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Matthew 10:1-42 & 2 Corinthians 11:23-26 by Robert Dean
You can run but you can’t hide from the battle of the ages raging in the world. Listen to this lesson to learn two categories of casualties in this warfare. See how Jesus emphasized discipleship for all believers which means to become a student of the Word of God and make it our highest priority even when we face persecution. Learn why people hate Christians and the awards and benefits for overcomers at the Judgment Seat of Christ. Believe that when our agenda is God’s agenda, He promises to always take care of us.
Series:Matthew (2013)
Duration:47 mins 28 secs

The Challenge of Discipleship
Matthew 10:1-42 and 2 Corinthians. 11:23-26
Matthew Lesson #063
January 18, 2015

This is a tremendous passage of Scripture because it presents a challenge to us, and it certainly presented a challenge to the twelve disciples. Jesus is giving instruction to His twelve disciples and His instruction is specifically targeted to those twelve in that particular situation. How do we know that? We know that because the Lord told them that they were the only to take the message to the Jewish people—the house of Israel and the house of Judah. They were not to go to the Gentiles. That changed later on. But that is important for helping us to understand the meaning of the passage, or what is called interpretation. Interpretation has to do with what the passage means in its original context and situation; application is how principles there might relate to us. So this section focuses the disciples on the fact that they are now in a battle, but not just any battle. They are in the central battle of all history, which we often refer to as the angelic conflict. The application for us, coming out of our study of this section, is that like them we too are disciples. Some things here don't directly apply to us. As Jesus originally gave them they were designed for those who will encounter persecution during the Tribulation period. But nevertheless there is a foreshadowing or foretaste of that intense period of future persecution even in the church age. We don't get off scot-free.

One of the things I constantly run into, and have most of my adult life as a Christian and a student of the Word, is that people (and theologians who ought to know better) who do not agree with a dispensational interpretation of Scripture, or they do not agree with a pre-Tribulation Rapture, often accuse those of us who are dispensationalists and hold to a pre-Tribulation Rapture of teaching people a form of escapism—that they are not going to encounter suffering, persecution, tribulation or testing in life. And that is so far from the truth that it is just a terrible ad hominem argument, a straw man argument where they misrepresent what we believe. The Scripture clearly teaches, and the early church all the way up through the modern church, teaches that we will clearly encounter hostility in the world. We face persecution, and even though we live in an historical bubble in this country because for the last three hundred years we have been free from overt persecution—government hostility or legalized persecution, torture and imprisonment of Christians—nevertheless we do not get out of this life scot-free. As Peter points out in 1 Peter chapter four, we should not be surprised when the fiery trial comes upon us. And he is not talking about the Tribulation; he is talking about things that happen in this life.

So as Jesus informed the disciples and warned them of the coming opposition, hostility and persecution we need to recognize that the same thing is true for us in our lives and our experience. We are in a battle; we are in a cosmic conflict; and if you are alive and are breathing, whether you are a Christian or not, you are in this war. It is the war of the ages that centered on the greatest battle of conflict, which was that which occurred on Golgotha when Christ died for our sins and won for us the victory over Satan and delivered us from the slavery to sin. As Paul points out in Galatians 6:1 this gives us the freedom that we have in Christ. But everyone needs to recognize that they are in this battle—believer and unbeliever. And in this battle there are two groups of casualty. The first group of casualties is those who have never trusted in Jesus as Messiah. They have never believed in Him as the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies and promises that God would send the seed of the woman—that first hint of the gospel in Genesis 3:15—who would crush the head of the serpent. This is God's plan of redemption: that we would be saved through a substitute who would do everything, and would carry our sins so that we would not have to suffer for them.   

We are reminded of passages like Genesis chapter twenty-two when God tested Abraham, and Abraham got the point. The writer of Hebrews tells us that even if he carried through with God's command to take the life of Isaac God would raise him from the dead because God was faithful to His promise. But God provided a substitute. A ram that was caught in the bushes would be the substitute sacrifice for Isaac. This is the principle of substitutionary payment for sin.

