https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/5/5a/MatthewHenry.jpg/220px-MatthewHenry.jpgYesterday’s post introduced Matthew Henry’s commentary on Matthew 10.

Henry’s exposition is well worth reading in full. It will certainly prove useful to those teaching Bible or youth classes to those who are new to the Gospel. And this will be useful for parents and other family members teaching youngsters in their household about the Apostles. Henry’s words bring the Twelve and their ministry to life. As I have not heard much deep preaching in church or anywhere else on Matthew 10, Henry offers excellent — and concise — explanations of the alternating stark and comforting way Christ taught the Twelve about the consequences of proclaiming the Gospel message.

Yesterday’s post covered the first 15 verses. This entry looks at the rest of the chapter. Excerpts from Henry follow, emphases in bold mine. I have also included a few personal observations.

Matthew 10:16-25 document Christ’s warning about the persecution to come. It is helpful to keep in mind that as the Apostles understood the Messiah was to be a temporal king — in keeping with Jewish teaching of the era — the last thought on their minds was persecution. It is unlikely they grasped the full import of our Lord’s prophetic message. His words hold true for millions around the world — including in the West. I shall write more about this shocking phenomenon tomorrow.

Our Lord was speaking here of the Apostles’ ministries post-Resurrection, when they would be on their own with the guidance of the Holy Spirit. At this point, the Twelve were unaware of His imminent death, resurrection and the first Pentecost.

Persecution — sheep and serpents

Our Lord said (Matthew 10:16, parallel in Luke 10:3):

“Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.

The Apostles were to be gentle and civilised in ministering to those who hated Christ and His followers. However, they were also to act with discernment. In any case, our Lord would ensure that no matter what they suffered they would be with Him for eternity. As to this verse:

… it is rather to be taken as a precept, recommending to us that wisdom of the prudent, which is to understand his way, as useful at all times, but especially in suffering times. “Therefore, because you are exposed, as sheep among wolves be ye wise as serpents not wise as foxes, whose cunning is to deceive others but as serpents, whose policy is only to defend themselves, and to shift for their own safety.” The disciples of Christ are hated and persecuted as serpents, and their ruin is sought, and, therefore, they need the serpent’s wisdom. Note, It is the will of Christ that his people and ministers, being so much exposed to troubles in this world, as they usually are, should not needlessly expose themselves, but use all fair and lawful means for their own preservation

It is the wisdom of the serpent to secure his head, that it may not be broken, to stop his ear to the voice of the charmer (Psalm 58:4,5), and to take shelter in the clefts of the rocks and herein we may be wise as serpents. We must be wise, not to pull trouble upon our own heads wise to keep silence in an evil time, and not to give offence, if we can help it.

Jesus warned that the Apostles would incur the wrath of the Jews and the Romans. The Jews would scourge them then hand them over to the Romans to be put to death. That was the limit the Jews could do in prosecution and persecution:

The Jews did not only scourge them, which was the utmost their remaining power extended to, but when they could go no further themselves, they delivered them up to the Roman powers, as they did Christ, John 18:30.

The shocking irony is that the Bible tells us that the Lord has ordained authority in those governing us to provide social order, yet:

Ye shall be brought before governors and kings (Matthew 10:18), who, having more power, are in a capacity of doing the more mischief. Governors and kings receive their power from Christ (Proverbs 8:15), and should be his servants, and his church’s protectors and nursing-fathers, but they often use their power against him, and are rebels to Christ, and oppressors of his church. The kings of the earth set themselves against his kingdom, Psalm 2:1,2; Acts 4:25,26. Note, It has often been the lot of good men to have great men for their enemies.

When this happens, the Holy Spirit will provide the right words through the persecuted (Matthew 10:20):

For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.

Even worse than the authorities, however, were family members who would soon be turning new Christians over to the authorities as apostates to be killed. This still happens today:

the enmity of such is commonly most implacable[:] a brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city, Proverbs 18:19. The martyrologies, both ancient and modern, are full of instances of this. Upon the whole matter, it appears, that all that will live godly in Christ Jesus, must suffer persecution and through many tribulations we must expect to enter into the kingdom of God.

Whatever we endure, our Lord tells us to keep our faith (Matthew 10:22):

and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.

Henry explains:

Note, A believing prospect of the period of our troubles, will be of great use to support us under them. The weary will be at rest, when the wicked cease from troubling, Job 3:17. God will give an expected end, Jeremiah 29:11. The troubles may seem tedious, like the days of a hireling, but, blessed be God, they are not everlasting. Secondly, That while they continue, they may be endured as they are not eternal, so they are not intolerable they may be borne, and borne to the end, because the sufferers shall be borne up under them, in everlasting arms: The strength shall be according to the day, 1 Corinthians 10:13. Thirdly, Salvation will be the eternal recompence of all those that endure to the end. The weather stormy, and the way foul, but the pleasure of home will make amends for all. A believing regard to the crown of glory has been in all ages the cordial and support of suffering saints, 2 Corinthians 4:16,17,18; Hebrews 10:34. This is not only an encouragement to us to endure, but an engagement to endure to the end. They who endure but awhile, and in time of temptation fall away, have run in vain, and lose all that they have attained but they who persevere, are sure of the prize, and they only. Be faithful unto death, and then thou shalt have the crown of life.

When necessary, we should seek shelter elsewhere — as does the serpent — for survival:

In case of imminent peril, the disciples of Christ may and must secure themselves by flight, when God, in his providence, opens to them a door of escape. He that flies may fight again. It is no inglorious thing for Christ’s soldiers to quit their ground, provided they do not quit their colours: they may go out of the way of danger, though they must not go out of the way of duty. Observe Christ’s care of his disciples, in providing places of retreat and shelter for them ordering it so, that persecution rages not in all places at the same time but when one city is made too hot for them, another is reserved for a cooler shade, and a little sanctuary a favour to be used and not to be slighted yet always with this proviso, that no sinful, unlawful means be used to make the escape for then it is not a door of God’s opening.

