Legitimate Gospel Partnerships
Topic: Grace Pulpit Passage: Luke 10:5–10:7
Legitimate Gospel Partnerships
July 28, 2019
Well, as we turn our attention to the Word of God this morning, we’re returning to our study in Luke chapter 10. You can turn there for the reading of the text, and while you’re turning there, I’ll just mention in verse 1. Luke writes and tells us about the mission: “The Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go.”
That describes the mission. In a word, the mission is a mission of visitation. It’s a visitation mission. The King is visiting his Kingdom. The King is visiting his subjects. So the King, here, is pictured going out into the countryside, visiting his people. And before he arrives in their towns and villages and hamlets and places in the country, he sends heralds to announce his arrival. Before he comes, he sends them.
It’s quite a contrast, isn’t it, between the kings of this world and the one true King, the Lord Jesus Christ? The King, here, is going out to them. He doesn’t first ascend his throne in the royal city and then wait for the people to come visit him. No, we see the King—really the King of the universe, the Son of God—he takes the initiative. He does the work. He does a whole lot of walking. He goes to them. That is the kind of King that King Jesus is. He is of royal blood, and yet he associates with the lowly. He keeps company with the angels of Heaven, and yet he is interested in pursuing fellowship with the men and the women and the children of the earth. This is really what the Incarnation is all about, isn’t it? John 1:14: “The Word became flesh and dwelt”—where?—“among us.”
Jesus is the God-man—divine nature joined with a human nature, robed in human flesh—infinite power in his divine nature, and yet as a man, wearying himself to visit people, to care for their needs. When a ministry day is over and more people show up, he cares for them, he heals their sick. He makes the lame to walk, the blind to see, the deaf to hear—and he even feeds them when they’re hungry. He wearies himself to be with his people, to minister to their needs. Omnipresence in his divine essence, yet as a man, he’s limited in time, he’s confined in space, he’s only able to visit one place at a time. John 1:11: “He came to his own.” And beloved, he’s been coming ever since.
Jesus’ visitation ministry is consistent with the Incarnation, and we need to realize that this reveals to us the heart of our God. “No one has ever seen God”—John 1:18—“but the only God who is at the Father’s side”—Who’s that describing? The Son of God, Jesus the Christ. “He has made him known.” God is the one who takes the initiative to reconcile guilty sinners to himself. It is God who sent Christ into the world. It is God who sends the Holy Spirit to convert sinners. It is God who takes the initiative to save us because of his mercy and his compassion, and by his grace.
So when Jesus appoints and sends out the seventy-two, this is his Incarnation work. This is his revelation work, revealing and making God known to us. This is him showing to us the kind of God who is actually there, namely, that God is love. God is love. That’s what this is all about—demonstrating, revealing to us the heart of God, who is love.
Well, Jesus has completed his ministry in Galilee as we studied that in Luke’s Gospel. As Luke 9:51 says—that’s really a pivotal point in Luke’s Gospel—“He set his face to go to Jerusalem.” That is, he has steeled himself for what’s going to happen there to him, as he says Luke 9:22 and Luke 9:44: [paraphrased] “The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men, and when he is delivered into the hands of men, they will reject him, and they will kill him, and on the third day, he will rise again.”
Jesus knew what awaited him in Jerusalem. He knew where he was going, and he knew what was going to happen after arriving there. He also sensed not only what was going to happen in Jerusalem, but he also had a keen sense of the divine timetable. He’s led along by the Holy Spirit; he knows when it’s time to wrap up one ministry and move into another. And that is why Jesus sent his twelve Apostles at the beginning of Luke 9 into all the cities of Galilee. He knew it was time to draw that Galilean mission to a close. As we saw when he sent out the Twelve, he sent them out with instructions that are very similar to what we’re reading now in Luke chapter 10.
But here in chapter 10, Jesus is sending out the seventy-two, not the Twelve—seventy-two. He’s sending out regular disciples, not Apostles. And he has appointed these seventy-two disciples as heralds, as preachers of the good news of the Kingdom of God. So you can see this in military terms as a pre-emptive strike, a prelude of Messianic ministry before his final trip to Jerusalem to receive the Kingdom, to ascend the Cross, to accomplish the redemption of his people, who are his Kingdom citizens.
Before Jesus sends the seventy-two, he prepares them for this special mission, and he sends them out with very simple, clear instructions. They understand the mission, as we said, in verses 2-12. He explains and gives them a number of instructions. He explains the mindset of the mission, the manner and the means of this mission, and then the ministry of this mission. We talked about the mission mindset last time in verses 2-4. They are to go out, and they are to go out and preach. They are to do joyfully, prayerfully, watchfully, urgently—that’s what we covered last week. That’s the mission mindset.
And now, let’s see how they were make their entrance into homes and into towns. That starts there in verse 5—that’s where we’ll start reading.
*Whatever house you enter, first say, “Peace be to this house!” And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest upon him. But if not, it will return to you. And remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the laborer deserves his wages. Do not go from house to house. Whenever you enter a town and they receive you, eat what is set before you. Heal the sick in it and say to them, “The kingdom of God has come near to you.” But whenever you enter a town and they do not receive you, go into its streets and say, “Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet we wipe off against you. Nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near.” I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town.*
We’re going to cover verses 5-7 of that this morning. We’ll save the rest for next time. We’re going to cover verses 5-7 and talk about the manner and the means of this mission of the seventy-two. And as we wade into that section, I want you to notice the progression of movement that we see in the text. After the Lord instills within these preachers the need for their labor in verse 2, that the “harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few,” he then sends them out in verses 3-4, and those two verses picture them on the journey—while they are on the move, as they move from town to town. It’s to picture their way of thinking as they go along the way.
