Matthew 10:34-37

Let me begin this morning by reading a few verses from Proverbs chapter one, starting with verse seven:  “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; but fools despise wisdom and instruction.  My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother; for they shall be an ornament of grace unto thy head, and chains about thy neck….”

The words there mean that the fear of God is the principal part - the “head” - of wisdom.  And of all things to be known, this most evident - that God is to be feared, reverenced, served, and worshipped.  “This is so the beginning of knowledge and wisdom that those know nothing who do not know this.  Further, in order to the attaining of all useful wisdom, this is most necessary - that we fear God.  If it is not principally there, then we are foolish despisers of truth.”  (John Calvin)

And to define fear is simply to say that it is the awe, or esteem, due to the One Who creates and providentially sustains all that there is, and that He does that for His Own glory and pleasure.  And that all that has life begins and ends by His determination - including every person; and that proper fear includes love and honor and glory, devoting oneself and “putting oneself under” - for He is the One Who can utterly destroy both body and soul in hell.

On the other hand, the one who prefers “self” doesn’t fear God - doesn’t “put under,” reverence, worship, hold in awesome esteem….  He despises God.  And he’s a fool.  The “beginning” - the principal part, the head - of wisdom isn’t there.  His heart and his mind and his affections and his body are all fixed on earthly things - all centered around self.

And whenever that self is threatened in any way he will race to place himself under whatever groups or individuals or institutions or philosophies that will eliminate the danger to self - or provide the solution to the concern for self.

If his concern is death and the fear of death, then he’ll place himself “under” the ones who can take his life!  If it’s stature and self-worth he’s after, then he’ll place himself “under” those he knows can best provide that!  And if it’s love his “self” needs, then he might even place himself “under” family members in order to assure it!

Now, I want to take just a minute to explain what I mean by putting oneself “under,” because it is a Biblical word, and because it is, I think, the sub-structure for understanding this passage this morning.

Paul uses the terminology in several places in his letters - especially the first one that comes to mind, Romans chapter eight.  Here’s what he says:  “For they that are under the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are under the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.  For to be fleshly minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace….  Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live under the flesh.  For if you live under the flesh, you shall die….”

Now, I don’t want to spend any time on the differences between flesh and spirit, this morning, and I don’t especially want you to concentrate on them - because the issue is “putting the self under.”

And first I want to clip away at the sides of that concept so we can see what it’s not!  (Sometimes that’s the easiest way to discover what something is, isn’t it? - to find out what it’s not.)

Putting one’s self under is not submitting to the authority which has been given us.  We are commanded, in many places in God’s Word, to submit to the civil authority.  And, as we have said recently, as long as that civil authority doesn’t command us to nullify God’s ultimate authority, we are to prosper in the peace and order which the magistrate brings to society.

Another example of what “putting one’s self under” is not, is the submission to one another that is owed to each other in the body of Christ.  Or the submission that is required in marriage and family life.  Or the submission that’s due to spiritual leaders.  That’s not what’s meant here by “putting one’s self under.”  Our Lord Jesus Christ submitted to His authority for the glory of His Father and for the salvation of the world.  And humility before men and submission to authority is required of us as we live in Him and imitate Him.

So, “putting one’s self under” isn’t submission to the authority which God has established.  What it means, with reference to our text, is attributing to men, or deferring to men, what belongs only to God!

So, if in our submission to men - whether it’s the civil magistrate or Church leaders, or family members or society in general or philosophies, if our submission to men defers to them what belongs only to God, then we put ourselves “under” them - not to the glory of God, but to our shame and destruction!  For God will not allow us to attribute to others what is due only to Him!

That’s why our Lord Jesus, as we heard a couple of Sundays ago, said to His disciples, “You mustn’t be afraid of those who kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul; rather you are to fear the One Who is able to utterly destroy both soul and body in hell.”

In other words, Christ’s disciples, in carrying out the express commands and missions of their King, are not to be deferring to men, or attributing to men, that which belongs only to God - to be so concerned about self that they “put themselves under” the fear of men.  Where the Gospel and the spread of the Kingdom is concerned, those who live in Christ are not to defer to men what belongs only to God - fear, awe, reverence, protection!  In the preaching of the Words of Christ, which is life to men and society, no other concern should take precedence over the fear of God - not the authorities, not friends, not even the closest of family relationships!

The fear of God being the “principle part of wisdom,” if that fear is transferred to another over concern for self or others, then the esteem and awe and glory of God is abandoned!

If we abandon the “beginning of wisdom” - the head, the principal part - in favor of the fear of men, then we deny Christ and our identification with Him!  And we deny our Father Who has ultimate control over all our destinies!

