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Dr. Luke: Healing the Breaches - Book 4

This book covers Luke 10-11, where Jesus sent out the Seventy with a specific message of the Kingdom.

Category - Bible Commentaries

Chapter 2

Jesus’ Instructions to the Seventy

Beginning in Luke 10:2, Jesus begins to instruct the seventy apostles in regard to their mission. Verse 1 said that Jesus “sent them” ahead of Him to prepare the way before Him. The Greek word translated “sent” is apostello, that is, Jesus apostled them. An apostle is one who is appointed, commissioned, and sent on a mission.

Even as John the Baptist heralded the first coming of Christ, so also the seventy prophetically herald Christ’s second coming. So these instructions largely apply to us today as we prepare the way for Christ’s second work. This is a preaching/teaching work, as shown by “the hearing rock” in the days of Moses and also by the second call of Jonah to preach to Nineveh.

We know from Matt. 10:5-42 that Jesus had given detailed instructions to the twelve. Luke recorded only a few of those instructions. But in the instructions to the seventy, Luke’s record is as long as Matthew’s. Matthew focused upon the twelve, while Luke focused upon the seventy. Luke 10:2 says,

2 And He was saying to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.”

This plentiful harvest is the world itself, represented in the story of Jonah as the city of Nineveh. The seventy were the few laborers in that time, but indeed, this number was destined to be increased (as we have seen) to 288,000—assuming that this is a literal number of overcomers.

The Restoration of Glory

The number seventy appears to represent the nations of the world, for in Genesis 10 we see that the family of Noah formed seventy nations. Hence, the seventy apostles represent one for each of the nations. Their mission is to restore the glory of God until His glory fills the whole earth (Num. 14:21). The biblical number for “glory” is a thousand.

Rom. 3:23 says, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Adam, the great archetype of humanity, died at the age of 930 (Gen. 5:5). He fell short of the glory of God by seventy years. Therefore, seventy is the number of restoration that brings the glory of God to the nations of the world.

Jesus’ first instruction was to “beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.” When He sent out the seventy, it was too late to start praying for an increase of apostles for that mission. In a sense, this was to increase later under the anointing of Pentecost, which began with 120 disciples (Acts 1:15). This increased over time, but as we now approach the second work of Christ, we anticipate a great increase of apostles. These will be empowered to prepare the way for the Stone Kingdom of Dan. 2:35, as it grows until it fills the earth with His glory.

The Peaceable Kingdom

Luke 10:3 continues,

3 “Go your ways; behold, I send you out as lambs in the midst of wolves.”

Many have been taught that they are to go out as lions in the midst of wolves. They say that Jesus came first as a lamb, but will come the second time as a lion. While this is certainly true, they misinterpret it, thinking that Christ the “lion” will come to tear the nations into pieces and destroy them as “enemies.” However, the two metaphors cannot be used to contradict each other. Christ’s lamb-like character is not set aside later, nor does His lion-like character set aside the lamb. He is both at the same time.

His lion-like character indicates strength and victory as He manifests Himself as the King of the World. Yet His gentleness as the Prince of Peace is never lost. He does not intend to destroy His enemies but to convert them into friends. This is seen in the story of Jonah, who went to Nineveh, the capital of Assyria, to evangelize them. Assyria was soon to swallow up the Israelites (Hosea 8:8, 9), even as Jonah had been swallowed by the great fish. When Jonah was angry over the conversion of Nineveh, God rebuked him gently but firmly. In Jonah 4:4, we read,

4 And the Lord said, “Do you have good reason to be angry?”

In the story, Jonah built a “shelter” (Heb. sukkah), and God caused a gourd to grow over it in order to give Jonah shade. A sukkah is a booth, and it is the word used for the feast of Booths, or Tabernacles. This forms part of the story of the second work of Christ, which is associated with the feast of Tabernacles.

But the prophet’s anger at the mercy of God then caused the gourd to die (Jonah 4:7), and the prophet fainted from the heat. Jonah was too nationalistic and militant to do the second work of Christ properly. His attitude violated the prophetic meaning of the feast of Tabernacles, so it was removed. In this way, Jonah was much like Moses when he struck the rock instead of speaking to it. Both of them broke the prophetic type and suffered the consequences.

