Take your Bible, if you will, and look with me at the tenth chapter of Matthew. It is our unique and long-awaited privilege to enter into an examination of Matthew chapter 10, verses 24 to 42.
And I think it would be fitting if I read that section to you. Although this morning I’m going to do nothing more than introduce it, I think it would be well to have it in mind.
Beginning in verse 24 of Matthew 10, our Lord instructing the disciples says, “The disciple is not about his teacher, nor the servant above his lord. It is enough for the disciple that he be like his teacher, and the servant like his lord. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of his household?
“Fear them not, therefore, for there’s nothing covered that shall not be revealed, and hidden that shall not be known. What I tell you in darkness, that speak in light, and what ye hear in the ear, that proclaim upon the housetops. And fear not them who kill the body but are not able to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.
“Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? And one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; ye are of more value than many sparrows.
“Whosoever therefore shall confess Me before men, him will I confess also before My Father who is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny Me before men, him will I also deny before My Father who is in heaven.
“Think not that I am come to send peace on earth; I am not come to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household.
“He that loveth father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he that loveth son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he that taketh not his cross and followeth after Me is not worthy of Me. He that findeth his life shall lose it; and he that loseth his life for My sake shall find it.
“He that receiveth you receiveth Me, and that receiveth Me receiveth Him that sent Me. He that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward; and he that receiveth a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward.
“And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no way lose his reward.”
I believe that this section of Scripture is the most crucial, and the most definitive, and the most monumental passage ever uttered by our Lord on the subject of discipleship. This, in fact, is the teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ on the matter of discipleship, what its cost is and what it involves. And consequently, it demands our great attention.
Now, the matter of discipleship is of major emphasis here at Grace Church. We are absolutely and totally convinced that the Church has a single, simplified task as stated by the Lord Jesus Christ, in Matthew 28, when He said, “Go into all the world and make disciples, baptizing them and teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you. And lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Go into all the world and make disciples.
In Matthew chapter 10, our Lord is making disciples. He is building up disciples. The word disciple is mathētēs. It means learner. He has the group of 12, and He is building them to maturity to send them out to reproduce and advance the kingdom. And that is the same process He has called us to be engaged in: the process of making disciples.
This means more than leading people to Jesus Christ. That is not the end of our commission; that is the beginning. I never ever ascend the steps to speak in this pulpit with any other thought in my mind than to build up the saints of God. To put it in the terms of Ephesians, “To perfect the saints for the work of the ministry.” I believe that is the perspective of the teacher. We are to reproduce mature disciples who, in turn, can reproduce themselves. We are not interested in short circuiting that. We are not interested in shortcutting that. We are not interested in minimizing that. We are interested only in the fulfillment of the goal of producing mature and reproductive disciples.
All of the teaching and preaching, all of the personal counseling, all of the extensive ministry that goes on here and through our tapes and radio and books and everything else we do is to take people to the point of maturity in the faith. Now, that’s what our Lord was after. He wanted people who would come and learn of Him. He even said that, “Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me. Be discipled by Me.”
And I really believe that that is the essence of what conversion is. Conversion is identifying yourself as one willing to learn from Jesus Christ all things whatsoever He has commanded. And the implication of such learning is obedience.
When you become a Christian, in effect you are saying, “I choose to be a learner of the Lord Jesus Christ and to submit to such as He instructs.” That’s the stuff of genuine conversion. It isn’t just meeting Jesus and ending it there; it is affirming His lordship and His role as teacher and your role as pupil to be brought to maturity. Now, that was the Lord’s task with the Twelve. That was precisely the task of the Twelve with the generation they were to reach. You see it, I think, most clearly in the apostle Paul, whose great desire was to bring the saints to maturity.
Now, that’s my task, the task of every Christian preacher/teacher/pastor/leader. We all have the responsibility to teach, to disciple; as you do as well in the sphere of your own ministry.
But let me see if I can’t talk about that for just a moment in a context that will help us as we approach this passage. I know what my commitment is; I know what my calling is. I know God has called me to teach the Word, to preach the Word, to build the saints to maturity. I know that. I know that’s the mandate that I have from God, and I am held accountable to Him to fulfill that as much as is in me possible in the power of the Spirit of God. I know my commitment, and my commitment is to do that. Although I sometimes struggle with my weakness and ignorance and the flesh and other things to get through to the accomplishing of that end, I know what the task is, and I know I’m committed to that task. But what I don’t know is whether you’re committed to the task of learning, and that’s the issue.
The Lord faced that same thing. He knew what His task was, He knew what the truth was, and He knew how to communicate the truth. But what He was looking for were open hearts to receive it – the ready mind, the ready heart.
Now, I know some of you enough to know that you are that ready mind; you are that ready heart; you want to receive the truth of God, and you want, having received it, to implement it. And you want your life to be being transformed.
Others of you I know, and I’m – maybe I don’t know you well enough to know that, because I’m not sure where you are. Some of you I don’t know at all, so I don’t know where you are.
