The Gospel of Matthew
"E. Schuyler English: The Gospel According to Matthew"
The Book of MATTHEW
"And when He had called unto Him His twelve disciples, He gave them power against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease. Now the names of the twelve apostles are these; ..." (Matt. 10:1, 2).
The Kingdom of the heavens had been announced as at hand. Its nature and laws had been set forth by the King. He had demonstrated that He had authority over sickness and death, over the elements, and over Satan and his demons. He had shown by proclamation and by power that He was indeed the promised Messiah. It was now necessary that some method of the propagation of the Kingdom be adopted. Israel was scattered without a shepherd, and the good Shepherd was ready to take means that all the flock should hear and see, by signs, that the King was present and the Kingdom at hand.
The sending forth of the twelve in the tenth of Matthew is very definitely not the missionary commission for the present dispensation. These were sent to Israel, to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom, and were instructed in particular not to go to the Gentiles. They were given power to heal all manner of disease, and to raise the dead. There was no Gospel of grace as yet for "whosoever will;" redemption was limited to Israel, which was to "Repent; for the Kingdom of the heavens is at hand." The instructions are found to be in two divisions; in verses five to fifteen the words of our Lord have to do with the personal ministry of the apostles during that time when the Gospel of the Kingdom was being preached. The places which they were to visit, the persons to whom they were to speak, the proclamation which they were to deliver, the power with which they were to work, the provision which they were to make, the people with whom they were to associate, the promise of what should happen to those who would not receive them -- all these things were definite, and ended with the earthly life of the Lord Jesus. From verse sixteen to the end of chapter ten we find a twofold application. The instructions were for the twelve but also looked forward to the testimony of the Lord's chosen ones in this age, for the Lord Jesus knew that He was to be crucified and that the new age of grace was then to be introduced.
First, let us see that the power which the disciples had was not their own, it was of the Lord. That is an important understanding. If we minister in His Name, and our ministry is blessed, it is of the Lord. We can accomplish nothing for Him, but we must let Him work through us to the glory of His Name.
Secondly, the names of the twelve apostles are listed. It is interesting to observe certain signs of apostleship: (1) They were eye-witnesses of the risen Lord Jesus; (2) They were called directly by the Lord, or in the case of Barnabas and Matthias, by the Holy Spirit; (3) They were endowed with special miraculous powers; (4) The future relation to the Kingdom of all names in Matthew ten (with the exception of Judas Iscariot) and of Matthias, chosen in Judas' place, will be that of judges over the twelve tribes of Israel (Matt. 19:28). The word apostle (one sent forth) is used of our Lord (Heb. 3:1), and is used of the twelve here mentioned; of Matthias (Acts 1:26); of Paul, called to apostleship by the risen and ascended Lord Jesus; and of Barnabas, called by the Holy Spirit (Acts 13:2).
"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." "He came unto His own, and His own received Him not. But ... as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them who believe on His Name" (John 1:11, 12).
These apostles were sent forth to proclaim the Gospel of the Kingdom to Israel alone. Israel rejected their Messiah, and He turned to the Gentiles. Praise God for His grace whereby we are saved.
"And as ye go, preach, saying, The Kingdom of the heavens is at hand. Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons; freely ye have received, freely give. Provide neither gold, nor silver, nor brass in your purses" (Matt. 10:7-9).
"The Kingdom of the heavens is at hand" is the message, and the signs of that Kingdom are: "Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons." There are those who claim that the power to heal the sick and cast out demons goes with the Gospel of grace. If that is so, why do they leave out "Raise the dead"? The Lord can heal, and does heal, but it is as He wills, and the power to do so does not accompany the preaching of the Gospel. In verse one we are told that He gave them power to do so; we have no record of His giving us such power in this dispensation.
"Provide neither gold, nor silver, nor brass in your purses. ..." As they were to be dependent upon the Lord for power, so were they to be dependent upon Him for their provisions. The instructions are those of haste and urgency. And as the apostles went forth in full dependence, so must we look to Him today. The message that we have is a different one, but a glorious one; His coming again may be soon. Let us with haste proclaim the Gospel of salvation, empowered by the indwelling Holy Spirit to give forth His Word which shall not return unto Him void, but shall accomplish that which He pleases, and shall prosper in the thing whereto He has sent it (Isa. 55:11).
The instructions now are for the apostles, primarily, but they reach forward into the present dispensation, and into the Great Tribulation. Our Lord now told them how they should be received. The persecutions for the most part did not begin until after His ascension. It was then that they were delivered up before councils and synagogues, before governors and kings, before Gentiles and Jews. There is some record of such persecution in the Acts, but the great fulfilment will be during the Tribulation.
"And the brother shall deliver up the brother 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. ... For verily I say unto you, ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of Man be come" (Matt. 10:21-23). The Son of Man was already with the disciples, presenting the Kingdom. Then, "Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of Man be come," must mean some future coming. And so it does. The proclamation which was begun at this time by the apostles is incompleted. We are living in a parenthesis, the Church age. When the Times of the Gentiles shall end and the saints shall have been caught up to meet the Lord in the air, the parenthesis shall end. Then, in the Tribulation, once again the remnant of Israel shall take up the incompleted proclamation, and once more shall they preach, "The Kingdom of the heavens is at hand." It is then that "he that endureth to the end shall be saved." Today, he that believeth on the Lord Jesus Christ is saved, now and for eternity.
"Fear not." The balance of the chapter is a record of words of encouragement and comfort from the Lord Jesus as He sent forth His disciples. The message was for them as they faced hatred and persecution for His sake, it was for the martyrs of the early centuries, it is for us today, it is for those who shall be hated and ostracized and slain during the Tribulation. "Fear not. ... Whosoever ... shall confess Me before men, him will I confess also before My Father Who is in Heaven. ... He who loseth his life for My sake shall find it. ... He that receiveth Me, receiveth Him Who sent Me ... and whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward." What a marvellous blessing and benediction our Saviour has left for us. He Who is the Creator of all things says: "Fear not." If we confess Him, He will confess us before His heavenly Father. God grant that all who read this study may confess Him before men.