Then we come to the Exodus account. At the Passover the lamb that had been evaluated and tested is a picture of the Lord Jesus Christ. The lamb was to be without spot or blemish. It was a picture of the sinlessness of Christ. That lamb was to be taken and have its throat slit, and the blood of the lamb was to be put on the doorposts and on the crosspieces or the lintels of the doors of the house. When death came that night it would pass over that house. The Lord would pass over that house, and because they were covered by that blood everyone in that house the firstborn would live and not be taken.

Then we have in the Mosaic Law, the day of Atonement (Yom Kippur). The high priest would take two goats and would take each of his hands and place them on the head of those two goats, and he would recite the sins of the nation. He is transferring those sins to those innocent goats that were without spot or blemish. One goat was taken to the altar to be sacrificed, to die as a substitute for the sins of the people, and the other goat was then taken out into the wilderness so that it could never ever find its way back to civilization; a picture of the fact that God has removed our sins as far as the east is from the west, and those sins are completely forgiven and forgotten by God. This again is a picture of the substitutionary atonement of Christ on the cross.

Then we go all the way up to the great prophecies of the Servant of Yahweh is Isaiah 53 that depicts that this Servant would be a substitute for our sins, the prediction that this Servant would die in our place. Isaiah 53:6 NASB "All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way; But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all To fall on Him."

So the first group of casualty is those who have never trusted in Christ as savior, and they will bear the eternal condemnation and punishment in the lake of fire. The second type of casualty is the believer who never gets it; the believer who never understands that he is not just saved so that he can live for eternity in heaven, but he is saved for a purpose. He is bought with a price so that he is now to serve God as His representative upon the earth. In the church age we have been given the privilege of being ambassadors for the Lord Jesus Christ, to represent the throne of God before men. We are not here to serve temporal ends and temporal needs. But we get caught up in all that don't we? We get caught up in our jobs, in our careers, in raising our families

And we forget the purpose we are here isn't to raise our families, it isn't to excel in our jobs and careers, and it isn't to obtain excellence in academic achievement. That may all be part of it but the ultimate thing that organizes and structures everything in our life is that we are here for the purpose of serving the Lord Jesus Christ and to fulfill the great commission, which is to make disciples. Unfortunately there are many who never get it and the apostle Paul tells us that they become enemies of the cross. They fall away from grace. That doesn't mean they lose their salvation but they have forgotten all about grace. They don't have a spiritual life anymore; they are not living for the Lord anymore; they are in carnality, and the Scripture speaks of that as death. It is a death-like existence. They are still born-again; they are still justified; they still have eternal life, but they are living like the dead. They are spiritual zombies and are not experiencing the kind of life that God has for us. And there is a time coming at the judgment seat of Christ where we will all be accountable to the Lord and all of our works will be evaluated. Some that we have done when we have walked by the Spirit will have eternal value, an on that basis we will receive rewards, but there are other works in our life that will be burned up.

In contrast to those two categories of people we have those who are going to be successful in the Christian life. They are a different kind of soldier in this Christian conflict. The Scripture describes them in the Gospels as disciples. A disciple is not someone who has accepted Jesus as Messiah but is someone who is dedicated to following Him as their teacher, as their guide, as the one who is their sovereign Lord over their life. Lordship salvation misrepresents that and says you need to accept Jesus as Lord of your life to be saved. Salvation is a free gift. We don't earn it; we don't deserve it; it is given to us freely. But after we are saved the challenge before us is: are we willing to step to the plate and become a disciple. In Revelation chapters two and three there are seven letters, seven evaluation reports, written to seven churches, and at the end of each of those reports there is a promise that is given to a group called overcomers. The word for overcomer is the Greek is the verb NIKAO from the noun NIKE, for victory. That is related to this idea. These believers who are overcomers in the church age, are victorious over the world and over the devil in terms of their spiritual life and spiritual growth.

