Matthew (Expository Thoughts on the Gospels)

Matthew (Expository Thoughts on the Gospels)

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781433532085
Publisher: Crossway
Publication date: 04/15/1993
Series: Crossway Classic Commentaries , #2
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 302
File size: 1 MB

About the Author

J. C. RYLE (1816–1900) was a prominent writer, preacher, and Anglican clergyman in nineteenth-century Britain. He is the author of the classic Expository Thoughts on the Gospels and retired as the bishop of Liverpool.

Alister McGrath (PhD, University of Oxford) is the Andreas Idreos Professor of Science and Religion at the University of Oxford, president of the Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics, and senior research fellow at Harris Manchester College in Oxford. He is also a noted author and coeditor of Crossway's Classic Commentaries series.

J. I. Packer (DPhil, Oxford University) serves as the Board of Governors’ Professor of Theology at Regent College. He is the author of numerous books, including the classic best-seller Knowing God. Packer served as general editor for the English Standard Version Bible and as theological editor for the ESV Study Bible.

Read an Excerpt


The genealogy of Christ(1:1-17)

These verses begin the New Testament. Let us always read them with serious and solemn feelings. The book before us contains not "the word of men, but ... the word of God" (1 Thessalonians 2:13). Every verse in it was written by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

Let us thank God daily for giving us the Scriptures. The poorest Englishman who understands his Bible knows more about religion than the wisest philosophers of Greece and Rome.

Let us never forget the deep responsibility which possession of the Bible places on us. We shall be judged on the last day according to our light. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded.

Let us read the Bible reverently and diligently, with an honest determination to believe and practice all we find in it. It is no light matter how we use this book. Above all, let us never read the Bible without praying for the teaching of the Holy Spirit. He alone can apply truth to our hearts and make us profit from what we read.

The New Testament begins with the history of the life, death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. No part of the Bible is so important as this, and no part is so full and complete. Four distinct Gospels tell us the story of Christ's actions and his death. Four times we read the precious account of his works and words. How thankful we ought to be for this! To know Christ is life eternal. To believe in Christ is to have peace with God. To follow Christ is to be a true Christian. To be with Christ will be heaven itself. We can never hear too much about the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Gospel of St. Matthew begins with a long list of names. Sixteen verses are taken up with tracing a pedigree from Abraham to David, and from David to the family in which Jesus was born. Let no one think that these verses are useless. Nothing is useless in creation. The least mosses, and the smallest insects, serve some good end. Nothing is useless in the Bible. Every word of it is inspired. The chapters and verses which seem at first sight unprofitable, are all given for some good reason. The person who looks carefully at these sixteen verses will not fail to see in them useful lessons.

1. God always keeps his word

First, we learn from this list of names that God always keeps his word. He had promised that "all peoples on earth will be blessed through you" (Genesis 12:3). He had promised to raise up a Saviour from the family of David (Isaiah 11:1). These sixteen verses prove that Jesus was the Son of David and the Son of Abraham, and that God's promise was fulfilled. Thoughtless and ungodly people should remember this lesson, and be afraid. Whatever they may think, God will keep his word. If they do not repent they will surely perish. True Christians should remember this lesson, and take comfort. Their Father in heaven will be true to all his promises. He has said that he will save all believers in Christ. If he has said it, he will certainly do it. "God is not a man, that he should lie " (Numbers 23:19)." He will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself" (2 Timothy 2:13).

2. The sinfulness and corruption of human nature

Second, we learn from this list of names the sinfulness and corruption of human nature. It is instructive to observe how many godly parents in this list had wicked and ungodly sons. The names of Rehoboam, Jehoram, Amon and Jeconiah should teach us humbling lessons. They all had pious fathers. But they were all wicked men. Grace does not run in families. It needs something more than good examples and good advice to make us children of God. Those who are born again are not born "of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God" (John 1:13). Praying parents should pray night and day that their children may be born of the Spirit.

