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by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord's Day Evening, April 27, 2003

"Beware of men" (Matthew 10:17).

Beware of men - "prosechete apo ton anthropon" in Greek - hold your mind away from men. Be on guard against men. Beware of men. The word "men" is the English translation of "anthropon." It means "human beings" (Strong's #444). Our English word anthropology comes from this Greek word "anthropos." Anthropology is the study of mankind. And "anthropon" refers to human beings in general. Jesus said,

"Beware, be on guard against, human beings."

Christ warned them in verse sixteen,

"Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves" (Matthew 10:16).

This does not present a very encouraging picture of mankind. It presents human beings, in their fallen state, as wolves that we must be on guard against.

Matthew Henry says,

"Beware of men; you will have need to stand upon your guard, even against those who are of the same nature as you" - such is the depravity and degeneracy of that [human] nature (homo homini lupus - man is a wolf to man), crafty and politic as men, but cruel and barbarous as beasts, and wholly divested of the thing called humanity. Note, persecuting rage and enmity turn men into brutes, into devils…wicked men are like wolves, in whose nature it is to devour and destroy…They are as sheep among wolves, that is frightful; but Christ sends them forth, that is comfortable, for he that sends them forth, will protect them, and bear them out. But  that  they  might  know   the  worst,  he  tells  them  particularly  what  they  must  expect  (note  on  Matthew  10:16-17).

The Scofield note on Matthew 10:16 correctly says, "The scope of verses 16-23 reaches beyond the personal ministry of the twelve - covering in a general sense the sphere of service during the present age" (Scofield Study Bible, note on Matthew 10:16). So, Christ is saying to all true Christians,

"Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves…beware [be on guard] of men" (Matthew 10:16-17).

There are lessons for all of us in this passage of Scripture.

I. First, there was a lesson for the Apostles themselves.

Notice verse 16,

"Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues; And ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles… [verse 21] And the brother shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the child: and the children shall rise up against their parents, and cause them to be put to death. And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved… [verse 24] The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord. It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master, and the servant as his lord. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much  more  shall  they  call  them  of  his household?"  (Matthew 10:16-25).

I ask you, was Christ being too negative about human nature when He told the Apostles this? When Christ told them that human beings are like wolves, and that they should be on guard against them, was He too negative - or was He perfectly describing what they would encounter from humanity?

Look at the record of what mankind did to the Apostles. All of them were tortured for proclaiming the gospel. All of them but John were killed - and John was put into a vat of boiling oil, and barely escaped death. After that, he was banished to the Isle of Patmos, with scars from the boiling oil marking his body for the rest of his life. Peter was crucified upside down. Paul was beheaded. James, the brother of Jesus, was stoned and clubbed to death. James, the brother of John, was thrust through with a sword. Thomas was killed by a spear. Thaddaeus was put to death with arrows. Bartholomew was skinned alive, and then crucified upside down. Luke was hung from an olive tree. And Mark died a martyr's death in the eighth year of the Emperor Nero's reign (cf. Josh McDowell, A Ready Defense, Thomas Nelson, 1993, p. 436; Foxe's Book of Martyrs, Bridge-Logos, 1997 reprint, p. 9). Jesus Christ, Himself, was beaten, flogged, nailed to a Cross, and pierced with a spear.

No wonder Jesus told the Apostles,

"Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves…beware of men" (Matthew 10:16-17).

Yes, this was a lesson for the Apostles, and those who followed them. There were ten periods of general persecution of Christians under the Roman Emperors, between 54 A.D. and 305 A.D. Hundreds of thousands of Christians lost their lives proving the wisdom of Jesus' warning,

"Beware of men" (Matthew 10:17).

II. Second, this is a lesson for true Christians today.

In the twentieth century, Communists persecuted Christians horribly. During the height of Communism, an average of 330,000 Christians were killed every year (Foxe's Book of Martyrs, op. cit., p. 326).

Although there are still a few Communist countries, like Cuba and China, where Christians are persecuted and tortured, it is Muslim countries that are responsible for killing the most Christians today. Between 155,000 and 159,000 Christians are currently being killed throughout the world each year - simply for being Christians (ibid.).

Rev. Richard Wurmbrand was an evangelical pastor who spent 14 years in a Rumanian Communist prison, where he was tortured for being a Christian. In May 1966 he testified before the United States Senate, where he stripped off his shirt and showed the Senators 18 torture wounds in his body. Wurmbrand, in his book Tortured for Christ, wrote,

A pastor by the name of Florescu was tortured with red-hot pokers and knives. He was beaten very badly. Then starving rats were driven into his cell through a large pipe. He could not sleep, but had to defend himself all the time. If he rested a moment, the rats would attack him.

He was forced to stand for two weeks, day and night. The Communists wished to compel him to betray his brethren, but he resisted steadfastly. In the end, they brought in his 14-year-old son and began to whip the boy in front of his father, saying they would continue to beat him until the pastor said what they wished him to say. The poor man was half mad. He bore it as long as he could.

