Pastor Scott L. Harris
May 30, 1993
Instructions for Ministry
PRINCIPLES OF MINISTRY
This morning’s text is a confrontational one, at least it is for me, and I think that it may be for you as well. It is not a text that was intended to be confrontational, because neither its tone or message are confrontational. Instead, its tone and message are instructional and only somewhat cautionary. What is said is meant to give direction and some warning. Only one statement tells of the consequences of failure, and there is a severe judgment for a failure to listen and heed the message, but even that statement is not directed at the apostles to whom Jesus is talking. It is directed at those who will not listen to the apostles.
I find the passage confrontational because of the contrast it makes with American Christianity. We find that American Christianity is weak, insecure, ambivalent, fractured, failing. There are, of course, many reasons for that, but one of them is a failure to follow the directions Jesus has given for ministry. The principles which are given in this passage.
There are many who claim to know and love the Lord Jesus Christ and are doing all sorts of things in His name. They claim to represent Jesus Christ to a lost and dying world, but too many have a false claim for they do not know Jesus. They are those whom we saw in Matthew 7 who do all sorts of things in Jesus’ name including prophecy, casting out demons and miracles (verse 22), but they are false prophets (verse 15), ravenous wolves (verse 15), trees bearing bad fruit (verse 16-20). (See: Beware of False Prophets). They are those that practice lawlessness (verse 23), and Jesus does not know them (verse 23). (See: The Deception of Self-righteousness). Too many others represent Jesus, but they do so poorly, and they do so poorly because they do not do it in the manner that He has directed.
Turn over to Matthew 10:5-15. This text is confrontational because as we examine it we see our failure, and I see areas I have failed, in following out the principles of ministry that Jesus gave to his disciples. This morning I want us to examine this passage and see the principles of ministry given.
Before we examine these verses though, we must remind ourselves of the context because we want to understand the text with its context. That is the only way to know what the text means and how it can apply to us.
Jesus is talking with the twelve disciples that He has chosen to be His apostles (Matthew 10:1-4). Remember the difference between the two. A disciple is a learner, a student who attaches himself to a teacher to learn. Jesus had many disciples following Him. An apostle is someone that Jesus has chosen from among His disciples and to whom He has given specific authority to be His representatives. The twelve disciples became the twelve apostles when Jesus gave them this authority and sent them out as His representatives. A disciple is simply a student, while an apostle is one sent with authority as Jesus’ representative.
The disciples had been with Jesus all through the Sermon on the Mount and they had learned something of the nature of the kingdom of God. They had been with Jesus throughout His ministry in Galilee and had seen the many miracles that attested to the fact that Jesus was the Messiah, the Christ, the savior prophesied about in the Old Testament, and the one for whom the nation of Israel had been longing. At the end of Matthew 9, Jesus points out the multitudes to the disciples and calls upon them to have compassion upon them even as He did. He points out the need for more workers to work among the people. (See: Workers Needed). In Matthew 10, Jesus chooses these twelve disciples to be those workers and He sends them out into the harvest as His apostles. (See: The Twelve Disciples).
Matthew 10:5-15 includes Jesus’ instructions to the Apostles of the ministry they would perform. As we go through this chapter, we must keep in mind that the instructions and warnings given are specific to a particular group of men at a particular time. They are not instructions that we can carry over verbatim and apply to ourselves. They are to the twelve apostles when Jesus sent them out for the first time. Notice verse 5 specifically says that, “These twelve Jesus sent out after instructing them, saying . . .”. We cannot apply everything directly. Instead we must examine these instructions for principles of ministry that do apply to us.
Let’s read through the section, then come back and look at some principles that can be drawn out. “These twelve Jesus sent out after instructing them, “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.’ 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. 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.”
