Commands of Christ

Be Wise as Serpents

Where is this command found?

“Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.”

Matthew 10:16

Applying This Command

Jesus begins this command with the state- ment “I send you forth.”The word He used for send forth is the Greek word apostello, from which we get the English word apostle. Apostello means “to set apart and to send out on a mission.”

Jesus used the same word to describe the sending out of the prophets who were to warn the people and for sending out the twelve disciples to preach the Gospel. (See Matthew 23:34 and Mark 3:14.) When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, he sent Gideon forth with a divine mission: “Go in this thy might, and thou shalt save Israel from the hand of the Midianites: have not I sent thee?” (Judges 6:14). Apostello was also used by Jesus to describe His Father’s sending of Him into the world.“As my Father hath sent me, even so send I you” (John 20:21). Because we, too, are sent on a divine mission, we must obey this command.

Jesus was often in the midst of “ravening wolves” who watched for an opportunity to tear Him apart for the words He spoke.They asked Him craftily designed questions and hoped to trip Him up with His answers. In response, Jesus often answered a question with a question. When the Pharisees asked Him if they should pay taxes to the hated Roman rulers, Jesus replied, “Whose is this image and superscription [on this coin]?” When the Pharisees answered, “Caesar’s,” Jesus gave a wise exhortation: “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s” (Matthew 22:20–21).

Another instance in which Jesus responded with a question occurred when the Pharisees waited to see if He would heal a man on the sabbath.“What man shall there be among you, that shall have one sheep, and if it fall into a pit on the sabbath day, will he not lay hold on it, and lift it out? How much then is a man better than a sheep? Where- fore it is lawful to do well on the sabbath days” (Matthew 12:11–12).

Bible Verses for Meditation

In addition to meditation on Matthew 10:16, meditating on the verses below will provide you with further insight and understanding of Christ’s command: Be Wise as Serpents.

Proverbs 15:1

“A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.”

Romans 16:19–20

“For your obedience is come abroad unto all men. I am glad therefore on your behalf: but yet I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil. And the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.”

Isaiah 11:2–3

“And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD; and shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the LORD: and he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears.”

Matthew 10:19

“But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak.”

Proverbs 16:23

“The heart of the wise teacheth his mouth, and addeth learning to his lips.”

I Peter 3:15

“But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.”

The Commands of Christ Podcast

Join us each week for a fresh look at Jesus’ commands.

Weekly discussions on the Commands of Christ with accompanying resources for deeper application and growth. New episodes release every Monday.

Find us on your favorite podcast platform:

Study Question

Q: When God told Gideon to destroy his father’s altar, Gideon did it at night for fear of the men who worshiped Baal. Did Gideon demonstrate wisdom or a lack of boldness? (See Judges 6:25–32.)

A: Though a General demands obedience from his troops when they are given an order, he also expects them to be aware and alert to possible dangers. A wise soldier is willing to submit his physical body to the direction of his leader, and yet he constantly should use his mind to accomplish the assigned mission.

When Gideon tore down his father’s altar, he chose to do it at night “because he feared his father’s household, and the men of the city” (Judges 6:27).

He demonstrated wisdom rather than a lack of boldness because he obeyed the Lord’s command in the very night he received it and avoided what no doubt would have been a disastrous situation if he had done it during the day. The next morning, the men of the city were shocked to see that the altar had been broken down. Upon discovering that Gideon had done it, they demanded that his father bring him out to be killed.

The intriguing account that follows testifies to the fact that Gideon’s discretion and wisdom were used by God to convict an entire nation of their unfaithfulness to Him.

Get a FREE study guide download for this command!


You’ll receive a study guide each month as well as news and encouragement from the Home Discipleship Network.

Basic Life Principles

Timeless truths for our lives and relationships

Five Life Roles

Basic roles we can fulfill in our relationships throughout life


Thought-provoking articles on practical topics

Character Qualities

Being conformed to the likeness of Christ

Matters of Life & Death

A teaching series for men drawn from the Ten Commandments

Life Questions

Biblical answers to life's biggest questions

Commands of Christ

Understanding the heart of the Great Commission


Weekly discussions on the Commands of Christ

Family Events

Fun & fellowship around the Word of God

Discipleship Opportunities

Cultivate personal & spiritual growth

Character Curriculum

Biblical Character Illustrated Curriculum for children

Embassy Media

On-demand media library

Study Materials

Resources for individual or small group study

All Events

Calendar of upcoming events

About IBLP

Christ-centered discipleship for individuals and families

News & Reports

Updates from ministry around the globe

Alumni: Share Your Story

We’d love to hear from you!