The Messengers - Part 2

Posted: Fri. Jul, 1 2016

The Messengers, part 2.


In Matthew 10 the Lord's twelve disciples are named and are sent out into the harvest. He makes them His fellow workers and gives them His very power. They have the gospel, but because of the opposition they will face, they will need the power, a power greater than the devil who will attempt to steal the gospel away from the hearers. The unifying factor between these fairly different men, including the betrayer, who couldn't be more different, is that they possess the same gospel and the same power, each of which is from the same source.

MAT 10:5-7 These twelve Jesus sent out after instructing them, saying, "Do not go in the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter any city of the Samaritans; but rather go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. "And as you go, preach, saying, 'The kingdom of heaven is at hand.'

Their mission is of extreme importance; the presentation of the gospel to the lost sheep of Israel - the King and the kingdom of heaven is at hand. They are given the message and the power from Jesus. They are not to go out to the various Jewish towns on the countryside with their own message or their own way. They are completely under the will of the Lord. How precious is this way and how reassuring it is to the fellow worker with Christ to know that he is free from the tyranny of his own ideas and calculations? Christ even chooses the field. They might have an impulse to go to the Gentiles or the Samaritans, but they are not to. They are restricted by Him to go to Israel alone. The plan of God has its way and it is not to be altered by our zeal, no matter how sincere we may be. God loves all mankind and so we are commanded to as well, but the love of others never supersedes the will of the Lord in His commission to each of us. No one person has ever been called to evangelize every person on the earth. Paul was chosen to be the apostle to the Gentiles even though he longed for his Jewish brethren, but his longing did not outmode the will of God and to the Gentile communities he went.  

It was necessary for Israel to hear the message, and subsequently for the majority and the leadership to reject it, and then it would come to the Gentiles. At the time these twelve do not understand this unveiling of God's plan for the world, but they don't have to. All they have to understand is that they are to follow the Lord's commission. Israel had been promised a Messiah since the covenant with Abraham and here He was. It was then time for them to accept or reject Him, and upon rejecting Him the gospel of a crucified, risen Lord would come to all the nations where Jew, Gentile, or Samarian had no bearing on the matter. But now, these twelve will go to Israel only and they will proclaim the King, His kingdom, the forgiveness of sins, and the justification of the sinner through faith. This message spells the destruction of sin and death which reigned over mankind in which the devil held the world in their power-grip. Added to this was the given power to "Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons" (MAT 10:8). The accompanying miracles are a testimony to the power of Christ over decay, sin, and death, which He would finalize on Calvary. They have the power to cast out demons which runs parallel to the power of the message to free Israel from the reign of death which the devil possessed.

ROM 5:20-21 And the Law came in that the transgression might increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, that, as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.  

HEB 2:14 Since then the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil;

MAT 10:8-10 "Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons; freely you received, freely give. "Do not acquire gold, or silver, or copper for your money belts, or a bag for your journey, or even two tunics, or sandals, or a staff; for the worker is worthy of his support.

Since the call is all that the messengers are to follow they are fully dependent upon the Lord. They are not to get gold, silver, or copper for their money-belts and they are not even to bring extra clothes. The promise is that they will receive what they need and so by living by the gospel alone they will project that message to the others who are under the rulership of death - the gospel is true life and it is all that a man will ever need. Everything else needed to live on earth will be provided by God, the Savior. From their poverty they bring riches to each house, farm, and community that they enter, and they are to freely give, showing that they have much more to give away than they could ever be given. They are to desire nothing for themselves, not possessions, not admiration or regard, and not even gratitude, for all of these things belong to the Lord who gave the call, the power, and the gospel; to take them for ourselves is to rob their rightful Owner. It's not that poverty becomes a virtue that others are to admire. The listeners are to admire no one other than the King and so in this case, poverty is necessary so that nothing impede and hinder the reception of the gospel. Their poverty is their freedom - they are in need of nothing.

MAT 10:11-15 "And into whatever city or village you enter, inquire who is worthy in it; and abide there until you go away. "And as you enter the house, give it your greeting. "And if the house is worthy, let your greeting of peace come upon it; but if it is not worthy, let your greeting of peace return to you. "And whoever does not receive you, nor heed your words, as you go out of that house or that city, shake off the dust of your feet. "Truly I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment, than for that city.

Some will support their work and some will not. They are not to remain in the house that rejects the gospel, but to immediately receive back their greeting of peace and move on. Why such ruthless speed? Nothing could be more ruthless than to make men think there is still plenty of time to place their faith in the Messiah and not themselves. Today is the day of salvation and the time is short. Years pass quickly. The cause of the gospel in this world is urgent. Judgment is soon coming and it will come down like a swift hammer, just like it did in Sodom and Gomorrah. Their proclamation is clear and it is to be concise. They are not to struggle with the unworthy houses and towns or to wrangle words, for the issue at hand is clear - the King is here and is now standing at your door, "Will you welcome Him or not?" So then the gospel limits them to the issue that it alone faces and fulfills. We must recognize here the fear and amazement of both the power and the weakness of the word of God. It contains the very power to save but it cannot save the man who rejects it.

