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This introductory course is designed to provide key insights into the book of Matthew by pulling together a number of key resources: overview videos from The Bible Project, helpful contextual information from The ESV Study Bible, commentary recommendations from The Gospel Coalition, a single sermon that sums up the book from beginning to end by Mark Dever, and much more. By watching, listening to, and reading these resources, you’ll be better prepared to read, study, teach, or preach the book of Matthew.
The primary genre of Matthew is the Gospel, and the organizing framework of all four Gospels is narrative or story. However, with the narrative framework of Matthew’s Gospel, a major amount of space is devoted to Jesus’ discourses. Beyond that, the usual array of subtypes are found: birth stories, calling or vocation stories, miracle stories, parables, pronouncement stories, encounter stories, passion stories, and resurrection stories.
The most notable literary feature of the book’s format is the alternating pattern around which the book is organized. The material in Matthew’s Gospel is based on a rhythmic, back-and-forth movement between blocks of narrative material and blocks of discourse material. There are five passages of discourse, which can be viewed as corresponding to the five digits on the human hand and can be easily remembered if one lists the questions that Jesus in effect answers in each unit:
Matthew even used a set formula to signal these units, ending them with the statement “when Jesus had finished [these sayings]” (Matt. 7:28; 11:1; 13:53; 19:1; 26:1).
Matthew’s distinguishing stylistic features include recurrent quotation and citation from the OT and an emphasis on Jesus as being kingly or royal (even the opening genealogy places Jesus’ father Joseph in the Davidic line). Additionally, Matthew is fond of the term “Son of David” as a title for Christ, statements to the effect that “this was done that it might be fulfilled as the prophets had said,” and the formula “the kingdom of heaven is like . . .”
Many scholars have suggested that the prominent church in Antioch of Syria, whose members included both Jewish and Gentile Christians (cf. Acts 11:19–26; 13:1–3), was the intended audience of Matthew’s Gospel. They point to the Gospel’s influence on Ignatius, an early bishop of Antioch. At the same time, Matthew’s message spoke to all of the fledgling churches of his day, and the Gospel appears to have circulated rapidly and widely.
This is the story of Jesus of Nazareth, recorded by the apostle Matthew as a compelling witness that Jesus is the long-anticipated Messiah, who brought the kingdom of God to earth and is the prophesied fulfillment of God’s promise of true peace and deliverance for both Jew and Gentile.
Jesus is the true Messiah, Immanuel (God incarnate with his people), Son of God, King of Israel, and Lord of the church.
Matthew 1:1, 23; 2:2; 14:33; 16:16; 18:20; 21:5–9
Jesus fulfills the hopes and promises of the OT through his messianic genealogy, fulfillment of OT prophecies, and fulfillment of the OT law. These bridging qualities may have been one reason Matthew was chosen to begin the NT canon. Another possible reason is that many in the early church thought that Matthew was the first Gospel written, and another is that it was personally written by an apostle, in contrast to Mark and Luke.
Matthew 1:1–17, 22–23; 2:4–5, 15, 17, 23; 5:17–20
Matthew’s Gospel traces God’s continuing work of salvation within Israel (“particularism”) and extends this saving work to all the peoples of the earth (“universalism”), through the person and work of Christ.
Matthew 10:5–6; 28:19
The early church included both Jewish and Gentile Christians. Matthew’s Gospel would have encouraged them to transcend ethnic and cultural barriers to find unity in service to Jesus the Messiah as members of his universal church.
Matthew 11:28; 16:18–19; 28:19
God’s saving work in the present age is carried out chiefly by and through the church, which Jesus continues to build and inhabit. Anyone who responds to Jesus’ call—whether Jew or Gentile, male or female, rich or poor, slave or free—is brought into the fellowship of his church to enjoy him and participate in the community of his kingdom.
Matthew 16:18; 18:15–20; 22:10; 28:20
Jesus’ command to “make disciples of all nations” is found only in Matthew and has motivated countless believers to reach out to the lost with the good news of the gospel. As Jesus made disciples in his earthly ministry, he commissions his church to follow his example.
The presentation of five of Jesus’ major discourses, addressed at least in part to his disciples, forms the most comprehensive collection of Jesus’ instructional ministry found anywhere in Scripture. They paint a holistic picture of life lived in obedience to Christ, and the church has used them to instruct disciples through the ages.
Matthew chs. 5–7; 10; 13; 18–20; 24–25
Matthew crafted his account to demonstrate Jesus’ messianic identity, his inheritance of the Davidic kingship over Israel, and his fulfillment of the promise made to his ancestor Abraham (Matt. 1:1) to be a blessing to all the nations (Gen. 12:1–3). Thus in large part Matthew’s Gospel is an evangelistic tool aimed at his fellow Jews, persuading them to recognize Jesus as their long-awaited Messiah. At the same time, the Gospel reveals clearly to Gentiles that salvation through Jesus the Messiah is available to all nations. For Jewish Christians, Matthew’s Gospel provides encouragement to stand steadfast amid opposition from their own countrymen, as well as Gentile pagans, secure in the knowledge of their citizenship in God’s kingdom.
Against the backdrop of such opposition to Jesus’ message, Matthew establishes the identity of Christ’s church as the true people of God, who now find their unity in service to Jesus despite previous racial, class, and religious barriers. His Gospel provides necessary instruction for all future disciples, Jew and Gentile, who form a new community centered upon devotion and obedience to Jesus the Messiah amid significant opposition.
Jesus comes as the messianic King in the line of David to fulfill the OT, especially its promises of everlasting salvation. The ultimate fulfillment comes with his crucifixion and resurrection. The ultimate fulfillment comes with his crucifixion and resurrection.
Nancy Guthrie interviews Douglas O'Donnell
The following recommendations are from D. A. Carson, New Testament Commentary Survey. 7th ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2013.