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by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached on Lord’s Day Morning, July 20, 2008
at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles

Now I want you to turn in your Bible to Matthew 10:28. If someone near you doesn’t have a Bible, I want you to share yours with them. And I want everyone to look at this text of Scripture in Matthew, chapter 10, verse 28. It’s on page 1009 of The Scofield Study Bible, Matthew 10:28. These are the words of Jesus Christ. He was speaking to His Disciples, but what He said applies equally to us this morning. Christ said, in Matthew 10:28,

“Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28).

He was telling them not to fear the enemies of Christianity who could kill their bodies. There were many zealous fanatics at the time of Christ who persecuted Christians and killed many thousands of them in the first century. And there are many today in certain parts of the world who do the same thing. If you were a Christian in Iran today, you would have to hide the fact, because Muslim extremists in Iran hate Christianity, and they kill many Christians for their faith in Christ every year. And those Muslim extremists have said on many occasions that they want to kill as many Christians as possible. We saw a terrible example of this at 9/11 when they attempted to kill as many “Christians” as possible at the World Trade Center in New York City. Al Qaeda’s stated purpose is to destroy Christianity. The liberal news media in America and the West plays this aspect down, but it is true nonetheless. They are in a “jihad,” a holy war whose purpose is, quite frankly, to kill off the Christians and Jews. If you read the newspaper carefully you will see that this is the stated purpose of Al Qaeda, and other Muslim terrorist groups operating throughout the world. So Christ’s words take on a special application today, when He said, “Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul” (Matthew 10:28). These words are as strong a message to us today, under the threat of Islamic terrorism, as they were to the Christians living in the first century, who were constantly threatened by the pagan Romans. And make no mistake, that is exactly what modern Islamic extremists want to do. They want to bully, kill and exterminate non-Muslims. Listen to what these men say on television! It will send a chill through your heart! And we had better not be fooled by left-wing politicians, who want to make “peace” with them. They don’t want peace! They want to destroy America and Israel!

But Jesus told us in Matthew 10:28, “Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul.” For, you see, that is exactly the case today, just as it was when Jesus said it. He told the Disciples not to fear their enemies; all they could do was kill our bodies, but they “are not able to kill the soul.” The Christian’s soul is absolutely indestructible. No Muslim fanatic can kill the soul of a real Christian! All they can do is kill our bodies. Our souls are beyond their reach. Our souls are sealed by the Holy Spirit, eternally saved, eternally secure. An old song has God saying to the true Christians,

Fear not, I am with thee; O be not dismayed,
   For I am thy God, I will still give thee aid;
I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand,
   Upheld by My gracious, omnipotent hand.

When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,
   My grace all-sufficient shall be thy supply;
The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design
   Thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine.

The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose,
   I will not, I will not desert to his foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
   I’ll never, no never, no never forsake!
(“How Firm a Foundation,” “K” in Rippon’s Selection of Hymns, 1787).

That was what Jesus meant when He said,

“Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul…” (Matthew 10:28a).

You say, “Has anyone taken this literally?” Oh, yes! Throughout history, countless numbers of Christians have refused to fear men who could take their lives. I will give you two examples.

South China Church member Xuequei Gu was killed by the Communists for his faith in Christ in 2001. Gu was arrested in September and was last seen being taken away in a prison van on October 10. South China Church leaders said they received information that Gu died from torture. They hung him from the ceiling by his hands for days. They gave him no water until he was nearly dead from thirst. Then they gave him salt water to drink. Finally, they beat him to death.

“The New York-based Committee for Investigation on Persecution in China revealed that 182 house church Christians from 24 cities and 16 counties were arrested between June and August 2002. Many were tortured by police” (Foxe: Voices of the Martyrs, Voice of the Martyrs, 2007, p. 420).

The other day I read about a man at the Auschwitz concentration camp who was about to be executed by Hitler’s Nazis. He cried out for mercy for the sake of his wife and young child. Then a Christian pastor named Raymond Kolbe stepped forward and said he wanted to take the man’s place. The Nazi commandant, “Butcher” Fritzsch thought it would be better to rid the death camp of such a hero. “Butcher” Fritzsch injected Raymond Kolbe with carbolic acid (phenol) on August 14, 1941. He died a horrible, agonizing death, while praying for the Nazi who injected him with the poison. The man whose place he took lived to an old age, dying in Poland in 1997. The pastor who died in his place at the Auschwitz death camp had written about his devotion to Christ before he was executed, “Your soul, Incarnate God, penetrated mine, giving courage and support. What miracles! Who could have imagined such?” (Foxe, ibid., pp. 231-233).