The curse comes upon the town and not the messengers. They are protected from it by the power of God. They are to simply shake off the dust from feet as a sign that the curse awaits all those who stand on such soil, but the disciple didn't bring that soil with him. He did not get depressed or discouraged because the household rejected the King. They are not troubled because their work may seem to be void of success. The Lord was rejected and not the messengers.

1SA 8:6-7 But the thing was displeasing in the sight of Samuel when they said, "Give us a king to judge us." And Samuel prayed to the Lord. And the Lord said to Samuel, "Listen to the voice of the people in regard to all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me from being king over them.

It is fascinating to see this passage in light of my experience earlier this week when I attended the Franklin Graham prayer rally here in Salem, OR. It seemed clear that his ministry is about restoring America by means of the church. It's a good cause, but how that is to be done will determine its merit or evil. I will not comment on it just yet since it has opened up a can of worms that contain many aspects of God's truth and its hand in the course of nations, both in Israel of the Old Testament and the Gentile nations of the church age. I'm not quite ready to put all of that together, but what I do want to conclude this article with is some parts of the commencement speech that Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas gave at Hillsdale College. This speech was in my mailbox the same day that I attended Mr. Graham's speech. It is appropriate on this fourth of July weekend.

"In my youth, we had a small farm. I am convinced that the time I spent there had much to do with my firm resolve never to farm again. Work seemed to spring eternal, like the weeds that consumed so much of our time and efforts. One of the messages constantly conveyed in those days was our obligation to take care of the land and to use it to produce food for ourselves and for others. If there was to be independence, self-sufficiency, or freedom, then we first had to understand, accept, and discharge our responsibilities. The latter were the necessary (but not always sufficient) antecedents or precursors of the former. The only guarantee was that if you did not discharge your responsibilities, there could be no independence, no self-sufficiency, and no freedom." [Justice Thomas]

Just like the disciples were given a responsibility to discharge so also does the present messenger of Christ. As Justice Thomas realizes from his youth is that there would be no community or neighborhood of freedom if certain ones did not fulfill their commission. A farmer produces food and it sustains him so that he doesn't become a burden to others and he also shares it with others around him who are in need. This makes for a community of peace and not war. So the worker in Christ's harvest shares all good things that Christ has freely given him. He is to "freely give."

"At the risk of understating what is necessary to preserve liberty and our form of government, I think more and more that it depends on good citizens discharging their daily duties and obligations." [Justice Thomas]

Can we indeed change the nation without being ourselves spiritual? And what control do we have on the spiritual habitat of others? We have no power over the spiritual life of anyone but ourselves. Our spiritual lives will give the gospel in word and conduct and what those around us do with that is up to them.

"Today, when it seems that grievance rather than responsibility is the main means of elevation, my grandfather’s beliefs may sound odd or discordant. But he and others like him at the time resolved to conduct themselves in a way consistent with America’s ideals. They were law-abiding, hardworking, and disciplined. They discharged their responsibilities to their families and neighbors as best they could. They taught us that despite unfair treatment, we were to be good citizens and good people. If we were to have a functioning neighborhood, we first had to be good neighbors. If we were to have a good city, state, and country, we first had to be good citizens. The same went for our school and our church. We were to keep in mind the corporal works of mercy and the great commandment: “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” Being wronged by others did not justify reciprocal conduct. Right was right, and two wrongs did not make a right. What we wanted to do did not define what was right—nor, I might add, did our capacious litany of wants define liberty. Rather, what was right defined what we were required to do and what we were permitted to do. It defined our duties and our responsibilities. Whether those duties meant cutting our neighbor’s lawn, visiting the sick, feeding the hungry, or going off to war as my brother did, we were to discharge them honorably." [Justice Thomas]

Justice Thomas' family was not treated well as blacks who lived in the south at that time. The attitude of his grandfather, which was eventually passed on to him, is similar to what Christ commanded of the twelve disciples. "Being wronged by others does not justify reciprocal conduct." The point is that the nation can be delivered, but that will only happen one person at a time. I can know all my own sins and the sins of my nation, but what am I going to do about my own spiritual life? If I follow my Lord, He will send me to the lost sheep of "somewhere" but that does not guarantee that they will respond. Israel didn't and they even beheld the Lord of glory in the flesh. I don't get to pick the "somewhere." That is in the hands of the Lord, but what I can choose is to follow Him. If I don't follow Him I will be sent nowhere. The church needs to get out of the changing governments business and get into the business of growing up in the word of God and the Spirit of God, and once that begins to happen, and the existing Christians in this nation begin to mature in grace and knowledge, then the Shepherd will send them into the harvest.

One thing that Pastor Graham said at the rally was that all we can do is pray. He is right in one respect, but what is it that we are to pray for? MAT 9:37-38 Then He said to His disciples, "The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. "Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest." The onus is on the believer.

Happy fourth of July,

Pastor Joe Sugrue

Grace and Truth Ministries