The Proper Locus of Fear (Exposition of Matthew 10:26-33)

My favorite television program is Monk which is a weekly program on the USA network which explores the adventures of an obsessive-compulsive genius detective who has at least 38 documented phobias.  On the show’s website a dictionary of phobias is provided.  Among the phobias listed are:

  • Altophobia: Fear of heights.
  • Arachnophobia: Fear of spiders.
  • Arachibutyrophobia: Fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of the mouth.
  • Ballistophobia: Fear of missiles or bullets.
  • Claustrophobia: Fear of confined spaces.
  • Ecclesiophobia: Fear of church.
  • Frigophobia: Fear of cold.
  • Gamophobia: Fear of marriage.
  • Glossophobia: Fear of speaking in public or of trying to speak.
  • Homilophobia: Fear of sermons.
  • Obesophobia: Fear of gaining weight.
  • Panophobia: Fear of everything.
  • Peladophobia: Fear of bald people.
  • Phalacrophobia: Fear of becoming bald.
  • Phasmophobia: Fear of ghosts.
  • Testophobia: Fear of taking tests.
  • Xenophobia: Fear of strangers or foreigners.

We all have fears, hopefully not 38 of them, but we all have fears.  Many things we fear for no reason.  Some things we don’t fear that we should.  In this morning’s text Jesus describes the proper locus, or place, of fear.  Three times in this morning’s text, the disciples are told by Christ to not fear.  We are told not to fear man, but rather to fear God.  The book of Proverbs makes this distinction when in Proverbs 25:29 we are warned:  “The fear of man brings a snare.”  And exhorted in Proverbs 9:10: “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom.”  As we look to Matthew 10:26-33 we are told two areas in which we are not to be afraid, and one area where it is altogether appropriate to be afraid.

Therefore do not fear them. For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known.  (27)  “Whatever I tell you in the dark, speak in the light; and what you hear in the ear, preach on the housetops.  (28)  And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.  (29)  Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will.  (30)  But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.  (31)  Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.  (32)  “Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven.  (33)  But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven.  Matthew 10:26-33

I.    Do Not Be Afraid to Trumpet God’s Proclamations, vv. 26-27.
The first reason that we are told not to fear is found in verse 26.  The reason we are not to fear is that “there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known.”  This was apparently something that Jesus repeated on various occasions with multiple applications.  For example, when this phrase is quoted in Luke 12:1-3 it used to warn against hypocrisy.  But here it is used to provide the background to the command of public proclamation in verse 27.  Jesus clearly expected the ministry of His disciples to be more open and public than His own ministry.  What He told them in the dark, they were to speak in the light.  What He whispered in their ear was to be shouted from the rooftop.  The houses in the first century were all flat roofed and were thus often the place where public proclamations would be made to large crowds.  Jesus is calling His disciples to holy boldness in their proclamation of the teachings of Jesus.

The question is which issues of our day require us as Christians to speak boldly God’s proclamations.  The great German Reformer Martin Luther said,

If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God, except that point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ however boldly I may be professing Christ.  Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proved.  And to be steady on all the battlefield besides is mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point.

What are the world and the devil at this moment attacking?

  • The exclusivity of Jesus Christ.

If there is one thing truth claim that is being attacked in our day it is the biblical teaching that faith in Jesus Christ is the only way that humans can be saved.  We must be willing to proclaim this truth from the rooftops without flinching.

John 14:6  Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”

Acts 4:12  Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.

We can’t be afraid of what men may do to us at this point!

Another area in which we must not flinch in our day is on the sanctity of human life.  Today is Sanctity of Human Life Sunday.

  • The sanctity of human life.

Good news was released this past week.  The number of abortions performed in the United States is down 25% since its highest point in 1990.  That means that only almost 3,300 babies a day were aborted.  That’s a loss of life more than on the tragic events of September 11, 2001.  And this happens every single day.  This Tuesday marks the 35th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision known as Roe v. Wade.  Over the last 35 years, approximately 45 million have been murdered without mercy in these United States. That’s more than 2 times the number of those who were killed in all the wars that have been fought in the history of America! These individuals have had no trial, no legal representation, and no opportunity to defend themselves. Yet, they have been executed in a cruel, inhumane way.