But then as we get into verse 5, Jesus provides instructions about how to enter an individual home—how to enter a house. “Whatever house you enter, say, ‘Peace be to this house.’” That’s the setting there in verses 5-7—an individual house. But then you get into verses 8-10, and you see that Jesus is now expanding it out and talking about the entire community—the town that they enter. He tells them what to do “whenever you enter a town”—verse 8, favorable reception; verse 10, rejection. So you can kind of picture these seventy-two Kingdom heralds, walking from town to town, two-by-two, and as they begin to draw near to a particular town, while they’re walking along the way, Jesus wants them thinking first not about the entire town, but about a potential home that they may enter into—then about the entire town. He wants them thinking relationally, first, before they assess the whole community.
There’s a reason for that. The whole reason Jesus sends out the seventy-two—and, beloved, the reason he sends us out as well as we go—joyfully, prayerfully, watchfully, and urgently—is that when we go out and preach the Gospel, we go out looking for Gospel friendships. We go out looking for Gospel friends. That’s what we do.
First point here: finding Gospel partners. If you don’t like the word “partners,” put “Gospel friends,” finding Gospel partners, friends—finding Gospel partnerships or friendships. He tells us in verses 5-6 how to enter a spiritually receptive, Christ-receiving, believing home. “Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house.’ If the son of peace is there, your peace will rest upon him, but if not, it will return to you.”
Okay, so you’ve got a pair of disciples walking down the footpath, approaching any particular town, and Jesus wants this particular thought on their minds: “Will we find a son of peace in this town?” He wants them preoccupied with that thought. They go out praying to the Lord of the harvest. They know they’re enlisted for this purpose, for the sake of a salvation harvest, a harvest of peace, so we would rightly imagine them praying as they’re walking toward that town, talking about this together. And they’re saying, “Lord God, please lead us to a son of peace. Please introduce us to one of your people, to a true believer.” That’s the manner in which Jesus wants them to go out.
And to show you that, verses 5 and 6 have to do with finding true believers entering into the homes of true believers. We need to talk about the significance of that little word, “peace.” What is that word all about? It’s obvious that Jesus isn’t merely concerned about these disciples being polite. He is concerned about that. That’s not a minor issue. He is concerned about politeness and consideration. But he’s not telling them to go into town and go into a home and say some kind of cliché, like, “Peace, bro’! Peace to you, bro’! I’m here, I’m a friend.” That’s not what he’s saying. This is something far more significant than that. He wants them thinking theologically, first, and then evangelistically.
The deeper your knowledge of God, the more it spurs you on to effective evangelism, which is a whole entry point in the discipleship-making process. We’re commissioned—Matthew 28—to “go and make disciples.” And that process starts with finding these sons of peace, preaching the Gospel to them. You’re going to be more effective in that task—whether it’s evangelism or teaching them to observe everything Christ has commanded them—Matthew 28—the deeper your knowledge of God. The more you know God—the more deeply you know him and understand him—the more you’ve got to say, the more accurate your Gospel will be.
The word “peace” in the Greek is the word “eirene,” which is the Greek word that translates the Old Testament Hebrew word “shalom.” You’ve probably heard the word “shalom” more than you’ve heard the word “eirene,” but “shalom” refers to the concept of completeness. “Shalom” is like “soundness, welfare, favor.” Peace or “shalom” in the Old Testament is more of the idea of a harmony with God—so it’s thinking vertically. And then there’s a tranquillity of soul, that person who is in harmony with God and tranquil in soul. That person actually manifests that in his relationships with other people. So there’s the vertical, first, and then the horizontal.
Often when we say “peace” or we think of peace, we think immediately of subjective peace. “Do I have peace in my life, do I peace in my relationships, do I have peace in my family, do I have peace in my home?” And we’re not wrong to think that way. The Bible uses “eirene” to refer to that kind of subjective peace. But that subjective peace will only be available to you if you have an objective peace—and it’s a peace with God. And that’s theologically how it’s used all through Scripture.
Long before this time, the word “shalom” had become a common Semitic idiom in Israel. It was a way to pronounce blessings of peace upon individuals, families, homes, the entire nation of Israel. Joseph’s steward calmed Joseph’s brothers when they arrived in Egypt, and he said, “Peace to you. Don’t be afraid.” Jethro sent Moses back to his brothers in Egypt, saying, “Go in peace.” The angel of the Lord calmed Gideon’s fears, saying, “Peace to you. Don’t be afraid. You shall not die.” David sent messengers to Nabal with this greeting: “Peace be to you and peace be to your house. Peace be to all that you have.” Psalm 125:5 and 128:6 end with that very blessing: “Peace be upon Israel.”
The common usage of that term of greeting or of parting, a blessing, may have become cliché in Israel as words like that tend to do among us human beings—sort of like whenever we hear someone sneeze and politeness seems to demand in the moment that somebody in the room respond with what?—“God bless you.” “God bless you.” We do the same thing. And for many the word “peace” may have turned into that kind of a polite expectation of things, you might say.
But that’s not how God thinks of the word “peace.” He has a distinctly theological meaning for the word “peace.” It’s actually soteriology. You’re like “soterio—what?” It’s a salvation term. It’s a term that means “salvation,” and this becomes very significant for us in an evangelistic sense. And the way that God uses the word “peace”—the way Jesus uses the word “peace,” here—it’s the same meaning, same concept, same thought.