What does this tell us today? It suggests that we are disqualified to fulfill the feast of Tabernacles and to do the work of this new apostleship if we go out to convert men by force and to “destroy all of God’s enemies.” Instead, we are sent out as lambs among wolves. Nationalistic self-interest is a disqualifier, as we see with Jonah. Violence is a disqualifier, as we see in the story of Moses when he struck the second rock.

Those who yearn for a front-row seat to watch Jesus destroy His enemies (or the enemies of Israel) are not fit for this work of apostleship. Jesus’ instructions tell us that we are to have the heart of the lamb, even while we exercise the strength of the lion. Our warfare is not carnal, but spiritual. Our weapons are not carnal, but they are effective (2 Cor. 10:4).

Under the Old Covenant, men had physical swords to conquer Canaan, because they had rejected the Sword of the Spirit at that first Pentecost at Mount Horeb. But under the New Covenant, the true Pentecostals who hear His voice receive the Sword of the Spirit which is much sharper than any double-edged sword (Heb. 4:12). This Sword is the Word of God, which the apostles are to preach to God’s enemies until they are subdued fully by the love of Christ and the demonstration of the Spirit.

True apostleship is set forth by the Apostle Paul in 2 Cor. 5:18-20,

18 Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ, and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, 19 namely, that God was in Christ recon-ciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were entreating through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

We are not sent out as apostles of doom, nor are we to tell the world that they will soon be destroyed by an angry God. Instead, we are to tell them that God is NOT fighting them. He has raised the white flag. He has already conciliated them through Christ’s death on the cross.

The Greek word translated “reconciliation” is katallasso. It means to conciliate as a one-sided act toward another. When such conciliation receives a like response, then “reconciliation,” (apokatallasso) occurs, such as we read in Col. 1:20,

20 and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven.

Hence, when Paul speaks of the completed process, he speaks of absolute reconciliation as a two-way street, where both God and man are conciliated to each other with complete reconciliation.

The point is that in 2 Cor. 5:18-20, quoted above, the message of the apostles is not the message of divine judgment, but the message of peace, telling what God has already done by conciliating them. This is the manner in which we are to be fishers of men. We are to cast our nets on the right side of the boat (John 21:6), which is the side of mercy, and stop trying to fish from the left side of the boat, which is a message of judgment.

The Sense of Urgency

Luke 10:4 continues,

4 “Carry no purse, no bag, no shoes; and greet no one on the way.

Jesus was emphasizing the urgency of preparing the way for the King, who was coming to town. Go as you are. Do not prepare for a long journey. Take note that the ministry of John the Baptist was short; so also the ministry of the seventy. So Jesus tells them to take no extra money, and do not bring a “bag,” that is, a beggar’s bag, because you are not sent out as beggars. Neither should you take an extra pair of sandals. Travel light.

Further, do not “salute” anyone on the way. This does not refer to Western-style greeting, where we say “hello” without even stopping along the path to talk. The word encompasses the idea of getting to know people, making new friends, and going through the social rituals of Eastern culture. Jesus was telling these apostles that they were to avoid distractions that might sidetrack them from their urgent mission.

Sending out the seventy seems to have been the final preparation for Jesus last trip to Jerusalem, where He finished the work on the cross for which He had come. When this is reapplied to the second work of Christ, we may understand that the second preparation work is also short and intense. There will yet be a greater work after the return of Christ, but meanwhile, there is much work to be done.

Declaring Peace

Reconciliation has to do with peace between enemies, even as justification has to do with forgiving sinners. These two concepts are prefigured in the law of offerings—that is, the peace offerings and the sin offerings. The Apostle Paul references both of these in their proper sphere, saying in Rom. 5:8-10,

8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more, then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. 10 For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, have been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.

As we have seen earlier, apostles are sent on a mission of reconciliation, or more properly, conciliation. The message or word of conciliation is that God has made peace with the world, not imputing their trespasses to them (2 Cor. 5:19). Jesus’ instructions to the seventy, then, are based upon the same principle that Paul saw as the foundation of apostolic ministry. Luke 10:5 says,

5 And whatever house you enter, first say, “Peace be to this house.”

This was the customary greeting (“Shalom!”). It invokes a blessing of peace, wholeness, and prosperity. It is the declaration of peace and reconciliation in Jesus’ instructions. Jesus continues,

6 And if a man of peace is there, your peace will rest upon him; but if not, it will return to you. 7 And stay in that house, eating and drinking what they give you; for the laborer is worthy of his wages. Do not keep moving from house to house.

