Berean Bible Study
The Gospel of Matthew
Matthew is the first book of the New Testament. For people who like to concentrate on the New Testament, Matthew is obviously the place they normally start. Matthew is the first place you'll hear about the “Good news” (which is what “gospel” literally means) But, why is it good news? Seriously – what does that mean?
Turn back a few pages, and you'll come to the last book of the Old Testament – Malachi. But, let's not take anything for granted. Why is it called the “Old Testament?” When we think of “testament,” we think of “testimony,” but that is not what it means. The Bible is ONE testimony – the whole thing is about Jesus. Testament is actually an old English word that means “Covenant.” A covenant is an agreement between two or more parties. So, old covenant vs. new covenant – but that is not complete, either. It's actually old covenantS. Plural. And the word “old” is not the right word to be using, either. Only one covenant is old. The rest are still in effect, and in fact, we are still suffering the effects of the first one.
The covenant between God and Adam.
Genesis 2:15 Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it. 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”
If they obeyed, Adam and his descendants would live in paradise, without sin and its effects. They broke the covenant, and we have had to live with sin ever since.
The covenant between God and Noah (and us)
Genesis 6:18 But I will establish My covenant with you; and you shall go into the ark—you, your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives with you.
The only thing Noah had to do to keep his end of the bargain was to build the ark and go into it. God promised to never again destroy the world with a flood. Good thing this covenant is still in effect!
The covenant between God and Abraham
Genesis 12:12 Now the Lord had said to Abram:
“Get out of your country,
From your family
And from your father’s house,
To a land that I will show you.
2 I will make you a great nation;
I will bless you
And make your name great;
And you shall be a blessing.
3 I will bless those who bless you,
And I will curse him who curses you;
And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
So, what did Abraham have to do? Go to the land he was going to be shown. Did he obey? Not at first. (See Acts 7) But, this was a covenant that God would not let Abraham fail at. In fact, when He confirmed the covenant with Abraham, He acted out a ceremony all by Himself. Abraham couldn't have screwed it up if he tried, because he was asleep.
Genesis 15:7 Then He said to him, “I am the Lord, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to inherit it.”
8 And he said, “Lord God, how shall I know that I will inherit it?”
9 So He said to him, “Bring Me a three-year-old heifer, a three-year-old female goat, a three-year-old ram, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.” 10 Then he brought all these to Him and cut them in two, down the middle, and placed each piece opposite the other; but he did not cut the birds in two. 11 And when the vultures came down on the carcasses, Abram drove them away.
12 Now when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and behold, horror and great darkness fell upon him. 13 Then He said to Abram: “Know certainly that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and will serve them, and they will afflict them four hundred years. 14 And also the nation whom they serve I will judge; afterward they shall come out with great possessions. 15 Now as for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried at a good old age. 16 But in the fourth generation they shall return here, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.”
17 And it came to pass, when the sun went down and it was dark, that behold, there appeared a smoking oven and a burning torch that passed between those pieces. 18 On the same day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying:
“To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the River Euphrates— 19 the Kenites, the Kenezzites, the Kadmonites, 20 the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, 21 the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites, and the Jebusites.”
Is this covenant still in effect? Yes it is. This is not part of the “Old Covenant.” It was repeated to Isaac:
Genesis 26:3 Dwell in this land, and I will be with you and bless you; for to you and your descendants I give all these lands, and I will perform the oath which I swore to Abraham your father. 4 And I will make your descendants multiply as the stars of heaven; I will give to your descendants all these lands; and in your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed; 5 because Abraham obeyed My voice and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes, and My laws.”
And, it was repeated again to Jacob:
Genesis 28:13 And behold, the Lord stood above it and said: “I am the Lord God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and your descendants. 14 Also your descendants shall be as the dust of the earth; you shall spread abroad to the west and the east, to the north and the south; and in you and in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed.
The covenant with Moses
Exodus 19:3 And Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel: 4 ‘You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Myself. 5 Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. 6 And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel.”
Moses and came and spoke to the people and they replied, “Yes”
Genesis 19:7 So Moses came and called for the elders of the people, and laid before them all these words which the Lord commanded him. 8 Then all the people answered together and said, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do.”