When he could not stand it any more, he cried to his son: "Alexander, I must say what they want! I can't bear your beating any more!"

The son answered, "Father, don't do me the injustice to have a traitor as a parent. Withstand! If they kill me, I will die with the words, 'Jesus and my fatherland.'"

The Communists, enraged, fell upon the child and beat him to death, with blood spattered over the walls of the cell. He died praising God. Our dear brother Florescu was never the same after seeing this (in Josh McDowell, A Ready Defense, Thomas Nelson, 1993, pp. 440-441).

This kind of torture and death has been experienced by hundreds of thousands of Christians all over the world in the last several decades.

In 1950 Communists in Korea arrested Rev. Joon Gon Kim and his family for being Christians. Rev. Kim said,

One night I was awakened by the noise of men calling my name. My family and I were taken where 60 human beings, including the old, and women and children, were being killed. Ten military men…were assigned to execute my family. My wife and father were slaughtered before my eyes. I was beaten and left for dead (ibid., p. 442).

Thousands of Christians have been tortured and killed for their faith in North Korea.

From the People's Republic of China we have these reports,

A young man was hung on a cross like Christ. During the six days before he died, he prayed constantly out loud that his persecutors would…receive Christ.

Five students were forced to dig five deep holes. They were then put in the holes and dirt was thrown on them by other prisoners. As they were buried alive they sang Christian hymns.

For refusing to stop preaching about Christ, Evangelist Ni-Tio-Sen had his eyes gouged out, and his tongue and both hands cut off. He was then sent to a prison in Shanghai (Foxe's, ibid., pp. 329-330).

Two Dutch missionaries to Afghanistan, a man and wife, were tied to chairs, and cut to pieces. At the graveside during their funeral…their five-year-old son said out loud, "I forgive the men who killed my father and mother" (ibid., p. 340).

In 1991, in Lebanon, Muslims raided Mary Khoury's home. She and her parents were given one choice, "If you do not become a Muslim you will be shot." Mary said to them, "I was baptized a Christian and His word came to me: 'Don't deny your faith.' I will obey Him. Go ahead and shoot." A Muslim who had just killed her father and mother shot her and left her for dead. Two days later the Red Cross found her beside her dead parents. She was only half alive, but she was paralyzed because the bullet had severed her spinal cord. Her paralyzed arms were extended, reminiscent of Christ on the Cross. Mary later said, "I can never marry or do any physical work. So I will offer my life to the Muslims, like the one who cut my father's throat, stabbed my mother while cursing her, and tried to kill me. My life will be a prayer for them" (ibid. pp. 349-350).

In Yemen in 2002 three Baptist missionaries were killed by Muslims. A Southern Baptist missionary, Bonnie Whiterall, was shot to death by Muslims in Lebanon in November, 2002. On March 4, 2003 Rev. William Hyde, a Southern Baptist missionary to the Philippines for 25 years, was killed in a bomb blast set off by Muslim terrorists, in Davao City, Philippines.

In Kuduna, Nigeria, in 1992, a Muslim mob went on a rampage against Christians, killing them and burning their homes and churches. Pastor Tacio Duniyo, Musqa Bakut and his sons, Bawa, Bije and John Wesley, and 300 church members were killed. Before they killed the elderly pastor Duniyo, the Muslims gouged out his eyes and cut his mouth open for preaching the gospel. They also cut Bije's mouth for using it to preach Christ. Twenty-five of Pastor Duniyo's church members were burned alive. The Muslims cut off Pastor Selchun's right hand. After it fell to the ground he raised his left hand and sang, "He is Lord, He is Lord. He is risen from the dead, and He is Lord. Every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord" (ibid., pp. 350-351).

I have just given you a few accounts of the over 155,000 Christians killed every year, around the world, for their faith in Jesus Christ. No wonder Christ said,

"Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves…beware of men" (Matthew 10:16-17).

This is a lesson for true Christians today.

III. Third, this is a lesson for those who are not converted.

Matthew Henry commented,

"Beware of men; you will have need to stand upon your guard, even against those who are of the same nature as you" - such is the depravity and degeneracy of that [human] nature.

I know you are not going to kill a Christian. But you have the same nature as those who do. The Bible teaches that your nature is fallen and ruined, just like the rest of the human race.

In the Western world, particularly in the English speaking world, we have laws that protect religious freedom. This comes from the influence of centuries of Protestants and Baptists. Roger Williams, the Baptist founder of Rhode Island, is the father of religious freedom in America. So, we have laws that protect Christians, and all others, from religious persecution. But even here, where there is the protection of law, the ruined and rebellious nature of mankind can easily be seen by the discerning eye. In the United states, the perverted minds of depraved men have changed the old laws, handed down from Christians, and now have made new laws, which have permitted them to murder 44 million innocent children, calling it "a woman's choice" to kill a baby. This is worse than what the Communists or Muslims have done - showing that we also have ruined, Adamic natures, and that Christians must "beware of men," even if they are Americans.

