Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Matthew: An Introduction

Radical kingdom living through inside-out transformation

I have to admit that when we decided to study The Sermon on the Mount at our ladies Bible study I was a little disappointed. I really, really wanted to dive into 1 Samuel, but we had spent most of last year studying in the Old Testament, so we moved into the New Testament since some of the girls love the New Testament like I love the Old Testament. But as I prepared for tonight's study I changed my mind. I cannot wait to jump into The Sermon on the Mount, and wish we were studying the whole book of Matthew!

So let's look at Matthew, the man, for a moment. What do most of us equate with him personally? Tax collector, something that Matthew himself reminds of us as we read the Gospel. As much as some of don't like tax collectors in our day and age, being a tax collector in the days of Jesus was close to being despicable. But it did have its advantages--namely wealth and social standing. I loved how this put Matthew into perspective for me: “Since tax collectors generally were fairly wealthy and were despised by the local populace, Matthew's calling and response were completely out of the ordinary and required nothing short of a miraculous turnaround in this tax collector's life.” His unique background gave him the training he needed to be able to write the account. Combine that with his Jewish upbringing and training in the Scriptures, and you have a man able to interpret the life of Jesus from the perspective of the Old Testament expectations.

The Gospel of Matthew breaks the 400 years of silence between the Old and New Testaments acts as a bridge between them.
“Matthew demonstrates repeatedly that Old Testament hopes, prophecies, and promises have now been fulfilled in the person and ministry of Jesus. Matthew begins with the 'fulfillment' of the messianic genealogy in the birth of Jesus and then goes on to demonstrate the fulfillment in Jesus' life and ministry of various Old Testament prophecies and themes and the fulfillment of the Old Testament law. The early church likely placed Matthew first in the New Testament canon precisely because of its value as a bridge between the Testaments.” ~Michael J. Wilkins

In the early years of the church, Matthew was the most widely read Gospel, as it was through much of church history since it verifies Jesus was the Messiah of Israel, who brought salvation to all of us, not just the Jews. Matthew also acts as a “manual on discipleship” because it has an extended collection of Jesus' teaching ministry, especially The Sermon on the Mount.

There are five distinct messages Matthew:
  • Matthew 5-7 - Kingdom-life disciples. What it means to live out a radical kingdom life in their everyday world.
  • Matthew 10 -  Mission-driven disciples. Jesus' disciples are to go out and live out the message of the gospel of the kingdom of God.
  • Matthew 13 - Clandestine-kingdom disciples. What it means for Jesus' disciples to live as kingdom subjects in a world not yet fully manifested with God's power.
  • Matthew 18 - Community-based disciple. Discipleship to Jesus that is expressed through a church characterized by humility, purity, accountability, forgiveness, and reconciliation.
  • Matthew 24-25 - Expectant-sojourner disciples.  Disciples are to live each day in expectant preparation for His return with power. (The New Application Commentary on Matthew by Michael J. Wilkins.)
When you study these five messages, you get a full picture of the kind of discipleship that was to be taught to the disciples of Jesus—us! These teachings were to be the basis for obedience to Christ and they became the basis of instruction as many early churches used them to teach believers how they were to live.

NOW do you see why I wish we were studying the whole book of Matthew? Wow! But at this point we're just studying The Sermon on the Mount, which is still really cool. It tells us what it is to be kingdom-life disciples. “Jesus expounded the reality of a radical everyday discipleship lived in the presence and power of the kingdom of God within the disciples' everyday world. This kind of discipleship involves an inside-out transformation into the righteousness of the kingdom.”

An inside-out transformation. 
That's real transformation, not just a mask that's put on when it's convenient.

It sounds like a task way beyond me. And it is. But it's not for God! And look how Matthew opens and closes his Gospel account. “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a con, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which translated means, “God with us.” (Matthew 1:23) Matthew starts with “God with us.” And then check out how Matthew ends in 28:20 “...and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

God with us, forever, working that inside-out transformation in us. It doesn't get much better than that.

Why don't you pick one of these messages and read it this week?


*Quotes taken from The New Application Commentary on Matthew by Michael J. Wilkins.

3 comments:

  1. Sounds like a FABULOUS study. Just finished reading Matthew this morning. Such a Jewish book - and you know what that means to ME! ;)

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  2. I know you will be blessed and get a lot out of this study, Patty. Also, I love your post ending - God with us forever, it doesn't get any better than that!

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  3. I desperately want to live my faith from the inside out. It starts with knowing Him better and this sounds like a wonderful way to do so. Great post, Peej!

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