A FOCUSED MINISTRY
The first principle that we find is that ministry needs to be focused. “These twelve Jesus sent out after instructing them, “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.” No one can do everything there is to do, and if there is no focus to your ministry, then it will be doomed to mediocrity with nothing being done well. God’s design is that we function together as a body, the body of Christ. You can look up and examine Romans 12 or 1 Corinthians 12 to see that design clearly. Each of us plays a vital role in the total design of what God wants to have accomplished. Notice back in Matthew 9:37, 38 that when Jesus called the disciples’ attention to the fact that “the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few,” that He did not immediately send them out doing whatever they happened to see. He first had them start praying for God to send workers. They needed to focus first and seek God in it. And, as I pointed out a couple of weeks ago when we examined this passage, that needs to be our first response. Need does not constitute a call to action, but a call to think. That is true even in an emergency room for the medical personnel have to think about what they need to do before doing it and someone is in charge to direct everyone else, otherwise you would have complete chaos in the ER and the patient would probably die. The person in charge examines the needs, set the priorities of what to do first, and then directs the staff to act according to their skills to meet those needs.
The focus needed for ministry is also seen in that Jesus did not send all His disciples out. Instead He chose twelve of the them, made them His apostles, gave them instructions and warnings, then He sent them out to do a specific ministry.
In the same way we need to first seek the Lord to see what He wants us to do. Just because you see a need does not necessarily mean you are the one that God wants to meet it. Then again, perhaps you may be the one. Pray first and ask Him. Second, consider your spiritual gifts and abilities. If you do not know what they are, it is not difficult to determine what they are. First, as you walk in holiness with the Lord, consider what the Lord puts on your heart. What do you feel convicted about? What do you want to do? Second, examine to see if the Lord uses you in that ministry. Are you effective in it? If you are, that is a good confirmation. If you are not, maybe you need to learn how to be effective from someone who is already, and if still are not effective, you had better consider something else. Third, do other mature believers confirm you?
The disciples were men searching for God’s will. Jesus called them and trained them, and in fact their going out was part of their training, and now they are being increasingly used to meet the needs of the harvest around them.
We also see a focus of ministry in that in this passage we find that they are sent only to the “lost sheep of the house of Israel.” They were not to go to the Gentiles or the Samaritans. This is according to God’s order and plan. Remember that even in the Apostle Paul’s ministry, he went to the Jews first, then the Gentiles (Romans 1:16). Israel is God’s chosen nation and they were to take the knowledge and understanding of God to all the other nations. The message of the kingdom needed to go to them first. That is why Jesus focused His ministry upon the Jews and why He had the Apostles do the same.
This focus also reminds us that this passage is specific to the apostles at a particular time in their lives, for later on the Apostles are called by God to go to the Samaritans and to the Gentiles. In Acts 10, Peter even receives a vision from the Lord prompting him to go to Cornelius, a Gentile, and deliver the gospel to him and his household. In Acts 1:8, Jesus tells them that they were to be His “witnesses both in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and even to the remotest part of the earth.”
The instructions are specific to the Apostles when Jesus first sent them out. The ministry God had for them changed over time. That will be true for us too. The specific instructions here do not apply to us, but the principle behind the instructions of a focused ministry does apply to us. We need to pray, think and plan, and then act. Have you prayed about what God wants you to do? Have you thought about it and planned? Are you doing it? Are you haphazard or focused in what you do?
A CLEAR MESSAGE
The second principle is that we need to give a clear message. “And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.'” One of the things that have made American Christianity weak is the fact that the message is not presented clearly. The gospel message is not difficult. [God is holy and He made man. Man turned away from God and sinned and is now not only deserving of God’s holy judgment, but is incapable of escaping the bondage of sin on his own. God is loving and determined to redeem man by paying the penalty of sin Himself through the death of Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary. God offers salvation from sin and its effects (i.e. escape from hell, eternal life, and the ability to live in righteousness) to those who believe His message and place their faith/trust in Jesus Christ alone]. However, the gospel message has become muddled and confused. Some groups placed stained glass windows of tradition and liturgy in front of Christ and obscure Him. Others concentrate on doing good works to earn their way and remain lost because they trust themselves, not Jesus. Still others focus on philosophy and speak of the various traits of Jesus that model that philosophy, but they fail to recognize their own sin and need of a savior. Evangelicalism now has a love affair with psychology that is destroying the gospel by replacing the authority of Scripture with the authority of the psychologist, and according to them, man’s problem is not sin, but a bad self-image and victimization. Even in fundamentalism the message becomes blurred by a host of minor issues that are magnified into disputes that have given the movement its negative image.
