Today’s reading: Matthew 10:1 -23.
Jesus talks of sending out his Apostles, and ultimately us, into the world. In the passage (verse 16-23), he makes clear, salvation is a marathon. Here is the relevant text:
Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of men; for they will deliver you up to councils, and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear testimony before them and the Gentiles. When they deliver you up, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will deliver up brother to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next; for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel, before the Son of man comes.
This verse speaks both to the idea of “once saved, always saved” and to the idea of “faith alone”. Both ideas are contradicted. If a person must “endure to the end” to be saved then presumably a person that does not endure to the end, is not saved. Stated conversely, someone who is saved but does not endure to the end is no longer saved.
The idea of “faith alone” is also contradicted. Isn’t “enduring to the end” doing something more than having faith alone? Jesus says there will be persecutions. People will be flogged, i.e., they will endure beatings. They will be called upon to speak before government persecutors. It sounds as if the will be defending themselves as if accused of crimes. Families will turn against each other, no doubt creating great suffering. People will flee from town to town. This is much more than “faith alone”.
In fact, the verse intimates that these persecutions will come on us for a reason, “to bear testimony before them and the Gentiles”. In other words, we should expect these persecutions to come to us. They are necessary prerequisites to provide evidence to outsiders of the power of the Gospel. The verse suggests, not that God is going to hit you with unbearable persecutions unexpectedly, but rather that once you are a Christian you should expect these things to come and knowing that be ready, willing and able to bear them and make a defense of the Gospel. If anyone watches the news they can see plain evidence of this verse continuously being fulfilled. Christians in the Middle East are executed for their faith. Many have called out to Jesus moment before their death. In the United States, many have been called before the courts to defend themselves for failing to comply with government mandates that conflict with the teachings of Jesus.
And it does not say this testimony will always be verbal. In other words, the very act of NOT conforming to those things that the secular world will seek to impose on us can bear testimony to the gospel. In fact, the verse tells us to be “wise as serpents and innocent as doves”. This suggests a manner of being in which we pick and choose our battles. It suggests proportionality. It implies charitably fighting small fights always and knowing where and when to draw the lines in the sand. It suggests to not demonize our enemies but also not to give in when confronted on larger issues.
Tomorrow: Matthew 10:24-42