Jesus is addressing the twelve because they are the foundation of the church. Ephesians 2:20 NASB "having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets …" Jesus is addressing them in terms of what is expected if they (and you) are going to be a disciple. That is the challenge before us. Are we simply going to be a believer, or are we going to pursue excellence in the Christian life?

The Bible talks about this as a war. Ephesians 6:10-18 depicts that war: that we are fighting against an invisible enemy. We are not fighting against flesh and blood; we are fighting against forces that are unseen—the armies of Satan, which involves all of the demons. At salvation, when you trust Christ as your savior what happens is that you are immediately inducted into the Lord's army. We are adopted into the family of God, but that means we are now in this intensified conflict. When you were a failure, a casualty, it didn't really matter. But now that you are a member of God's royal family you have a target on your back whether you like it or not. You can run but you can't hide. The issue for us now is whether or not we are going to accept that challenge and be disciples.

And so we have this military metaphor that runs through the Scripture, as well as athletic metaphors, to describe this contest that we are in. It is not a contest against each other, it is really a contest in terms of can we do the best that we can do in terms of accepting the challenge of discipleship from the Lord. The Scripture says that at that instant of faith we are adopted into God's royal family and we have changed sides in the conflict. We have been transferred from the power of darkness, the Scripture says, to the kingdom of His beloved Son (Colossians 1:13; Acts 26:18). From that point on, once we enter into that position, the challenge is before us. It is a daily challenge. Each day when we wake up we have to decide: Am I going to live for my agenda, or am I going to live today for the Lord's agenda? Many times during the day we may have to review that decision to see how things are going.

We enter into this conflict and so we become members of what we refer to metaphorically as the Lord's army. In most military organizations there are basically two types of people. There are those who are just punching the clock, as it were, and marking time until they're enlistment is up. They get their veteran's benefits, much like the fact that every believer gets eternal life, every believer is going to have a resurrection body, every believer is going to be glorified, and every believer is going to spend eternity with the Lord Jesus Christ; but on the other hand there is another option, and that optio0n takes us above and beyond the basics that everybody gets at salvation. These are referred to in the Scripture as rewards, and if we look at the last couple of verses in Matthew chapter ten we see that in fact this is what Jesus has been talking about as he has been challenging His disciples in these verses.                

Matthew 10:41 NASB "He who receives a prophet in {the} name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward; and he who receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward. [42] And whoever in the name of a disciple gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water to drink, truly I say to you, he shall not lose his reward." This passage is not talking about salvation, it is talking about rewards; and rewards for excellent service and rewards for taking on the challenge of being a disciple and pursuing the goal of being an overcomer, a victor.

In human terms we might compare this to special units within the military. This is comparable to those who are disciples, those who are going to be victors. We don't just want to take on a regular role in the Lord's army, we want to pursue excellence in everything that we have, and that demands a special training above and beyond. It involves discipleship. From this point on we are going to see Jesus emphasizing discipleship more and more as He challenges the individual disciples.

We hear about discipleship in modern evangelical churches, and this has been a buzzword. A lot of churches have converted this into smaller group ministries. I don't have anything against smaller group ministries but that is not the pattern. In fact, Jesus establishes this with His twelve but we don't see that kind of a pattern going on into Acts. You don't even find the verb disciple, to make a disciple, anywhere in the book of Acts. It simply means to train people and to teach people, and it doesn't mean it has to be done in a small group. This really came out of some campus ministries about the time of World War 2 and after that it became a pattern. I think that was a great mistake because it fitted everything into a cultural box. It denies the fact that a lot of the discipleship we saw taking place in Acts was one apostle teaching several thousand, especially in Jerusalem in the early days of the church. What it means to be a disciple is someone who takes on the discipline of his teacher. It strictly relates to study, but it is not just taking it and going through academic study; it is absorbing the philosophy, the mentality, everything on the part of the teacher and making it our own so that we imitate the teacher in our life. This is what the Lord is talking about in terms of discipleship; later on He will talk about the importance of counting the cost.