We need to be careful that in the midst of doing whatever it is that God calls us to do we make sure to keep the message clear. Do not let it get lost in the secondary issues we may be dealing with at the time. The apostles were to “go and preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven was at hand.'” Likewise, we are to keep the message of God clear.
Example: You are talking with a homosexual man. Don’t let the message get confused in the issues of homosexual rights, sodomites in the military, etc. They must know all the elements of the gospel, i.e. that God views what they do as a perversion and an abomination and a just cause for eternal punishment (Romans 1; Leviticus 18; 1 Corinthians 6), but also that God loves him and has made a way for him to escape both hell and his perverse life style, if he will repent from his sin and to Christ. Keep the message clear.
A LIFE OF MINISTRY
The next principle is found in Matthew 10:8. “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons; freely you received, freely give.” Again this is specific instruction to the Apostles. These are the elements that proved their apostleship. These signs were part of the confirmation that Jesus was the Messiah (cf. Mark 11:4, 5) and they also confirmed that the apostles were sent by Jesus. Paul confirmed his apostleship to the Corinthians in 2 Corinthians 12:12 saying, “The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with all perseverance, by signs and wonders and miracles.” No believer today manifests such supernatural apostolic credentials. They were restricted to the apostolic age.
While we cannot minister in the same miraculous manner as the Apostles did then, there is a principle we do need to follow, and that is to live a life of ministry. Note that the end of the verse says, “Freely you received, freely give.” All that you have, your spiritual gifts, your natural talents, even the things you own, have come because of God’s grace to you. You are not to be stingy in using what you have to serve the Lord by serving others. You are to serve freely.
The basis for this thought is also reflected in Matthew 10:9. The apostles could have gained great wealth through their miracles if they had wanted. People then and people now will pay a lot to get healed from whatever is bothering them. The woman with the issue of blood whom we met in Matthew 9 had spent all her money on physicians trying to get healed. There were Jewish exorcists who would try to get rid of a demon – for a price. The same is true today and many charlatans take advantage of the innocent and naive. The apostles were not to charge for their ministry. They had received from God freely, they were to give freely. As we shall see in the next verse, they were to receive support from their ministry, but they were not in this to make themselves rich. What a contrast that is to many today.
A TRUSTING HEART
A characteristic of a life of ministry is a heart that trusts God. They were told in Matthew 10:9, “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.” This was part of their training to see that God would meet their needs. They were not to take any money along – Gold, silver or copper. They were not to take extra clothes, shoes or even a staff – i.e. no suitcases. They were not even to take a bag or sack in which they would have food for the journey. The reason, “the worker is worthy of his support.” They would earn their living as they ministered.
Now some have taken the specifics and tried to apply it to the present. But again, the specifics were for the apostles on this training exercise. We find later, in Luke 22:35-36, that Jesus tells them to gather these things for what would be ahead. “And He said to them, ‘When I sent you out without purse and bag and sandals, you did not lack anything, did you?’ And they said, ‘No, nothing.’ And he said to them, ‘But now, let him who has a purse take it along, likewise also a bag, and let him who has no sword sell his robe and buy one . . .'”.
The specifics of what you take with you are determined by the circumstances, the goals you have set, and wisdom. If you are going to a country in famine, take food or not only will you be hungry, but more importantly, you will be a burden on the people you are going to who you are going to minister. The principle here is that you need to trust the Lord and not worry and fret and try to make provision for every possible circumstance that may come up. It is the same as in Matthew 6:25, 33, “do not be anxious for your life . . .” (food, drink, clothing), but “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you.” We are to plan for the future. That is the prudence spoken of throughout Proverbs and the point of Jesus’ story in Luke 14:28 about building a tower. You first sit down and plan. You count the cost. Do you have what is needed to accomplish your goal? But if you are planning without trusting in the Lord, then you are doing it in the flesh. You will be anxious and you will not please God. Do you have a trusting heart?