But the real issue in the Church is that the leadership is committed to doing what the Bible says to do. And what we have to feel is that you’re committed to receiving it when we give it. It’s like a radio program: it’s one thing to broadcast; it’s something else to tune in and listen. It doesn’t do us a bit of good to preach the message unless somebody’s on our channel.
You know, when the radio goes out, it goes out all over Los Angeles, and I think 125 other cities in America now. And whether they know it or not, my voice is all over the place, but only a few people tune in. And that’s how it is, I think, in a sense, with the Church. There’s a lot of broadcasting going on, but maybe not as much receiving. And I believe that that may be because we’ve never really understood the stuff of which discipleship is made. And going into the Christian faith, we never really understood it.
When Jesus called disciples to Himself, He really carefully instructed them in the matters of what they would be facing. And consequently, it kept out those half-hearted people who weren’t willing to make the commitment. Jesus did the same thing when He talked about a narrow gate and a narrow way. He kept out the people that weren’t willing to make the commitment to pay the price. And the challenge of the Lord and the challenge of the apostles and the challenge of the ministers of today is to find a willing-hearted people, to find an open-hearted people, to find a responsive group who will say, “We will obey all things whatsoever the Lord has commanded us. We are willing and eager and anxious no matter what the price.”
Now, that is the stuff of true discipleship. That is how it is to be when you sign up to be a follower of Jesus Christ. And I think more than any passage we have studied, this passage is going to force you to face that reality. The Lord really draws discipleship down to very clear issues. And you and I, as we go through this section – and we’re not going to rush through it; we’ll cover a little today and some more next time, and then finish it out later – but I want us to go patiently, because this is such critical truth.
If you’ve ever wondered about dedication – and we’ve all gone to churches, you know, where somebody gave an altar call, and people went down, and they dedicated and rededicated their lives. And we’ve all gone to camps, or most of us have, and we’ve seen dedication services, and we’ve read about people who were consecrated and committed and recommitted and reconsecrated. And we’ve even gone through some of that catharsis of the cleansing work of the Spirit through the Word, and we’ve made new resolutions, and some of them we followed up on, and some of them we would find even difficult to remember.
But if you’ve ever wondered what the real stuff of commitment is, and where the bottom line of consecration comes, and what it really means to be set apart or sanctified, I think you’ll find the answer right here. In fact, this text is so filled with rich truth regarding discipleship, that it has been the focus of Christians through the centuries and becomes the key point in learning Jesus’ perspective on dedication to Himself.
If you’re just kind of floating along, if you haven’t really made the commitment the way it ought to be made, you’re going to be forced against the wall in this passage. I heard on the news this week about a lady who’s claimed to be a Christian for several years, and gone around and given her testimony for the Lord has just done a spread for Playboy magazine. If that kind of Christianity is what you’re used to, you’re really going to get it in the neck in Matthew chapter 10, because what our Lord calls us to hear is infinitely something apart from that.
Now, the truths in this passage – and I’m going to keep giving you some thoughts on it before we hit it, but the truths in this passage – now listen carefully to what I say here, because I think it’s important – are so essential because they are among the favorite teachings of Jesus.
You say, “well, how do you know that?”
Because I know a little bit about what it is to be a teacher. And let me tell you how it is. As one who teaches the Word of God, I have found that there are certain key truths that you must deal with. Basic to salvation and basic to discipleship. Basic to spiritual growth.
And what happens to a teacher is, as he studies the Word of God for preparing to teach, he finds certain concise and effective ways to communicate those basic essentials. Like if you poke me in the middle of the night and ask me how to be saved, I’ll pop out of bed and basically give you number 49-C in my mental catalog, and I’ll fire out salvation as I perceive it, spoken as clearly as I can speak it to make it understandable. And I have found certain ways to express that.
And so, as many times as I might travel in different places and speak to that issue, I will find myself using some of the same terminology, because as a teacher, I have learned how to express that in a way that is clear – hopefully – and I’ve maintained that expression.
Now, when it comes to basics of spiritual life, I’ll go around this country and I’ll be asked to speak on a certain theme. And invariably, when that theme intersects with principles of spiritual life, principles of discipleship, I find myself going back to the same passages, back to the same phrases, the same concepts, and often the same illustrations because they so firmly, in my mind, make the point, and so clearly elucidate, in various circumstances, what people need to understand.
In other words, there is a deposit of basic information that can be communicated effectively in a simple way. And any teacher learns how to do that effectively, and goes back to that in all different circumstances. Now, that is precisely what our Lord does in this passage.
Now, listen carefully. There have been critics who have approached Matthew 10, and they have said, “Matthew didn’t really record what Jesus said. Matthew picked stuff from all over the place and put it together as if Jesus said it. He took a little of what He said over here, and a little of what He said over here, and a little over here, and a little over here.” And they call this redaction criticism. That Matthew is not a writer recording what Jesus actually said to His disciples; he’s an editor, and he’s pulling it from all over everywhere and sticking it together and stuffing it in this chapter as if it were one speech by our Lord.