Biblically, theologically, peace is about reconciliation with God. Peace is about reconciliation with God. Peace means well-being because of this fact: God is no longer our enemy. Because of the atoning work of Jesus Christ on the Cross, by which he forgave all of our sins, we’re no longer at enmity or hatred with God. For those who’ve repented of their sins and put their faith in Jesus Christ, there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus—no more wrath, no more fear—just peace.
Whenever Paul—you’ve probably seen this in your reading of the New Testament—begins his letters, he always writes—what?—“Grace to you” and what?—“Peace,” right? “Peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” It’s interesting how he connects those terms “grace” and “peace” directly to God theologically and Christ christologically. Think about that. We tend to want to take those terms and adopt them for our own use. “Oh, I’m giving him grace,” which means “I’m just ignoring the fact that he just sinned.” “I’m giving him grace”—that’s not how God uses that term. Be very careful what you do with God’s words. Paul says, “Grace to you, and peace,” and he connects it theologically and christologically in his letters, in the very beginning.
In his letters to young pastor Timothy, he adds the word “mercy” to that greeting because the Gospel ministry is a mercy, and because pastors, of all people, are always in tremendous need of divine mercy. So when he writes to Timothy, it’s “grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.” Grace, mercy, peace—those are not throw-away words. They’re not just words for Christian greeting cards. They’re not just Christian ways to open and close correspondence with one another. Even though they are very appropriate, very fitting, for that, that’s not all they are. They have a deep meaning behind them. Pauls knows—every pastor and elder can affirm—that the Gospel ministry is all by God’s grace. It’s all at God’s mercy, and it’s all about God’s peace. Grace, mercy, and peace—those are profoundly important, powerful, theologically rich words that summarize the essence of Gospel ministry.
And to this point in Luke’s Gospel, we’re set up to understand this. We’re set up to see this so clearly. Luke has been preparing us from the very beginning of his Gospel to understand exactly what Jesus meant when he told these seventy-two Kingdom preachers to go enter into a home—how to do it, the manner of their approach—saying, “Peace be to this house.” The angels pronounced divine peace at the birth of Christ in Luke 2:14: “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to people he favors.” Literally, “to people he graces.” Peace be to them. Jesus told the sinful woman in Luke 7:50, now redeemed by divine grace, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” No fear of condemnation for any of the sins she’d committed because God had forgiven her sin. He’d reconciled her to himself, and now there was no fear. She could go in peace. The same word was spoken to the woman who had suffered a blood flow for twelve years—Luke 8:48. Jesus said—I love this terminology—“Daughter.” It’s not “woman”—there’s no distance there—it’s now “You’re a family member”—“Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.”
When we come across this word “peace” in Luke’s Gospel, we need to interpret that word as shorthand for divine salvation—divine salvation. Peace equals divine salvation. “Peace be to this house.” That is not just a cliché; it’s an affirmation of true salvation, a pronouncement of salvation—peace with God, cessation of hostility from the holy God against the guilty sinner. In fact, the very first time we heard this word or read this word “peace” in Luke’s Gospel, it’s in Luke 1:79, and that’s how it’s used. In prophetic, poetic language, it magnifies divine salvation. Zechariah there is talking about knowledge of salvation to God’s people and the forgiveness of their sins: “light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death to guide our feet into the way of peace.”
Revealed clearly in Luke’s Gospel, peace is the fulness of divine blessing, which is associated with the coming of Jesus as God’s Christ, as the Messiah of Israel, the Savior of the world. It’s by his atoning death on the Cross that we’re forgiven of our sins. It’s by his perfect life of righteousness and by our spiritual union with him, united with Christ by faith, that God justifies us. God justifies us by faith in Christ. That’s a word—“justifies”—that means he declares us righteous. The result of that is peace with God. The result of that is peace. That’s exactly what Paul says in Romans 5:1: “Since we have been justified by faith”—since we’ve been declared righteous by God by faith, that is to say, not just declared innocent and all of our sin removed, though that’s true, but declared righteous. He doesn’t just declare us “not guilty.” He declares us in full compliance with the entire Law of God. He declares us justified. He declares us as being just as righteous as Jesus Christ—no difference. “Therefore, since we’ve been justified by faith, we have”—what?—“peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
That’s the word “peace.” It equals salvation. When you read that, think “salvation.” And now we need to know what is a “son of peace”—verse 6. It probably should be obvious to you by know, but we’re going to spell it out a little bit—the concept of sonship in the Bible. There’s obviously the human relation, like I am my Dad’s son—there’s directly that. But there’s also the concept of “sonship” in the Bible that’s used in a figurative sense. Sonship speaks of one who possesses a certain attribute or quality or behavior that’s in line with the father. Jesus had called James and John—remember their nickname?—“boanerges,” which is translated “sons of thunder.” “Sons of thunder”—what does that refer to? Like the “thunder gods” gave birth to these two men? No, he’s not talking as if, literally, thunder gave them birth. He’s saying that figuratively, these are rough dudes. Everywhere they go, there’s barking and yelling, and they’re like thunder. So it refers to their nature, their character. Remember he referred to Judas Iscariot as “son of perdition”—John 17:12—in his high priestly prayer that pointed to the tragic outcome of his greed and his unbelief.
