“38 And he that taketh not HIS cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. 39 He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.” (Matthew 10:38-39 KJV)
In Matthew 10, Jesus is seen sending His Apostles to preach the good news. This chapter is all about how to tell others about Jesus and what to expect. Also, Jesus giving them the power to do so. A message that will send a sharpness many of the Jews will accept while others deny and yet others who will lash back in persecution. This is the proper context of the verses in Matthew 10. It is not specifically written to believers about Salvation (that is what they were being sent out to preach). Very important to understand that context, otherwise taking one verse out of this context may look like a ‘works for salvation’ false gospel.
Jesus uses a negative manner in saying this in verses 38 and 39. He says ‘ taketh NOT his cross’. Nevertheless, Jesus is stating in this passage, to the Apostles which he is sending out to preach the good news, that if a person wants to FOLLOW HIM as a disciple, he must take his own cross.
Wait a minute. We are not saved by works though right? Some use this passage as if to say it is about SALVATION. But is that true? Because if it is, Salvation requires works and self righteous performance on the part of a believer. The real issue causing confusion with this passage is reading with proper context. Jesus is talking to His apostles, not unbelievers about Salvation.
The Gospels show accounts of many of the same events. Why? God focuses each for a reason. Luke was addressed toward the Greeks. Mark is directly written to the Romans. Same message, slightly different to specific groups. The Gospel of Matthew was directed to the Hebrews. That is one important aspect of context regarding Matthew 10.
It is in Matthew we see Jesus burying the Jewish people in their self righteous works and Law keeping to be justified with God. Showing them that Law following is IMPOSSIBLE to justify a person. That Jesus is the new Moses come to save them and usher in the New Covenant. Jesus is preparing the Hebrews for the New Covenant of God’s Grace that is going to start with His death on the cross and is sending His apostles out with power to do so. Jesus tells them what will happen when they go and how to react when the people respond.
Not understanding this context, some seem to add some words in their mind to verse 38. They read the verse and add ‘to be saved’ . Jesus did not say ‘ he that taketh not HIS cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me – and is not saved. ‘
In Matthew 10, Jesus is talking to the apostle about being disciples – not whether a believer today is saved or not. All disciples are believers but not all believers are disciples. Salvation is not of works period (Ephesians 2:8-9). Salvation is only by belief on Christ and HIS FINISHED WORK (Hebrews 10:10, John 3:18, etc etc) Paul is clear that believing a works PLUS Law following as a requirement for Salvation is actually falling from grace! It is actually not going to save the person.
“Christ is become of NO EFFECT UNTO YOU, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.” (Galatians 5:4 KJV)
NO EFFECT! STRONG WORDS! I certainly do not want that..how about you? This is the false rampant teaching of Lordship Salvation being taught today. GRACE…PLUS.
And teachers preaching that we have to ADD to Jesus’ finished work on the cross are actually ‘accursed’ (Galatians 1:8). Strong words from Paul? Well yes, but thinking we need our works and performance on top of what Jesus did on the cross paying for the sins of the whole world as the once for all sacrifice for our sins (1 John 2:2, Hebrews 10:10), is so wrong and prideful.Pride is the sin that started our downfall as humans. It started with Lucifer in pride rebelling against God in PRIDE and then he deceived humankind who also fell into the sin of PRIDE. Adding anything to Christ’s finished work on the cross, as required for Salvation, is the very same sin.
A person in belief on Christ, and the only atonement for sin which Christ paid on the cross, is saved from the very moment of this belief (Ephesians 1:13-14). No works required. No religious rituals required. NOTHING PLUS REQUIRED!
After Salvation, some believers will push themselves to be disciples, who are learners of the riches of what has happened to them at the moment of their Salvation, which in turn results in more mind renewing/repentance (Romans 12) and more right outward living by believing right by God’s Word and guidance of the Holy Spirit. This is, as Paul taught, walking in the Spirit to avoid the lust of the flesh (Galatians 5:16), and even that is not about Salvation. It is about how we live as believers after the moment of Salvation. Others, may be more carnal in their living like the church we read about in Corinthians. A very bad example of a church who Paul rebukes strongly, yet still addressed as BELIEVERS.
In Matthew 10, it is about discipleship, and then reaching out to others with the Gospel.