It is plain that the greeting had much more significance than a mere “hello.” The biblical greeting actually bestowed a blessing of God upon that person and his house. So often we are unaware of the power of our words and of our blessings (or even curses). We ought to be more aware of this in our daily life, so that we may give amperage to our words by our conscious intent.

The “peace blessing” will stick to a man of peace, but it will return to you if he is not truly a man of peace. Therefore, such a greeting can be given to all men, though not all will receive it. It is good to know that we do not have to discern the difference before giving such a blessing. The person’s heart will determine whether it is received or not.

The Laborer’s Reward

Luke 10:7 continues,

7 And stay in that house, eating and drinking what they give you; for the laborer is worthy of his wages. Do not keep moving from house to house.

Here we see why the apostles were not to make travel preparations in their journey. They were to stay with a peaceable household and accept their hospitality, because “the laborer is worthy of his wages.” This is based upon the principle of biblical law in Deut. 25:4, which Paul quotes in 1 Tim. 5:18,

18 For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing,” and “The laborer is worthy of his wages.” 8 And whatsoever city you enter, and they receive you, eat what is set before you;

Paul quotes both Deut. 25:4 and Matt. 10:10, and Luke uses it later in his gospel.

There are some today who are used to a more luxurious style of living. They prefer five-star hotels and the fine food of high-class restaurants, and so they do not want to accept the humble hospitality of the poor. For this reason, many poor people are embarrassed to offer the little that they have to an evangelist or prophet who has come to their area. Jesus’ instructions should be taken seriously by such people.

Ministering to the Sick

A large part of apostolic ministry centers on healing.

9 and heal those in it who are sick, and say to them, “The kingdom of God has come near to you.”

Healing the sick is normal when Christ has commissioned apostles to preach the Kingdom of God. Most of us fall short in this area, and I, for one, am not content until I am able to see all people healed when I pray for them. I believe this day will come soon, even as we see how there was a specific day when Jesus commissioned the seventy.

How to Deal with Rejection

Exodus 4:11 tells us that God creates the blind and deaf. Hence, if people are yet blind and deaf to the gospel of peace that is presented to them, apostles are instructed to move on to the next town. They are not instructed to argue with the deaf and blind. If God has not yet opened their eyes and ears, then find others that God has healed spiritually. Even apostles cannot be a substitute for the Holy Spirit.

10 But whatever city you enter and they do not receive you, go out into its streets and say, 11 “Even the dust of your city which clings to our feet, we wipe off in protest against you; yet be sure of this, that the kingdom of God has come near.”

In Jesus’ instructions to the twelve (Luke 9:5), Jesus had told the disciples to shake the dust off their feet in such cases. This was done to separate one’s self symbolically from the same hindrances or idolatry found in that city.

Cities which Rejected Jesus

Jesus then breaks away from His instructions for a moment, telling us that the cities of Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum had rejected Jesus. We are not told much about this, but apparently the Pharisees’ opposition had prevailed with the leaders of those cities. So Jesus says in Luke 10:13-15,

13 Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles had been performed in Tyre and Sidon which occurred in you, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. 14 But it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the judgment, than for you. 15 And you, Capernaum, will not be exalted to heaven, will you? You will be brought down to Hades!

It appears, then, that Jesus commissioned the seventy in preparation for His own mission trip away from those cities along the Sea of Galilee after being rejected. Though His preaching had borne fruit in many of the common people, the cities themselves—that is, the religious leaders—had essentially rejected Him. Did this include Jairus, the ruler of the synagogue in Capernaum, whose daughter had been raised from the dead? That hardly seems possible. Perhaps Jairus himself had died or had been replaced by another.

Whatever had happened, the gospel writers chose to say nothing about it, except for this brief outburst in the midst of Jesus’ instructions to the seventy. Matthew 11:20-24 records this reproach after sending out the twelve disciples in verse 1, but he does not include it in their instructions. Neither does Matthew say anything about the seventy and their commission. Yet he records this reproach in his narrative, while leaving it to Luke to tell us the occasion on which it was stated.