Now, the basic error of that view is that it gives no place to repetition in the life of the teacher. The other answer to this passage is, “Of course what Jesus says here appears here and there all through the Gospels. You’ll find almost all of these principles somewhere else. But that does not mean that Jesus only said things one time, in one place, to one people, for one purpose.”
What it shows us is that, like any other teacher, He had truth, which He drew out in all different places, all different circumstances, for all different unique place and time situations, and, with nuances of variation, communicated the same basic stuff.
Now, if you accept the redactions critic’s view, first of all, you’ve destroyed the integrity of Matthew. Then you’ve played with the integrity of Jesus, and you’ve, thirdly, denied the fact that a teacher has a right to repeat himself. And that you can never do, for the Bible itself says, “We learn line upon line, line upon line, precept upon precept, and precept upon precept.”
The Lord here is giving us, as He gave the Twelve, a body of His favorite teaching on the matter of discipleship. And since discipleship is a matter that followed Him all through His life, and with which He had to deal with multiples of people in different situations, He repeats these truths over and over, sometimes changing the terms, the phrases, and the point that He’s making, but yet using some of the same concepts and the same words to express it.
So, you will find – and this is the point you need to get – that from Matthew 10 on, if you get this chapter, you are going to intersect with these same thoughts again and again as you read the rest of Matthew into Mark, into Luke, and although the terms are somewhat different, you’ll find the same principles in John also. Don’t deny the Lord that privilege. This is some of His very favorite truths.
I’ll even go a step further. I think if the Lord was in Panorama City today, and I said to Him, “Would You preach this morning,” and I told Him that you all were already saved, for the most part, and that I had spent some time trying to communicate to you, and so had many other teachers, and that you’d been brought along and were really pretty ready to go out and change the world, I wouldn’t be a bit surprised to hear Him tell you to open to Matthew 10, because I think this instruction is so near and dear to His heart. And that’s why it’s repeated so many times, and that’s why you must learn it; and not just hear it, but respond to it.
When you became a Christian, beloved, you did not just buy fire insurance. You did not just jump down the escape hatch from hell. You affirmed the lordship of Christ, and that means that you affirmed a response of obedience. You said, “You are the teacher, I am the learner.” And you will learn all things whatsoever He has commanded you. If you came in on any other terms, it’s questionable whether you’re in at all.
Now, the people who have responded to the truths of Matthew 10:24 to 42 have been the kind of people who change the world. We’re talking about total dedication, total commitment, the real stuff, nothing held back. And those are the kinds of people who in deep self-examination came to a consecration and a dedication level that set them a cut above everybody else and made them the kind that God could use to change the course of history.
We think of Florence Nightingale. At 30 years of age, she wrote this in her diary, “I am 30 years of age, the age at which Christ began His mission. Now, no more childish things, no more vain things.” She wrote that on her thirtieth birthday. Years later, near the end of her illustrious and heroic life, she was asked for the secret of her life, and this is what she said, “I can only give one explanation; that is this: I have kept nothing back from God.” End quote. Kept nothing back. That’s what the Lord is talking about here.
One night, Dr. Howard A. Kelly graduated from medical college. You might know him for his great work at Johns Hopkins as a world-famed surgeon and gynecologist. The night that he graduated from medical college, he wrote this in his diary, “Today, I dedicate myself, my time, my capabilities, my ambition - everything to Him. Blessed Lord, sanctify me to Thy uses. Give me no worldly success which may not lead me nearer to my Savior.”
That remarkable man could tell many stories of what it means to be dedicated. I remember reading one. He was traveling in the Midwest, and through some circumstances needed a drink of water and stopped at a house, knocked on the door and asked if they could provide him a drink. That drink was provided for him. He remembered the name of the young girl who had given him the drink, though she didn’t know who he was.
Years later, that same young girl grew up and was stricken with a very serious disease and had to come to Johns Hopkins for a series of surgeries. As it turned out, Dr. Kelly was her surgeon. After all of the care that had to be given to her, the bill was in excess of $50,000.00. There was no insurance to cover it. She was fearful until she received a bill that said, “Paid in full by a glass of water.” A remarkable man.
Jim Elliott, the Auca Indian martyr, wrote in his diary this, “God, I pray Thee, light these idol sticks of my life, that I may burn for Thee. Consume my life, my God, for it is Thine. I seek not a long life, but a full one like You, Lord Jesus.” It’s exactly what he got. The very flower of his youth, a native threw a spear right through him. It’s this kind of dedication that we’re talking about. This is to put it in a contemporary mode so you don’t think it’s just something way back when.
If you know anything about revival and the history of revival in our own country, you’ve heard the name Jonathan Edwards, a great preacher. God used him mightily. There was a reason. The reason was he was willing to pay the price. The reason was he counted the cost. The reason was he gave everything. He became that full-fledged disciple. He was the one with the open heart who wanted nothing other than what God was wanting to give him.