More people died, in the last one hundred years, for the cause of Christ, like Xuequei Gu and Raymond Kolbe, than in all the previous centuries combined. They could say with Raymond Kolbe, “What miracles! Who could have imagined such?” It is indeed a miracle that so many thousands of martyred Christians took literally what Jesus said,

“Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul…” (Matthew 10:28a).

But it takes an equal miracle for a person to experience the second half of our text,

“…but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28b).

The second half of Matthew 10:28 gives us another thought altogether. In the second half of the text Jesus said,

“but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28b).

In that verse Christ plainly and clearly told us to fear God – for He is the only one who “is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28). Christ told us not to fear the enemies of Christianity. Instead He told us to fear God, who has the power to cast both the body and soul into Hell.

The English word “fear” appears twice in our text,

“Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28).

Both times the Greek word translated “fear” is “phobeo.” It comes from the Greek word “phobos” and it means “to be frightened, to be alarmed…fear exceedingly” (Strong’s Concordance #5399).

In his natural state, no man fears God. The Bible describes the human race by saying,

“There is no fear of God before their eyes” (Romans 3:18).

Only when the miracle of conversion occurs can it be said,

“Fear came upon every soul” (Acts 2:43).

That was what happened to our deacon, Dr. Cagan, one night before he became a Christian. He was studying for an exam at UCLA. He said,

I started to fall apart as the final exam approached. I spent the night before the exam in a motel room, trying to study. But I couldn’t understand the material, even though I stayed up deep into the night. I was also troubled about what my life meant and whether God was real. Christians had told me about God, but I rejected everything I heard. That night I began to wonder if I was right. Or was I the worst fool of all? I tossed and turned, unable to sleep. I thought about my own selfishness and how I had opposed God in deliberate unbelief. I was desperate. About 4:00 in the morning, I said out loud, “God forgive me.” That was the first time I ever prayed in my life. I didn’t understand what it all meant, but I felt some relief after saying that simple prayer. Then I finally went to sleep (C. L. Cagan, Ph.D., From Darwin to Design, Whitaker House, 2006, p. 26).

Cagan woke up a half hour later and went to the class. The professor passed out the exam and he looked at it, “Knowing that I would fail. My heart sank in despair. Then suddenly I was aware of God’s presence…I had never experienced God before. But in that moment I knew God was real. Suddenly there was no doubt about it at all!... More than thirty years later I can remember that moment with vivid clarity. A few days before this event, I said to a friend, ‘If there is a God, He has to be the most important thing in the world.’ Now I knew that was true. I looked down at the test. Why, it was so easy!...Now I was certain of God’s existence” (ibid., pp. 26-27).

But Cagan was not yet a Christian. For two more years he went through an intense inward struggle. He said, “I wrestled through sleepless nights for many months after God became real to me. I can only describe this period in my life as two years of mental agony” (ibid., p. 41). He was going to church and reading the Bible, but he said, “I didn’t want Jesus. My plans were incompatible with His. I still wanted to become rich and important and enjoy as much pleasure as possible – at the same time I was reading the Bible and going to church!” (ibid. p. 42). Cagan was fighting against Jesus Christ inwardly for over twenty-four months.

Then one night he went to an evangelistic meeting. Dr. Cagan said that the preacher “had a message that was new to me. He said that I was a sinner who had broken God’s laws and deserved judgment. In His love, Jesus had come to die for [my sins] on the Cross. If I trusted Him, He would forgive my sins and save my soul once and for all. All I had to do was trust Jesus in a single act and He would perform all the saving work” (ibid., p. 43). Dr. Cagan said,

I can remember, down to the exact couple of seconds, when I trusted [Jesus]…It seemed that I was immediately facing Him. No, I didn’t see a picture or a vision or anything like that. But I was definitely in the presence of Jesus Christ and He was definitely available to me…In that short time, in a single act of trust…I “crossed over” to Jesus Christ in…conversion. I had been running away all my life, but that night I turned around and came directly and immediately to Jesus Christ (ibid., p. 19).

And we pray that you will “cross over” to Jesus Christ. We pray that you too will come “directly and immediately to Jesus Christ.” Then His Blood will wash away all your sins. His righteousness will be imputed to you. You will be pardoned in the sight of a Holy God when you come “directly and immediately to Jesus Christ,” His only begotten Son. Please stand and sing the last song on your song sheet.

I hear Thy welcome voice,
   That calls me, Lord, to Thee
For cleansing in Thy precious blood
   That flowed on Calvary.
I am coming, Lord! Coming now to Thee!
   Wash me, cleanse me in the blood.
That flowed on Calvary.
   (“I Am Coming, Lord” by Lewis Hartsough, 1829-1919).

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Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: Matthew 10:24-33.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“Acres of Diamonds” (author unknown).