Chorazin and Bethsaida are compared to Tyre and Sidon. Chorazin means “water jars,” because it was located at a natural spring. Bethsaida means “house of fish,” or Fishton, because it was a fishing village.

Tyre means “rock, fortress, castle.” The meaning of Sidon is disputed, but it is said that it comes from the verb sud, “to hunt” and on, “a place that does such and such.”

“Because Sidon is a coastal city, most of the hunting done there would be fishing, and so NOBS Study Bible Name List and Zodhiates’ Complete Word Study Dictionary read Fishery. Jones’ Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names reads Fishing, and enthusiastically adds Plenty Of Fish.”

So, we see how Jesus was comparing these cities. Chorazin, “water jars” is linked to the “rock” that was Tyre. Chorazin should have produced an outpouring of the Holy Spirit, as prophesied throughout the Scriptures, but instead the city rejected its calling. Tyre, on the other hand, though it was a rock, would have produced water, if one like Moses had spoken to it (Num. 20:8).

Likewise, Bethsaida and Sidon are both named for the fishing industry. Perhaps the similarity of (Beth)-saida and Sidon may also be noted. Jesus took lowly fishermen from Bethsaida as His disciples and trained them to be fishers of men. But Bethsaida as a city had rejected their calling, while Sidon would have accepted Him if given opportunity.

It appears that Luke felt the need to include this outburst to lay the foundation for the gospel going out beyond the borders of Galilee and Judea. It emphasizes the fact that Jesus was rejected by His own nation, as John 1:11 says,

11 He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him.

The rejection of Christ resulted in the gospel of the Kingdom being transformed from a local kingdom to a world-wide Kingdom. When the disciples were persecuted, they were scattered abroad to sow the seed of the Word in all nations. This outburst, then, is a prelude to the book of Acts and was the backdrop to Paul’s message in Romans 11:12, 15,

12 Now if their transgression be riches for the world and their failure be riches for the Gentiles [ethnos, “nations”], how much more will their fulfillment be!... 15 For if their rejection be the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?

The contrast here is between Israel (as a whole, including Judah) and the nations of the world. The gospel was to be preached to all men, so that the entire world that God has created could be reclaimed and brought back under His authority. Hence, Tyre and Sidon in essence fulfill the callings of Chorazin and Bethsaida. Their names indicate their callings, but if those cities do not fulfill their callings, then God has the ability to raise up other cities who will do so.

This is consistent with the principle laid down earlier by John the Baptist when he said in Luke 3:8, “God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham.”

Keep in mind that this outburst against Chorazin and Bethsaida comes in conjunction with the seventy apostles preaching in cities that might reject their gospel. The Kingdom of God will be established, with or without Chorazin and Bethsaida. In the end, of course, the Great White Throne will decide the fate of those cities, for the judgment of God will right all wrongs and make all necessary corrections. Those who have had greater opportunity to believe will be judged more harshly than cities like Sodom and Gomorrah (Luke 10:12).

As for Capernaum, Jesus links it to Sodom, the only other city mentioned in His example. Capernaum means “covering of the Comforter.” The city was prophetically named to indicate the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, or what John the Baptist called the baptism of fire (Luke 3:16). The link to Sodom is obvious, since Sodom was destroyed by its own baptism of fire in Genesis 19:24.

In the end, the Great White Throne judgment will cause every knee to bow and every tongue to confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (Phil. 2:10, 11). Those who had rejected Christ earlier (as the leaders in Capernaum) will be cast into the “lake of fire” (Rev. 20:15). This is not a literal fire, but the judgment of “the fiery law” of Deuteronomy 33:2, KJV. This is the baptism of the Holy Spirit, which purifies humanity and teaches them the ways of God until all things are put under His feet.

Representing Christ

Luke 10:16 concludes Jesus’ instructions to the seventy, saying,

16 The one who listens to you listens to Me, and the one who rejects you rejects Me; and he who rejects Me rejects the One who sent Me.

This is the final instruction and represents the climax of the passage. It is based upon the principle of identification with Christ and assumes that the apostle is truly hearing God’s voice. There are many, of course, who claim such things but have not dealt with the idols of their heart. As a result, their teachings are yet colored by those idols to some degree.