What can we do?  1.  Pray for eyes to be opened to the truth about abortion.  2.  Never forget the horror of millions of lives destroyed.  3.  Support alternatives like adoption and abstinence.  4.  Use your right to free speech and right to vote for representation.  In other words, say what you believe, write what you believe, and vote what you believe about this issue.

This is not a political issue, but a biblical issue!

I imagine most everyone here would agree with what I just said about the sanctity of the life of the unborn.  But I don’t want to just preach about the crowd out there.  I want to preach on our sins too.  In Isaiah 58:1, the prophet Isaiah is told by God to:

Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and shew my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins.

If abortion is the sin of our country, racism is the sin of our church.

  • The equality of the human race.

I am amazed at the way so many people use the Bible to support racism.  Racial prejudice is not a social issue it is a gospel issue.  In Ephesians 2:11-22 we are told that the blood of Christ purchased not only unity between holy God and sinful man but also between different ethnic groups.  We’ll let this passage stand for Jewish and white relationships, but not for black and white relationships.  In the eyes of God, white Americans are on the same ground with Asians, Europeans, Africans, South Americans and Black Americans.   One word describes us all:  Gentiles.  Those who have put their faith in Christ are now “one new man.”  Therefore, when we hate another group of people because of their nationality or color of their skin, we’re sinning against the unity that the blood of Jesus Christ purchased.   When we all get to heaven, we’ll all be together!!!  Revelation 5:9-10 tells us:

And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.

II.    Do Not Be Afraid to Trust God’s Providence, vv. 29-31.
A second area in which Christians are not to be afraid is in God’s providential care.  In the context of the command not to fear those who kill the body in verse 28 (which we’ll come back to in a moment), Jesus tells His disciples that He will watch over them.  The illustration of this truth given by Jesus is of God’s care for the sparrow.  Sparrows were the food of the poorest people for they could be purchased for the cheapest price.  But God is providentially involved when one of these birds falls to the ground.  God is sovereign over the sparrow!  God is also sovereign over the hairs of your head!  You don’t have to have phalacrophobia (the fear of becoming bald).  Then Jesus concludes His argument by asserting that humans are of more value to God than sparrows (whom God providentially cares for).

In the United States you can be fined up to $5,000.00 and/or spend a year in jail for crushing the egg of a bald eagle.  For destroying an unborn animal! And yet you can make a good living destroying unborn babies.  This is a perverse misplacement of priorities.  But the good news for us is that our Father in Heaven does not think that way.  He created humans in His image, distinct from all animal creatures.  He will take care of you!  Don’t be afraid to trust God’s providential care of you.

Finally, Jesus tells us one area in which it is entirely appropriate to be afraid.

III.    Do Be Afraid to Trample God’s Provision, vv. 28, 32-33.
I believe verses 28 and 32-33 refer to the same reality.  Those who confess Christ will escape hell.  Those who deny Christ will be cast into hell, body and soul.

It is eternally important to fear God rather than man at this point.  Man only has the ability to kill the body, but God has the ability to cast both body and soul into hell.  Hell is a place of eternal punishment described in Scripture as a place where the fire does not go out and where the worm never dies. To deny Christ is to trample the Son of God underfoot, count the blood of the covenant a common thing, and insult the Spirit of grace.  This puts one in danger of the judgment of an almighty God!  Witness Hebrews 10:29-31,

Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace?  (30)  For we know Him who said, “VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY,” says the Lord. And again, “THE LORD WILL JUDGE HIS PEOPLE.”  (31)  It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

To fail to confess Jesus Christ is to trample God’s provision for our deliverance from judgment and puts one on dangerous ground!  But if you confess Christ, Christ will confess you before His Father and you will escape Hell and enter Heaven.

What do you fear?  We are not to fear man who can destroy only the body, but God who can destroy both body and soul in hell.

3 comments

  1. Hi Steve,

    My wife and I are big Monk fans, too! Definitely the best show on television today.

    Thanks for a good message from Matthew 10. Nice job tying in the application points on abortion and racism with Sanctity of Life Sunday and Martin Luther King Day.

    By the way, I wonder if “homilophobia” is the fear of hearing sermons or preaching them (or both)? :-)

  2. Loved the message. The racism you talked about is so true. When I was younger, I asked my friends with a skin color different from mine, to come to my church and I often wanted to visit their church. It never happened because we were afraid of what people would say to us or that we would be told to leave. Why do we not worship together today?

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