But, you know what happened. Moses went up the mountain to receive the commandments (and a whole lot of other instructions). He comes back, tells the people all of God's words, and the people say, “Yup, we'll do that.” God calls Moses back to the mountain. This time he's gone 40 days and while he was gone, the people started worshiping a golden calf. Moses comes down and smashes the two tablets of stone that God had written on, showing that the covenant was broken. But, God gives them another chance and renews the covenant:
Exodus 34:10 And He said: “Behold, I make a covenant. Before all your people I will do marvels such as have not been done in all the earth, nor in any nation; and all the people among whom you are shall see the work of the Lord. For it is an awesome thing that I will do with you.
Exodus 34:27 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Write these words, for according to the tenor of these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel.” 28 So he was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights; he neither ate bread nor drank water. And He wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments.
In the rest of the Torah, God explains more fully what all this means. God knows that there is no way that Israel can keep His commands, so He also sets up the whole sacrificial system (which was never meant to be forever. Read Hebrews. Also note it even in symbolism – the tablets of the Ten Commandments were put into an ark made of wood. For more on that, please see this study. ) In Deuteronomy 28, God explains the blessings and curses for obedience and disobedience. Please note, though, that God fully expects disobedience. He clearly spells out what did, indeed happen. BUT – then there's this promise, and the hint of the covenant to come:
Deuteronomy 30:30 “Now it shall come to pass, when all these things come upon you, the blessing and the curse which I have set before you, and you call them to mind among all the nations where the Lord your God drives you, 2 and you return to the Lord your God and obey His voice, according to all that I command you today, you and your children, with all your heart and with all your soul, 3 that the Lord your God will bring you back from captivity, and have compassion on you, and gather you again from all the nations where the Lord your God has scattered you. 4 If any of you are driven out to the farthest parts under heaven, from there the Lord your God will gather you, and from there He will bring you. 5 Then the Lord your God will bring you to the land which your fathers possessed, and you shall possess it. He will prosper you and multiply you more than your fathers. 6 And the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.
So, this is the truly the old covenant – obey and these things happen. Disobey, and these other things happen.
5. The covenant between God and David
2 Samuel 7:12 “When your days are fulfilled and you rest with your fathers, I will set up your seed after you, who will come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.
So, Matthew begins the story of the New Covenant that Jesus brought through his perfect sacrifice -
Hebrews 9:11 Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come,[a] with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. 12 Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. 13 For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, 14 how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? 15 And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.
Matthew 26:Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. 28 For this is My blood of the new[a] covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.
This was really good news – that Jesus had suffered and died in our place, and by faith in him, our sins would be forgiven. You won't really get the full impact of that until you read the Old Testament. There is much, much more we could talk about here, but I'll leave it at that. The Old Testament is really about several covenants, most of which are still in place. Matthew starts the New Testament, the new covenant in Jesus' blood.
So, back to the last book in the Old Testament – Malachi, which was also chronologically the last book in the Old Testament. It was written around 430 B.C., so about 400 years before the events of the New Testament.
At that time, some (not all) Jews are back in the land of Israel after being exiled in Babylon. The temple has been rebuilt, and the land is under the control of Persia. The last thing written by a prophet of God is Malachi's warning that the people's hearts were cold and that a day of judgment was coming.
And, yet, he also says,
Malachi 3:16 Then those who feared the Lord
spoke to one another,
And the Lord listened and heard them;
So a book of remembrance was written before Him
For those who fear the Lord
And who meditate on His name.
17 “They shall
be Mine,” says the Lord of hosts,
“On the day that I make them My jewels.[a]
And I will spare them
As a man spares his own son who serves him.”
And then, come the very last words of the Old Testament:
4:5 Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet
Before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.
6 And he will turn
The hearts of the fathers to the children,
And the hearts of the children to their fathers,
Lest I come and strike the earth with a curse.”
Those years in between are sill talked about in the Bible. Do you know where?
Daniel 7:Vision of the Four Beasts
7:1 In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon, Daniel had a dream and visions of his head while on his bed. Then he wrote down the dream, telling the main facts.[a]
2 Daniel spoke, saying, “I saw in my vision by night, and behold, the four winds of heaven were stirring up the Great Sea. 3 And four great beasts came up from the sea, each different from the other. 4 The first was like a lion, and had eagle’s wings. I watched till its wings were plucked off; and it was lifted up from the earth and made to stand on two feet like a man, and a man’s heart was given to it.
