Ten Important Lessons from the Master
“Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues; And ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles….He that receiveth you receiveth me, and he 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 wise lose his reward.” (Matthew 10:16-42)
God’s servants in this world are sheep in the midst of wolves, needing wisdom, grace, and strength that only God can give to do his will. In these verses of Scripture our Lord Jesus Christ gives his servants words of instruction to sustain and comfort them as they endeavor to serve the interest of his kingdom and the souls of men in this world. These words of instruction, in their primary application, were given to the apostles of our Lord. However, they are equally applicable to every gospel preacher in this world. And they are just as properly applied to you who seek to serve the Lord Jesus Christ in your day by day lives. We are (all who believe) God’s servants.
To the selfish and unbelieving, who care for nothing but their own ease and comfort, these verses of Scripture are meaningless. To you who serve God and the souls of men, they will be of great interest. To serve God and do good to men’s souls in this world is hard work. Satan fights to maintain his kingdom. The hearts of men are far more wicked than any of us imagine. Our Lord Jesus knows this. Therefore, he takes care, when he sends us out to do his service, to supply us with instructive and encouraging words that we might be prepared for the trials, temptations, and troubles we must face in this world.
Here are ten lessons that we must learn, as we endeavor to serve God and our generation by the will of God.
1. We must be modest in our expectations.
“Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues; And ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles. But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak. For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you. And the brother shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the child: and the children shall rise up against their parents, and cause them to be put to death. And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved. But when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another: for verily I say unto you, Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come.” – (vv. 16-23)
If we serve God, if our object is the glory of God, we must not make success our goal. “Beware of men.” We are “as sheep in the midst of wolves.” If you set your heart to serve God, you must make up your mind to be hated, abused, misunderstood, slandered, and persecuted by men. Even your nearest relations will oppose you if they do not know God. Whether you preach, or teach, or visit, or pass out tracts, or write, or give witness to others, whatever you do, for Christ, you must expect nothing from the world but opposition.
Many who once seemed full of zeal have turned back because they had extravagant expectations. Many a preacher has been taken in Satan’s snare of “success” and has compromised the gospel to get it! Our only ambition ought to be the glory of God. Our only duty is the will of God. Our only guide is the Word of God. The only success we should desire is the approval of God. We must endure the hatred and opposition of men throughout the days of our lives; “but he that endureth to the end shall be saved.”
2. If we would serve God in this world, we must be “wise as serpents and harmless as doves.” (v. 16).
That simply means we must pray for God to give us wisdom, good sense, a sound mind, and sincerity of heart. The word “harmless” means “simple.” We are to be simple, honest, sincere as God’s servants. Yet, we must have wisdom and good sense. We must never seek to avoid persecution by cowardice, compromise, or intimidation. The Lord allows his servants to flee from one city to another. But he does not allow us to hold our tongues. Yet, we must never foolishly court persecution by being obnoxious, arrogant, or even out of order and place. There is a proper time and place for witnessing and bearing testimony to the gospel; but there are times when it is out of place to do so. When someone is paying you to work for him, it is evil, not spiritual, to rob him of the labor for which you are being paid to discuss religious matters with your co-workers.
To state the matter simply, our God does not require us to throw out common sense when we are engaged to do his will. The offence of the cross we must bear. But we are not to be offensive. Let us “strive to walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise” (Eph. 5:15).
3. We must never expect to be treated better or to receive better in this world than our Savior did.
“The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord. It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master, and the servant as his lord. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of his household?” – (vv. 24-25)
If we leave men alone, they will probably leave us alone; but we dare not leave men alone. We must, as our Savior did, expose man’s sin, proclaim God’s righteousness in and by Christ, and call sinners to repentance and faith in Christ. If we follow our Master, we will, in the ordinary course of events, experience what he experienced. He was slandered and rejected by those among whom he ministered. Men “called him Beelzebub,” a devil, a glutton, a winebibber, and a sinner. Few believed his message. Let us not be surprised if we experience the same. C. H. Spurgeon wrote…
“If the Master of the family is likened to Beelzebub, the fly-god of the Philistines, and named after the prince of demons, by what names will they call us? Doubtless malice will quicken wit, and sarcasm will invent words which pierce as daggers, and cut like knives….God was slandered in Paradise, and Christ on Calvary, how can we hope to escape? Instead of wishing to avoid bearing the cross, let us be content to endure dishonor for our King s sake.”