And he wrote this, and this was the changing point in his life, “I claim no right to myself, no right to this understanding, this will, these affections that are in me. Neither do I have any right to this body or its members; no right to this tongue, to these hands, feet, ears or eyes. I have given myself clear away and not retained anything of my own. I have been to God this morning and told Him I have given myself holy to Him. I have given every power so that for the future I claim no right to myself in any respect.
“I’ve expressly promised Him, for by His grace I will not fail. I take Him as my whole portion and felicity, looking upon nothing else as any part of my happiness. His law is the constant rule of my obedience. I will fight with all my might against the world, the flesh, and the devil, to the end of my life. I will adhere to the faith of the Gospel, however hazardous and difficult the profession and practice of it may be.
“I pray God for the sake of others to look on this as self-dedication. Henceforth I am not to act in any respect as my own. I shall act as my own if I ever make use of any of my powers to do anything that is not to the glory of God, or to fail to make the glorifying of Him my whole and entire business.
“If I murmur in the least at affliction, if I am in any way uncharitable, if I revenge my own case, if I do anything purely to please myself or omit anything because it’s a great denial, if I trust to myself, if I take any praise for any good which Christ does by me, or if I am in anyway proud, I shall act as my own and not God’s. But I purpose to be absolutely His.” Now that’s consecration. And God used that man beyond his imagination.
Now, we’re called to that kind of commitment in this chapter. And I am just kind of forewarning you that that’s what you’re going to face in this chapter. And as we go through it, every time you’re going to be sort of put to the wall to evaluate and self-examine your commitment level.
Now, let’s look at the passage, and we’ll examine the first two verses this morning. Jesus has named the Twelve. Going through the Gospel of Matthew now, we have seen that Matthew is presenting the King. He’s presented the ancestry of the King. He’s presented the arrival of the King, the anticipation of the King, and the prophecies; the announcer of the King: John the Baptist, His herald. He’s presented the axioms of the King or His principles in the Sermon on the Mount; the acts of the King, if you will, His miracles and so forth. And now we’re meeting the agents of the King: His ambassadors, the Twelve, the ones He sends out.
And in verse 1 through 4 of chapter 10, we met the Twelve. Then in verses 5 through 15, He gave them instruction for their ministry. And then in verse 16 to 23, He told them how the world would react. So, He names them, instructs them, and then lets them know what it’s going to be like when they get out there.
Now, remember this, because it’s so very important to rightly interpret the section. The priority focus initially in the chapter is on the Twelve. That’s where the basic focus comes: on the Twelve. But as you go through the chapter, you can see clearly that it extends beyond them. In fact, in verse 23, it talks about the people who minister till the Son of Man returns – the second coming.
So, you start out with the Twelve, and the Lord telescopes what He teaches to encompass all who ever follow Him. You also will note that it begins with a priority focus on a short-term, several-week ministry that the Twelve are going to be engaged in as they go out to get experience for their ultimate sending after the resurrection.
But though it initially focuses on that brief, several-week ministry, it also telescopes to encompass every mission throughout all time, that anyone who represents Christ will ever take so that the principles begin with a very limited focus, and they telescope to a large and wide horizon. We see first the Twelve, and then we see all those who follow Christ. First they’re initial mission, and then we see their later mission after the Spirit empowers them. And then we see the mission of all who ever serve Christ as we flow through this marvelous chapter.
And so, we see the reaching to the broadest possible limit of all servants, in all times, on all missions, there are principles of importance.
Now, as we have approached verse 23, we have covered everything till the second coming, till the Son of Man be come. So, we’ve picked up all those who serve the Lord, through all periods, on all mission fields, until the Lord comes.
Now, having given us that wide scope in verse 23 – now watch carefully, the Lord maintains that widest possible scope for the instruction of verses 24 and following. So that now He has taken us to that wide level, encompassing all of time until Jesus comes. And in that context, He talks about every disciple He’ll ever have throughout all of that period, and gives the definition of their discipleship from verse 24 to 42. The scope is broad now, and the principles are for all time. The Lord then closes this discourse with general teaching referring to all disciples, in all missions, through all times.
And therefore, I have entitled this section “The Hallmarks of Discipleship.” The hallmarks of discipleship. And it is as much for us as it was for the Twelve, as it was for Paul, as it was for the people they discipled, as it was for the Florence Nightingales and the Jonathan Edwards and whoever else responded to these truths.
Now, just to let you know that this is indeed a general statement, notice verse 24, the term “the disciple.” And really what He’s saying is any disciple. The Twelve have been named as such. The Twelve have been called apostles since verse 2. They’re trained and ready to be sent. But now He uses the word “disciple.” He backs off from apostle, and He emphasizes the learning process, and He broadens to encompass any disciple.
