What can we learn from Christ’s instructions to the twelve apostles (cf. Matt. 10:5-15)? What did Christ appoint them to do? What kinds of services they were told to perform? To whom they must apply themselves? How they ought to behave themselves?
In Matthew 10:5-15 we have the instructions that Christ gave to his disciples, when he gave them their commission. Whether this charge was given them in a continued discourse, or the several articles of it hinted to them at several times, is not material; in this he commanded them. Jacob’s blessing his sons is called his commanding them, and with these commands Christ commanded a blessing. Some of the instructions were clearly meant for the apostles in the first century, but some are relevant to Christians in every age. In my opinion, verses 7 and 8 belong to the latter: “7 As you go, preach this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven is near.’ 8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give” (Matt. 10:7-8).
Christ did not send the apostles forth without an errand; no, As you go, preach (Matt. 10:7). They were to be itinerant preachers: wherever they come they must proclaim the beginning of the gospel, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is near”. Not that they must say nothing else, but this must be their text; on this subject they must enlarge: let people know, that the kingdom of the Messiah, who is the Lord from heaven, is now to be set up according to the scriptures; from whence it follows, that men must repent of their sins and forsake them, that they might be admitted to the privileges of that kingdom. It is said (Mark 6:12), they went out, and preached that men should repent; which was the proper use and application of this doctrine, concerning the approach of the kingdom of heaven. They must, therefore, expect to hear more of this long-looked-for Messiah shortly, and must be ready to receive his doctrine, to believe in him, and to submit to his yoke. The preaching of this was like the morning light, to give notice of the approach of the rising sun. How unlike was this to the preaching of Jonah, which proclaimed ruin at hand! (cf. Jonah 3:4). This proclaims salvation at hand, nigh them that fear God; mercy and truth meet together (cf. Ps. 85:9, 10), that is, the kingdom of heaven is near: not so much the personal presence of the king; that must not be doated upon; but a spiritual kingdom which is to be set up, when his bodily presence is removed, in the hearts of men.
Now this was the same that John the Baptist and Christ had preached before. Note, People need to have good truths pressed again and again upon them, and if they be preached and heard with new affections, they are as if they were fresh to us. Christ, in the gospel, is the same yesterday, today, and forever (cf. Heb. 13:8). Afterwards, indeed, when the Spirit was poured out, and the Christian church was formed, this kingdom of heaven came, which was now spoken of as at hand; but the kingdom of heaven must still be the subject of our preaching: now it is come, we must tell people it is come to them, and must lay before them the precepts and privileges of it; and there is a kingdom of glory yet to come, which we must speak of as at hand, and quicken people to diligence from the consideration of that.
When he sent them to preach the same doctrine that he had preached, he empowered them to confirm it, by the same divine seals, which could never be set to a lie (cf. Matt. 10:8). They are directed here,
1. To use their power in doing good: not “Go and remove mountains,” or “fetch fire from heaven,” but, Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers. They are sent abroad as public blessings, to intimate to the world, that love and goodness were the spirit and genius of that gospel which they came to preach, and of that kingdom which they were employed to set up. By this it would appear, that they were the servants of that God who is good and does good, and whose mercy is over all his works; and that the intention of the doctrine they preached, was to heal sick souls, and to raise those that were dead in sin; and therefore, perhaps, that of raising the dead is mentioned; for though we read not of their raising any to life before the resurrection of Christ, yet they were instrumental to raise many to spiritual life.
2. In doing good freely; Freely you have received, freely give. Those that had power to heal all diseases, had an opportunity to enrich themselves; who would not purchase such easy certain cures at any rate? Therefore they are cautioned not to make a gain of the power they had to work miracles: they must cure gratis, further to exemplify the nature and complexion of the gospel kingdom, which is made up, not only of grace, but of free grace. Gratia gratis data (Rom. 3:24), freely by his grace, Buy medicines without money, and without price (Isa. 55:1). And the reason is, because freely you have received. Their power to heal the sick cost them nothing, and, therefore, they must not make any secular advantage to themselves of it. Simon Magus would not have offered money for the gifts of the Holy Ghost, if he had not hoped to get money by them (cf. Acts 8:18). Note, The consideration of Christ’s freeness in doing good to us, should make us free in doing good to others.
Let us take a moment to reflect on how the above Bible verses can be applied to our daily lives. How do we tell others about the Kingdom of Heaven? How do we show them that the Kingdom of Heaven is among us? Do we do works of mercy as Christ had instructed? Do we use our gifts and talents to help those in need without expecting anything in return?
Let us praise God with the song “Freely, Freely”: