Matthew 10:21-23 Part 1

Two weeks ago during the preaching of the text covered for that day, I mentioned that I would begin this morning – rather than waiting until the end and not getting to it – with some thoughts about our “speaking to the world,” and doing so in the light of all that we’ve learned about our Lord’s commission to the apostles.  And what needs to be said also speaks to the issues surrounding civil disobedience and obedience to Christ the King.

When the Lord commissioned these twelve men and sent them among wolves He told them to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom in order to find the lost sheep of the house of Israel.  In doing so the sheep would hear the words of the King!  And just like the prophets of old, the apostles were to speak what they heard; and they were to expect harsh treatment for it!

Now, speaking to the question of disobedience and obedience, everyone must be aware that the authority of God is the higher authority, and all other authorities are given – or established – by Him.  And since they are all given in the image of the Ultimate Authority, they are all to be obeyed and honored.  In other words, to honor the civil magistrate is to honor the One Who established that civil magistrate.  The civil magistrate isn’t to be honored because he’s the man in the job; neither is he to be honored because of some humanistic principle that the “position” is to be given honor whoever’s in it.  Neither of those things is true.  The civil magistrate - at whatever level - is to be given honor and obeyed because God the Ultimate Authority established it!  (Romans thirteen, verses one through seven)  He is to be honored because he belongs to God.

And except when given clear command – not devised or speculative – clear commands to disobey, we must submit to our authorities, and honor them.  That’s just as simple as it can be.  And no elaborate theological fabrication or manipulation can overturn it – it’s axiomatic.  God has said it.

And when Jesus told the apostles to go and preach the Gospel of the Kingdom, that became the ground of all established authority!  In other words, the establishment of the Kingdom of God’s Anointed King is the higher goal of civilization, and it’s the prime reason for establishing the magistrate!  And since that’s the case, the means of establishing the Kingdom – that is, preaching the Gospel – is not ever to be denied by the magistrate!  Neither is it to be relegated to a lower position than the position in which Christ placed it!  Should a magistrate militate against the Gospel of the Kingdom, he actually works against his own authority!

And while I’m here let me just take a sidelight and mention this – that the magistrate not only is to remove itself from any impeding of the establishment of the Kingdom, but it is to provide any assistance to the preaching of that Kingdom!  And one step further – if there is the preaching of any other Gospel going on in public, in the realm of any magistrate, then that magistrate has the authority to stop it!  Yea, he even has a moral obligation before God to stop it!  He needs to keep the peace, and obtain a Godly society.

Now, the conclusion which all of that leads us to is that we are commanded by God to preach the Gospel, and it is not within the power of the Civil Magistrate to command silence of us, as long as we are preaching the received faith!  And if the magistrate counters the command of God Almighty and throws his weight against the very foundation of Godly society (which he is in office to establish!) then the preaching and discipling of the Gospel of the Kingdom must continue.  The magistrate must not stop or impede what God has expressly commanded!

And this is exactly what we find the apostles doing all through the New Testament, don’t we?  They are continuing to preach!  And not only them, but the ones who received the faith from them.  The examples are all over the place where the apostles were beaten and thrown into prison for the faith; but they never stopped preaching until they were physically deterred – at which time they submitted to whatever punishment might come their way.

Now, that’s not to say that they wouldn’t take themselves out of harm’s way when it was prudent to do so.  But they would not – and this is the point – they would not submit to the magistrate when commanded to stop preaching the Gospel.

And before I go to the next point here, let me just say that we hear a lot about how great it is that we have a pluralistic society – one in which it is okay for men to believe whatever they choose, and that there’s the religious side of the society and the non-religious side.  And that whatever you believe to be true, it’s great that we can all live free “side by side!”  They say that we have good and bad, right and left, religious and secular, democrat and republican – and nobody has to fit in anybody else’s mold.

Well that’s as wrong as it can be!  God has given us His King, and He said that the Kingdom of this King would grow and fill the whole earth!  That doesn’t sound pluralistic to me!  And the civil magistrate is supposed to facilitate that happening!

There is no allowance in Scripture for society to be both secular and religious!  Nobody is “allowed” to not believe God!  In fact, all men are commanded to repent and believe!  A pluralistic society is ungodly!

And, as we’ve just seen, the “pluralistic” thought process places Christianity in its own pluralism “category,” doesn’t it?  In other words, just as pluralism places conservatism on the opposite spectrum viz a viz liberalism, they also place Christianity in a pluralistic category viz a viz the secular world.  So it then becomes just another one of the “pluralisms” that we have in our society that makes our democratic nation so great!