Our Lord told the Apostles not to try to be His equal but to imitate His example (Matthew 10:24-25). He also made allusion to the Jewish hierarchy putting him in league with Beelzebub — the devil. My readers will remember this from the verses I looked at a few weeks ago — Matthew 9:32-34 — when He healed the man made deaf by demons.

Our Lord said that whatever His enemies accused Him of would also mark His followers — ‘household’ — even more.

‘Fear not’

Despite the perils incurred in following Him, our Lord tells us that He will acknowledge us before His Father in heaven. Therefore, we are not to fear evil men, despite their ability to inflict pain and death.

On this point, Jesus said (Matthew 10:26-27):

26 “So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. 27 What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. 28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.[g]

Verse 26 has its parallel in Luke 12:2, about which I wrote in May 2014. (That post also contains the significance of rooftops in Jesus’s time.) On one level, these verses concern the hypocrisy of the Pharisees. However, they also refer to our sins which will be revealed, if not in this world, then on the Last Day.

As to what Jesus was teaching the Apostles when they were alone, He told them to proclaim from the rooftops:

Those ambassadors received their instructions in private, in darkness, in the ear, in corners, in parables. Many things Christ spake openly, and nothing in secret varying from what he preached in public, John 18:20. But the particular instructions which he gave his disciples after his resurrection, concerning the things pertaining to the kingdom of God, were whispered in the ear (Acts 1:3), for then he never showed himself openly. But they must deliver their embassy publicly, in the light, and upon the house-tops for the doctrine of the gospel is what all are concerned in (Proverbs 1:20,21,8:2,3), therefore he that hath ears to hear, let him hear. The first indication of the reception of the Gentiles into the church, was upon a house-top, Acts 10:9. Note, There is no part of Christ’s gospel that needs, upon any account, to be concealed the whole counsel of God must be revealed, Acts 20:27. In never so mixed a multitude let it be plainly and fully delivered.

Further words of comfort came when He told them that God the Father knows our trials, just as He knows when a sparrow dies or the number of hairs on our heads. He created us in His image. Furthermore, we are more valuable than sparrows.

Henry tells us:

Now this God, who has such an eye to the sparrows, because they are his creatures, much more will have an eye to you, who are his children. If a sparrow die not without your Father, surely a man does not,–a Christian,–a minister,–my friend, my child.

Also:

If God numbers their hairs, much more does he number their heads, and take care of their lives, their comforts, their souls. It intimates, that God takes more care of them, than they do of themselves.

Love our Lord first

Jesus warned the Apostles — and us — about Christianity dividing a household and about Christian teachings dividing us from the world. Note that He said nothing about earthly peace here (Matthew 10:34):

“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.

He said that our enemies would come from our own household (Matthew 10:26). Furthermore, we are not to love our own families more than we love Him (Matthew 10:37-38). Ultimately, if we die professing His name, we might lose our temporal life but we will find eternal life (Matthew 10:39).

Henry explains:

First, Before our nearest and dearest relations father or mother, son or daughter. Between these relations, because there is little room left for envy, there is commonly more room for love, and, therefore, these are instanced, as relations which are most likely to affect us. Children must love their parents, and parents must love their children but if they love them better than Christ, they are unworthy of him. As we must not be deterred from Christ by the hatred of our relations which he spoke of (Matthew 10:21,35,36), so we must not be drawn from him, by their love. Christians must be as Levi, who said to his father, I have not seen him, Deuteronomy 33:9.

Secondly, Before our ease and safety. We must take up our cross and follow him, else we are not worthy of him. Here observe, 1. They who would follow Christ, must expect their cross and take it up. 2. In taking up the cross, we must follow Christ’s example, and bear it as he did. 3. It is a great encouragement to us, when we meet with crosses, that in bearing them we follow Christ, who has showed us the way and that if we follow him faithfully, he will lead us through sufferings like him, to glory with him.

Thirdly, Before life itself, Matthew 10:39. He that findeth his life shall lose it he that thinks he had found it when he has saved it, and kept it, by denying Christ, shall lose it in an eternal death but he that loseth his life for Christ’s sake, that will part with it rather than deny Christ, shall find it, to his unspeakable advantage, an eternal life. They are best prepared for the life to come, that sit most loose to this present life.

Rewards for honouring His people

Finally, Jesus said that whoever honours His followers honours Him. Henry observes:

That though the kindness done to Christ’s disciples be never so small, yet if there be occasion for it, and ability to do no more, it shall be accepted, though it be but a cup of cold water given to one of these little ones, Matthew 10:42. They are little ones, poor and weak, and often stand in need of refreshment, and glad of the least. The extremity may be such, that a cup of cold water may be a great favour. Note, Kindnesses shown to Christ’s disciples are valued in Christ’s books, not according to the cost of the gift, but according to the love and affection of the giver. On that score the widow’s mite not only passed current, but was stamped high, Luke 21:3,4. Thus they who are truly rich in graces may be rich in good works, though poor in the world.

Conclusion

There are many lessons to absorb in Matthew 10, one of the most powerful chapters in the Gospels.

We — and our children — are likely to run into resistance to Christ, even those of us who live in the West.

In addition to considering this as historical prophecy from our Lord to the Apostles, we would do well to also apply it to our own lives. Matthew Henry’s commentary goes a long way in unpacking these verses for our benefit.

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