The Holy Scriptures

Matthew 1‑28  •  6 min. read  •  grade level: 9
The New Testament: Introduction to the Gospels
From beginning to end, the Old Testament exposes man’s rebellious heart. The first Adam has proven himself to be entirely a reprobate. Israel, unto whom were committed the oracles of God, brought forth nothing but wild grapes (Rom. 3:22Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God. (Romans 3:2); Isa. 5:22And he fenced it, and gathered out the stones thereof, and planted it with the choicest vine, and built a tower in the midst of it, and also made a winepress therein: and he looked that it should bring forth grapes, and it brought forth wild grapes. (Isaiah 5:2)). What more could God do for man? Why, He sends forth His Son! “When the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts” (Gal. 4:4-64But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, 5To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. 6And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. (Galatians 4:4‑6)).
We joy in our God, and we sing of that love,
So sovereign and free which did His heart move!
When lost our condition, all ruined, undone,
He saw with compassion, and spared not His Son!
(Little Flock Hymnbook, #135)
The four Gospels present something of a dilemma to man. As a philosophical text, he is disappointed. As a historic account, much is omitted. Select events are recorded, sometimes in one Gospel, sometimes in all four. We find nothing in the Gospels to satisfy mere curiosity. Chronology is dispensed with in Matthew and Luke and is generally followed in Mark and, where applicable, in John. While Matthew and John were apostles, eyewitnesses to the life and resurrection of the Lord, God also chose two writers, Mark and Luke, that were not.
A great deal of effort has been wasted in attempting to reconcile so-called discrepancies between the Gospels when no reconciliation is required. If we accept God as the author of each and that He has chosen to present the glory of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, according to four distinct and special viewpoints, we find no difficulties at all.
In Matthew we have the fulfillment of prophecy and of promise. Here we find the Lord Jesus presented first as the Son of David to Israel—the Messiah, the Lord’s anointed—and then, on His rejection, the Son of Abraham, the depositary of promise—“in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed” (Gen. 12:33And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed. (Genesis 12:3)). The first verse therefore gives us an outline of the entire book. Matthew is especially adapted to meet the need of the Jew—then and now. It is no surprise, therefore, to find that it contains many more Old Testament quotations than the other Gospels.
Divisions of Matthew
Matthew may be divided into the following sections: chapters 1-4, the birth and divinity of Jesus; chapters 5-7, the principles of the kingdom, its rejection supposed, and the character of its subjects; chapters 8-12, His grace and power displayed in the midst of Israel and His rejection by the leaders and the nation; chapters 13-17, the kingdom rejected by Israel, He publicly breaks the bonds that naturally existed between Himself and the people after the flesh, and as the sower He goes forth to sow; when He acts thus in grace on the basis of promise, the way is opened up to the Gentile; chapter 18 through chapter 20:28, principles belonging to the new order of things; chapter 20:29 through chapter 25, His final presentation to Israel as the Son of David, the true King of Israel; chapters 26-28, His death and resurrection.
The genealogy of the first chapter begins with Abraham and ends with “Jesus, who is called Christ” (Matt. 1:1616And Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ. (Matthew 1:16)) or “Messiah”—both words, the one Greek and the other Hebrew, may be translated “Anointed.” Matthew alone refers to Emmanuel (Matt. 1:2323Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. (Matthew 1:23); Isa. 7:1414Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. (Isaiah 7:14)) and “He that is born King of the Jews” (Matt. 2:22Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him. (Matthew 2:2)). He was indeed Jehovah come down to dwell among His people, and He was rightly their King. Remarkably, it is the wise men from the east, Gentiles, that bear testimony of this to the Jews—yet another detail only to be found in Matthew.
When we do find Jesus identified with the people, it is always with the remnant. In chapter 3 we see the remnant separated by John, and Jesus with them (Psa. 16:33But to the saints that are in the earth, and to the excellent, in whom is all my delight. (Psalm 16:3)). In chapter 4, with John now in prison, Jesus returns into Galilee to the poor and despised of the flock (Zech. 11:1111And it was broken in that day: and so the poor of the flock that waited upon me knew that it was the word of the Lord. (Zechariah 11:11); John 1:4646And Nathanael said unto him, Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth? Philip saith unto him, Come and see. (John 1:46)). John himself, though the messenger, must receive Him as one of the remnant, on the testimony that the Lord bore to Himself (Matt. 11:44Jesus answered and said unto them, Go and show John again those things which ye do hear and see: (Matthew 11:4)). Unlike Mark and Luke, at the close of the book, we do not read of His ascension; rather, we find the Lord in Galilee with His own.
Kingdom of Heaven
While the “kingdom of God” is frequently mentioned in Mark and Luke, the expression occurs just five times in Matthew. Conversely, the phrase “kingdom of heaven” occurs thirty-two times in Matthew and not once in the other Gospels. This latter expression brings before us the heavenly character of the kingdom: “The Lord hath prepared His throne in the heavens; and His kingdom ruleth over all” (Psa. 103:1919The Lord hath prepared his throne in the heavens; and his kingdom ruleth over all. (Psalm 103:19)). Given the earthly aspirations of the Jew, this is particularly important. There is also a distinct dispensational significance. With Christ rejected, the earthly aspect of the kingdom has been delayed, and the kingdom has taken on a mystical form—the spiritual and invisible rule of God in the hearts of believers (Matt. 13:1111He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given. (Matthew 13:11)). Though His throne is not yet established in this earth, there is a sphere where His authority is owned, where there is a response to the testimony of His Word.
The Church
Matthew is the only gospel that mentions the church. In chapter 15, man and what he has made of the law is set aside, and God acts in grace (Matt. 15:21-2821Then Jesus went thence, and departed into the coasts of Tyre and Sidon. 22And, behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou Son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil. 23But he answered her not a word. And his disciples came and besought him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after us. 24But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 25Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me. 26But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children's bread, and to cast it to dogs. 27And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters' table. 28Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour. (Matthew 15:21‑28)). Chapter 16 lets us see the blessed result of God acting in grace—the church—something that was yet to be. The law governed Israel, but the church’s foundation is divine, unmovable, a Person, the Son of the living God. With the church introduced, His disciples were no longer to tell anyone that He was the Christ, the Messiah (Matt. 16:2020Then charged he his disciples that they should tell no man that he was Jesus the Christ. (Matthew 16:20)). He also begins to show them how He must “go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day” (Matt. 16:2121From that time forth began Jesus to show unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day. (Matthew 16:21)), all of which is necessarily connected with the building of the church. Even when the Lord returns, it will not be as the Messiah, but as Son of Man (Dan. 7; Matt. 10:23; 16:2723But when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another: for verily I say unto you, Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come. (Matthew 10:23)
27For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works. (Matthew 16:27)
). The Lord will come in with great power and glory, to be displayed in a much wider sphere. As Son of Man, He is the heir of all things.
N. Simon