Another contrast Jesus used: “sons of this world” or “sons of this age.” He’s referring there to the unbelieving—and then to the “sons of light,” referring to believers. It’s often the sense of using that word for sonship to highlight the quality of unbelieving sinners or by contrast the quality of redeemed, believing sinners—those who put their faith in Christ. So unbelievers are “sons of the evil one”—Matthew 13:38—referring to their parentage. “Sons of disobedience”—Ephesians 2:2 and 5:6—refers to their characteristic behavior.
By contrast, though, believers are “sons of God”—Romans 8. They’re “sons of the living God”—Romans 9. They’re “sons of the most high” as Jesus said in Luke 6:36. Those terms refer to our parentage, and they refer also to the behavior that flows from that parentage. It reveals our parentage to other people. We do the things that God commands, and we follow his laws and his prescriptions for our life. And by living that way, we reveal our God. We’re sons of God. We’re sons of the living God. We’re sons of the Most High. Jesus connected that term to commanding us to love our enemies and to be merciful with people, and he says, “If you do that, you are sons of the Most High.”
In Luke 10:8, it’s the sons of peace who are receiving Jesus’ messengers. And a son of peace is someone who has heard, someone who has received, someone who has believed the Gospel of peace—peace in Jesus Christ. Sons of peace are those who possess peace with God. They’re not potential converts; they’re converts. They possess peace with God—why?—because they have received the only true God and Jesus Christ, whom God has sent. They’ve been justified. They’ve been forgiven of their sins. They’ve been declared righteous by their God. And that’s why they have peace and are therefore “sons of peace.”
So when we come to Luke 10:8, we see those who are receiving—those are sons of peace who are receiving Jesus’ messengers and Jesus’ message. In Matthew 10:40, Jesus says, “Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me.” Same thing in Luke 9:48, which we studied. Look ahead to verse 16 in our text: “The one who hears you hears me; the one who rejects you rejects me, and the one who rejects me rejects him who sent me.”
So sons of peace are those who receive Jesus’ messengers, hear Jesus’ words, receive the Gospel, and embrace Christ in saving faith. By faith in the coming Christ, these sons of peace are reconciled to God, and that anticipates all his atoning work on the Cross. They look forward to a Christ who has yet to die for their sins, but one that they know will by all the prophetic word in the Old Testament, which is going to be explained to them by these messengers, by these preachers.
So now we understand the word “peace.” We understand the designation “sons of peace.” Let’s see what’s going on now in verses 5 and 6. Look again: “Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house!’ And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest upon him. But if not, it will return to you.” Now the Greek here—if they translated word for word—wouldn’t make sense to us. It’s smoothed out here so it’s more readable in our English translation. And I’m going to read it again, but I’m going to expand translation slightly, bit by bit, according to its grammatical sense to help make the meaning more plain to us here. He says in verse 5, “Whatever house you might potentially enter into, first say, ‘Peace be to this house.’ And if a son of peace should be there”—like “in that house”—“then your peace will rest upon him. But if not, it will return to you.”
So again, the sense is that Jesus wants these seventy-two—as they approach any particular town, and as they consider which home they might stay in, which home they will receive hospitality from, which home they will use as a platform and a launching point to conduct their ministry to that town—they are to be looking for a son of peace. “Be on the lookout,” Jesus is saying. “Be eager to find that son of peace.”
Hold that thought, and let’s read those two verses again. Since we understand that the word “peace” is shorthand for salvation, we’ll read verse 5 that way, replacing the word “peace” with the word “salvation,” just for clarity in the sense. “Whatever house you might potentially enter”—i.e. the place you’re going to rest, receive hospitality, conduct Gospel ministry from—“before you enter, first say, ‘Salvation be to this house.’”
So then in verse 6, what does it mean for “your peace to rest upon him,” or, on the other hand, for “your peace to return to you”? Well, again, since “peace” is synonymous with “salvation,” a blessing or pronouncement of salvation peace will rest upon those who truly possess peace with God. If you preach the Gospel to this person as you get into the town, he embraces it, and he is thereby revealed to you as a son of peace. Only a true son of peace possesses peace with God, and therefore on that person your blessing of peace will abide; it will remain on him. Only a son of peace continues in peace, and so your blessing of salvation peace will remain upon him. On the other hand, if the message that you preach is eventually rejected, your pronouncement of peace will return to you. Your pronouncement of salvation peace will not remain upon him, will not bless or benefit in an unworthy home.” One commentator says this: “The intended recipient forfeits that pronouncement of peace, that pronouncement of salvation, the divine offer of salvation, the Gospel, so therefore, its withdrawal is tantamount to a curse.”
Verse 6 again, if we expand this version here: “If a son of salvation should be there”—that is, in that house—“your pronouncement of blessing of salvation peace will rest upon him. That is, he’s going to continue in that and receive all the blessings and benefits of salvation. If not, your pronouncement is going to return to you. That is, later on down the road, after professing, he rejects Gospel, he forfeits that salvation that was offered to him, and it’s actually a curse upon him, a judgment.”
So since only God knows the heart, these visiting preachers can be assured that their blessing, “Peace be to this house,” on someone who they think has legitimately received that Gospel message, that blessing will not be made in vain. If a professing son of peace is there, they can enter into that home and partake of the hospitality in good conscience. Obviously, they are not going to consider entering any home of those who reject the message outright. They’re not going to enter that home. But those who profess to believe—they can enter that home in good conscience even if that professing son of peace is only apparently a believer at the time. They don’t know the heart—not a true believer, maybe, but they seem to be—they can enter into that home in good conscience.