Then He also uses, in verse 1 and 2 the word “servant.” Again, a very general word. “The servant.” Whatever servant; anyone who serves Me. Further, you’ll notice there is a word “whosoever” in verse 32, “Whosoever therefore,” and verse 33, “whosoever” is used again. And it’s also used one other time. Three times it says “whosoever;” nine times it says “he that.” And that can be anybody. “He that does this,” or, “He that does that.” So, the terms fit the general character of this particular portion.
We are at the widest possible horizon, encompassing all of those who name the name of Jesus Christ, who are disciples and servants and whosoevers and the thats. I just want you to see the wide focus, because it’s important for your understanding.
Now, our Lord is going to say this, “For those people who truly want to come and be My disciple, here’s what I ask.” That’s it. “This is what I require.” This is the stuff of real discipleship.
And by the way, again we must note how honest Jesus is. Right up front. He doesn’t hold back anything. He tells them the cost. You don’t do anyone a favor by trying to get them to accept Christ without letting them know what is really involved in such acceptance. That’s how we get so many false believers. If they knew the truth, they wouldn’t come.
We know that, because in John 6 it says, “Many disciples were following Him.” And then He started saying, “You have to eat My flesh and drink My blood.” In other words, “You’ve got to be involved in My dying and My death.” And at that point it says, “And many of His disciples walked no more with Him.” I mean that was more than they were ready to handle.
And then you have the fellow who comes to Him and says, “I’ll follow you wherever you go.”
And He says, “Well, know this, will you; foxes have holes, and birds have nests, but I don’t even have a place to lay My head.”
And the guy split. “Uh, no, that isn’t what I’m after. I want a little comfort with my ministry.”
And the fellow who came and said, “I’ll follow you wherever you go, but first I want to go bury my father.” And what he meant was, “My father’s not even dead; I want to wait until he dies and get my inheritance.”
And Jesus said, “You better let the dead bury their dead.” And the implication of the text again is the guy turned around and walked away. He wasn’t interested.
And the other fellow came and said, “Well, I’d like t follow you, but I want to go say goodbye to my Mommy and my Daddy.” Too tied to the family.
Jesus turned His back on him, too. He was very upfront, “It’ll cost you your family, fella. It’ll cost you inheritance, and it’ll cost you your comfort. And those are the terms.” And they didn’t want them. We don’t do anybody any favors by introducing them to Christ and to His lordship, and introducing Him as the Teacher, and then saying, “There’s no price to pay,” because there is. The way is narrow, and the gate is narrow as well. And that’s the way the Lord always presents it.
Now, the honesty of Jesus in verses 16 to 23 demands the section in verses 24 to 42. It’s very important to note that. You know, Jesus’ messages are so clear and logical. I guess that’s why I get so upset at the redaction critics who say, “Well, this doesn’t make sense; it’s all hodgepodged together; therefore, Matthew must be an editor who picked it out of the air everywhere.” They do the same thing in the Sermon on the Mount. The take the Sermon on the Mount, and they say, “Well, Matthew took a little of this and a little of that and a little of that, like He was some kind of a cook, you know, making hash.” And He just threw it all and stirred it up, and it all came out. And yeah, Jesus said it somewhere or sometime or some...” And they miss the flow of the whole thing, which is the genius of it.
Listen, He tells them in 5 to 15, “Here’s how to minister.” He tells them in 16 to 23, “Here’s what’ll happen.” And having told them, “Here’s what’ll happen,” He says to them, in 24 to 42, “Are you willing to pay the price?” That’s it. It’s absolutely logical.
I think the reason most redaction critics don’t know that is because they don’t know God so their eyes are blinded, because the flow is so obvious.
Now, the whole thing begins in verse 24. Let’s look at it. Now, here’s His general teaching on discipleship, and as I said, it’s among His favorite truths to teach. “The disciple is not above his teacher, nor the servant above his lord.” Now, stop there for a minute. That’s the basic premise.
The disciples are going to be saying to themselves, “Man, we’re going to be sheep among wolves,” verse 16. Verse 17, “We’re going to go and get scourged in the synagogue. Verse 18, “We’re going to be dragged before pagan courts.” Verse 21, “Our own families are going to put us to death.” Verse 22, “We’re going to be hated by all kinds of people for His sake; we’re going to have to endure.” Verse 23, “We’re going to be persecuted all over the country, so we have to keep running from city to city.” And they’re going to be saying, “Well, what is this kind of an offer?”
And the Lord comes back and says, “The disciple is not above his teacher, nor the servant above his lord. Why should you expect to get any different treatment than I receive?” Did you hear that?
Now, it’s going to get very direct as He goes through this. Very straightforward. The statement is axiomatic. And Jesus uses it again in other places. The disciple’s not above his teacher. I mean that’s axiomatic. You don’t have to prove that. If I’m your teacher, and you sit under me, then you’re only going to learn what I tell you. And you’ve taken the role under me. So, the disciple is not above his teacher. He, by very definition and affirmation and acquiescence takes the place underneath his teacher by his own volition.
