Fearing the Right Person
“Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (v. 28). - Matthew 10:26–39
The Son of God’s incarnation makes Him uniquely able to understand human frailties (Heb. 2:14–18). Jesus has walked “a mile in our shoes,” having chosen to put up with a lower status for a time without casting off any of His divine attributes (Phil. 2:5–11). Thus, Christ anticipates the worries we will have when persecuted for His name’s sake. He allays these fears in Matthew 10.
Many believers, our Lord knows, worry about what they will say if they are brought before an angry court because they are not eloquent speakers. Yet these disciples need not fear; the Father’s Spirit will give them the right words to say (vv. 19–20). Jesus is not teaching that we may neglect the study of His Word, He is promising that the Holy Spirit will show Himself strong in our weaknesses. Christians across the ages have seen Him keep His pledge (Acts 4:1–13; 6:8–15).
This passage further encourages us not to fear those who hate the Gospel. In Jesus’ day, Palestinian homes have flat roofs from which news is often proclaimed. Our Savior’s disciples need not worry about what will happen when they give His Word from the rooftops, that is, when they preach the Gospel boldly. Even if His people are maligned now, the truth will win out in the end and the goodness of His witnesses will be vindicated (Matt. 10:26–27).
Jesus’ sovereignty comforts us when the Gospel divides families. The Lord’s design in sending the Gospel includes its bringing of strife (vv. 34–39). However, though Christ brings the sword, He does not create the conflict. The peace Jesus offers comes on terms many refuse to accept. Strife comes not directly from the Lord’s hand, but from the response of secondary, human agents who hate Him and those who embrace the Gospel. Saying that He brings the sword is a Semitic way of attributing an indirect result of His mission to Himself even though He is not to blame for the outcome. Christ does not directly set family members against one another; those who reject the Lord are the culprits (Rom. 9:19–20).
Finally, the persecuted find greatest comfort in knowing whom to fear. Wicked men can only kill the body, but God destroys body and soul in hell (Matt. 10:28). Those who adore Him will rise, body and soul, to eternal life (Rev. 21).
John Chrysostom, one of the finest preachers in the early church, once declared, “Let the hope of the good things to come raise you up. For the true story of your testimony cannot be suppressed forever” (Homilies on the Gospel of St. Matthew, 34.1). Though we may face opposition and persecution now, we know that in the end all will be set right and the servants of Christ will be vindicated. Let this precious truth encourage you to stand firm for the Gospel.
Passages for Further Study
- Psalm 58:11
- Isaiah 40:10–11
- Mark 13:9–13
- Hebrews 10:32–39
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