4. We must be content to wait for him whom we serve to vindicate us in the day of judgment.
God will bring everything to light in his time. — “Fear them not therefore: for there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed, and hid, that shall not be known” (v. 26). Vengeance belongs to him. If we are his servants, he will both vindicate and avenge our names and our work in the last day. Either here or there God will vindicate his servants. And he will do it by judgment (Ps. 37:5-6; 1 Cor. 4:1-5). Wicked men, under cover of religion and devotion, may cover their malice and hatred for a time, but it will be revealed at God’s appointed time and in God’s appointed way to their everlasting shame.
5. If we would serve God we must fear God rather than man.
“What I tell you in darkness, that speak ye in light: and what ye hear in the ear, that preach ye upon the housetops. And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” (vv. 26-28).
Like Daniel and his friends, we must be willing to surrender anything and everything, even life itself, rather than compromise the glory of God, violate the truth of God, or go against the Word of God. The wrath of man may be hard to bear, but it is infinitely easier to bear than the wrath of God. Let us ever be faithful to our God.
Our Master here tells us to blow the trumpet of the everlasting gospel, to loudly and publicly proclaim to all the truths and mysteries of God’s free grace, which he has made known to us. In quiet meditation, prayer, and study let every servant of Christ seek and receive God’s message. Let none speak until spoken to by God; but once God speaks we are to proclaim his message everywhere. Receive the message like a whisper in your ear. Then sound it forth from “the housetops.” Like the town-criers of old, get to the highest point possible and sound out the Word of the Lord. As Spurgeon put it, “Keep the study and the closet out of sight, and there in secret meet with Jesus, and then set the pulpit of testimony in as conspicuous a place as you can find.” We are responsible to preach the gospel of Christ as fully and as widely as possible by every means at our disposal in the generation in which we live.
6. We must trust the providential care of God.
“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 ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows.” (vv. 29-31)
The path of duty may lead us into danger. Our lives may seem to be in peril if we go forward. But we must ever realize that everything is in God’s hand. Whatever fearful thing we meet, as we serve our God, we may say to it, as our Lord did to Pilate, “Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above” (John 19:11).
If our heavenly Father observes the death of a worthless sparrow, we ought to be confident that he will take care of us, even of the most minute concerns of our lives. His care for use extends even to the numbering of the hairs on our heads. Every circumstance of our lives is controlled by the arrangement of our heavenly Father’s eternal love and grace toward us. Let us never look upon anything as a matter of chance. That which we experience day by day is but the fulfilling of our God’s eternal purpose of grace for our everlasting good (Rom. 8:28).
7. If we would serve God in this world, we must constantly live in the anticipation of judgment and eternity.
“Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.” (vv. 32-33)
It may cost you the sneers and frowns of men to confess Christ in this world. But it will cost you the frown of God in eternity to refuse to confess him. Without question, these words extend to the whole of our lives. We must never blush to confess Christ and his gospel before the world that hates him. But the confession of Christ before men begins in baptism.
Believers confess Christ before men in believer’s baptism. In baptism we confess our union with Christ and our confidence in him as our representative before God (Gal. 3:27). Being buried with Christ symbolically in the waters of baptism, we acknowledge our sin and its just punishment, and we testify of our faith in Christ’s substitutionary death for the satisfaction of justice, by which our sins have been put away (Rom. 6:3). Rising up from the watery grave, we confess our faith in the resurrection of Christ, our representative resurrection in Christ, our spiritual resurrection by Christ, and our bodily resurrection in the likeness of Christ (Rom. 6:4; Col. 2:12). Being raised up from spiritual death by the grace of God in regeneration, through the merits of Christ’s obedience, we confess to God and all the world that we will henceforth “walk in the newness of life’, for the glory of our God. Our confession of faith is a confession of Christ. What an honor it is to confess him before men! What a reward it shall be to be confessed by him before his Father’s throne in the last day!
To “deny” Christ is not to confess him. While baptism has nothing whatever to do with the accomplishment of our salvation, it is essential as a matter of obedience to our God and Savior. I am often asked, “Can a person be saved without baptism?” The answer is obvious. Of course! All of God’s people are saved without baptism. Salvation is by grace alone (Eph. 2:8-9). But refusal to be baptized is rebellion against the plain command of God. In the New Testament all who were received as brethren and regarded as believers were those who had been baptized. I cannot find one person regarded as a believer in the New Testament who refused baptism.
