Lesson 55: The Limited Commission
A Blending of The Four Gospel Records. Welcome to lesson # 55. Jesus sent the apostles forth by two and two, according to Mark 6:7. Both Mark and Luke gave a quickie summary of Jesus' instruction to the twelve. But, Matthew used almost 40 verses to tell us about Jesus' instruction to the twelve. That section begins in Matt. 10:5. Let's read a couple verses, Matt. 10:5-6. Let's read! "These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." Now that's just the beginning of Jesus' speech which ends down in Matt. 10:42. Since they were forbidden to go into Samaria or unto any Gentile; it would seem most of their work was done in Galilee. The lost sheep of Israel has reference to those who had apostatized, i.e. those who had forsook their religion either in a practical sense or in a negligent way. They were not worshipping according to the old law. You will remember that the Samaritans were Jews that had intermarried with the Assyrians and Babylonians and had developed their own religion and built a temple on Mt. Gerizim. Now, which apostle went with who? It's a good question; but, the answer is not given. We can verify a few cases in our future study. But, do you remember the lists of the apostles like the one here in Matt. 10:2-3-4? There's one in Mark 3:16-19. Luke's gave a list in Luke 6:14-15 where the apostles were appointed. Then of course, Luke gives another list in Acts ch. one. If you study those lists carefully; some think there is a hint give in Luke's list. Mark, doesn't do this; but, Luke and Matthew listed the apostles by two's. Take a look at this! Luke's lists is: Simon AND Andrew; James AND John; Philip AND Bartholomew; Matthew AND Thomas; James of Alpheus AND Simon Zelotes; AND the two Judases. Is that why Luke listed them in pairs? Well, we can't be sure; but, so far as we are able to verify, this checks out. Matthew and Luke switch the last pair. No scriptural reason is given for the two by two arrangement. Bro. McGarvey in his Fourfold Gospel suggests three reasons, (#1) [and I quote] "Under the law it required two witnesses to establish the truth. #2. They could supplement each other's work. Different men reach different minds, and when one fails another may succeed. #3. They would encourage one another, [unquote]. We might add to that, of course, that Jesus' efforts were multiplied. Six different villages were being visited at one time. This underscores the fact that Christianity is a taught religion. Jesus had and still has, great compassion for mankind as was expressed in Matt. 9:36; but, Jesus does not deviate from his scheme of redemption and his demand for obedience. Alright, we read the first sentence of Jesus instruction to the apostles in Matt. 10:5-6. Let's break the rest of his speech up into two or three more manageable sections. Let's begin by reading v.7-15 right now. Matt. 10:7-15. Have you got it? This was Jesus speaking to the twelve. Are you ready? "And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give. Provide neither gold, nor silver, nor brass in your purses; nor scrip for your journey, neither two coats, neither shoes, nor yet staves: for the workman is worthy of his meat. And into whatsoever city or town ye shall enter, inquire who in it is worthy; and there abide •till ye go thence. And when ye come into a house, salute it. And if the house be worthy, let your peace come upon it: but if it be not worthy, let your peace return to you. And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of -your feet. Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorah in the day of judgment, than for that city." First of all, I should remind you, this instruction was limited to the twelve apostles. We called it the limited commission. That phrase LIMITED COMMISSION is used in contrast to the GREAT COMMISSION, you see, which came later; possibly between a year and two years later. Jesus gave the great commission after he arose from the dead and the great commission was universal in scope, to the apostles and ultimately, to all people and all nations. It will be in force until the end of the Christian age. But, the limited commission was only for a few weeks or a few months for training the apostles and raising the expectation of the Jews that the kingdom would soon be established. V.7 contains the message Jesus instructed them to preach, "The kingdom of heaven is at hand." You recognize of course that's the same theme Jesus taught on their prior tour, stated in Luke 8:1. And the statement here in Matthew's account, v.7, is also a direct quote from Matt. 4:17 which was a summary of what Jesus began to teach in his public ministry. So, in effect the apostles were being told to teach exactly what they had heard Jesus teach. We must keep in mind that the Mosaic age or the ten commandment age also called the old covenant was still in force at that time. But, the message they were to convey was simply, that the kingdom age, or Christian age, or church age was eminent, i.e. at hand. Then in v.8 Jesus instructed the twelve to use their miraculous powers freely. V.9-10 has to do with preparation for their journey. They were not to take extra food, clothing or money. Now, that's not because they would not need those things. It was not because Jesus was opposed to those things. The point is, that it was to be provided by those to whom they preached. They were to live with, eat with and sleep in a bed provided by their host. In short, don't make any preparation; just go. Material things would be provided. But, they were to WORK AT their assignment of preaching and healing. Being a workmen, they would be worthy of the food and lodging that they would receive. This principle is also applied later in the N.T. The principle is that one who preaches, teaches and communicates God's word is to be provided for by those they teach. In I Cor. 9:14, the apostle Paul said it like this: "Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel." Three verses before that Paul asked the question: "If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things?" On another occasion, but a similar circumstance; Jesus said, "the laborer is worthy of his hire." (Luke 10:7). Here in Matt. 10:10 Jesus said "the workman is worthy of his meat." But, of course, I can't find any flashy robes or collars turned around backward in those verses.
