Before Jesus sent His apostles into all the world to preach the gospel to every creature, He sent them on a limited commission to “the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matt. 10:5-6). Their message then was that “the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 10:7). They would need the wisdom of serpents and the innocence of doves to accomplish their mission. Both traits are still necessary for Christians who live “in the midst of “a crooked and perverse generation” (Phil. 2:15). Consider the snake’s wisdom. (1) Snakes are aware of their surroundings. They are artfully in their pursuit of prey. We need to use heavenly wisdom as we try to seek and save the lost with the gospel (James 3:13, 17-18; 2 Tim. 2:23-26). (2) Snakes have heightened senses. The keen senses of a snake alert it to potential danger and its next meal. Christians must be wise about their moral and spiritual surroundings to avoid sin and partake of spiritual nourishment (1 Cor. 15:33; Heb. 5:12-14; 10:24-25). Consider the dove’s harmlessness. (1) Doves signify the innocence of a character. They glide gracefully through the air harming no one. Even so, Christians are to be innocent of guile (1 Pet. 2:21-22). (2) Doves signify the innocence of pure motives. Doves fly without malice; they are not predators. Doves were the humble offering of the poor at the Jewish temple (Lk. 2:22-24). Likewise, let us be pure in heart and humble in spirit toward all (Matt. 5:8). Our spiritual protection as sheep among wolves is wisdom and innocence.
19 Then, the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. (John 20:19–20, NKJV)
May disciples of Jesus Christ protect themselves from outside harm when they assemble together? The doors where these disciples assembled were “shut” – closed, secured, made inaccessible – “for fear of the Jews.” This word is used of prison doors (Acts 5:23), of the temple doors (Acts 21:30), and of the door shut by “He who has the keys of David” that no one opens (Rev. 3:7). The appearance of Jesus brought them peace and gladness. Yet, when they assembled eight days later, the doors were again “shut” when Jesus appeared to them. The fact that Christ is with His people when they worship does not prevent a church from securing its safety when it assembles for worship. The prayers made for Peter by many disciples at the house of Mary were offered behind a closed gate that had to be opened from the inside (Acts 12:12-16). Their careful security was not due to a lack of faith, it was a prudent course of action given the present danger of persecution (Acts 12:1-5). Certainly, churches may secure their safety when they assemble to worship God. The principle to “be wise as serpents and harmless as doves” surely finds application here.