Examples of this are all over the Scriptures.  I call your attention, for example, to Abraham, who, at the command of God, took his own son to the mountain to sacrifice him.  When God stopped the sacrifice, He said to Abraham:  Now I know that you have fear of God, seeing that you didn’t withhold your only son from Me….”  Of course we know that that event was a prefiguring of God’s delivering up His only Son for us.  But the point of my reading it here is that Abraham’s fear of God was preeminent - even with respect to the love of His own family members!

And, by way of another example, I call your attention to Paul as he writes to the Corinthian Church, where he indicates that he is so oriented to God that he gladly accepts the suffering in Christ in order that he might grow in fear!  And a number of times in his letters he mentions the freedom from the bondage of fear and death in order that he and the others could freely proclaim the Gospel!  Preaching the Gospel at the command of God was of greater motivation than the fear of men, and greater than suffering Paul had to endure at their hands!

Both of the men (and others in Scripture) Paul and Abraham, neither deferred to their own fears, or loves, in the case of obedience and devotion to God.

And that’s the setting in which we read these next verses, thirty-four through thirty-seven.  “You must not presume that I came to send forth peace upon the earth.  I did not come to send forth peace but a sword.

“For I came to set apart a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a bride against her mother-in-law.  And the enemies of a man are his household members.”  Those are quotes from Old Testament passages such as Micah chapter seven.  And Jesus continues:  “The one who loves father and mother above me is not my worthy one; and the one who loves son or daughter above me is not my worthy one….”

In verse thirty-four of our text Jesus now advances to the root cause producing all this hostility and which necessitates all of this admonition against fear - deferring to men that which only belongs to God!  And it’s the fact that He didn’t come to send forth peace upon the earth, He came to send forth a Sword!  This is the cause of it all!  And the apostles must understand that!  Do you see that?  Don’t even presume I did that!

The word “presume” has the idea of cognitive assumption.  In other words, “Don’t even have the idea that I came to send forth peace upon the earth.”  And the statement seems that Jesus knew that the apostles would think this to be the purpose in His coming! - send forth peace.  Doesn’t it?  Was He not the “Prince of Peace?”  Was the Church not the “haven of peace?”  Was His greeting not “peace to you?”  Were the apostles themselves not “bearers of peace?”

These were prophesied.  And the apostles knew that!  And it was logical for them to see Jesus in this light, since they knew the Old Testament Scriptures.  But Jesus says that His disciples must understand.  In other words intelligence must fortify their faith and their courage.  Because the apostles were not to think that they would go out and preach, meet with harsh resistance, but then the whole world would embrace the Gospel and peace would reign!

This was a Pharisaical eschatological assumption - that the great Messiah would come, meet with some quick but terrible resistance; but then the whole world would immediately recognize His preeminence in the world and submit to His greatness - returning Jerusalem to its long-lost stature!

But that’s not the case!  Neither is Jesus to set Himself up as the king of the world in Jerusalem; nor will peace be embraced soon after His coming is announced!  Quite the contrary!

“I came to set apart a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother and a bride against her mother-in-law - and the enemies of a man will be his household members!  I came to send forth a Sword unto the earth!”  Verse thirty-five here says that as soon as all these things are uncovered and preached in the light, that the ties of even family will be broken up.  And Micah chapter seven says that under the state of extreme corruption, a man’s enemies are the men of his own house!

So the context from which Jesus draws His quote - the prophecy of Micah - is one of extreme corruption, which is also the case in Israel when Jesus spoke these words!  The context is the coming of the Word of God in the midst of demonic infestation.

You see - let’s back up for a moment - this statement of our Lord’s isn’t a statement of purpose for all of creation for all times.  When He said, “I didn’t come to send forth peace upon the earth, but a Sword,” it wasn’t a pronouncement that the whole world would forever be at war because He came!  That would be a preposterous conclusion to make from the text.

But the connection is between Israel’s corruption and the preaching of the Gospel of the Kingdom!  This is a statement completely attached to the context of preaching in the midst of a Satanically corrupt society and what was going to happen because of it!

And what would happen?  All of those things which we’ve mentioned in the last six or seven weeks - enmity!  That’s what the Sword brings when it’s wielded in the midst of corruption!

Jesus says that He came to set apart a man against his father, and so forth.  The word is “cut asunder;” to separate someone from another.  And the more corrupt things are, the more separation there is at the unveiling of the truth!  Jesus says it’s going to happen; we can’t identify with Him without encountering the hatred and resistance of many.  And we must receive that rejection and hatred without fear.

If we fear death and pain and humiliation at the hands of authorities, then we defer to them that which only belongs to God.  And if we defer to our sons or our fathers or our wives or our daughters that which belongs only to God, then we love them more than we love God!  There is separation at the preaching of the Gospel, but we mustn’t fear them.  We must not fear loving God more than our own parents!  Or our own children!

