Summary: In the immediate context of this first mission of the disciples, Jesus laid out some basic principles.
BASIC PRINCIPLES OF THE LITTLE COMMISSION
This is part of the Missionary Discourse of Jesus (Matthew 9:35-10:42) - the sending of the twelve disciples to seek out none other than ‘the lost sheep of the house of Israel’ (Matthew 10:6). Since the ‘Great Commission’ (Matthew 28:18-20) the principles outlined here, especially those in the latter part of this chapter (Matthew 10:24-42), also apply to the church’s world-wide outreach.
1. The learner is not above his teacher, and the servant is not above his lord (Matthew 10:24). The implication of this is that the more Christ-like we are (Matthew 10:25), the more we might expect that those who wish to malign Him will also have an unwelcoming demeanour towards us. This is where we need to be strong, and draw upon the resources which the Lord has placed within us (Matthew 10:19-20; cf. 1 Peter 3:15-16).
2. The fact of the matter is that those who work in the Lord’s vineyard (Matthew 9:37-38) will be maligned. Those who seek out the lost are themselves ‘as sheep in the midst of wolves’ (Matthew 10:16). We have to ‘beware of men’ (Matthew 10:17) - but we need not fear them (Matthew 10:26).
We need not fear any of the malignant forces mustered against us, because although we are operating in time, we are also operating in the light of eternity (Matthew 10:26). Right will be brought to light. Our duty remains, and ‘woe betide me if I preach not the gospel’ (1 Corinthians 9:16)!
3. Mission is not just for professionals, but for all who profess Christ. Whatever God may teach us in the “darkness” of personal tribulation, that must we speak out when all is well (Matthew 10:27). Whatever we may hear and understand in the quietness of personal meditation upon the Word of God, that must we proclaim on the rooftops.
4. The right fear of God should make us fearless before men (Matthew 10:28). We must respect ‘the powers that be’ (Romans 13:1), but we should nevertheless be bold before those who oppose God (Daniel 3:17-18; Acts 4:18-20). We must share the gospel with others - not so much to save our own souls (as that is already a done deal for those who are in Christ) but for the sake of those who are perishing in their sins.
5. Despite possible opposition, those of us who are witnesses for Christ - whether in the pulpit or the workplace, the market or the school - are constantly in His providential care. Not one little sparrow falls to the ground without our heavenly Father (Matthew 10:29), and He alone is able to number the hairs upon our heads (Matthew 10:30). You are of more value than a whole flock of sparrows, so “Fear not” (Matthew 10:31).
6. If we are faithful in our calling to call others to Christ, our reward awaits us (Matthew 10:32). Our inheritance is wrapped up in His. On the other hand, those who do not confess Christ (Matthew 10:33) - that is those who deny Him - already have their condemnation (John 3:18).
7. This section continues with words that we might find surprising, coming as they do from the lips of the Prince of Peace (Matthew 10:34). However, they are an accurate observation of how things were for the twelve earliest disciples (Matthew 10:35-36, cf. Matthew 10:21-22), and it is how things are for many who serve God in the gospel to this day.
There is no doubt at all that the gospel is divisive, separating those who confess Christ from those who deny Him (Matthew 10:32-33). It must ever be so, until the ushering in of another age. This does not mean that we do not strive for peace (Matthew 5:9) - but it remains an illusive dream so long as mankind remains unrepentant before God.
8. It may be on account of our Christ-likeness (Matthew 10:25) that we have foes within our own household (Matthew 10:36). Jesus is perfectly clear about where our priorities lie (Matthew 10:37). We are reminded that the way of the disciple of Jesus, both then and now, is the way of the Cross (Matthew 10:38-39).
Following in the steps of our Lord and Master, and in obedience to His command, let us faithfully share the word of God within our own sphere of influence. Let us remain steadfast in adversity, strengthened by the promise of His presence (Matthew 28:20). However faltering and clumsy our witness, let us persevere: ‘for this gospel of the kingdom must be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then (only then!) shall the end come’ (Matthew 24:14).