D. Scott Meadows
Go your ways: behold, I send you forth as lambs among wolves (Luke 10.3).
“The Christian ministry,” as the work of pastors used to be called (e.g., Charles Bridges’ classic book), is carried out by Christ’s command. While it is true that all Christians are called to serve the Lord in all of life, and that bearing a verbal witness to Him before unbelievers is the blessed privilege of every Christian, the sacred call of men to the pastoral office and labors remains firmly established by Scripture. Today, true pastors* most nearly resemble the seventy men charged by Jesus in Luke 10 to go forth preaching the gospel.
Luke 10.3, one brief part of His charge, reflects His view of that ministry which involves Himself, the world, and His appointed preachers.
Jesus’ View of Himself
“Go your ways: behold, I send you forth.” This is the authoritative command of One under authority, as Jesus sees Himself.
The Son Sent by the Father. Our Lord Jesus Christ was not an independent operator; He consciously lived, spoke, and moved as the Son of God, perfectly carrying out His Father’s will. Jesus’ whole life was an illustration of holy obedience. He said, “I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things. And he that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him” (John 8.28, 29), and, “I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak” (John 12.49 ESV).
The Lord Sending His Preachers. Thus commanded by God, Jesus later said to the Twelve, “As my Father hath sent me, even so send I you” (John 20.21). In this striking parallel statement, Jesus wields the same authority as His Father in relaying the charge of the Christian ministry, particularly in their preaching the gospel of salvation through Christ. While none are Apostles today, those duly called and set apart for the Christian ministry are still sent by the risen Christ with the same divine authority. Jesus views Himself as the Church’s Lord, and He continues giving “pastors and teachers” at His sovereign pleasure (Eph 4.11).
Jesus’ View of the World
“I send you forth as lambs among wolves.” Here Jesus reveals something of His view of the world of unbelievers.
Malicious Sinners. “Wolves” is a metaphor for a pack of fierce or vicious people (BAGD), those who are “cruel, greedy, rapacious, [and] destructive” (ESL #3074). Christ’s preachers needed to know beforehand what kind of reception they would receive from most who would hear them, and it was not good. General hostility, disdain, criticism, and in extreme cases, persecution leading to martyrdom, would prove to be their divinely-appointed lot. Sin has so corrupted men’s souls that they are capable of behaving brutally, like beasts of prey, toward those who provoke their ire (Tit 3.3). Church history and the suffering of Christ’s Church around the world today provide countless examples.
Potential Saints. Yet these sinners are redeemable by the grace of God. Toward that glorious end the Lord sends forth His preachers (Luke 9.56). People need the Lord. They need to hear the gospel by which we are saved. In God’s mercy, many hearing come to believe and are added to the Church as devout worshippers. Countless millions have been converted to Christ by “the foolishness of preaching” (1 Cor 1.21).
Jesus’ View of His Appointed Preachers
Christ regarded the men He sent as “lambs among wolves.” What a touching description of faithful gospel preachers!
His Vulnerable Favorites. The parallel passage of Matthew 10.16 has “sheep” instead, but Luke’s “lambs” (young sheep) heightens the sense of their vulnerability to wolves. It may also be intended as a term of endearment (cf. 2 Sam 12.3). Christ sends His own most beloved ones into the dangerous world not from ill-will, but from an intense love for them. By suffering with Him the same animosity, they experience more intense fellowship (Phil 3.10) in preparation for glory (Rom 8.17).
His Instruments of Mercy. Jesus sent them primarily to preach. They were to announce “peace” (v. 5), the kingdom of God drawing near (v. 9), the coming judgment (vv. 10, 11), and repentance (v. 13)—all as agents of Christ with His very authority (v. 16). The desirable, expected outcome is that some would be saved (v. 6) in Christ’s mercy through these men.
Christ also intended them to think of themselves this way. “Lambs” have no mandate for hostility toward the “wolves,” but rather, a call to be meek sacrifices for the worthiest cause—the glory of God in the salvation of humanity. The Lord Jesus Christ is the supreme example as “the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1.29). He keeps taking away its sins through these Christlike lambs!
Let Jesus’ view elevate our own perspective and attitudes. This will promote true worship, better pastoral ministry, and faithful evangelism. Ω
* And other gospel preachers formally sent by the churches (commonly called evangelists, church planters, and missionaries).