The Luke parallel passage - if this sounds somewhat harsh to any of you, you ought to read the statement from Luke!  He says, “If any man does not hate his father and mother….”  Now Luke’s habit is to use the maximum language, but it means the same thing.  Paul sums it up for us in Philippians chapter three, verses seven through eight:  “What things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ, for Whom I suffered the loss of all things.”

Hatred of father and mother means if the earthly father is a hindrance to the faith, if there’s a state of enmity, if it’s one or the other, then the earthly father has to be turned away!  We must be under the power and influence of no man!  For that position of “being under” belongs only to God!

Now, even though the corruption of Israel at the time of Christ is the context of these words, it is a fact that the enmity between the Sword of Christ on the one hand, and the corruption of man on the other will always be here.  More at some times than others, but decreasing until that time when a man won’t even have to exhort his neighbor to “know the Lord.”

But in the meantime, where there is more corruption there is more enmity because of the Sword of Christ.  Where there is more corruption, there is more separation, and death, and pain, and persecution - from friends and even family.  And Christ said He came in order to send forth a Sword.  He came to set apart a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother.  And to set apart a man against his own household members.  He didn’t come to send forth peace in a corrupt society.  God doesn’t give peace to a corrupt society!

But - when the Gospel is preached, peace comes doesn’t it?  How?  When?  Jesus said, “Therefore all who shall acknowledge Me before men, I personally shall acknowledge him before My Father in the heavens….”  For those who identify with Christ publicly - those who take on His identity - there is peace with God.  For Shalom first and foremost means the lack of enmity with God.

Secondly, there is peace between those who receive the unveiling of the truth - the Gospel Light.  There may not be anything but hatred between a man and his own son, but the Peace of God can reign between two brothers in the Lord.  Of course, the most blessed of all situations is that in which the peace of God reigns in a man’s entire family and the Sword of Christ causes no enmity.  But where there is both Gospel and corruption, there is also separation.

Thirdly, wherever there is the dominion of Christ, there will be the ever increasing government of peace.  And Christ’s dominion is to spread to every family in every tribe in every nation on the earth.  Peace is an ever increasing reality.

Jesus makes it very clear, here in verse thirty-seven, that without the bond of peace in the faith, even though it is harsh and contrary to natural feelings to make enemies of those who ought to be in closest alliance with us, Jesus says we can’t be His disciples under any other conditions!  If by your sharing the identity of Christ a family member becomes your enemy, then in all gratitude and devotion to the One Whose identity is shared, an enemy is made!  Paul tells us that however much it is within us, have peace with all men.  But if our identification with Christ makes enemies, then enemies are made.

But even then the duties of relationship can’t be abandoned.  A son is to honor his father.  A daughter-in-law her mother-in-law.  A husband is to love his wife.  And employee is to do justice to his employer.  A citizen is to give honor and respect to the magistrate - and on and on.

But we must not defer to them.  We mustn’t fear them.  We mustn’t place ourselves “under” them; for that distinction is reserved for God the Son - our King and our Saviour.






Short Introduction to Verse 38


It just didn’t work out, in the linear exegesis of the text, for us to cover verse thirty eight concerning the cross of Christ.  This is the day when Churches all over the world traditionally celebrate - however un-Biblical the celebration is - the resurrection of Christ Jesus.  And although it hasn’t been our purpose to ignore the celebration, it is a fact that we aren’t a liturgical Church and, therefore, don’t adhere to the Church calendar year.

However, the text next Lord’s Day has to do with a term which is mentioned here for the first time by Jesus - the cross.  And the context of its being mentioned is the suffering to be endured by all of those who would identify with Christ and speak the truth for the Kingdom’s sake.  Jesus says, “And he who isn’t taking his cross and following behind me isn’t my worthy one….”  The weight of the response doesn’t match the preaching….

And what we will hear next week is that we do participate in His suffering - not that we atone for anything in doing so, but it indicates that our sin has been transferred to Him, and His righteousness has been transferred to us.  And the cross of Christ seems to be the centerpiece for that.  We put Him up on it - and He allows us the honor of sharing it with Him.

So the cross becomes a synonym for suffering.  And humiliation.  And rejection. His.  And ours.  He put himself under catastrophic curse for us.  And in His resurrection is the power of the newness of life.  And then He says for us to receive our crosses and follow behind Him - the worthy response.  Yes.  He asks us to suffer the pain of persecution and humiliation - in Him.  With Him.  This is what the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ requires of us.  Will you do that?  We’ll find out more about that next Lord’s Day.