But even where his volition is not involved, He uses another metaphor, “The servant is above his lord? No. The lord is above the servant.” The first case, we assume the disciple chooses his teacher; the second case, the lord buys the servant. But in either case, there is the roll of subservience. We are under Him. The disciple is a learner. The teacher is the one who knows; the learner doesn’t know. The one who doesn’t know isn’t above the one who knows. The lord is the master; the slave is the slave - doúlos. And by very definition, he is the one who does what the master tells him.
So, the Lord is simply saying this, “The first basic principle of discipleship is that you submit yourselves to Me. Your volition can be seen in the disciple-teacher motif. My sovereignty is manifest in this – in the lord and servant motif.”
And there you have the duality of the salvation doctrine. We choose to be a disciple to learn at the feet of Jesus, but He chooses us as His servant sovereignly. But in either case, it is axiomatic that we are submissive. Now, that’s how it is going in. When you become a Christian, and you affirm that you will follow Jesus Christ, it is axiomatic that you are saying, “I submit to Your commands. I submit to the truth You will teach me, the wisdom. I submit to those orders you will give me to carry them out. That’s basic
Now, there is both a positive and a negative in this. Let me talk about the positive for a minute. The disciple is not above his teacher. Jesus also uses that phrase in Luke 6:40. Now, it was a favorite phrase of His, and He says it this way – listen now – “A disciple is not above his teacher.” Then He says this, “But every one, after he has been fully trained, will be like his teacher.” Did you get that? So, what is the first perspective that a pupil has toward his teacher? That ultimately someday he will be – what? – like his teacher.
What does it mean to be a disciple then? It means to pursue being like whom? Christ. Very basic. That is the very basic element of discipleship. From the positive side, in Luke 6:40, the Lord is simply saying, “When you’re fully trained, you’re going to be like your Teacher.” And that’s true discipleship. You are a learner, learning to be like Christ. You are a learner growing toward Christlikeness.
First John 2:6 sums it up, “He that saith he abides in Him ought so to walk even as He walked.” If you go around saying you abide in Christ, and Christ is your master, and you are His student, He is your Teacher, and you are His pupil, then you ought to manifest His life.”
Now, this is the goal of all discipleship, as stated clearly in the Great Commission, “Go into all the world and make disciples.” What does that involve? “Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.” In other words, a disciple is one who knows the word and obeys the word. You have the same thing in Colossians 3:16, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you” – what? – “richly.”
We are to be dominated by the word of Christ so that we become like Him. He is the Teacher who teaches and teaches and feeds and feeds. In fact, you can get a hint at it if you look at verse 27. He says, “What I tell you in darkness, speak in light.” And that little phrase is beautiful. What He says, effectively, is, “What I’ve been whispering in your ear is what you’re going to proclaim.” In other words, “You have no message but what I give you. You have no truth but what I tell you.”
Now, we are to learn then that a disciple is to be like his teacher in the positive sense. Now stay with me; one more thought on this one. The goal of the Christian life then is an ascending toward Christlikeness. We know that’s the goal because what happens, according to 1 John 3, the moment we are glorified in heaven it says, “We shall be like Him, for we shall” – what? – “see Him as He is.” That’s the goal. And although it isn’t fully consummated until then, we know that must be the goal because that’s what happens when we go there.
So, all the way along in life, we are going toward Christlikeness. Now, what is going to be the very obvious result of that? If you and I move to be more like Christ, then the world will treat us the way it treated Him. Right? That’s what He’s saying. So, look at the negative side. And the negative side is really the strength of the context here. I drew the positive from another passage. The negative is in the context. He’s simply saying, “The disciple is not above his teacher, and the servant is not above his Lord,” in the sense of persecution, the past passage.
In other words, “You don’t expect to have any different than I do, do you? I mean if they’ve treated Me the way they’ve treated Me, why should they treat you any different?” Now listen to me, “And the more like Me you are, the more they’ll treat you like they treated Me.”
You can kind of gauge your own Christian life that way, can’t you? The more like Christ you are, the more the world will treat you like the treated Christ. Maybe you don’t get much persecution because there’s not much similarity.
The context is persecution, hostility, and death. And we have to be ready to accept that. Now, this is an amazing call to discipleship. “I want you to come and be My disciples and be like Me and get ready to pay the supreme price.” That’s what He’s saying. And if you aren’t willing to come on those terms, then you’re not going to come.
Now, go to verse 25 and look how He repeats the same thing and throws in a very insightful phrase “it is enough.” “It is enough for the disciple that he be like his teacher, and the servant like his lord.”
You know what? One thing about a true disciple, he is content to be like his teacher. He doesn’t have to be greater than his teacher. He doesn’t have to go beyond; it’s not an ego trip. A true disciple is content to be like his teacher. A true servant is content not to go above his lord, but to be like his Lord and faithful to his lord. It is enough.