A CONCENTRATION ON THOSE WHO RESPOND
The next principle is that we need to concentrate on those who respond. “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;”
By way of explanation, the house referred to is whatever home they would stay in when they came into the city or village. It is considered worthy based on how the host/hostess received the apostles and not on the condition of the house itself. In doing some missionary travels myself and in talking with missionaries, sometimes the places you stay are very nice, other times they are nothing more than shacks. The Waites were telling me of a missionary friend who once was staying with a family in a two room house. As the evening progressed, different members of the family excused themselves and went into the other room and went to bed. Finally it was time for the missionary and the host to get some sleep, but the missionary did not know where he was to lay down. The host asked him to help him move the table they had been sitting at, then reached down and lifted up a trap door revealing a cellar. The missionary was told to climb down, and in the morning when he wanted out, to bang on the pipes and they would let him out. He crawled down, the table was moved back over the trap door, and the missionary thought, “I’m sure stuck in here if they do not want to let me out.” A house not worthy by nature of its accommodations, but worthy by the families receptivity to the message given.
The idea of a greeting of peace being received is that the “shalom” given by the apostle, the wish for those in the house to have total well being in mind, body, and spirit, would be confirmed by their receptiveness to the apostles message. Down a little farther in the chapter in verse 41 we see this more clearly, “He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward . . .”.
The principle is that we need to concentrate our efforts on those who respond to the message of the gospel. It is the same thing we see Paul telling Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:2 that the things he had learned from Paul he should “entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.” Certainly, we proclaim the gospel to everyone, that is the call of Mark 16:15 to “go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” But the time we spend needs to be concentrated on those who respond so that we can fulfill Matthew 28:19 of making disciples of all the nations, baptizing them, and teaching them all of the Lord’s commandments.
To relate this to the harvest analogy, we are to be busy gathering in the wheat, and not making extended examination of the tares.
A DEPARTURE FROM THOSE WHO DO NOT LISTEN
And that brings us to the final principle. We remove ourselves from those who do not listen. “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.”
I think our tendency is to think that everyone is the one lost sheep out of a hundred and we should leave the 99 to look for it. We need to remember that the gospel message is also one of judgment that people are in sin and will pay the penalty of that sin unless they repent and receive God’s forgiveness.
Someone may be kind and put you up, but if they do not respond to the gospel there is no basis for the extension of peace, for without a positive response to God’s message of love, there is not peace with God. The same is true of everyone else that hears the good news of Jesus Christ but rejects it. The apostles were directed to give an outward sign of shaking the dust off their feet. This sign arose from the practice of Jews who had traveled in a Gentile land. When they returned to Judea they would shake off the dust from that country. The idea was an outward sign of protest against the people who had rejected God’s message. Paul and Barnabas actually did this when leaving Pisidia of Antioch.
You can try that if you want, but few people would understand the meaning now. You might be more effective if you just told them straight out, “You have rejected the word of God, so you stand condemned before Him. You are responsible for yourselves. We are going elsewhere to those who will listen and heed.”
It is not that we necessarily turn away from those who reject the gospel at the first hearing or even after several hearings, for from 2 Peter 3:9 we know that God is patient “not willing that any should perish but for all to come to repentance.” This principle is not applied against those that are slow to understand or believe, but against those that have had a clear presentation of the gospel so that they clearly understand it, but they continue to resist and oppose it. Their condemnation will be greater than that of Sodom and Gomorrah, because they had been given the words of life, the message of salvation, and they rejected it.
We make diligent effort to win the lost, but when they clearly reject the message we come to understand that they are the hogs and dogs the Lord was speaking about in Matthew 7:6. We are not to give what is holy to them. We are not to cast our pearls before them. It is time to move on and leave them in their condemned state.
The gospel is too precious and there are too many that have not heard to waste time on those that reject it. We need to move on and spend the time with those that are responding to it. And as we do minister, we need to remember these other principles too. Have a heart that trusts the Lord. Live a life of ministry and freely give of yourself. Make sure you are giving out the message clearly in all that you say and do, and that seek the Lord diligently so that you may have the proper focus of ministry to accomplish what He wants.
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