“The one who listens to you listens to Me, and the one who rejects you rejects Me; and he who rejects Me rejects the One who sent Me.” Luke 10:16 (NASB, also used below).
This verse on the disciple’s union with Christ and God in the reception and rejection of the gospel message is very striking indeed. According to this verse, when Jesus’ disciplea were proclaiming the good news—the context of this verse is the “Second Sending Passage in Luke”—their reception or rejection triggered or exemplified the hearer’s reception or rejection of the Godhead.
Consider several points here. This verse is not a one-off verse in the gospels. Jesus repeated this same interrelationship on two other occasions in Matthew 10:40 (before Judas went out for evangelism as one of the Twelve) and John 13:20 (spoken before Judas departed from the Twelve to betray Jesus).
“He who receives you receives Me, and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me.” Matthew 10:40.
“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who receives whomever I send receives Me; and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me.” John 13:20.
Luke is the only biographer of Jesus who cited Jesus on the rejection of the gospel proclaimer. Four times Luke records Jesus using the verb “reject.” However, in both Matthew and John, Jesus focused His words—in those contexts—only on the hearer’s positive reception.
Amazingly, none of these three Scripture passages appears to be discussed in Shedd’s Dogmatic Theology, Erickson’s Christian Theology, nor in Grudem’s Systematic Theology. Culver mentions Matthew 10:40 in light of the contextual apostolic mission, without necessarily applying its teaching to all gospel proclamation. Garrett, in his Systematic Theology, cited Matthew 10:40 in light of a discussion of Jesus’ commission in John 20:21-23. None of the above authors appear to have cited Luke 10:16 or John 13:20 in their systematic theologies.
This omission is surprising, being that these verses do not appear inconsequential in understanding the God-Man interrelationship as explained in Scripture. Twelve other Scripture passages discuss this same concept (Exodus 16:8; 1 Samuel 8:7; Psalm 69:9; Ezekiel 3:6-7; Matthew 5:11-12; Mark 9:37; Luke 6:22-23, 26; John 15:20-21; 16:2-3; Hebrews 11:24-26; 12:3-4; and 1 John 4:5-6).
Even more powerful than the amazing interrelationship of the disciple with God is the “plenipotentiary” element invested in the Christian act of evangelizing. It appears that there is a spiritual oneness with God, invested in the act of evangelizing, that triggers an avalanche of spiritual activity around that act.
When a true follower of Christ engages in true gospel proclamation, a tsunami of spiritual forces unleash. The Word of God “judges the thoughts and intents of the heart,” laying bare every hidden thing (Hebrews 4:12-13). “Satan comes immediately” seeking to dislodge the Word from entering the hardpacked soil of the heart (Mark 4:15). The Holy Spirit convicts of “sin, righteousness, and judgment” (John 16:8). The “god of this world” actively works to blind the minds of unbelievers lest “the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ should shine on them” (2 Cor 4:4). Meanwhile, the lost person—hearing the gospel—maybe for the first time—is confronted with a decision: reception or rejection. Reception or rejection of who? Not only the person speaking to him or her, but Christ and God Himself.
According to Jesus, receiving or rejecting the herald is much more than receiving or rejecting a Christian lovingly, humbly, and boldly telling of salvation available only by the blood of Jesus—sins forgiven—peace with God—guilt and shame blotted out.
The person may once, twice, maybe many times reject the gospel. The apostle Paul sure did. Prayerfully that person will one day hear and receive the evangelist—the Christ of whom he speaks—ultimately receiving God himself. But the odds are not good (Matthew 7:13-14). An eternal decision will be sealed one way or the other. The reception or rejection of the gospel herald, and simultaneously the reception or rejection of the Creator God.
“And who is adequate for these things?” 2 Corinthians 2:16.
How could it be that God would invest the decision for or against His eternal covenant bought by the blood of Jesus Christ into the efforts and mouths of His feeble followers? And such He has done. Yes, it is a sublime mystery.
“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves.” 2 Corinthians 4:7.
William G. T. Shedd, Dogmatic Theology (New York: Charles Scribner’s, 1888 [1st ed.], 1889 [2nd ed.], 1894 [3 vol]; Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed, 2003).
Millard Erickson, Christian Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1983, 1984, 1985).
Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Leicester, England: InterVarsity, 1994; Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994).
“The second purpose, that ‘he might send them out to preach,’ was completed in part when they returned from their first mission to announce to the Jews then living in northern Palestine the presence of the promised Messianic King and his kingdom (Matt. 10:5-7; cf. Luke 8:1-10). They did so as ministers plenipotentiary (Matt. 10:40)” (Robert Duncan Culver, Systematic Theology: Biblical and Historical [Fearn, Ross-shire: Mentor, 2005], 843).
“Preceded by the blessing of peace and followed by the reception of the Holy Spirit and the remission and retention of sins through the disciples [cf. John 20:21-23], the Johannine commission connects the mission of the Twelve with Jesus’ own mission from the Father. Do we have here only an analogy? Or does the mission of the Son form the ground and basis of the apostolic mission? The latter seems more likely (see Matt. 10:40).” (James Leo Garrett, Systematic Theology: Biblical, Historical, and Evangelical, 2 vols, 2nd ed [North Richland Hills, TX: BIBAL, 2005], 2:536).
Overlooking such a repeated concept appears likely for several reasons: (1) the power of precedent; (2) the framing of questions of salvation and conversion; (3) interpreting all these texts as applying only to their immediate context; and (4) widely divergent views on necessity, value, and means of evangelizing. By the way, these verses represent a fraction of the material on this topic. Consider also studies on Paul's use of "working together with God," and being "fellow-worker with Christ." There are a great number of analogous topics, indicating ministry by individual Christians on behalf of God in the name of Christ (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:20-6:2).
Culver (ibid.). Plenipotentiary means “invested with full power.”