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 same 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.Matthew 10:16-23
I know it sounds strange but all my life I have heard people say that a true preacher of the gospel doesn’t need to prepare ahead of time. They say that the Lord will pour out His Spirit on the man when it is time. It is as if the preacher has a flap on top of his head that the Lord opens and gives him the sermon on Sunday morning. This passage of scripture is often mentioned to support this view.
Now, I don’t doubt for a second that the anointing of the Lord is necessary for the true gospel to be preached, but I do not believe this passage of scripture supports such a ridiculous notion.
Matthew records an extended conversation that Jesus had with the twelve disciples before sending them out for the first time. In this portion, Jesus warns them that they are being sent out on an important journey but a very dangerous one as well. In the Book of Acts, we have records of some of these persecutions happening to the Apostles and others. It is on these occasions where the preacher need not concern himself with what he will say. In each case, it is clear that the Lord helped them respond to their persecutors.
Further, Jesus teaches His disciples to be wise as serpent but harmless as doves. A snake knows a human is there long before the human is aware of the snake. Jesus is telling preachers to be aware of the dangers of the world at all times so they can protect the flock. Along with this wisdom, Jesus teaches that their mannerisms should be like that of a dove. They are not to be ready to fight or go to war over words.
The conclusion to be drawn from this passage is that a preacher of the gospel should not be shocked if he is persecuted for preaching what is right. In fact, he should expect it and being looking out for it. But rather than being ready to fight, he needs to be ready to give a soft answer and listen to how the Lord would have him respond to tribulation.
Those that continue to follow the Lord’s instructions will be saved from the destruction that will come upon Jerusalem in 70 A.D. Jesus also tells them that it won’t be long until they understand more about Who He is. For even before they finish preaching to all the lost sheep of the house of Israel, Jesus will be resurrected from the dead and they will know that the Son of man is come!
It is quite interesting to me that the typical flip-top head preacher is often very argumentative and harsh. It seems he missed every point Jesus is making here!