Jesus Calls and Commissions the Twelve - Part 2

by Spiros Zodhiates

Spiros ZodhiatesDr. Zodhiates continues his exposition of Matthew's gospel.

[8] Even as they spread the good news of God's kingdom, true believers cannot be indifferent to the sick and suffering people they encounter, thus, the added admonition: "Keep tenderly healing (therapeete, the present imperative of therapeoō [2323], "keep healing with compassion")" (a.t.).

The apostles were also commissioned to "keep cleansing" (katharzete, the present imperative of katharzoō [2511], to cleanse, the only verb used in the NT for the healing of lepers [a.t.]). The Old Testament required certifications of healing so that former lepers would be accepted back into their communities.

In the Textus Receptus, following "cleanse the lepers," we find "raise (egerete, the present imperative of egeroō [1453], to raise) the dead (nekros, the accusative plural of the adjective nekrs [3498], dead)." No definite articles are before any of the subjects, signifying that the Lord did not give the disciples unlimited authority to heal every sickness or raise every dead person. In John 16:33, Jesus promised victory over sickness and death: "In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world."

We find in 1 Corinthians 15:26 that "the last (éschatos [2078], the farthest chronologically) enemy that shall be destroyed is death (physical death)." This clearly teaches that believers are neither exempt from nor granted full authority over corruption, sickness, and death in this age; however, we can have victory in this life and at the resurrection when all sickness and death will be eliminated. Our bodies will be "raised in incorruption" (1 Cor. 15:42; see vv. 53, 54).

Jesus' commands did not come with the guarantee of universal salvation or healing. Of the original Twelve Apostles, only Peter raised a dead person-Dorcas of Lydda, a believer distinguished for benevolence. Peter came to the house where she had died and commanded her to rise (Acts 9:36-43). God gave the apostles the privilege to do many wonders and signs but not universally so. The Holy Spirit clearly led them to particular ministries.

The Lord also raised a dead person through the ministry of the apostle Paul. While Paul was preaching in Troas, a man named Eutychus fell asleep and dropped from the third floor of a building. He died, but Paul raised him back to life (Acts 20:7-12).

As we saw last month, the ministry of healing and caring for the sick in the life of Jesus, the Twelve Apostles, and believers in general was particular, not universal, in scope, as we have noted. Not all lepers were cleansed, and not all dead people were raised, either by Jesus or others. Sick people remain with us, as they did in Christ's day. In accordance with His command, we can care for and heal some but not all.

"Cast out (ekbllete, the present imperative of ekblloō[1544]) devils" means to keep casting out, since the verb is a present imperative. The Twelve were thus to liberate people who were possessed and imprisoned by evil spirits.

Jesus then instructed the apostles not to charge for these services. "Freely (doren [1432]) ye have received, freely give (dte, the active imperative of ddomi [1325], to give)." A God-given gift must not be sold. "What hast thou that thou didst not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7). The servant of God is not to accumulate money or goods by charging for preaching or healing.

[9] The aorist tense of the verb in the expression, "You may not (me [3361], the relative not') provide (ktesesthe, the aorist middle subjunctive-used as an imperative-of ktomai [2932], to acquire or buy for oneself)" (a.t.), implies a once-for-all procurement.

Jesus warned His servants to beware of greed. The King's children are not entitled to live royally on earth. This is the reward of heaven. The negatives in verses 9 and 10 are relative (me [3361]), not absolute (ou [3756]). This means the commands must be considered in conjunction with other Scriptures (see Luke 22:35-37). Jesus did not forbid owning extra clothing, bags, or other reserves, but rather profiteering from His free gift, the gospel. Merchandising (kapeleo [2585], to hawk, translated "corrupt" in 2 Cor. 2:17) the Word of God is forbidden.

[10] While Christian workers are forbidden to charge, the church is commanded to support them: "If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things?" (1 Cor. 9:11).

Thus, the reason for not carrying money and two sets of clothes is that the worker is "worthy (xios [514], deserving) of (receiving) his meat," that is, from others. In Luke 10:7, Jesus said, "The laborer is worthy of his hire (misths [3408], reward)." The workers' rewards, however, are not fully received on earth; most are reserved in heaven (Matt. 5:12). For now, Christians should care for God's servants, but warnings against greed and profiting from the gospel ministry are very clear.

[11-14] Jesus also told us that we will experience various receptions. We should therefore apply wise insight to different situations, what Paul calls "discerning of spirits" (1 Cor. 12:10). Apostles and disciples bring the same message to all, and some welcome it as a message of peace. If others are not worthy and have no cultivated ground (Matt. 13:8, 23) for the reception of the seed, the blessing returns to us. Nothing we do for Christ wastes His time or our efforts. Having done our duty, we can rest assured it will be fruitful in our lives and in the lives of others.

[15] Jesus taught that the testimony (martura [3141]) of His saving grace will either justify people in this life or condemn them on the day of judgment (v. 18; 24:14; Mark 13:9; Luke 9:5; 21:13, etc.). God punished the sinful cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, but He will punish those individuals and cities that reject the Gospel with worse judgments.

Dr. Zodhiates is president emeritus of AMG International and publisher emeritus of Pulpit Helps.

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