The passage in question reads as follows in the New King James Bible: “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.”
Let us review Christ’s different statements one at a time.
First, He speaks of His disciples as sheep in the midst of wolves.
Barnes Notes on the Bible states: “I send you, inoffensive and harmless, into a cold, unfriendly, and cruel world.” The Benson Commentary adds: “I now send you forth weak and defenceless among a wicked, cruel, and persecuting people.” Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary elaborates: “Our Lord warned his disciples to prepare for persecution. They were to avoid all things which gave advantage to their enemies, all meddling with worldly or political concerns, all appearance of evil or selfishness, and all underhand measures.”
In Acts 20:29 and in Luke 10:3, wolves are used as symbols of persecutors and predators. Christ sends us into the world, in the midst of wolves, to overcome them. He wants us to withstand them, and with His help, we will.
In our Q&A, we stated the following about the symbolism of wolves, as referring to world-ruling empires:
“Habakkuk 1:6-8… describes the final rise of the…