5 “And suddenly another beast, a second, like a bear. It was raised up on one side, and had three ribs in its mouth between its teeth. And they said thus to it: ‘Arise, devour much flesh!’
6 “After this I looked, and there was another, like a leopard, which had on its back four wings of a bird. The beast also had four heads, and dominion was given to it.
7 “After this I saw in the night visions, and behold, a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, exceedingly strong. It had huge iron teeth; it was devouring, breaking in pieces, and trampling the residue with its feet. It was different from all the beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns. 8 I was considering the horns, and there was another horn, a little one, coming up among them, before whom three of the first horns were plucked out by the roots. And there, in this horn, were eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking pompous words.
Also see Daniel 11. The whole chapter is very specific history of those 400 “silent” years – so specific that liberal scholars insist that Daniel didn't really write that – that it was written only after the fact.
Daniel 11 as History
THE 400 YEARS BETWEEN THE OLD AND NEW TESTAMENTS by Ray C. Stedman
J.Vernon McGee provided a list in his Introduction to Matthew
480 b.c. Xerxes, the Persian, was victorious against the Greeks at Thermopylae but was defeated at the battle of Salamis. Actually, it was a storm that defeated him. This was the last bid of the East for world dominion.
333 b.c. Out of the West there came that “goat” which Daniel records in the eighth chapter of Daniel. This was Alexander the Great, the goat with the great horn. He led the united Greek forces to victory over the Persians at Issus.
332 b.c. Alexander the Great visited Jerusalem. He was shown the prophecy of Daniel which spoke of him; therefore he spared Jerusalem. Jerusalem was one of the few cities that he ever spared.
323 b.c. Alexander died way over in Persia. Apparently he had intended to move the seat of his empire there. Then the world empire of both East and West was divided among his four generals.
320 b.c. Judea was annexed to Egypt by Ptolemy Soter.
312 b.c. Seleucus founded the kingdom of the Seleucidae, which is Syria. He attempted to take Judea, and so Judea became the battleground between Syria and Egypt. This little country became a buffer state.
203 b.c. Antiochus the Great took Jerusalem, and Judea passed under the influence of Syria.
170 b.c. Antiochus Epiphanes took Jerusalem and defiled the temple. He had been mentioned in Daniel as the “little horn” (Dan. 8:9). He has been called the “Nero of Jewish history.”
166 b.c. Mattathias, the priest of Judea, raised a revolt against Syria. This is the beginning of the Maccabean period. Probably the nation of Israel has never suffered more than during this era, and they were never more heroic than during this interval. Judas Maccabaeus, whose name means “the hammer,” was the leader who organized the revolt.
63 b.c. Pompey, the Roman, took Jerusalem, and the people of Israel passed under the rulership of a new world power. They were under Roman government at the time of the birth of Jesus and throughout the period of the New Testament.
40 b.c. The Roman senate appointed Herod to be king of Judea. There never has been a family or a man more wicked than this. One can talk about the terrible Mafia, but this family would exceed them all.
37 b.c. Herod took Jerusalem and slew Antigonus, the last of the Maccabean king–priests.
31 b.c. Caesar Augustus became emperor of Rome.
19 b.c. The construction of the Herodian temple was begun. The building had been going on quite awhile when our Lord was born and was still continuing during the time of the New Testament.
4 b.c. Our Lord Jesus was born in Bethlehem.
And then comes Matthew – the next book in our Bible. Did you ever stop and ask why? Why is Matthew next? Well, for one thing, it appears to be the very first book written. Matthew (his Greek name – and Levi is his Hebrew name) was a tax collector.
Matthew 9:9 As Jesus passed on from there, He saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, “Follow Me.” So he arose and followed Him.
Lots you can say about that. Tax collectors were hated, seen as traitors to their people. Matthew may have been an honest one, not collecting more than he should. At least, it wasn't recorded that he repented of that, like Zacchaeus in Jericho. But, interestingly, one skill he likely had was that of being a “skillful writer” or “ready writer” as the Bible calls it, like in Psalm 45:1. That word means “a quick writer” and in the Septuagint, the word used is oxygrphos, a synonym for tachygrphos, or shorthand writer. He may have actually been writing down Jesus' words as they were being spoken.