Now, what is He saying? True disciples seek nothing more. They’re not in it for what they can get out of it. They’re not on an ego trip, and they seek nothing less. They are not going to try to escape what the Lord couldn’t escape; they’re willing to take it all. Nothing more, nothing less.
Oh, this is a beautiful statement, “It is enough.” Literally translated means, “It is sufficient,” or, “It must be sufficient.” It is sufficient for me to be like my Lord and to be treated like my Lord. That is sufficient for me. Paul was like that. Paul said his great prayer, “That I may know Him and the fellowship of His” – what? – “sufferings.”
It is enough. It is enough. I don’t ask any more than that. I don’t ask to be loved by the world. I don’t ask to be famous. I don’t ask to be accepted. I don’t ask to miss the persecution. I don’t ask to be everybody’s friend. I ask only to be like my Lord. And to pursue to be like Him means to be treated like He was treated. That’s all.
Now, that’s where you start. You assume that. And do you want to know how they were treated verse 25 just – the Lord gives an illustration, “If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of his household?” And here He uses the word “the master of the house” – one who rules the house. Hence the idea of the lord of the house. And if they call Him the devil, and you’re under Him, what do you expect they’ll call you? That’s the point.
And by the way, that is a real condition. You say, “Jesus is saying that they called Him the devil. Did people call Jesus the devil?”
That’s right. They called Him Satan. That’s what He’s saying. Because Beelzebub is a reference to Satan. It had become – and we don’t really know the history or the etymology of how it became so, but in the time of the Lord, Beelzebub, or Beelzebul – sometimes it ends with a B, sometimes with an L – had become the designation, in some people’s vocabulary, for the devil himself.
But just to show you that this is not unrealistic, go back to chapter 9, verse 34. Already this is apparent to the disciples that it’s coming, because when Jesus had healed the blind man and healed the one with the demon, in verse 34, the Pharisee said, “He casts out demons through the prince of demons.” In other words, “He is working for the devil,” the prince of demons. Now they are so – they were, you know, believing in themselves as the religiously erudite, and astute, and they knew God. And they were so far from the truth, they saw the lovely, spotless, holy, absolutely pure Son of God, living God in human flesh in the world, and they watched Him, and they heard Him, and they said, “He’s demon possessed.” That shows you how bright they were. I mean they were so far away from the truth they couldn’t have been any more distant. “He’s demon possessed. He’s working for the prince of devils.”
Now, go over to chapter 12, verse 24, “And when the Pharisees heard it” – and here again, Jesus is healing and casing out demons; they said – “this man does not cast out demons but by Beelzebub, the prince of demons.” There again, they said He’s demon possessed.
Now, go back to chapter 10, verse 25. Most interesting. Here they even go beyond that. The Lord says, “They will call Me Beelzebub.” Period. They’ll not say, “He works for Beelzebub,” or, “He casts out demons by the power of Beelzebub.” They’ll say, “He is Beelzebub. He is Satan.” The ultimate blasphemy. And if they say that about Me, what do you think they’re going to say about You?
Now, that is a critical statement, and I want to take you into the word Beelzebub for just a minute so you’ll understand it. Turn to 2 Kings chapter 1. Second Kings chapter 1. Now listen carefully, because this is the root of that word, and we don’t really know what goes on between 2 Kings much and the New Testament. It’s hard to trace the meaning of the word. But in 2 Kings 1:1, “Moab rebelled against Israel after the death of Ahab.” The death of Ahab, frankly, was no big loss. But once Ahab was dead, the Moabites felt they could move in, because the nation was in somewhat of disarray.
And then comes Ahaziah, who was no gain either. “And Ahaziah fell down through a lattice in his upper chamber.” I don’t know whether he was drunk or uncoordinated, but he fell out of a window and got himself all messed up. It says he was sick. He was ill, he was somehow incapacitated.
And so, here, what’s he going to do? Now, the man is tragically ill. So, he decides to send messengers. You would think he’d send them to God, but he doesn’t. “He said, ‘Go, enquire of Baalzebub the god of Ekron.’” Now, Ekron was one of the towns in the country of the Philistines. Ekron comes up later in this same book, but it was a town, and this was the god of Ekron – Baalzebub. And that’s really all we know about it. Of course, “The Angel of the Lord said to Elijah the Tishbite, ‘Arise, go up and meet the messengers of the king of Samaria, and say to them, “Is it because there’s not a God in Israel that you have to go ask Baalzebub the God of Ekron?”‘” What are you doing, doing that? That shows you something of the apostasy of Israel at that time.
But this Baalzebub, basically, as far as we can tell in the Hebrew, means “lord of the flies.” You’ve probably heard that term as the title for a book or a film or something. But it basically means lord of the flies, lord of the carrion flies. Apparently, this deity was somehow associated with the flies. I can’t imagine, but that’s the way it is. And Baal means lord. And we know in the Old Testament they worshipped Baal. That means lord. That’s just – that’s like Allah to a Muslim. It just means lord. And they would attach other names on the back of it to identify. But this was the Baal of the flies, the lord of the flies.