Then, in v.11, Jesus discussed where they were to lodge or stay. When they went into a city or village; they were to inquire who in that place was worthy. They were NOT to accept food, lodging, etc from an unworthy person. One thing you need to keep in mind HERE IS that all through the O.T. the Jews were encouraged to be a hospitable people; to lodge strangers and provide for those in the way, i.e. travelers. Abraham entertained angels unawares in Gen. 18:3. This is given as an example in Heb. 13:1. So, this was not as uncommon as it might sound to some of us today. If you consider the miraculous healing powers Jesus gave these apostles; they probably received a lot of invitations simply out of gratitude and appreciation. But, if the apostles found themselves in an unworthy house. How were the apostles to conduct themselves? Look at v.12-13! When they found a place, they were to salute it, i.e. greet their host and respect their host. If it should proved to be unworthy; they were to move; on. When they left that house they were to leave their dirt with them. But, they were NOT to take any kind of revenge; simply move on to the next worthy house. Jesus would deal with the unworthy at the final judgment. That's the idea on v.15. He said, "It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment..." The point is that Jesus, (the final judge) if you remember John 5:22, does not take very kindly to those who DO NOT listen to, observe, and encourage his apostles. Again, it goes back to that principle that we will be judged according to our enlightenment and our opportunity. For those given more; then more will be required. You see, those people in Sodom and Gomorrah didn't have the timely occasion to lodge and accommodate the apostles of Christ. You see, some might have done it if they had had the opportunities of the Jews in Palestine. And this will be taken into consideration in the Judgment. In Rev. 20:12 and again in v.13, the bible says that all people will be judged, "according to their works." So, we learn for this that if Jesus gives us an opportunity and we reject it; we'll be held accountable. And, this teaching is consistent with every other scripture. Notice in v.15 that Jesus in one breath spoke of the immediate future and in the next breath he spoke of information relative to the long term future. So, you see, even though this was instruction to the apostles in the limited commission; we can still learn much in studying Jesus' speech.
Alright, after Jesus had told the twelve where to go and who to teach, what to preach, what to take and what NOT to take, where to stay and where NOT to stay; Jesus, then proceeded to warn them -what to look out for on their journey, i.e. don't expect everything to be pleasant. You will be dealing with people. Some will be treacherous. Let's read v.16-25. Are you ready? "Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues; and ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles. But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that hour what ye shall speak. For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you. And the brother shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the child: and the children shall rise up against their parents, and cause them to be put to death. And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved. But when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another: for verily I say unto you, Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come. The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord. It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master, and the servant as his lord. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of his household?" O.K. did you notice how vivid our Lord described the characteristics of men by using animal features in v.16? The apostles would be like sheep in the midst of wolves, i.e. they would be defenseless. They must be aware of this and make allowance accordingly. Much depended upon THEIR conduct, you see. To call a person a snake usually has negative connotations; but, in this case Jesus used a characteristic of the snake they should have. Did you ever see a snake catch a bird? The snake doesn't make a lot of unnecessary noise. The snake doesn't rely upon speed or force. But, like the snake the apostles were to use intelligence. On the other hand, they were to have some characteristics of a dove which is not known for it smarts. As a matter of fact in Hosea 7:11, doves are said to be "silly." But, they are known as a peace loving bird and is sometimes used as a symbol for peace, even today. So, the apostles were to be wise and harmless; not trading evil for evil. But, not even that kind of conduct would guarantee their •safety. They were to be prepared to suffer at the hands of other men. Why is that? And how did Jesus know that? Well, you see, it had to do with the message he told them to preach and the healing he had instructed them to do. They could expect hostility; "they will scourge you." (v.17) That simply means to whip or inflict servere pain by beating. You mean they would do that in a synagogue? Let me remind you: the law of Moses was a national law as well as a religious system. The Law of Moses permitted scourgings up to forty stripes. That's Deut. 25:1-3. At the time of Jesus; these punishments were regularly administered by synagogue leaders and the sanhedrin council. Notice the word "councils" in v.17 is plural, I suppose that means there were lesser courts than the Sanhedrin. Then of course, the Jews were under the Romans. But, Jesus' emphasis here is upon persecution by their own countrymen. But, they may be brought before kings and Gentiles as well. Whether any of these things happened during the time of the limited commission (or not) I don't know. John the Baptist had had his run-in with civil authorities; so, Jesus' apostles could expect the same things. But, notice in v.19, they were promised some divine help if these things befell them. Keep in mind here that Jesus made this promise exclusively to the apostles. It's a mistake for Christians today to try to universalize this statement. So, keep it in it's proper context. But, what did Jesus promise? Did Jesus promise these 12 men they would not experience pain if they were beaten, scourged or persecuted? NO SIR! Jesus warned them to take every precaution in dealing with such men. But, they were to go about their business of preaching, teaching and healing. They were not to spend their time meditating and premeditating what they would do and say when (and if) they were brought before councils, governors, and the like. They didn't have to waste time preparing and making their defense. God's Holy Spirit would give them miraculous help in such a moment of need. The Spirit would supply them with the appropriate speech. But, please notice that the appropriate speech would not assure them they would be released unharmed. As a matter of fact, they should expect the opposite.
In closing, let me ask you this: what can WE learn from this with respect to the nature of God's Holy Spirit? From this beginning in Matt. ch. 10; we shall discover the Holy Spirit working through the apostles many times before completing the N.T. And, from this beginning Jesus gradually taught the 12 apostles more and more about the personality of the Godhead called the Holy Spirit. At a later time after Jesus ascended to heaven; the Spirit of the Father as it is termed in v.20 became a "guide" to the apostles. Jesus promised this in John 16:13. We'll get to that in due time as our study progresses. We don't want to get ahead of ourselves at this point; but I would encourage you to. put a brain cell or two on this spiritual development as we continue our study. Some try to make these things a mysterious as possible. Others completely miss the point and use this to propagate false doctrine and misunderstanding. This is not the first time we ran across the Holy Spirit or Holy Ghost in this study. John the Baptist was filled with the Holy Ghost from his mother's womb. Elizabeth, Zechariah, and others could be mentioned. But, this is the first time any thing is said about the Holy Ghost working through the apostles. We'll continue with Jesus instruction to the apostles in our next lesson. Have a good day.