Session #076 Disciplesheep
Scripture Matthew 10:16-25
Summary Matthew 10:16-25 addresses an aspect of discipleship that we would rather ignore – persecution. And yet, these are the words of Jesus our King and Master, our Shepherd who prepares His sheep to be sent out amongst wolves! Be aware of the groups of people from which disciples may face possible challenges and persecution. Learn how we are to respond and why this is expected of those who consider themselves followers of Jesus Christ.
“Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. But beware of men, for they will deliver you up to councils and scourge you in their synagogues. You will be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles. But when they deliver you up, do not worry about how or what you should speak. For it will be given to you in that hour what you should speak; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you. “Now brother will deliver up brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in this city, flee to another. For assuredly, I say to you, you will not have gone through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes. “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for a disciple that he be like his teacher, and a servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more will they call those of his household! Matthew 10:16–25
The passage begins with three warnings to expect persecution, an aspect of discipleship that comes with following Jesus. Even though we should expect opposition in our mission, Jesus teaches us how we are to respond and why this is expected of those who consider themselves followers of Jesus Christ.
Works Ahead! Wolves Ahead! (Matthew 10:16a)
Shepherds protect sheep from wolves as sheep are docile and dumb animals. Yet, Jesus sends His sheep into the midst of wolves.
Jesus was describing the reality of what His disciples will face when they begin to move on kingdom assignments. There will be challenges but He promises that the Shepherd of our souls will continue to look after us and protect us. Be warned that there will be wolves.
This is the second mention of wolves in Matthew, with the first in Matthew 7:15, where wolves refer to false prophets that will be disguised as sheep. We are to learn how to recognize these through their teachings and fruit.
In Acts 20:29 Paul warns the Ephesians that “after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock.”
As much as we would like to stay safe in the sheep pen, we must be prepared to be sent out where the wolves are. Pastorally, we want to keep everyone within the walls of the church; but missionary, we need to release the saints to participate in the advancement of the kingdom. When the kingdom advances, we can and must expect opposition. We must learn how to handle wolves inside the church, and how to engage wolves outside of the church.
How to Handle Wolves I: Be Wise as Serpents (Matthew 10:16)
To be wise is to think, to have a mindset, an understanding. To be prudent and sensible in relationships as opposed to being gullible, mindless, foolish, or stupid.
Snakes are known to be sharp, fast, and intelligent. They are cunning and sneaky. They know how to read the situation and get out of danger, way before a sheep wakes up to what is happening around him.
When we move on kingdom assignment, we are called to be wise, to be circumspect, to consider all options carefully. Living by faith does not mean switching off the intellect. We need to be aware of the situation, the condition, the environment, the implications, the significance. To be awake and alert, and on guard (1 Peter 5:8).
How to Handle Wolves II: Be Harmless, Innocent as Doves
Innocent is akeraios in Greek, meaning unmix, undefiled, unadulterated (Philippians 2:15; Romans 16:19) The dove is a picture of purity and innocence, simplicity and gentleness.
Our motives and actions should be unmixed, they should be pure, and we should be blameless in all our actions (1 Timothy 3:2).
Who are These Wolves? Beware of Men! (Matthew 10:17)
The first opposition encountered by Jesus and His disciples came from the Jewish religious establishment. The early church was persecuted largely by Jews. Acts 16:16-24 and 19:21-41 record Paul being persecuted in Philippi and Ephesus as men were losing their business with Paul’s teaching and healings.
The Institutional Church in history has burnt quite a few “heretics” at the stake like William Tyndale, persecuted Martin Luther, and other reformers.
Religious and institutional agendas will always be threatened by God’s kingdom agenda. Other religions do not always view Christianity kindly as well. The true source of opposition comes from Satan, and that opposition will usually manifest itself through other people and their opposition to Christ. It is a spiritual battle between the kingdom of darkness and the kingdom of God.
Islam, in its most fundamental and radical understanding, is openly opposed to Jews and Christians. According to their doctrine, Israel and Jews must be eliminated from the face of the earth.
In the last days, could there be a global religious system, a one-world religion that will threaten Christians, or requires Christians to toe the line? Will we be challenged to realign our faith? Will we be deceived into co-existing with other faiths in the name of interfaith dialogues, ecumenism, syncretism, religious pluralism, and religious harmony?
Heed the Shepherd, Be wise as serpents. Be innocent as doves.
Government (Matthew 10:18)
Governments want peace on their terms. If there is dissension and disruption on the ground, the government will act to restore peace and stability. If Christians are seen to be the cause of such disruption and disharmony, then the government will act against Christianity. An example can be seen when Pilate acted when Jesus was delivered to him, Herod killed James to please the crowd, city officials imprisoned Paul and Silas in Philippi, and Nero blamed the Christians for the fire and executed Paul.
Communism or socialism, as an ideology, is largely opposed to religion and Christianity. Karl Marx said, “Religion is the opium of the people.” and “The first requisite of the happiness of the people is the abolition of religion.” Religion offers hope and directs worship to God. Allegiance must be to the Communist Party, not God.
Capitalism focuses on prosperity and greed at the expense and exploitation of others. In such a case, it becomes like socialism where power is concentrated in the hands of one small group of people with money and means, to control the masses.