For this reason, it is still wise to listen for God’s voice when any man speaks. God can speak through anyone, even through prophets who yet harbor idols in their hearts. Yet let the hearer beware of hearing the voice of men, rather than hearing the voice of God through men.

The instruction above too often has been used to force people to submit to the teachings of men, rather than the voice of God. Many have said, “I am God’s prophet/apostle; I speak for Jesus Christ; therefore, you must do what I say and believe what I teach. If you do not submit to me, then you are not submitting to God.”

Such a claim usually lacks humility and is, in itself, a sign of at least one heart idol. When Luke 10:16 is used to overthrow one’s right to discern between the voice of man and the voice of God, then Jesus’ words are being misused. Even in the early church, the word of prophets was to be judged (i.e., discerned). Paul says in 1 Cor. 14:29,

29 And let two or three prophets speak, and let the others pass judgment [diakrino, “discern, separate, discriminate”].

It is plain that prophets—the mouthpieces of God—should not expect others to believe what they say indiscriminately. If they do so, they are submitting to men and not to God at all. A prophet or apostle or any other person should have the humility to recognize the potential for human error, because few (if any) have eliminated all idols in the heart. The problem with a heart idol is that it is unknown and unrecognized until it falls. Its power lies in its secrecy as it lurks in the dark areas of the heart.

The Lesson from Food Laws

For this reason also, God established the food laws in Leviticus 11 to show us how to eat clean spiritual food. Physical food nourishes our body; carnal teaching nourishes our soul; “chewing the cud” separates the spiritual from the carnal in order to nourish our spirit. We are the sheep of His pasture. Sheep eat grass, and we know that “all flesh is grass” (Isaiah 40:6; 1 Peter 1:24).

When God’s sheep go to Church and hear a preacher, they are feeding on grass through Bible study. They must then chew their cud, bringing up the grass from their first stomach, to meditate and pray over it. Then whatever the Holy Spirit confirms is transformed from fleshly head knowledge to spiritual revelation and goes into the second stomach, where it may nourish the sheep.

God built this principle into nature itself to teach us how to eat food that will nourish and strengthen our spirit, instead of relying upon the mere words of men. Thus, the food laws help us to understand and balance Jesus’ instructions in Luke 10:16. Without such balance, many prophets and apostles have enslaved people by forcing them—on pain of divine wrath—into following them and believing what they say indiscriminately.

Whole denominations have been built upon the misuse of this apostolic principle. This is not always intentional, but often it is intentional. The bottom line is that men become servants of the church, rather than servants of Christ. The church usurps the place of Christ and rules men according to the pattern of King Saul, rather than David. And because the average believer has not been taught the lawful, spiritual principles of the food laws, many well-meaning people are brought into subjection to men.

Sons and Servants

On the positive side, Luke 10:16 is based on the idea of Sonship. We all start out as servants of Christ, because no one is instantly mature when he first believes in Christ. But the Sons of God are those who resemble their Father and who are led by the Spirit, even as Jesus was led. A good servant is obedient but does not know the divine plan of his Master (John 15:15). As we become “friends” with a deepening relationship, we also become mature “sons,” who are in agreement with the plan of the Father.

Servants do His will; sons want to do His will. Apostles, then, ought to be mature sons of their Father, knowing not only the will (thelema) of God but also the plan (boulema). When such apostles are sent out, then it can truly be said that “the one who listens to you listens to Me.” When men speak by genuine revelation from the heart (or spirit), it is not the man speaking but Christ in him. Christ is in the heart of every true believer (Col. 1:27), and He is not silent. He speaks constantly, but our ears are dull unless we develop our spiritual hearing.

This deafness was a problem in the church in the wilderness, for Moses told them in Deut. 29:4,

4 Yet to this day the Lord has not given you a heart to know, nor eyes to see, nor ears to hear.

The Israelites refused to hear God directly, preferring that Moses should hear God and then return from the Mount to tell them what God had said (Exodus 20:19). Moses himself was identified as a type of Christ, and so Jesus’ instructions in Luke 10:16 certainly applied to him. Yet the goal was not to hear Moses, but to hear the revelation of God, without which the Word cannot produce true faith.

