These small group studies of Matthew contain outlines, cross-references, Bible study discussion questions, verse by verse commentary, and applications.  Visit our library of inductive Bible studies for more in depth inductive studies on this and other books of the Bible you can use in your small group.

Matthew 10:16-23 Inductive Bible Study – Discussion Questions and Verse by Verse Commentary

Matthew 10:16-33

  1. Persecution will come (16-23)
  2. Fear God (24-33)

I. Persecution Will Come (16-25)

Discussion Questions

What does it mean “I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves?”
What does the statement mean “be wise as serpents and innocent as doves?”
How can we apply that in real situations we face? Examples?
What warning do we see in verses 17-18? Who will this happen to? Why? Does it still happen today in the 21st century?
Does verse 19 mean you should prepare ahead what you will say to the authorities if they should call you in? Why or why not?
What is the underlying principle of verse 19-20?
What principle can we learn from the statement “he who endures to the end will be saved?” Does this verse teach that one can lose his salvation if he does not endure to the end?
When will these severe persecutions take place? Has it happened yet?
What goal should we have from verses (24-25)?
Why does Jesus make so many stark warnings? How can it help us to know these things ahead of time?
Can anyone share any persecutions they have faced for the sake of Christ?


John 15:18 – If the world hates you, know that it hated me before it hated you.

1 Peter 4:12-14 – Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.

1 Peter 3:14-17 – More on persecution.

2 Corinthians 12:10 – When I am weak, then I am strong.

Hebrews 12:3 – Consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners.

Psalm 23:4 – Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, you comfort me.

Matthew 5:10-12 – Blessed are you when you are persecuted for righteousness’ sake.

Romans 8:35 – Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?

Verse by Verse Commentary

  1. I am sending you out like sheep among wolves – Here Jesus refers to the meek and gentle quality of sheep. Sheep do not attempt to defend themselves. Sheep are not aggressive. Sheep are humble. Sheep do not fight “fire with fire” so to speak. Sheep are calm and tame. Jesus Himself was like a “sheep led to the slaughter” when He was accused and did not open His mouth. That kind of humility and self-control is what Jesus refers to and what He is looking for from us. On the other hand, the world may be very aggressive and angry toward believers. It is increasingly the case in the Western world now and will become more common in other places of the globe. The disciples too faced much opposition. They faced opposition from the Jewish religious leaders. They faced opposition from Jewish secular leaders. They faced opposition from Romans. Wherever they went they faced opposition and persecution. Jesus wanted the disciples to be spiritually and mentally prepared for this. He wanted them to know that they were going to face wolves. And He wanted them to know that even then they should still act like tame sheep.
  2. Be wise as snakes  – Each animal Jesus mentions has certain qualities that we can imitate. The sheep’s good qualities are meekness. But that doesn’t mean we should be dumb like a sheep. On the contrary, believers are to be wise as snakes. Snakes are known in many cultures for their cunning and intelligence. The disciples were to go out in to the world with their eyes wide open, knowing how things worked and the opposition they would face. They were to be wise in how they do things. Can you give any examples as to how we can do that today? Application: In this country, we also face potential for persecution and opposition. While we should be bold, we should also be wise in the way we share the good news. Some things like tract bombing are likely to be noticed and dealt with. Other things that draw attention are the appearance of high levels of organization or very large groups gathering together. Some basic precautions can limit any potential issues ahead of time.
  3. Be innocent as doves – We should be wise, but not follow the wisdom of the world. See James 3:15-18. For example worldly wisdom is selfishly ambitious, sneaky, deceitful, and dishonest. We are to be innocent as doves. We are to maintain a pure lifestyle with clean consciences. That way if we are called in before the authorities we can stand up with confidence knowing that we have done nothing to be ashamed of. We could be punished for doing good such as evangelizing, but we should not be punished for doing something evil, which will dishonor Christ and His church. Unfortunately some pastors have been caught in scandals which has been a very bad testimony and turned people off to the gospel. 1 Peter 3:17. It is better to suffer for doing good. Acts 24:16. What are examples of people in the Bible who lived in such an honorable way that their enemies could find nothing to punish them for? (Daniel). That is what we should be aiming for.
  4. Be on your guard – We should be ready. It doesn’t mean that we must avoid it, but that we should be prepared. If we are not prepared and are caught by surprise we might not have the resolve or perseverance to face that persecution and endure. Much of the battle takes place before the actual moment of persecution (Can share illustration of bull moose’s fall fights where the moose with better nutrition from the summer will win the battle.) So how can you be on guard? How can you prepare ahead?
  5. You will be handed over – Jesus made it clear what the disciples should expect. It wasn’t just a possibility. It was a certainty. As Jesus predicted, these things happened. But this persecution was not just a rare occurrence. Christians living in all times should expect it and be prepared for it.
  6. As witnesses to them – At that moment of persecution, fear would be a natural reaction. Believers would naturally be thinking about how to save their lives and get out of the situation without punishment. And yet Jesus said they were to be His witnesses. He has another purpose for them in the middle of the persecution. His purpose is for them to be a testimony/witness to their very captors. The guards, soldiers, leaders, judges, jury, etc. are all people who are sinners and need Christ. A prisoner has a very captive audience! Peter and John make use of this opportunity in Acts 4-5 to preach to those who were judging them. Paul does the same thing multiple times. Acts 28:30-31, Philippians 4:22. Even people within Caesar’s own household were saved likely because of Paul’s preaching. Earlier in this passage we discussed that you may never know who the person of peace is. The police officer or judge could be that person of peace who will receive the message!
  7. At that time you will be given what to say – The command is clear. We are not to worry ahead of time about what we will say in this kind of situation. The fear of a possible future should not paralyze us. Jesus had already taught them that each day has enough worry of its own. The Holy Spirit would be with them. He would give them divine words to speak in that situation. That is why Peter could speak so boldly in Acts even in front of the court. The best way to prepare is to pray, read the Word, and develop a close Spirit led relationship with the Lord. In that time, He will show you what you are to say.
  8. The level of persecution – Brother against brother and father against a child. Families will turn against the believing members of their own household. Some will probably do it out of fear for their own lives. Others would do it because they are blinded by Satan and literally hate their family members. In the Muslim world today, this is common. Not only do family members betray their saved relatives to the police, but in many Muslim countries so called “honor killings” are common and acceptable. Family members who turn to Christ are considered a disgrace to their families. Thus their family is “obligated’ to erase this shame by killing the believer. These killings are widespread and authorities turn a blind to them. Once again, be on your guard. Do not be surprised if those most critical of your faith are the ones closest to you biologically. The good news is that we have a new family in the body of Christ. We are brothers and sisters. Show special care and love to those whose families persecute them for the gospel because perhaps you are the closest thing to a family they have.
  9. When you are persecuted flee to another – The last part of verse 23 may refer to the final period of time before Christ returns, when persecutions around the globe will intensify to a proportion never seen before. Jesus’ command to flee shows us that there are times when fleeing is the right option. Sometimes it could be as simple as changing locations of a group that is drawing lots of opposition. Or it could include physically moving out of a house where family members persecute you continually. In some cases it includes moving to a new city or perhaps a new country to escape persecution. We must maintain a correct balance. Believers are called to suffer. However, the goal is to share the gospel to people who are interested in hearing it. Keep in mind that previously in this chapter Jesus told them to leave a village where their message was not welcome. Thus if they preach in a village and their message is met with persecution, it could be time to move on. In this case the believer should evaluate it if it is only a select group of people or one individual persecuting them or if that persecution is representative of the prevailing attitude of that place.