Again, we need to look at this Scripture as with all the Gospels, and that is through the lens of the New Covenant; the Gospel of Grace we now live in. This was a mystery to the Hebrew believers and to the people that Christ is sending the apostles to in Matthew 10. But we know the truth of the Gospel of grace living after the cross. The cross is the pivotal switch between the Old Covenant (a shadow temporal covering of sins) and the New Covenant (the real complete payment for sins).
Is it belief in His cross that saves us in this age of grace we live in or do we have to take our cross in self righteous efforts? Clearly not by our works for Salvation.
Further to all just stated, what does this mean then in Matthew 10:38?
A look at the Greek also sheds more light on this passage in Matthew 10. In Matthew 10:38, when we look at the word ‘taketh’, we see in Strongs, G2983, ‘lambano‘. This Greek word’s meaning is ‘to take (in very many applications, literally and figuratively (properly objective or active, to get hold of; ‘ This is the word in Greek for ‘take.’ It is literally meaning to grab hold of something.
THE GIFT OF SALVATION BY BELIEF IN CHRIST AND THE CROSS NEEDS TO BE TAKEN
A person is saved from the very moment of belief when we TAKE the cross. That is, when we believe the Gospel. We accept the GIFT of Salvation Jesus paid through the cross. God’s hand reaches out to every person and offers the gift of Salvation. It can be received and TAKEN or rejected and not taken. When a person takes it and grabs hold of Salvation (Lambano), that person is saved that very moment (John 3:18, Ephesians 1:13-14). This is to be saved by the cross. A person believes by faith and taking the gift is how they receive it.
BEING A DISCIPLE IS THE NEXT STEP OF A BELIEVER
Later, in Matthew 16:24, we notice that Jesus uses a DIFFERENT Greek word, Strongs G142, ‘airo‘. It’s meaning is different that lambano. It is defined as ‘to lift up; by implication, to take up or away; figuratively, to raise ‘:
“Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and TAKE UP his cross, and follow me.” (Matthew 16:4 KJV)
So Lambano is simply to ‘grab hold of’ and airo is to ‘lift up’. So we are to grab hold of the cross in Salvation and then lift it up. This is what Jesus asks us to do with the cross. Just as the man who helped Jesus carry the cross when He stumbled and fell carrying the cross. The man grabbed the cross of Jesus and lifted it up (see Matthew 27).
So we are to not only make a decision to take hold of the cross in receiving the unmerited gift of Salvation; We are to lift it up on our shoulders and SHARE IN the cross.
WHICH CROSS BEARING SAVES US?
Jesus bore the suffering and paid for the sins of the whole world on that cross. Only He can do this! Why? Because He is the only one who never sinned! He is God in the flesh who bore our sins on that cross.
Are we without sin? Nope…we have sin right? So Jesus saying we need to ‘take up’ (airo) is not about our cross bearing and being the once for all sacrifice for sins that Jesus is (Hebrews 10:10).
However, by taking and grabbing hold of the cross, we partake in belief. The cross is about one thing to criminals and that is DEATH! Paying for their crimes with their very lives! Before being saved, it must be understood that by believing Salvation by the cross of Christ that we know where it is going to head… to the death of our Spiritual self.
TWO DEATHS ARE REQUIRED FOR OUR SALVATION
In Romans 6:23, Paul tells us that,
“… the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life THROUGH Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Our self righteous efforts nor good works can save us. These things are not the currency that can pay for our sins committed! In God’s economy, the payment required is death. And looking at the Greek for this word it is actually talking about Spiritual death.
By grabbing hold of what Jesus did on the cross and lifting it up onto our shoulders, we willingly share in losing our life WITH CHRIST as partakers.
“He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.” (Matthew 10:39 KJV)
Only Jesus paid for our sins. But by belief on Christ Paul tells us that…
“6 Knowing this, that our old man is CRUCIFIED WITH HIM, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. 7 For he that IS DEAD is FREED FROM SIN. 8 Now if we be DEAD WITH CHRIST , we believe that we shall also LIVE WITH HIM:” (Romans 6:6-8 KJV)
“12 Buried WITH HIM in baptism, wherein also ye are risen WITH HIM through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.” (Colossians 2:12 KJV)
The real us is our Spirit. You see, by taking hold of the cross in belief that Christ paid for our sins, our old unsaved Spirit of Man (which Paul referred to as our ‘old man’), was placed on the cross WITH CHRIST. Christ’s death paid the penalty required for our sins; Spiritual death. But we too, as believers in Christ had our sins paid in OUR Spiritual death WITH CHRIST. In that moment, an exchanged happened ON THE CROSS.
