Sheep, Wolves, Serpents, and Doves

Text: Matthew 10:16

In this chapter, Jesus sent His twelve apostles out on the “limited commission” (Matthew 10:5-7). There are some similarities between their commission and our responsibilities today. We are as sheep in the midst of wolves, so we must be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves.

Sent Out as Sheep

  • We are in a position of perceived weakness – Jesus was led as a lamb to slaughter (Isaiah 53:7); the gospel does not attract the “mighty” (1 Corinthians 1:26); we must be “content with weaknesses” (2 Corinthians 11:10) because we are trusting in Him
  • We are followers of the Lord – He is the shepherd (John 10:11); we are to hear His voice and follow Him (John 10:27)
  • Our protection is from the Lord – no one is able to take us from Him (John 10:28); they were being sent out (physically separated), yet they were still protected (Matthew 10:28-31, 39)

In the Midst of Wolves

  • We will face enemies – we will be persecuted (2 Timothy 3:12); must not be surprised by it (1 Peter 4:12)
  • We will be outnumbered – examples of others (Acts 7:57-58; 2 Timothy 4:16); yet the Lord will be with us (2 Timothy 4:17-18; Matthew 28:20)
  • We must be watchful for the devil – he hunts us like a lion (1 Peter 5:8), which is a similar idea; the world follows him (2 Corinthians 4:4); so the world will be against those who follow Christ (John 17:14)

Shrewd as Serpents

  • We must act with wisdom (Colossians 4:5; Ephesians 5:15) – pray for wisdom (James 1:5); we acquire it by learning how to put God’s word into practice (Colossians 1:9-10)
  • We must avoid unnecessary danger – not have a “fanatical thirst for martyrdom” (Jamieson, Fausset, Brown); must be willing to suffer and die when necessary (Revelation 2:10), but not when unnecessary; may flee persecution (Matthew 10:23), which allows us to continue the Lord’s work (Acts 8:4)
  • We are to live a quiet life – this should be our ambition (1 Thessalonians 4:11) and prayer (1 Timothy 2:2); does not mean we are cut off from the world (John 17:15); we must still teach and be examples (1 Peter 3:15; 2:12)

Innocent as Doves

  • We have been forgiven – they were looking forward to this, but Jesus has now died for us (Ephesians 1:7); “by His wounds you were healed” (1 Peter 2:24); we were straying, but now we follow Him (1 Peter 2:25)
  • We are to keep from sin – “shrewd as serpents,” but not in deceptive cunningness (Genesis 3:1; 2 Corinthians 11:3); the word innocent/harmless (KJV) means simple; child-like (cf. 1 Corinthians 14:20)
  • We are to be a symbol of peace – disciples are to be peacemakers (Matthew 5:9; Hebrews 12:14); we have a message of peace (Ephesians 6:15); we seek to “preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3)

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