And under these conditions Christianity languishes in the country as just another one of the - more or less - “acceptable” life forms and ways of speaking!

And therein is the transition (or as David says, the “segway”) to what I really want to speak about for a minute; and that is the evil that the Church has grown accustomed to in terms of its “speaking” to the world around us.

One of the points that I’ve made in the last two or three sermons on this chapter is that the Lord Jesus Christ has given authority to His apostles first, and to us as disciples down the line, to follow His instructions explicitly in preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom and discipling the nations.  In “speaking” to the world we are to be Biblical and Christ-centered in our preaching and teaching - and also in our calling attention to the sins in society!

But instead of engaging in our prophetic calling to declare openly and unashamedly the Law of God and the claims of Jesus Christ the Lord upon all of society as its King, the Church has more or less accepted the world’s view of it as just one side – or one component – of a pluralistic society!  It has “hunkered down” – using war time terminology – into a defensive position.

But we must remember that The Lamb Sacrificed before the foundation of the world has many sheep.  And those sheep hear His voice when we speak that which is consistent with His instructions!  And unless we speak in that manner, they won’t hear.  And society will not listen – they will consign us to one side of a pluralistic argument!

But you see, when we speak to the world – which we must do – the Lord Jesus and His Word is the sole basis for that speaking or dialogue!  We cannot allow the world order to categorize us and put us on the defensive and choose for us the language which we must use in our “speaking!”

But, because of fear, or because of wanting to be comfortable – we don’t want to be confrontative – or because of a desire to “fit in,” – whatever the reason – the Church is refusing to call for repentance from the aberrations from Godly society; and it is failing to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom; and it is fearful of losing its place in culture and society; and it now objects to using Biblical language to identify the ills from which men must repent!  As Paul said, “How shall they believe unless they hear?  And how shall they hear without a preacher?”

You see, secularized language will not cause men to repent!  As an article I just read said, “the accumulated wisdom of the world order is not friendly to the Gospel, and it has never prevented a sinner from rationalizing his sin!”

The Church just can’t speak to the world as one view among many; and it can’t speak to society in the language that’s acceptable to society; it can’t offer other views the opportunity to meet and come to a group decision; and it can’t “love” society into the Kingdom.  In Christ’s Kingdom there is no “debating” the issues with fallen man.  Because God’s truth for society is prescriptive!  In other words He prescribes what is acceptable to Him, and His disciples then “speak” that prescription in clear, descriptive terms – as given by God in His explicit instructions!

In Christ’s Kingdom lying and defrauding is not a “reorientation of the facts.”  Killing an unborn baby isn’t “premature pregnancy termination.”  Open defiance of God’s holy Law isn’t “another equally important way of looking at things.”  Restitution and retribution isn’t “evaluation and rehabilitation!”  And repentance and mourning of sin isn’t the same as the process of “self-actualization!”

You see, the Church has been coming to the world with these “euphemistic’ phrases - usually considered as “nicer” language.  Because euphemisms (like “early pregnancy termination”) are a more civilized way of leaving other people with some dignity.  You don’t say what’s wrong exactly, because that’s cruel.  And it’s confrontative.  The Church isn’t supposed to be cruel and confrontative.

And the Church isn’t supposed to be political either, I suppose, since we hardly ever hear God’s Word applied in public to the political issues.  I never hear “thus saith the Lord,” or “God said here is the Gospel of the Kingdom regarding economics; or penology; or taxes; or sexual issues.”  The Church abdicates its position in order to avoid confrontation with society!  Instead, it “seeks out opposing views with whom it can have dialogue and influence” rather than speaking to every area of life with the full Gospel of the Kingdom!

You see, men are dead in trespasses and sins, according to the apostle Paul; and therefore there is no common ground between the Gospel and common, sinful man.  The Church can’t reason with him on his terms or his turf, because there is nothing there with which to reason!  How does that which is alive reason with that which is dead?  There is no reasonableness in natural man!

That’s why God said for us to speak what He said – for there is only one way for the world to hear.  And that is the ministry of the Word of God by the Spirit.  The prophet (or disciple) takes the Word of God and delivers it per God’s instructions, and the Spirit causes the sheep to hear the voice of the King.

So the Church must stop its usage of euphemisms in dealing with the world’s ungodliness.  The world’s wisdom – all accumulated in one spot – wouldn’t prevent one homosexual from participating in his chosen hellish lifestyle!

And the Church has to stop begging for someone to listen to it.  Jesus never asked one time for an opportunity to be heard!  He never once requested a meeting so that He could have influence with some point of view.  When His Word is spoken to society, then God does with it what He will.  The Spirit of Christ working through the voice of Christ moves the hearts and minds of men to do the will of the King for His Kingdom!  Here in the text He says, “What you have heard in your ear speak from the rooftops!”  In other words, herald the authoritative Word – don’t appeal to fallen humanity for reason!

