The Book of Matthew: Overview

Introduction

Matthew is the first book of the New Testament and the first of the four Gospels, consisting of a total of 28 chapters. In this series, I plan to work my way through the book, one chapter at a time, studying the book systematically and laying out my findings in a structured format. The study will be fast-paced and not particularly deep, but that’s okay; it’s a survey, not a detailed commentary.

There may be factual inaccuracies, grammatical errors, or other fallibilities on my part. If you catch any, please feel free to call them out in the comments.

I am coming from the perspective of the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith. Though the Confession isn’t inspired, it is a valuable resource compiled by wise men of God to guide our study of the Scriptures. I believe that they were accurate in their understanding and precise in their explanation of the doctrines of Christianity, so I point to the Confession as representative of my own beliefs.

Themes

Since this is the first post, I’d like to give a brief overview of two of the major themes of the book of Matthew. We’ll be following these threads throughout the book.

The first major theme of the book of Matthew is Jesus’ conflict with and rejection of the nation of Israel, whose leadership was so corrupted and blinded that they missed seeing the very Son of God. In this sense, Jesus’ parable in Matthew 21:33-46 summarizes the whole book:

“Hear another parable. There was a master of a house who planted a vineyard and put a fence around it and dug a winepress in it and built a tower and leased it to tenants, and went into another country. When the season for fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants to get his fruit. And the tenants took his servants and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. Again he sent other servants, more than the first. And they did the same to them. Finally he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and have his inheritance.’ And they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.  When therefore the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death and let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their seasons.”

The other major theme that runs through this Gospel is that of the Kingdom of Heaven. Matthew’s term is unique; the other Gospels all refer to the Kingdom of God, but Matthew is the only one who calls it “the Kingdom of Heaven.” The phrase shows up 31 times in the English Standard Version. We’ll learn the specifics of what the Kingdom is, who it consists of, and when it began as we go through the book.

At the end of the series, we’ll look back and do a second overview, compiling the things that we’ve learned about these two major themes and any other themes that crop up along the way.

Application

I’ll close each post with a practical application or exercise based on the truth uncovered from God’s Word. In this case, we’ve only begun the study, and barely skimmed the surface of the book of Matthew. Therefore, I’d like to challenge you to an exercise in Biblical studies:

Find the major theme or themes of a book of the Bible.

Begin by asking God to reveal His truth to you. The things of the Spirit of God can only be understood by one who has the mind of Christ. This ought to be the foundation of any study of the Word.

Then, speed-read through the entire book to familiarize yourself with the general layout; don’t worry about getting too deep into what particular passages mean. Try to see broad overview of the book.

Next, read through it again, slowly enough for comprehension, and summarize each chapter or passage as concisely as you can. Make a list and write down your summaries.

Skim through the book for a third time, referring to your list, and ask “How do these passages fit together?” Can you lump some of your summaries together in an even broader summary? What common threads do you see running through the book? How do these passages relate to each other?

You should find certain themes or topics rising to the surface. If not, don’t give up: Ask God for wisdom, and it will be given to you. (James 1:5) Keep digging, keep praying, and keep obeying what you find, and He will bless your pursuit of Him.

Next post: The Birth of Christ

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