It is not like salvation, which is a free gift. In Revelation it says, "Take from the living water freely". But discipleship has a cost; it is a challenge. It may cost a lot. It may cost us our personal agendas, our ambition, even a career we have always wanted. Discipleship takes dedication. That's another word for volition. We have to make that decision daily and it takes perseverance. It takes a willingness to set aside everything that we hold dear in life, if it comes between us and our service for the Lord and serving His agenda for us. So the Bible calls those who are really serious about their spiritual life disciples, overcomers, victors; and to them are promised special rewards, special privileges and benefits in eternity that go with their excellent service.

Revelation 3:5 NASB "He who overcomes will thus be clothed in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life, and I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels." As all believers are lined up before the judgment seat of Christ those who are overcomers are singled out and praised for their excellent service, and they are identified as overcomers. When Jesus says, "I will confess them" it means "I will praise them". This is what Jesus is holding out to the twelve, but He promises that if you want to be a disciple and are going to carry out the ministry that I have given you, you are going to face opposition and challenges; and that will be true of all those who follow you.

These warnings that we see from verse 16 onwards also portend certain trends that will take place during the church age, even though their ultimate fulfillment will not come until the Tribulation period. We see that in verse 22 NASB "You will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved." This is also repeated in Matthew 24:13 where it is a reference to the end of the Tribulation.

We see a warning here that they would be betrayed by their own family members. Matthew 10:21 NASB "Brother will betray brother to death, and a father {his} child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death." We don't see examples of that in the book of Acts. It could have happened, it is possible; but that will take place in the future. It has happened in the past, e.g., Soviet Russia and China. It could happen to us. That is why the Lord says that we have to put Him before the love of our parents and the love of our children. He is the priority.

Some other things that Jesus says here: He said that they would be hated for Jesus' sake, v. 22 NASB "You will be hated by all because of My name …" When you are following Jesus people are not going to welcome you with open arms. They are going to reject you, and this may happen with people you care very much about, even with your family members. Jesus is saying that we are not to expect any different treatment than our master, v. 24 NASB "A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a slave above his master." They hated Jesus; we should not expect any less than to be hated of we are going to line up with Him. Furthermore, they not only hated Him but they called Him the agent of the devil; that He did what He did under the power of Beelzebub. They are basically saying of Jesus that He is not good, that He claimed to be righteous but is evil, and that He was actually the devil's mouthpiece, and that those who followed Him were followers of the devil also. It is a complete reversal of polarities. Good is called evil; evil is called good. We have not seen that in our lifetime in this country. It happens in other places. If you are in an Islamic country and are a Christian you are identified with Satan. Who knows? That may come to a theater near you very soon with the way things are going in this world. I suspect that before some of us die we may see overt opposition and persecution in this life.

Why is it that people hate us? It is because we remind them of their rebellion against God. Even if you don't ever witness to them, if they know you are a Christian it rankles them, irritates them, and makes them angry, because they know you believe in absolutes. I believe that one of the reasons that George W. Bush was so vilified by the Left is because after 9/11 he said: "These are the forces of evil". The Left has rejected absolutes. In Leftist philosophy, in postmodernism and modernism, you can't talk in terms of absolute categories of good and evil. Because you have rejected God you have no basis for talking about good or evil. Ands as soon as Bush came out with this absolute view of right and wrong, black and white, this immediately angered the Left. They hated him because that reminded them of something of something they were desperately trying to "suppress in unrighteousness", as Paul puts it in Romans chapter one. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 2:16 that we are to those who are not saved an aroma of death. So when you go around your family they smell death—not your death, their death. They don't want to think about it. When you are at work and it is known that you are a Christian there are some who are going to be hostile to you. To them you smell like death. They don't want to be reminded about that. We live in a nation where we are more and more painted as the enemy. We are "judgmental", we are "hateful" toward homosexuals, towards people who believe there are other ways to heaven; we are accused of "hate speech" because we believe that there is only one way to heaven. We remind people that their way is not the way, their truth is not the truth, and their life is a sham; and because of that they are hostile to us. This is only going to increase.