And the Church must stop agreeing with society that everybody has a right to a wrong opinion!  Nobody has a right to disagree with God Almighty any more than a woman has a right to destroy her unborn baby!  The moral absolutes of God are alone the basis for a free, productive, happy and just society.

And the Church must stop trying to work its way into groups and organizations, having a hidden agenda at the beginning until it can become influential!  And then, once it becomes respected by all, attempting to work the group toward Christian goals.  As another writer put it, that’s baiting and switching, and it is of dubious integrity.  And, in addition to that, the opportunity to herald the Law of God as basic to human life will have been missed in favor of “influence….”  The “speaking” of the Word of the King, the very thing that God uses to submit society and culture to His will, will have been missed in favor of “influence!”

Jesus said – I’m sending you among wolves.  Preach the Gospel of the Kingdom.  Find My lost sheep.  And the opposition to you is going to be fierce and rapacious.  They’re going to accuse you falsely, and take you to court, and flay you, and put you in bonds, and send you to governors and kings.  “On account of Me,” He says.

“And,” verse twenty-one, “And brother will hand over brother to death, and a father a child, and children will rise up against parents and put them to death.  And you will be hated by all on account of My Name.  But in the end the one who persevered, this one shall be saved.”

John Calvin made this statement about verse twenty-one:  “If our affections were properly regulated, there would be no other cause of just hatred among us.”  He refers to that hatred of even our own family members who scatter the Kingdom of Christ, extinguish the doctrine of salvation and abolish the worship of God.  And what he means is that if all our affections and emotions were regulated according to God and His Word, opposition to the Kingdom would be the only cause of just hatred among us!

Hatred among even family members because of Christ.

In this passage, verses twenty-one and twenty-two, Jesus removes from the apostles even this possibility of solace, comfort and protection.  He tells them that those circumstances which other people find to comfort them – that is, family – won’t be afforded to the apostles.  Added to their degree of misery (and, by the way, driving them to the person of Christ), added to their misery are family members as mortal enemies.  Brothers, and sons and daughters, and parents – who would normally be there to assist them when they’re oppressed and downcast and discouraged, and when they’re on trial for idolatry and sedition, and when they’re beaten to near death and sent to the governor, family members who would normally watch out for them and their safety and welfare will be hate-filled enemies.  Family members themselves will be handing them over to councils and accusing them before judges.

But, as we’ve already seen, as Christ brings men from desolation to salvation, nothing can be more reasonable than that those who preach and disciple by the empowering and instruction of Christ should be so hated by men on His account!  It is so contrary to nature (i.e. natural man in his sin) to speak the truth of Christ and His Kingdom, that it distresses the minds of men.  It distresses them, and angers them, and confuses them, and it drives them mad.

As verse twenty-two says, the apostles will be hated by all men – i.e. all kinds of men – religious people, judges, magistrates, kings, friends; and family.  Even those who ought to be encouraging and building become incensed at the embracing of Christ and His Kingdom – and even more so for adhering to His Name under persecution!  Have you ever noticed that?  Staying the course through severe testing on account of Christ makes people mad!  And those who weren’t persecuting before join with the persecutors!

But such has been the power of the prejudice against Christ, His Name, His Truth, and true religion.  Such has been the power in the zeal for a false religion!  That even the most natural and endearing relationships are sacrificed to false gods.  Nothing stings worse than that.  They are grievous cuts.  Wives, children, even parents are the very strongest bonds of love and duty, and are often broken through by enmity against Christ and His Kingdom.

Jesus has more to say about this very thing later on in the chapter.  And we know that the histories of the martyrs are full of these very instances.  And the situation into which these twelve first disciples of Jesus were inserted can only be described – if you’re going to do it with one phrase – as a powder-keg.  It was ready to erupt politically, culturally, and religiously. 

I want to spend some time next Lord’s Day building that picture for you – exactly the situation in which the apostles found themselves – preaching the Kingdom of Christ.

Needless to say, we don’t have that explosive situation in which to preach and teach and disciple the nations.  Yet we’ve backed away and allowed ourselves to be categorized by society as just another voice among many in a democratic atmosphere.  We must repent of that right now.  And even if we have to receive the ridicule and persecution of men and neighbors and religious people and judges and friends and family – we must speak the words of God clearly concerning His King and the Kingdom.  “Whatever you hear in your ears, herald it from the rooftops.”  It may be obnoxious to natural man, but it is the only way society will be submitted to Him.