Here, our Lord warns us that those who refuse to confess him before men, he will refuse to confess before his Father’s throne in heaven. What a solemn warning! To be disowned by the Son of God before his Father who is in heaven is to perish forever in hell!
8. If we would serve our God and the souls of men, we must understand the gospel of Christ is the cause of constant irreconcilable divisions among men.
“Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not 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.” (vv. 34-36)
Wherever Christ comes there is a “division because of him.” The gospel of Christ divides men and often divides families. Unity, peace, and harmony are great blessings. We ought to earnestly seek them, pray for them, and sacrifice anything to obtain them – anything except the truth of God! Peace that is purchased at the expense of truth is purchased at a rate that ought never to be paid!
9. If you and I would serve Christ, if we would do the will of God, we must take up our cross and follow him every day.
“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.” (vv. 37-39)
Faith in and obedience to Christ is nothing less than the surrender of my life to his rule as my Lord, my Savior, and my King. Christ will not have me unless he has all of me (Lk. 14:33). Spurgeon said, “No man has truly given himself to Christ unless he has said, ‘My Lord, I give thee this day my body, my soul, my powers, my talents, my goods, my house, my children, and all that I have. Henceforth, I hold them at thy will, as a steward under thee. Thine they are. As for me, I have nothing. I have surrendered all to thee!’”
The Lord Jesus Christ is the Pearl of great price. If we would have him, we must sell all to get him (Matt. 13:45-46). He said, “Whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:33). If we would have Christ, we must surrender all to him.
Christianity, true Christianity, true saving faith involves a total surrender to Christ the Lord. Either you will be a servant under the dominion of King Jesus, voluntarily giving up all to his claims, or you will go to hell! You may not have to give up anything in actuality. But surrender to Christ must be just as real and complete in your heart as if you had actually given up everything, even down to life itself. Our Lord Jesus Christ requires total and unreserved surrender to himself. Christ will be Lord of all, or he will not be Lord at all. Is Jesus Christ, the Son of God, your Lord? Is he truly your Lord?
10. If we would be the servants of God in this world, we must never expect our reward in this world, but in the world to come.
“He that receiveth you receiveth me, and he 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 wise lose his reward.” (vv. 40-42)
What a blessed word this is! God’s people are so thoroughly and completely one with Christ that to receive one of his is to receive him. There is a special word of encouragement here to those who are sent by Christ to preach his gospel. Gospel preachers are God’s ambassadors to men. To receive Christ’s messengers is to receive the Lord Jesus himself, and to receive the Lord Jesus is to receive God himself. That which is done to God’s servants in this world, good or evil, is treated by our Lord as being done to him. And that which is done to Christ’s redeemed ones, good or evil, is considered by our Redeemer as being done to him (Matt. 25:32-46).
The least service done for our Lord is observed by him and shall be honored by him He that gives but “a cup of cold water” to one of his little ones, as a disciple, “shall receive a righteous man’s reward,” and shall never lose it.
The eyes of our God and Savior are always upon those who serve him. We may be unnoticed by others; but we are not insignificant in the eyes of our God. He observes those who oppose and oppress us. And he takes notice of those who help. He took notice of Diotrephes, who opposed John. And he took notice of Lydia, who assisted Paul. All these things are written down in the great book of his remembrance, and will be brought to light at the last day. The chief butler forgot Joseph when he was restored to his place. But the Lord Jesus never forgets any of his people and counts the least, most insignificant service done for his honor and in his name as the greatest (Mark 14:3-9). It matters not whether we preach the gospel to great multitudes, or open our homes to his children, or give a cup of cold water in his name, all are the same in his sight. We are responsible only to do that which he gives us opportunity and ability to do. And all that is done for him is accepted and honored by him (1 Sam. 2:30).
Are we helpers or hinderers in the cause of Christ? Do we assist God’s servants, or do we impede their labors? Do we aid his little ones, or do we stand in their way? These are serious questions that ought to be considered by us. God give us grace, as often as we have opportunity, to give “a cup of cold water,” or “receive a prophet,” or “receive a righteous man,” in the name of Christ, laboring together in the Lord’s vineyard to gather in his harvest. We should, each of us, make it our business to leave this world better than it was when we entered it. If we follow Christ, if we serve God, if we serve the souls of men, we shall.
“Make me a channel of blessing today,
Make me a channel of blessing, I pray;
My life possessing, my service blessing,
Make me a channel of blessing today.”