So these seventy-two go out—they go out two by two. Again, we can imagine them walking down the road. They’re approaching a little Judean village. There are some homes on the outskirts of town attached to large acres of farmland and all that. They’re heading into, though, the center of town to commence with their preaching ministry. And as they approach the town, whatever conversation they were having along the way stops, and they direct all their attention to the mission. And in keeping Jesus’ clear instructions here in verses 5 and 6, they’re praying to the Lord of the harvest. They’re asking him to direct them to a son of peace. That’s the manner of their ministry. It’s the way that they are doing ministry—the method. Find Gospel partners to the preaching of the Gospel, and then when they accept the Gospel—receive it—they then work with them. They go into that home.
Jesus is telling them to look for someone in whose home they can stay, whose hospitality they can receive, from whose home they can conduct Gospel ministry. They’re looking for the one that God has already prepared, the Spirit has already worked in their hearts, whose hearts will be open to the message of the Gospel. That’s the one who will receive them, receive their message, welcome their message, and thereby become, through hospitality, a Gospel partner. So when they get to town, they proclaim the Gospel message God sent them to proclaim, “The Kingdom of God has come near you”—verse 9. That’s a summary of the message, you understand. They would unpack that through teaching, explanation, exposition of Old Testament texts, all pointing to the Messiah, who’s coming soon.
Now think about this for a moment before we move on to another point, here. If that’s how Jesus wanted these seventy-two to go out. He wanted them to go out anticipating that they might find one of God’s elect children, that they might find whenever they go out one of those “sons of peace,” a “son of salvation,” a “son of the Kingdom of God.” Think about the frame of mind that that puts them in. They go out in prayer, asking the Lord to direct their steps, asking the Lord to clarify their message, asking the Lord to direct to the right person because a son of peace—he may be there! He likely will. If the Lord is sending them, they’re going to find one, they hope. And that man will respond, that woman will respond to the clear proclamation of the Gospel of peace, right?—because Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice.”
We can do that, too, can’t we? As we go out onto the streets, into homes, into different places in the community—we can do that. We can do that as we talk with people: apply this concept directly to our evangelism and discipleship. It starts with our theology, right?—our understanding of who God is, that he is the sovereign God who takes initiative. If there’s someone who’s going to hear our message and receive the Word—it’s because God has already been at work there. God has already been working in the heart. He’s already been preparing all the circumstances. He’s providentially led everything up to this moment when you arrive. So theologically, you are on firm footing. You’re confident, you’re eager, you anticipate in hope and in joy. And then you speak in your evangelism, you speak in your discipleship. You think theologically, and it drives us evangelistically, doesn’t it? We recognize God as sovereign over salvation, and the message we possess, the message that we preach, is precious. It’s those who have God working in their heart before you get there who are going to be prepared to understand that message—it’s precious.
So it’s with great joy, it’s with eager anticipation that we go out looking for those who are going to respond. We’re not interested in techniques, in gimmicks. We don’t care anything about what the demographics say, or statistical data. I hear this all the time as a pastor—I’ve heard it for many years—“You know, when people get into their older years, they’re really not interested in listening and trying anything new, so really focus all your evangelistic attention on the youth. You know, the young people. Have a great youth program, student ministries—get out to the colleges.” Really? Doesn’t Ephesians 2 say that we’re dead in our trespasses and sins? It’s doesn’t say that you’re more dead if you’re older, less dead if you’re younger. No. All dead. Corpses. From the cradle to the grave, without Christ we’re corpses. So forget about the demographics. Forget about statistical data. Don’t rely on your rhetorical skill, your personal charm, your charisma. Don’t rely on your intellect and your wit. “We preach Christ crucified.” We preach with boldness and clarity and love and conviction, and then we just step back and wait and see. What’s God going to do here? What’s God going to do? This is so exciting for us!
This takes us right into our next point: the means of Gospel provision. The means. Now that we understand the manner in which we’re to go out to search for a “son of peace,” this next point should make immediate sense to us. Second point: the means—receiving Gospel hospitality. Listen, this is really, really neat. Jesus sends out the seventy-two. The manner or method of their ministry is to find that son of peace in this new town. I mean, they preach the Gospel to everyone, but they’re looking especially for—“Where’s that son of peace? Where are those sons of peace?” Why? Because Jesus wants the son of peace to become the means by which these preachers are able to continue conducting this Gospel ministry.
So whenever they enter a home of a professing believer—verse 7—they are to remain in the same house, eating and drinking. There it says, “Remain in the same house, eating what they provide, for the laborer deserves his wages. Do not go from house to house.” Now “remain in the same house” means “Don’t have any qualms of conscience about staying in the home of a professing believer.” “When they receive you”—verse 8—“when they profess to believe and embrace the message of the Kingdom, then eagerly receive their hospitality. Eat and drink what is before you.” Verse 8—“Stay there, eating and drinking what they provide”—verse 7.
What makes that okay? What makes it okay for these preachers to enter the home of somebody they’ve never met before—whom they just met—and eat all their stuff? Because that home has received spiritual blessings from the Gospel labor of these visiting missionaries. Is there any comparison between a meal served and eternal salvation by which we will not go to Hell, but we will go to Heaven and rejoice in the presence of God, worshipping him with all the saints forever and ever? Is that worth a hamburger?
So the wages of their labor are shelter, a bed to sleep in, food and drink. It’s the necessities of life, here. There’s a partnership formed here. There’s a partnership that’s put together here by God. The preachers impart spiritual blessings, and believers, when they receive those spiritual blessings, return with physical provision. That enables the preachers to continue imparting spiritual blessings to others.