J. C. Ryle, that wise commentator, said,

Human nature is far more wicked and corrupt than we think: the power of evil is far greater than we suppose (J. C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Gospels: Matthew, Banner of Truth, 1856 reprint, p. 99).

"The whole world lieth in wickedness," said the Apostle John (I John 5:19). All human man beings descend from Adam, and by him "sin entered into the world" (Romans 5:12). Sin has such a hold on man's depraved nature that humanity is described as

"Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart" (Ephesians 4:18).

As Ryle said, "Human nature is far more wicked and corrupt than we think: the power of evil is far greater than we suppose."

Ephesians 4:18 describes every unconverted heart as "darkened," "alienated," "ignorant," "blind." What is this but total depravity? Let those who call this five-point Calvinism study their Bibles again, and they will see that this is Bible Christianity! This is a description of your own unconverted heart: darkened, alienated, ignorant, blind - isn't that the truth?

This is not only true of people outside the church. It is also true of every person born to Christian parents, who grows up in church. All are darkened, alienated, ignorant, blind. Doesn't the Apostle Paul say exactly that?

"There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God"
    (Romans 3:10-11).

The Apostle said that this is true of all mankind. No wonder Jesus said,

"Beware of men" (Matthew 10:17).

Beware, be on guard, against human beings - "prosechete apo ton anthropon."

"Beware of men" (Matthew 10:17).

If you are not yet converted the human being you must beware of most of all is yourself. You, yourself, are your own worst enemy. Your heart is darkened, alienated, ignorant and blind, according to Ephesians 4:18. An unconverted person is therefore a fool if he trusts his own darkened, alienated, ignorant, blind heart. Furthermore, the unconverted mind is against God,

"Because the carnal mind is enmity against God [hostile to God]" (Romans 8:7).

An unconverted person is therefore a fool if he trusts his own mind, because his mind is against God by its very nature. If you trust your own mind, which is by nature opposed to God, you are a fool. A person is a fool who trusts himself and his own thinking about religion, because your heart is by nature darkened, alienated, ignorant and blind - and because your mind is hostile toward God.

No wonder, young people - no wonder! that the Bible says,

"He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool" (Proverbs 28:26).

This is what Christ meant when He said to you,

"Beware of men" (Matthew 10:17).

"Be on guard against human beings." And the human being you must be on guard about most is yourself! "Beware of men." And the man or woman you must most beware of is yourself. Beware of your own thoughts about salvation. Beware of your own feelings about your own state in the matter of conversion.

If I, or one of the deacons, say to you, "Will you believe in Jesus now?" do not look for an answer in your own befogged and twisted mind. Answer, "yes," whether you think you should or not, whether you think you can or not. Your thoughts and feelings are unreliable. Therefore force yourself to say, "Yes, I will believe in Jesus now." And then strive with all of your being to do it. Do not depend on a feeling. That is total foolishness of the worst kind. It is trusting the feelings of your own blinded and ruined heart. And

"He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool" (Proverbs 28:26).

Instead of trusting what you think and feel, seek the Lord. Seek Jesus. He is the only one who can save you from eternal damnation for your sins.

And, then, I ask you to seek Jesus for your own happiness: He is the only one who can give you deep joy inside. Don't you want to be happy and filled with joy? Of course you do! Therefore seek Christ, strive to enter into Christ - so you can be peaceful in your soul.

Isn't it true that you have anxieties and fears? Isn't it true that you wish you were saved - so you could have the matter settled once and for all, and be certain that you are right with God and sure that you are going to Heaven? Wouldn't you like to get this all over with - and have peace and joy, knowing that you are saved? Wouldn't you really love to have the inner security and joy of salvation that Dara Sem and Aaron Yancy seem to have? Then seek for Christ - and when you have come to Him you will have peace and joy in your heart too. You will be saved - by Jesus! "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved" (Acts 16:31).

If you would like to talk with me, or one of the church leaders, about seeking for Christ, I want you to slip out the back door, while we bow in prayer. And remember,

"Beware of men" (Matthew 10:17).

Don't trust your own depraved feelings or thoughts. Come to the Saviour, Jesus, and trust Him!


Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: Matthew 10:11-25.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:

"Lord, I Am Vile" (by Isaac Watts, 1674-1748).



by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.


"Beware of men" (Matthew 10:17).

(Matthew 10:16)

I.   This was a lesson for the Apostles themselves, Matthew 10:16-25.

II.  This is a lesson for true Christians today, Matthew 10:16-17.

III. This is a lesson for those who are not converted, I John 5:19;
Romans 5:12; Ephesians 4:18; Romans 3:10-11; Romans 8:7;
Proverbs 28:26; Acts 16:31.

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