“And do not fear those who kill the body, but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” Matt. 10:28
Are Christians supposed to be afraid? Does feeling or exhibiting “fear” of anyone or anything give glory to our eternal Creator? Yes, we will experience times of sorrow and grief in life, but they should never take us to the point of despair. Jesus ostensively commanded believers not to worry about life’s necessities: “For this reason I say to you, do not be anxious for your life, as to what you shall eat, or what you shall drink; nor for your body, as to what you shall put on. Is not life more than food, and the body than clothing?” (Matt. 6:25). Additionally, the Bible is clear regarding how Christians are to conduct life—not to be fearful of anyone or anything—but only to fear God Himself (Matt. 10:28, Luke 12:4-5).
When Jesus sent out His twelve disciples to herald the Lord’s kingdom, it was their first time out from under His auspices (Matt. 10:5-42). It was a new chapter in the life of the fledgling messengers–no longer were they only followers of their Teacher but were formally being sent out by their Lord. Being messengers of His gospel and the kingdom to come, is what Jesus had trained and instructed His disciples to do. The disciples would traverse in “unknown” land, venues and temperaments. It was a message met with hostility—Jesus forewarned them: “But beware of men; for they will deliver you up to the courts, and scourge you in their synagogues; and you shall even be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles.” (Matt. 10:17-18). The twelve were instructed to walk by faith and trust in God because He would provide for them. (Matt. 10:19-20, cf. 6:31-32).
Jesus’ disciples were told to preach the message, no matter how difficult and how high the cost: “And brother will deliver up brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents, and cause them to be put to death. And you will be hated by all on account of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved.” (Matt. 10:21-22, cf. 34-36). Imagine how Jesus’ strong words of instruction must have evoked fear and terror in the hearts of His disciples, for they knew they must obey their Lord. Furthermore, He commanded: “And do not fear those who kill the body, but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matt. 10:28). They were commanded not to fear those who would persecute them in this life for His sake but fear Him who is eternal.
This command applies to all believers in Christ. It’s the attitude and discipline which all Christians ought to possess, especially amidst times of the unknown. Temporal threats, no matter how insidious, even that which results in death, whether by famine, sword, or pestilence; should not cause a Christian to despair and lose hope in their glorious life to come. For God’s Word promises those who love Him: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written, “For Thy sake we are being put to death all day long; We were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom. 8:35-39).