Now, when you come to the New Testament, you’ll notice in Matthew 10 that the B-A-A-L becomes B-E-E-L. And some – for some reason, there’s a variant in the spelling, and sometimes it ends zebub and sometimes zebul. Sometimes with a B and sometimes with an L.
Now, when it ends with an L, the best sources indicate that it means lord of the dwelling, and it may have been that this lord of the flies grew to great prominence, and they just changed his name to zebul from zebub and meant lord of the dwelling. In other words, he was the master of all of the dwelling place of all of the demons.
So, somehow, in the progress of this word, this local Ekronite god becomes the lord of all the dwelling. That’s a possibility. It’s a possibility. We really can’t fill in all the details. Then also there is one other form that appears. Instead of zebul – Z-E-B-U-L – there’s a Z-E-B-E-L. And Z-E-B-E-L means, in Hebrew, dung.
And we say, “Well, how did he get to be the lord of the dung?”
Well, the best answer to that is that that is a title of derision given by the people who scorned this pagan god, lord of the dwelling nothing; lord of the dung is what he is. It would be an epithet of derision. But lord of the dung or dwelling or whatever, he isn’t anybody anyway, so what’s the difference? He can’t be offended; only the true God can.
Nonetheless, in the time of the Lord, it became common to designate Satan in these terms, Beelzebub and Beelzebul. And so, the Lord is simply saying, “If they’re going to call Me Satan, if they’re going to go so far as to name the devil himself, what do you think they’re going to do to you? Now, what is the point? You have to be willing to pay the price. The more you move to be like Christ, which is the goal of all discipleship, the more the world’s going to treat you the way they treated Him, and when they treat you the way they treated Him, they’re going to treat you evil because that’s the way they perceived Him.
Now, with that in mind, you can understand the instruction of the Gospel of John, where in the thirteenth chapter of John’s Gospel – and I’ll just read a couple of verses; you don’t need to turn to it – John 13:16, it says, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, the servant” – and here’s the same thought, our Lord teaching again – “the servant is not greater than his lord” – there’s that phrase He likes to use – “neither He that is sent greater than He that sent Him.”
In other words, why would you expect anything different than what the Lord received? Now, go to chapter 15, for a moment, of John’s Gospel, verse 18, “If the world hate you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world” – that is if you’re identified with the world, and you appear with them, and you go along with what they do – “the world would love its own. But because you’re not of the world, I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.
“Remember the word that I said unto you” – and here he comes with the same phrase again – “the servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted Me, they will have – they will also persecute you. If they have kept My saying, they will keep yours also. But all these things will they do unto you for My name’s sake, because they know not Him that sent Me.”
Then in chapter 16, He says, “The day will come when they think they’re doing God a favor when they kill you.” So, the point is this: the way they treated Christ was bad; that’s the way they’re going to treat you. The more you become like Christ, the more you’re going to get it. And yet that is the goal; it’s almost a trap. You come into the discipleship thing; you’re committed to being like Christ, and you know from the very beginning that the more like Christ you become, the more the system will resent you.
Now, let me add a footnote. In spite of this, God is moving in the hearts of people in the world to redeem them. Right? And those people will be attracted by your testimony.
You know, I would – I would venture to say that it’s pretty safe to assume that most of us became Christians because we saw something in the life of someone else that we wanted. That’s usually it. There’s something attractive – a joy, a peace, a freedom from guilt, a sense of forgiveness, the hope of eternal life, peace in the heart. And so, while we’re becoming more like Christ, we will become more attractive. We will become more attractive to those whom God is calling to Himself. But we will become more distasteful to the system that hated Christ. You see?
So, there’s no way around it, people. That is the price of discipleship. More attractive and more malignant in terms of the world’s revulsion. It goes together. The whole thing begins at that point, and that’s just the introduction. We’ll find out next time the beginning – the five marks of true disciples. Let’s pray.
Lord, we all desire to respond to the call of discipleship as we should. Help us to make that commitment now, to be willing to be like You, to pursue that no matter what it costs, to know we’ve become more distasteful to the world and yet more attractive to those You’re calling to Yourself.
With your heads bowed for just a moment, listen to what one person said, and maybe this can be a point of commitment for us. “One day I looked at myself/At the self that Christ can see/And I saw the person I am today/And the one I ought to be. And I saw how little I really pray/How little I really do/I saw the influence of my life/How little of it was true. I saw the bundle of faults and fears/I ought to lay on the shelf/I had given a little bit to God/But I had never given myself. I came back from seeing myself/With a mind made up to be/The sort of person that Christ can use/With a heart He longs to see.”
Father, we would be that kind of person, with a heart You long to see, truly committed to walk in obedience to Your will. Father, bring into the prayer room those that You would have to come, and may these truths reach deep into all our hearts. Prepare us for what is ahead, as we study this great chapter, in Christ’s name, amen.
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