepherd/Guarded by His Arm/Though the wolves may raven/None can do us harm/When we treat death’s valley/Dark with fearful gloom/We will fear no evil/Victors o’er the tomb.”
No matter what Satan does, even to death, he cannot win with God’s sheep.
Thank You, Father, for our wonderful time of worship this morning, for teaching us out of Your precious Word. Thank you for these dear people and their open hearts to love You, and to worship You, and to feed, to minister to one another.
We pray that what we have learned today might sink deeply into our hearts and prepare us for that inevitable time when we need to apply these things. Give us the boldness to confront this fast-fading society with the message of Christ, and to respond in the way that you’ve instructed us when they react.
Thank You for counting us worthy to bear the reproach and to carry the cross for Christ’s sake, amen.
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