Judeo-Christian influence, shaped laws for many centuries, bringing stability and contributed to progress and prosperity. Today, governments are being pressured to respond to how people think and what people want. Politics is about gaining many votes. Laws are being changed to reflect morality as defined and redefined by the people. Examples are where sexuality, gender, marriage all re-defined for the people.
These changes affect all sectors of society – relationships, marriages, family, home, business, church. If Christians stand their ground, we are seen as old-fashioned, narrow, intolerant, unloving, ungracious bigots. If we speak out, it is called hate speech. There could come a time where preachers are jailed for reading the bible and preaching from it. Some are already so careful that we dare not preach the gospel, in case we lose tax-exempt or charity status.
Will everything be fine if we have Christian governments? Christians would have preferred status.
Constantine legalized Christianity in 313AD. Persecution stopped. Churches were built. Everyone became a Christian because it was the right thing to do and be. Whether they truly believed in Jesus Christ or not, everyone went to church on Sunday. There were many Christians, but few disciples. Political favour, position, and power became the order of the day. Over time, the Church became very rich, and also very corrupt. Christendom and kingdom are not the same.
Governments are largely secular, protecting their interests. Global economic co-operation may sound right but are we moving towards a one-world government headed by the Anti-Christ? What does that mean for Christians? What peace would this person promise? What if we say ‘no’ to certain policies?
Heed the Shepherd, Be wise as serpents. Be innocent as doves.
If We Should be Delivered to These Authorities? (Matthew 10:19-20)
We have nothing to hide and we should not be afraid. The Holy Spirit will give us the right words to say. This is no excuse for not studying the Scriptures and posturing our hearts. The Holy Spirit will direct you on how to say it, the proper attitude, and the manner to present the words. And the Holy Spirit will help you when you need it.
Men will try to stop you from sharing the gospel, but God is using you as a witness to them and the Holy Spirit will give you the words to say.
Family and Friends (Matthew 10:21)
There are family members who report conversions to Christianity in the world. In certain religions, you bring dishonour to the family and are considered as “dead”. In the name of honour, family and friends can and will report you to the relevant authorities.
Big Brother is watching you refers to the government’s surveillance of the people with listening devices and cameras and monitoring your digital footprint that is created through your activities and communication online. Big Brother symbolizes dictatorial power gazing into people’s lives. This phrase warns people that the government wants complete obedience and devotion to the laws and rules. It is all-powerful and God-like, replacing love from people’s lives with fear, and expecting them to follow the rules, regardless of whether they need to betray their own lives in his honour.
Heed the Shepherd, Be wise as serpents. Be innocent as doves.
World and Society (Matthew 10:22a)
The world will not view Christians positively for Jesus’ sake. Christians are already seen as hypocrites and judgmental and narrow-minded. “Holy” is not a cool trait or label as we are seen as prudes and killjoys, not knowing how to have fun, not in touch with the real world.
Universities and intellectuals consider Christians stupid and gullible (faith, giving money to make pastors rich). Media and movies do not portray Christians positively either. LGBT supporters see us as haters and bigots.
To be fair, we may have brought much of these upon ourselves. There is a need to live as real Christians, real disciples, to represent Jesus accurately and well. However, that is no guarantee that we will be well-liked and well-loved by the world. “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you.” John 15:18. Our concern is not how much we please men, but that we please our King, Jesus.
Endure to the End (Matthew 10: 22b)
Salvation is not just a point in the past. It is a process. The narrow way is fraught with challenges and difficulties, trials, and possible persecution. Yet, we are to endure, to persevere. In the end, it leads to life. The broadway is easy but in the end, it leads to destruction.
We must reframe the view of salvation through biblical lenses. We are saved, being saved, and will be saved. Paul said, “We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God.” Acts 14:22
There will be wolves ahead, challenges and battles to be fought, when we move out on kingdom assignment. We are called to endure and to persevere as we remain true to what the Lord has assigned to us.
If Needed, Flee! (Matthew 10:23)
There is a time to stand. There is a time to run. Wisdom is needed in either situation with God’s leading. Paul did both, escaping over the city wall in a basket (Acts 9:25), or using his Roman citizenship to avoid physical punishment (Acts 22:25).
Be Like Jesus: Disciplesheep (Matthew 10:24-25)
Jesus was like a lamb led to the slaughter as prophesied in Isaiah 53:7. Jesus was wise as serpent as He answered the religious leaders and Pilate; and yet, harmless and innocent as a dove for He did not compromise, and they could not find anything wrong with Him.
Jesus is the head and we are the members of His household. Jesus was slandered when He was called Beelzebub by the Jewish leaders. We as members are to expect slander as well (1 Peter 2:21–24). If you want to be like Jesus, this is par for the course.
Will everyone experience persecution? Maybe, maybe not. Regardless, we should all be prepared for such eventuality.
Would we endure or would we compromise? Would we boldly proclaim the name of Jesus, or would we be part of the great falling away (2 Thessalonians 2:3) that precedes the coming of the Lord?
If we are not experiencing persecution? Examine our own lives and discipleship (2 Timothy 3:12).
There is no need to look for persecution just to prove you are living godly. Pray for those who are suffering persecution. Support ministries who reach out to the persecuted church.
What is discipleship to you? Are you ready to be sent out amongst the wolves? Be wise as serpents. Be harmless and innocent as doves.
His assignments come with His assurance. Heed the Shepherd.