More on that: The Bible in Shorthand
The early church fathers had no doubt that Matthew wrote the Gospel of Matthew. They said he wrote first in Hebrew, and that was later translated into the Greek. What may have happened is that he took down those long discourses in the language he was most familiar with. Then, when he wrote his Gospel, he used Greek.
There are liberal scholars who insist that the Gospel of Matthew was written by someone else, and that it was written much, much later than any eyewitness. However, there is full agreement among the early church that Matthew wrote Matthew – and that it was written very early. It was certainly written before 70 a.d., as there is no mention of the destruction of the temple, and some scholars think it might be as early as 50 a.d. If I told you that the tragedy of 9-11 happened in Boston and involved trucks plowing into buildings, you'd laugh at me. People were there. There is a historical record. Well, the same is true of Matthew. People were there, and there is a historical record. To discount that is foolish. I'm not going to spend a lot of time on that. Here is an article where you can read more if you are interested:
Early Church Fathers on the Authorship of the New Testament Gospels
So, Matthew is the first of four Gospels. Each gospel is written to a particular audience for a particular reason. Matthew was written to the Jews, to present Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah, the Son of David, the King of the Jews, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah. Mark was written to the Romans and is generally thought to be Peter's gospel, as relayed to Mark. It presents Jesus as the suffering servant, the perfect sacrifice, the one who came to do the will of His master. Luke was written to the gentiles, and specifically to Theophilus. Some scholars believe that Luke and Acts were actually the trial documents sent along with Paul when he appealed to have his case heard before Caesar. Luke presents Jesus as the Son of Man. John was written for the edification of the church and presents Jesus as the Son of God.
Why Four Gospels, by Arthur W. Pink, Introduction
In Matthew, Christ is presented as the Son of David, the King of the Jews, and everything in his narrative
centers around this truth. This explains why the first Gospel opens with a setting forth of
Christ’s royal genealogy, and why in the second chapter mention is made of the journey of
the wise men from the East, who came to Jerusalem inquiring “Where is He that is born
King of the Jews?”, and why in chapters five to seven we have what is known as “The Sermon
on the Mount” but which, in reality, is the Manifesto of the King, containing an enunciation
of the Laws of His Kingdom.
In Mark, Christ is depicted as the Servant of Jehovah, as the One who through equal
with God made Himself of no reputation and “took upon Him the form of a servant.”
Everything in this second Gospel contributes to this central theme, and everything foreign
to it is rigidly excluded. This explains why there is no genealogy recorded in Mark, why
Christ is introduced at the beginning of His public ministry (nothing whatever being told
us here of His earlier life), and why there are more miracles (deeds of service) detailed here
than in any of the other Gospels.
In Luke, Christ is set forth as the Son of Man, as connected with but contrasted from
the sons of men, and everything in the narrative serves to bring this out. This explains why
the third Gospel traces His genealogy back to Adam, the first man, (instead of to Abraham
only, as in Matthew), why as the perfect Man He is seen here so frequently in prayer, and
why the angels are seen ministering to Him, instead of commanded by Him as they are in
In John, Christ is revealed as the Son of God, and everything in this fourth Gospel is
made to illustrate and demonstrate this Divine relationship. This explains why in the
opening verse we are carried back to a point before time began, and we are shown Christ
as the Word “in the beginning,” with God, and Himself expressly declared to be God; why
we get here so many of His Divine titles, as “The only begotten of the Father,” the “Lamb
of God,” the “Light of the world” etc.; why we are told here that prayer should be made in
His Name, and why the Holy Spirit is here said to be sent from the Son as well as from the
Each of the Gospels have things that are similar. In a few cases, the same story is found in each one. The first three, Matthew, Mark and Luke are very similar and are called the Synoptic Gospels for that reason. Some liberal scholars suggest they all came from one master story. However, there are things very unique to each one – and that fits with that Gospel's purpose. For example, only in Matthew do we see the wise men asking,
Matthew 2:2 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, 2 saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.”
Four gospels to explain the four offices that Jesus filled. Four pictures from four angles of the same person and the same time period. Four faces of our Savior. Does that remind you of anything?