When Christ died, we died (in the Spirit). When Christ rose, WE ROSE a new being in the Spirit. In foreknowledge of all who will believe on Christ for Salvation, God placed believers, IN CHRIST, on that cross! God took all our sins and imputed them onto Christ. At the same time God imputed Jesus’ righteousness onto us (2 Corinthians 5). Our spirit was placed in Christ and Christ bore the physical and Spiritual punishment and pain on the cross and we BOTH DIED.
The wages of sin was completely satisfied with the Father!
Paul says clearly, in the present tense, right now, as believers in Christ,
“And YE ARE COMPLETE IN HIM, which is the head of all principality and power:” (Colossians 2: 10 KJV)
Did we earn that? NO WAY. It was imputed to us by belief on Christ alone. Believers are in Christ, FOREVER. Our body is here on Earth but the real us, The Spirit of God is wherever Christ is, because we are in Christ!
In Ephesians Apostle Paul tells us,
“And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:” (Ephesians 2:6 KJV)
We also read this in 1 John 4:
“Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because AS HE IS, SO ARE WE IN THIS WORLD.” (1 John 4:17 KJV)
The seat is about our position in Christ. Our Spirit resides in our soul and is housed in our body. But our Spirit is now also one with Christ, who is one with the Father and the indwelling Holy Spirit.
BEING A DISCIPLE IS ABOUT LIVING OUT OUR FAITH, FROM SALVATION
The world is offended by Salvation. In pride, the unsaved person thinks they are a good enough person in self righteous good works, Law following and religious rituals to appease God. “Do good…Get good.” Be good to pay for the bad deeds. Do a ritual and God will forgive. DO, DO, DO….but that is a bunch of “doo doo!’ It simply is not Biblical.
Apostle Paul considered everything the law gained him as “skybalon” which is in the Greek the literal word for “poop”! (Philippians 3:4-8) Pretty graphic and strong words again from Paul. See, this is important for a person’s very Salvation and witness to others!
We read in Luke 14:26-27 KJV,
“If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be MY DISCIPLE. And whosoever doth not BEAR his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.”
Again, in proper context, we see here that Jesus is talking about being a disciple. He is sending the apostles out to preach the Gospel and He is telling them many will be greatly offended and lash out at them.
The Greek word BEARING OUR CROSS is Strong’s G941, ‘bastazo‘ and means ‘to lift, literally or figuratively (endure, declare, sustain, receive, etc.):—bear, carry, take up.’
This word is about our ‘enduring’ and ‘bearing’ the truth of the cross when sharing it with others. Especially with those living under a performance based belief for righteousness with God, steeped in traditions and Law following with no assurance of Salvation. That is so horrible!
Being a disciple of Christ and the atonement for sin by the cross carries with it persecution and suffering by the unbelieving world in response. Mention GOD and some may disagree and others will say they believe there is a God. Well, try mentioning Jesus is the only way to have our sins forgiven because of the cross! A very different response indeed! A major offence resulting is persecution and ridicule. I have been called ‘narrow minded’ many times – but they do not understand GRACE!
WHEN IS A BELIEVER, A DISCIPLE?
At what point do we become a disciple then? Is it when we accept the gift of Salvation by belief on Christ and ‘Lambano‘; grab hold of and take the cross? The prerequisite is believing the Gospel of Salvation through Christ’s finished work. Following Christ and sharing the Gospel with others is where discipleship comes into play.
Being a disciple of Christ means that we are willing to live out who we now are in Christ and it means we will have to endure persecution at times. The enduring is not what keeps us saved. It is just a reality of being a disciple of Christ.
Know who you are in Christ. You are no longer your dead old spirit of man, with a very nature to want to sin all the time. Your old self DIED WITH CHRIST, so why walk in the ways of the flesh (Romans 6:2) ? Deny your old self thoughts in the mind by replacing wrong beliefs with right beliefs. This is what Paul tells us to do. Renew our minds by the truth of the Gospel (Romans 12) and who God made us
at our conversion; the very righteousness of God, in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21)
“Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6:11 KJV)