It was never God’s intent that the people should put their faith in Moses as a substitute for faith in God. Moses was a vessel of God and an oracle of revelation. Even so, when he told the people what God had said, he was feeding them grass, so that God’s sheep could chew the cud and meditate upon that word until it became a revelation to them.

Hearing God’s voice directly is a good thing, but most of the time we hear God’s voice through other people. God does this so that we learn that we are part of a body. For this reason, we must all learn to chew the cud, so that we may grow spiritually and then be able to present clean spiritual food to others.

The Law of Boundaries

Jesus’ words in Luke 10:16 are absolutely true, but in practice we must know the law so that we are able to fulfill Jesus’ instructions without placing people into bondage to men. The law places boundaries on our activities, attitudes, and relationships with God and men. Deut. 19:14 says,

14 You shall not move your neighbor’s boundary mark, which the ancestors have set, in your inheritance which you shall inherit in the land that the Lord your God gives you to possess.

In other words, we cannot trespass on someone else’s property or violate their space. When men enslave others, they trespass on their property and usurp another man’s inheritance that God has given him. Enslavement is only proper when it is done as a judgment of the law, such as when a man owes a debt that he cannot pay. In all other cases, we are to uphold the freedom of others and give each person the right to hear God for himself.

When we recognize that Christ is the inheritance of every believer, then we can be truly effective apostles that are sent to preach the perfect “law of liberty” (James 2:12). When the Kingdom of God is truly preached, all creation will be released from its slavery and come “into the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (Rom. 8:21).

This is the true role of the apostle. The seventy that Jesus sent out with these instructions after the transfiguration represent the overcomers themselves, who are sent out in a greater way, both now and after they are presented as the Sons of God for transfiguration. At the present time, we are yet in training, but it is on-the-job training. To be trained for the greater work, we must learn now by doing the work of the apostle. In the broader sense, we are all called and sent into the world to bear witness of Christ. In that sense, we are all apostles, or, more accurately, apostles in training.

Our mission is not to set up a large denomination or ask people to become members of an organization. Our mission is not to put men under our authority, but to point to Christ and recommend that men come under His authority. Apostles are to affirm their citizenship in the Kingdom of God, rather than as members of a denomination. My mother used to say, “If becoming a church member makes you a Christian, then going into a barn will make you a horse.”

Secondarily, the unbelievers or immature believers ought to submit to the word that is in the apostles, assuming, of course, that each one has chewed the cud and has determined that this is truly the revelation of God.

Jesus’ Example

Finally, the apostles ought to follow Jesus’ example in John 12:45-48,

45 And he who beholds Me beholds the One who sent Me. 46 I have come as light into the world, that everyone who believes in Me may not remain in darkness. 47 And if anyone hears My sayings, and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world. 48 He who rejects Me, and does not receive My sayings, has one who judges him; the word I spoke is what will judge him at the last day.

Jesus did not judge those who rejected His words. He was called to save the world, not to judge it. The people themselves were responsible to discern His words to see if they were of God or not. Their judgment “at the last day” will be based on the word that they did not judge or discern properly. While there is much that could be said about this, it is clear from this that Jesus allowed the people the right to discern His revelation. If they refuse to chew the cud, then they will be judged accordingly at the Great White Throne, for that is how they are held accountable.

And so, in Luke 9:52-56, when a Samaritan village refused to give Jesus hospitality, He did not agree with the disciples’ suggestion to call down fire from heaven upon them. He had not come to destroy but to save. Yet on more than one occasion I have heard apostles and prophets pass judgment upon those who reject them. Their reaction was that God was going to destroy them in His wrath. Millions will die. Not a blade of grass will survive.

When apostles and prophets manifest this kind of behavior, they show that they are yet in training. They have yet to recognize and to overthrow certain heart idols—probably the same idols that dwelt in the hearts of the twelve disciples in Luke’s account. It does not mean that such apostles and prophets are false; it means only that they should seek more humility and recognize their fallibility. They should be more like David and less like Saul.

As for the people themselves, they are responsible to exercise some spiritual maturity and discern the word of the apostles and prophets that they meet. When they hear Christ speaking through them, they ought to submit to the word. But when the word is mixed with flesh, they should discriminate and separate (diakrino) what is of Christ from that which is of the flesh. In that way, people may benefit from the true and reject what is not without condemning any man.