Ezekiel 1:1 Now it came to pass in the thirtieth year, in the fourth month, on the fifth day of the month, as I was among the captives by the River Chebar, that the heavens were opened and I saw visions[a] of God. 2 On the fifth day of the month, which was in the fifth year of King Jehoiachin’s captivity, 3 the word of the Lord came expressly to Ezekiel the priest, the son of Buzi, in the land of the Chaldeans[b] by the River Chebar; and the hand of the Lord was upon him there.
4 Then I looked, and behold, a whirlwind was coming out of the north, a great cloud with raging fire engulfing itself; and brightness was all around it and radiating out of its midst like the color of amber, out of the midst of the fire. 5 Also from within it came the likeness of four living creatures. And this was their appearance: they had the likeness of a man. 6 Each one had four faces, and each one had four wings. 7 Their legs were straight, and the soles of their feet were like the soles of calves’ feet. They sparkled like the color of burnished bronze. 8 The hands of a man were under their wings on their four sides; and each of the four had faces and wings. 9 Their wings touched one another. The creatures did not turn when they went, but each one went straight forward.
10 As for the likeness of their faces, each had the face of a man; each of the four had the face of a lion on the right side, each of the four had the face of an ox on the left side, and each of the four had the face of an eagle. 11 Thus were their faces. Their wings stretched upward; two wings of each one touched one another, and two covered their bodies. 12 And each one went straight forward; they went wherever the spirit wanted to go, and they did not turn when they went.
Revelation 4:1 After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven. And the first voice which I heard was like a trumpet speaking with me, saying, “Come up here, and I will show you things which must take place after this.”
2 Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne set in heaven, and One sat on the throne. 3 And He who sat there was[a] like a jasper and a sardius stone in appearance; and there was a rainbow around the throne, in appearance like an emerald. 4 Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and on the thrones I saw twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white robes; and they had crowns[b] of gold on their heads. 5 And from the throne proceeded lightnings, thunderings, and voices.[c] Seven lamps of fire were burning before the throne, which are the[d] seven Spirits of God.
6 Before the throne there was[e] a sea of glass, like crystal. And in the midst of the throne, and around the throne, were four living creatures full of eyes in front and in back. 7 The first living creature was like a lion, the second living creature like a calf, the third living creature had a face like a man, and the fourth living creature was like a flying eagle. 8 The four living creatures, each having six wings, were full of eyes around and within. And they do not rest day or night, saying:
“Holy, holy, holy,[f]
Lord God Almighty,
Who was and is and is to come!”
Everything in the Bible somehow relates to Jesus. In this case, the four living creatures represent these same four faces of Jesus. The first was the lion, like the Lion of the Tribe of Judah. The second was the bull, ox or calf – the work animal and the animal used for sacrifice, just as portrayed in the second Gospel. The third creature was like a man, just as in Luke's portrayal of the Son of Man. The fourth was the eagle, symbol of soaring and ruling the heavens. John's Gospel soars above the others in the concepts it shows us.
The Gospel of Matthew, being written for Jews, and perhaps at least part of it being written originally in Hebrew, with Hebrew thought processes, is a bridge between the Old and New Testaments. Interestingly, Matthew may also have been a Levite himself, and if he was, was he fulfilling the Covenant of Levi? Even if he wasn't, how interesting that the next book of Scripture was written by the Holy Spirit through a man named Levi.
This is the only place in the Bible where this is referred to:
2:1 “And now, O priests, this commandment is
2 If you will not hear,
And if you will not take it to heart,
To give glory to My name,”
Says the Lord of hosts,
“I will send a curse upon you,
And I will curse your blessings.
Yes, I have cursed them already,
Because you do not take it to heart.
3 “Behold, I will rebuke your descendants
And spread refuse on your faces,
The refuse of your solemn feasts;
And one will take you away with it.
4 Then you shall know that I have sent this commandment to you,
That My covenant with Levi may continue,”
Says the Lord of hosts.
5 “My covenant was with him, one of life and peace,
And I gave them to him that he might fear Me;
So he feared Me
And was reverent before My name.
6 The law of truth[a] was in his mouth,
And injustice was not found on his lips.
He walked with Me in peace and equity,
And turned many away from iniquity.
The next lesson will begin the actual book of Matthew.
The Berean Bible Study of the Gospel of Matthew
Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. - Acts 17:11
© 2016 This study was written by Jacqui Komschlies and last updated 1/17/16. If you have questions, comments, corrections or concerns, please write me.
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