And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. —Matthew 10:28
Jesus is instructing His disciples as He prepares them to be sent out in the authority of His name to proclaim the kingdom of heaven is at hand. Some will receive their message with gladness and faith, but He is making sure they understand that they will also bear the reproach of man.
"Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues (v. 16-17)…you will be hated by all for my name’s sake (v. 22)…If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household (v. 25)…So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops (v. 26-27).
And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell" (v. 28).
What kind of fear?
The fear referred to in this verse is a trembling, terrifying reverence for one who has power and authority over you. We are told “not to fear” and then “to fear.”
Who is it we are not to fear and who are we to fear?
Who is it that can kill the body but cannot kill the soul? People can kill the body, but they cannot touch the soul. So, Jesus is telling us to not fear someone who has power to capture us, bring us before a judge who condemns us to death, all because we belong to Him. But the power of man is limited to the physical realm. People cannot cause the death of our souls.
Christians have the most transforming reason to be fearless in the face of those who can only kill our bodies—we belong to Jesus, the Conqueror of death, the One who was tempted as we are but without sin, and who is our risen Lord. All authority has been given to Him. The Apostle John saw Jesus in His glory and dropped to His feet as though dead. But He laid His hand on him and said, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades” (Revelation 1:18). He is the forerunner, and in Him we also will be resurrected from the dead. Let us then be bold for the sake of the coming generations who desperately need to learn of the One who has ultimate authority and power to cast both soul and body in hell. He has told us, “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20).
The Bible tells us “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31). Reverence and devotion to Him through Jesus Christ, recognizing that He is our omnipotent, sovereign God, must surely dispel the fear of physical man. When we take to our hearts the absolute truth that God is the only One with whom we have to do, then the persecution we may suffer in our earthly bodies at this present time is not worth comparing to the glory that is to be revealed to us (Romans 8:18). Keeping eternity in view, remembering the mercy and love of God shown to us at the cross—that even while we were hell-bound, dead in our sins, Christ died for us—will cast out the fear of man and compel us to faithfully declare the whole counsel of God.
Read Matthew 10 and write down all the commands and warnings Jesus gives His disciples (and us).
Do you see how the reverential fear of God can free you from the fear of man? Write out your explanation.
Does this reverential fear of God change your heart toward the unbeliever? How might it ignite your evangelism and disciple-making efforts in your family, neighborhood, and church? (See Matthew 9:35-38; 25:46)