Now the ESV says here at this point, “The laborer deserves his wages,” which is true. But Jesus actually said here, “The laborer is worthy of his wages”—not “deserves,” but “is worthy of.” That’s slightly different. The adjective here is “axios.” It strictly means “bringing up the other beam of the scales.” So to “make something equivalent” is what Jesus is speaking of. So when something is “axios,” the sense is that the laborer on the one side of the scales of preaching, and it’s in fitting proportion to the wages on the other side of the scales. The emphasis is not on the laborers themselves being “deserving,” which is the sense of our ESV translation. The emphasis is on the labor itself—giving wages, on the one hand, in recognition of the labor of preaching which is appropriate. Wages of rest and shelter and food and drink—that is fitting. That is worthy. The wages are being given in a manner that’s appropriate or in proper proportion to the labor of preaching and teaching.
So what that means is that someone whom Jesus appoints—these seventy-two—and sends out, and they go and do the work of preaching—their labor—if someone comes in and participates in that labor in that ministry by providing for that ministry, it’s not that it’s a minor thing. It’s actually a major thing. In fact, the preacher couldn’t do what he does without some support. We saw the same kind of thing when David was attacked—women and children and all their livelihood were taken away by the raiders. And so David went after them. When he came upon all the stuff, and he said, “Let me leave some of you guys with the stuff and the women and children, and the rest of us are going to go and attack, and we’re going to pursue.” So they did that. They went and pursued, they won the battle, won the war, God gave them the victory. They came back, and the guys who were fighting said, “Hey, we did more work than these guys, who just stayed with the bags and the women and the children. So we ought to get more of the plunder.” David said, “Uh, no, no! The fact that they stayed and protected our women and children and our livestock and our animals and everything else—we couldn’t have gone and fought if they hadn’t stayed here.” He says, “No, everybody gets the same.”
That’s the idea here. Those who share in the Gospel ministry, whether they are preaching or whether they are supporting, they’re both on equal par—fitting, worthy, equal.
So understand, this hospitality shown, it’s not some special kindness. It’s not something that may be given or withheld. Hospitality, here, is required of those who receive the ministry of the Gospel of peace. So when someone professes to be a recipient of the Gospel of peace—professes to receive the benefit of the labor of the preacher—that means it is appropriate for him to give back, to contribute, to participate in the Gospel by means of his hospitality. He enters into fellowship at that point with the Gospel by means of his hospitality.
So the laborer deserves his wages. The laborers here are visiting preachers. Those paying the wages are those recipients of the preachers’ ministry—those who benefit spiritually from their ministry. Jesus is setting up a legitimate spiritual partnership—true fellowship in the Gospel among true believers. We see this foundational principle of partnership in the rest of the New Testament as well. It’s dotted all throughout. I’ll just call your attention to a couple of things. Paul refers to this saying of Christ right here in Luke 10: “The laborer deserves his wages.” And then he uses it to advocate for the provision of the Gospel preachers, like in 1 Corinthians chapter 9:8-11. He says this—he’s quoting from the Old Testament; it’s written in the Law of Moses:
*“You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain.” Is it for oxen that God is concerned? Does he not certainly speak for our sake? It was written for our sake, because the plowman should plow in hope and the thresher thresh in hope of sharing in the crop. If we have sown spiritual things among you, is it too much if we reap material things from you?*
Then in verse 13:
*[T]hose who are employed in the temple service get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in the sacrificial offerings? In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel.*
He’s alluding to this point here. Over in 1 Timothy 5:17-18, Paul is even more explicit as he instructs Timothy when Timothy goes in to set up the structure of the local church, he talks to him about the remuneration of certain elders. He says:
*Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor [He’s talking about money, there], especially those who labor in preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,” and, “The laborer deserves his wages.”*
The Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox.” The Scripture says, “The laborer deserves his wages.” Thereby if you’re apologetically minded, you realize that Paul has just combined Old Testament Moses, New Testament Luke together, calling them Scripture. We believe in the inerrancy and authority and sufficiency of Old and New Testaments together. So, just a footnote there.
I asked the question, though, back in Luke chapter 10: Why does Christ do this? Why does he send his ministers out to preach and then make them dependent on those who receive their ministry for their food and their drink? Why does he say, back in verses 3 and 4, “Don’t take any bag, knapsack, money. Don’t take even an extra pair of sandals. Don’t take a thing.” Why does he put them in that condition? To have to receive handouts? Why does he make them dependent?
Several reasons—I’m going to give you three if you’d like to write them down. First, Jesus intends to create a healthy interdependency among the various members of the body. Jesus does this to create a healthy interdependency among the various members of the body. Look, we say this all the time around here. The Gospel ministry is not just the work of a few individuals. The work of the local church is not just the work of a few individuals; it’s the whole host of redeemed saints. It’s something we do together, and it recognizes the healthy reality of a fully functioning body working together. It’s by God’s design. “God has so composed the body”—1 Corinthians 12:25—“…that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.” We see that here as the seventy-two depend on receptive hearts of believers—these sons of peace—for their very room and board.
Second, besides just interdependency, Jesus also combined the preacher with the provider to teach a genuine humility and gratitude among the members of the body, to teach a genuine humility and gratitude among the members of the body. Notice how Jesus adds in the last sentence in verse 7, “Don’t go from house to house.” In other words, “Be content with whatever your host provides you. Be content. Don’t leave your host home seeking better accommodations, richer provisions.” I mean, that would be contrary to the speed and the haste with which he sends them out in the first place. I mean the Kingdom of God is not about food and drink, but about righteousness. So he says, “Just be content. Stay.”