We learn that as we live as believers we are going to have two kinds of opposition. Mostly in this country we have only faced one kind of opposition and that is a covert persecution. Overt persecution is when family members reject us, turn us over to government authorities for torture and for arrest, when we are rejected by schools, by employers, when we are open to anything from mild rejection to ridicule, to opposition, to open hostility, even the most extreme forms of physical imprisonment and death. Most of us face the quieter covert form of persecution. We are silently ridiculed; somebody doesn't give us a promotion because they know we are Christian; we are not accepted into certain schools. Several years ago Dr. Steve Austin told me about his graduate career as a doctoral student at the University of Pennsylvania. During that time he could not let it be known that he was a creationist. He wrote a number of creationist articles for the Institute of Creation Research under a pseudonym. If it had become known at the University of Pennsylvania that he believed in a literal, biblical creation, then his funding would have dried up and he would have been immediately kicked out of the program.

Being a Christian and pursuing ministry for the Lord is not easy. In the 1840s the first Presbyterian minister to go west of the Mississippi was a man by the name of Asa Turner. He was the first to go into the modern state of Iowa. In 1843 he wrote to the American Home Mission Society that he needed help with the gospel ministry and teaching Scripture. The response from twelve Andover Seminary students who were later known as the Iowa Seven drew his response to them when he heard that they were forming this Iowa band. In his letter to them he said:

I am glad that there is a reinforcement in ministry that is talked of, but I hope that it will not end in just talk. But I fear. Don't come here expecting paradise; come to expect small things, rough things. Lay aside all your dandy whims boys learn in college. Take a few lessons from your grandmother before you come. Get clothes that are firm, durable, something that will go through the hazel brush without tearing, and get wives of the old puritan stamp, those who can pail a cow and churn the butter, and be proud of a jean dress or a checkered apron. But it is no use to answer any more of your questions, I expect to see none of you west of the Mississippi River as long as I live.   

The ministry is not easy, whether it is professional or whether it is just a non-professional involving teaching Sunday School or being involved in a local church ministry.

2 Corinthians 11:23 NASB "Are they servants of Christ?—I speak as if insane—I more so; in far more labors, in far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death. [24] Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine {lashes.} [25] Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. [26] {I have been} on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from {my} countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren;  [27] {I have been} in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. [28] Apart from {such} external things [Dealing with Christians!], there is the daily pressure on me {of} concern for all the churches."

Jesus is warning the twelve that being aligned with Him means opposition. But then Jesus says, "Don't be afraid". Why? Because the Lord is going to take care of us. He is going to supply our needs because we are the ones who are carrying out His will. He is going to take care of that which we need to accomplish the task. He may not be providing us with what we would like, but when our agenda is God's agenda and we are completely sold out to that, then He is going to supply our need.

Jesus reminded them, Matthew 10:28 NASB "Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell [Gehenna]." Gehenna is a picture not of eternal punishment but of God's discipline upon His people for their disobedience. So what Jesus is saying there is, don't fear the punishment that will come when they are taking your life. But if you have dedicated your life to serving the Lord and you go back on that, fear the Lord who will bring judgment and discipline against you just as He did the ancient Judahites.

When I think of this I think of the situation under "Bloody Mary", the Queen of England during the time of the Tudors. She reigned for two short years and during that time she burned alive over three hundred Protestants in the fields of Smithfield. Two of those who were notable were Thomas Cramner and Ridley. When Ridley was burning and his body was lighting up like a torch he turned to Cramner and said: "Courage my brother, because the fire that is lit by us today will burn throughout England." And Cramner who had been the archbishop under Henry VIII had been forced under torture to recant his Protestant convictions, and to sign that recantation, when he was being burned at the stake he held out his right hand that had signed that recantation and called it a traitor. He watched it catch on fire and burn as he sang to the glory of God, recognizing that he wanted to stand as a faithful servant of the Lord at the judgment seat of Christ.

This is what the Lord is providing here, and the challenge to us is whether or not we are going to accept the challenge to be disciples. There is great reward.