The command to be content requires—if you’re going to be a contented individual—it requires that you have attitudes of humility, gratitude, and thankfulness in your heart. I’ve never met a humble and thankful person who is at the same time discontent. Those who preach and teach depend on those who receive the ministry to provide for them, which makes them humble and grateful for their physical nourishment, and vice versa. Those who receive the preaching and teaching ministry are humble and grateful for the spiritual nourishment that they receive as well. Humility and gratitude are mutually shared here by preacher and provider. Each one is humble to receive the benefit of the other, and each one is grateful to the other. The one is grateful for the labor of going and preaching; the other is grateful for the hospitality. This is the wisdom of Christ, is it not?—to unite them like this in humility and gratitude? I certainly feel this as a pastor, who needs to be provided for by this church as my family is cared for by this church. I’ve talked with Josh. I know Josh feels the same feelings of humility and gratitude, and I know you all feel the same way toward us as we, by the grace of God, work hard to provide you with spiritual blessings from Scripture. This is the wisdom of Christ, knitting our hearts together to be partners in the Gospel ministry.
So we see a healthy interdependence. We see—number two—humility and gratitude in this matter of giving and receiving. And that leads to a third reason for Christ-ordained means of providing for the Gospel ministries: to create Gospel partnerships. He intends to create Gospel partnerships—and I should add the word “legitimate” Gospel partnerships—among members of the body.
There are all kinds of partnerships formed outside the scope of Scripture. Professing Christians step outside the confines of the local church because they really believe they can do a better, more effective job of evangelizing and/or discipling any particular target demographic than a local church can do. That is wrong-headed. We’ve been recipients, those who’ve inherited that thinking. It started in the post-World War II years. It really took momentum there because of the injection of money into our economy that funded a lot of these para-church, extra super-church organizations. But it really started even before that, in the Industrial Revolution, where there were a lot of kids being used in horrible ways in terrible working conditions. Kids were made orphans and they were used on the streets, and so people said, “You know what? In order to target those kids—our churches aren’t doing a thing—let’s go out there and do this together.” And they found other people and cobbled them together, and you see that happening in D. L. Moody crusades, and all that. It just took more momentum, and people like Billy Graham, and Campus Crusade for Christ, Youth with a Mission and all these other organizations. They stepped outside the local church because they found the local church “confining, limiting,” unable to do effectively the work of evangelism and discipleship.
Listen—that is not the intention of Christ—to do whatever seems right in our own eyes. Here in this text, Jesus has appointed and sent these seventy-two, and he’s commanded them about the manner and the means of their mission. They don’t have the freedom to depart from his instructions to do what to them may seem to be more expedient. What?—“Jesus sent us out two-by-two; he wants us to go into town. You know what? I find that really—like, ineffective. Why don’t I get on the caravan trail, and I’ll sit where they’re coming from the East and going down to Egypt, and I’ll sit there on the caravan trail. We’ll put up a lemonade stand—everyone’s hot—you know, they want something to drink. So we’ll do some outreach there on the caravan trail. Or the chariot race outreach! I know there’s a lot of people there! Let’s go there! Set up booths, hold a big rally—whatever.”
No. Jesus sent them out to do it this way. They’re to stick to the plan. It’s not up to you to question the commander and the general. They’re not sent out to do his ministry in their own manner but in his prescribed manner and by his prescribed means. When they do it another way, when they start to go out and say, “I’m going to do the caravan ministry, the chariot race ministry. I’m going to do this and this and this,” you know what they’re doing? They’re distrusting Christ. They don’t really believe that what he said is the best way to do it. They may think, “Boy, I have no money. I have nothing in my knapsack. I don’t even have a knapsack—I was told not to bring one. I don’t have any extra sandals. This may not work. But you know those caravans—they get a lot of stuff going by. So we could do a little quid pro quo there, a little exchange of goods.”
Stick with the plan. You say, “Well, that was then; this is now. Surely we have freedom in Christ to be more innovative in our modern world. We’ve got technology. We don’t have to do caravan ministry, chariot ministry—no. We’ve got technology. We have transportation. We can do this in a whole different way. We can adapt to the times, leave the confines of this delimiting, just kind of backward-thinking, local church thing, and get things done more expediently and more effectively.”
Oh, really? Do we have the freedom to do that? Did Christ not give us instructions about how this is done? Did he not give us a Great Commission—give that to his Apostles? And then by the Holy Spirit, the Apostles immediately began to execute on that commission, and they did this ministry in his way, namely, making disciples under the auspices and with the oversight of local churches. That’s why I said Paul wrote to local churches. He did all of his ministry in and through local churches. Paul writes—Philippians 4:14—just one example I could point out—“It was kind of you”—all you Philippians—“to share in my trouble.” The word “share,” there, intensified of the verb for fellowship, which is “koinonia.” It’s also translated “partnership.” He continues writing in verse 15: “And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, no church entered into partnership”—“koinonia,” “fellowship”—with me in giving and receiving except your church only. Even in Thessalonica, you sent me help for my needs once and again.”
Paul—throughout Scripture, throughout the New Testament—none of the Apostles taught to go and do a direct mail campaign and make a big, huge donor base all throughout the Roman Empire. “Let’s tap into the coffers of Rome and get some of that publicly funded money, and let’s channel some of that into our deal. There’s no telling how big we can make this thing!” No. He’s dependent on the local church, dependent on the partnership with local churches. And if Thessalonica had not entered into this partnership, if the Philippian church had not—what’s he doing? He’s going back to another church isn’t he? The words “church,” “partnership”—that’s what you’re going to find all throughout the book of Acts, throughout the New Testament—the Great Commission working in and through local churches, churches that baptize new believers, ensuring that these new converts truly are “sons of peace,” and then teaching these young sons of peace to grow up into maturity in Jesus Christ.
Look—all the mechanisms for baptizing new converts, verifying conversions, scrutinizing confessions, stimulating growth in godliness, holding Christians accountable, discipling, disciplining, and all the rest—those things are very often un-utilized in missions agencies and para-church organizations, where they are intentionally broad. They are not the church. They don’t have a church authority structure over them, so they lift up into leadership people who are not qualified. So unqualified people bring people into their organization. How do they check their qualifications when they themselves are not even qualified? Extra-biblical super-church organizations tend to be doctrinally broad because they need to be big—because they want to attract as many people as they can to their specific thing. They’re accountable to no ecclesiastical body. Even those with good intentions unwittingly tend to supplant the mission of the local church, which tacitly assumes they can accomplish the Great Commission better than the local church.
Let me just say a brief word—not in my notes—I used to work for a para-church organization, so I’m not harping on para-church organizations. They’re good, useful—but they need to understand their place, that they truly come alongside the local church and never supplant. Many of these organizations don’t have that in mind. Do not protect that at all.
All that to say, back to the text, Jesus gave these seventy-two disciples a very specific manner and means of ministry. He expected them to obey him in these instructions. He said, “Look for a true believer. Allow that believer to partner with you in his town, from start to finish, in the work of the Gospel ministry.” So these instructions Jesus gave—they’re really only slightly modified today, as the local church now is in the role of baptizing and teaching and making disciples and identifying and appointing leadership, approving of ministry initiatives, affirming or denying ministry partnership—that is all under the purview of the local church.
Listen—Christ is very concerned about our partnerships, about who we do Gospel ministry with, who we do Great Commission work with. He’s very concerned about that. 2 Corinthians 6:14: “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers, for what fellowship or partnership”—“koinonia” again—“has righteousness and lawlessness? What fellowship has light with darkness?” I know a lot of young people are the recipients of that verse when they want to date an unbeliever. “Don’t be unequally yoked with unbelievers.” That’s certainly not a mis-application of that text, but the point of this text in 2 Corinthians 6 is about spiritual partnership. Marriage is one of those—sure. But spiritual partnerships. Don’t participate with those you’re unequally yoked with.
This is very important to Jesus—this Gospel partnering only with believers. Let me say that again because in this shallow theological age, so many possess such a superficial understanding of conversion in a time characterized by broad, ecumenical partnerships where anything goes, with anybody and amongst so many. Beloved, we need to hear this and hear loud and clear. It’s very important to Jesus that we conduct the ministry of his Gospel in his way, partnering only with believers.
And listen—let me just tell you this is not just because Christ is all about a bunch of rules. God is good. Christ is good. And he cares for us. So he does make rules, and he does command us to obey his rules. He is not just Savior; he is Lord. Lord. Master. We are his slaves; we are his servants. We belong to him by redemption. The rules he gives us, beloved, are for our blessing and for our joy. For our blessing, for our joy. So trying to do Gospel ministry with those who are not true partners in the Gospel—perhaps because they’re not believers at all or perhaps because their doctrinal or ministry philosophy are on such unbiblical foundations and set on such an unbiblical trajectory—trying to partner with people like that is like running in knee-deep mud. It’s like running in knee-deep mud with an anchor tied around your waist, holding you back. It is absolutely exhausting and frustrating, and gets you nowhere.
Some of you know exactly what I’m talking about, and you rejoice to do ministry right here in a local church according to Christ’s plan. We’re Ephesians 4—we’re of the same mind, the same understanding, in unity and harmony with one another in doctrine, fellowship, ministry philosophy. We do that here. When you do Gospel ministry with true, legitimate Gospel partners, there is no greater joy. No greater joy! You’re in unity with each other, you’re in complete harmony—both of you humble, teachable, grateful for each other, and excited to run the race set before you.
That’s what this is teaching. Our job is simply to follow the principles that Jesus set forth here as the very foundation of all Gospel ministry. We’re to go preach the Gospel. We’re to find Gospel partners. We’re to receive and encourage their Gospel hospitality, which is their participation in Gospel, and we do this in and through the local church, which is the Christ-ordained means today for accomplishing the Great Commission.
Well, that’s what these seventy-two were doing together, and that’s what we, beloved, have the privilege of doing together as well. So we’ve learned about the mission, the mindset, the manner, the means—next time we’re going to finish—Lord willing—Jesus’ instructions about the ministry itself when we cover the rest. Let’s pray.
Father, I want to thank you so much for the time we’ve had in your Word. We thank you for Jesus’ clear, concise, simple, easy-to-understand instructions about the manner of doing ministry and the means for its provision. We thank you that even in looking to one another for the provision and the cooperation in the ministry, we don’t do that alone. We do that looking to you, the sovereign God, who takes initiative. You the sovereign God, who is Lord over all. You the sovereign God, who owns all things because you created all things. We love you. We thank you to be doing this together in our church. We just pray for every blessing of yours on us for all joy, for all peace in the Gospel. In Jesus name, amen.