3. Jesus Christ's mercy and compassion

Third, we learn from this list of names how great is the mercy and compassion of our Lord Jesus Christ. Let us think how polluted and unclean human nature is, and then think how he humbled himself to be born of a woman, and made "in human likeness" (Philip-pians 2:7). Some of the names we read in this list remind us of shameful and sad histories. Some of the names are of people never mentioned elsewhere in the Bible. But at the end comes the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Though he is the eternal God, he humbled himself to become man, in order to provide salvation for sinners. "Though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor" (2 Corinthians 8:9).

We should always read this list with thankful hearts. We see here that no human being can be beyond the reach of Christ's sympathy and compassion. Our sins may have been as black and great as those of any whom St. Matthew names. But they cannot shut us out of heaven, if we repent and believe the Gospel. If the Lord Jesus was not ashamed to be born of a woman whose pedigree contained such names as those we have read today, we need not think that he will be ashamed to call us his brothers and sisters, and to give us eternal life.

The incarnation and name of Christ(1:18-25)

These verses begin by telling us two great truths. They tell us how the Lord Jesus Christ took our nature upon him, and became man. They tell us also that his birth was miraculous. His mother Mary was a virgin.

These are very mysterious subjects. We cannot fathom these depths. They are truths which are beyond our understanding. Let us not attempt to explain things which are above our feeble reason. Let us be content to believe with reverence, and let us not speculate about matters which we cannot understand. It is enough for us to know that with him who made the world nothing is impossible. We may safely rest in the words of the Apostles' Creed: "Jesus Christ was conceived by the Holy Spirit, and born of the Virgin Mary."

1. Joseph

First, let us observe the conduct of Joseph described in these verses. It is a beautiful example of godly wisdom and tender consideration for others. He saw the "appearance of evil" in the one who was to be his wife. But he did nothing rashly. He waited patiently to have the line of duty made clear. In all probability he laid the matter before God in prayer. "The one who trusts will never be dismayed" (Isaiah 28:16).

The patience of Joseph was graciously rewarded. He received a direct message from God on the subject of his anxiety, and was at once relieved from all his fears. How good it is to wait upon God! Who has ever cast his cares upon God in sincere prayer, and found him to fail? "In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight" (Proverbs 3:6).

2. The two names given to our Lord

Second, let us observe in these verses the two names given to our Lord. One is "Jesus," the other "Emmanuel." One describes his office, the other his nature. Both are deeply interesting.

The name Jesus means "Saviour." It is the same name as "Joshua" in the Old Testament. It is given to our Lord because "he saves his people from their sins." This is his special office. He saves them from the guilt of sin, by washing them in his own atoning blood. He saves them from the dominion of sin, by putting in their hearts the sanctifying Spirit. He saves them from the presence of sin, when he takes them out of this world to rest with him. He will save them from all the consequences of sin, when he gives them a glorious body at the last day. Blessed and holy are Christ's people! From sorrow, cross and conflict they are not saved; but they are "saved from sin" for evermore. They are cleansed from guilt by Christ's blood. They are made fit for heaven by Christ's Spirit. This is salvation! The person who clings to sin is not yet saved.

"Jesus" is a very encouraging name to heavy-laden sinners. He who is King of kings and Lord of lords might lawfully have taken some more high-sounding title. But he did not do so. The rulers of this world have often called themselves Great, Conqueror, Bold, Magnificent, and the like. The Son of God was content to call himself "Saviour." The souls who desire salvation may draw close to the Father with boldness, and have access with confidence through Christ. It is his office and his delight to show mercy. "God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him" (John 3:17).

Jesus is a name which is especially sweet and precious to believers. It has often done them good when the favor of kings and princes would have been disregarded. It has given them what money cannot buy, an inner peace. It has eased their weary consciences, and given rest to their heavy hearts. The Song of Songs speaks of the experience of many, when it says, "Your name is like perfume poured out" (Song of Songs 1:3). Happy is the person who trusts not merely in vague notions of God's mercy and goodness, but in "Jesus."

The name "Emmanuel" is seldom found in the Bible, but it is scarcely less interesting than the name "Jesus." It is the name which is given to our Lord from his nature as God-man, as "God revealed in the body." It means "God with us."

Let us take care that we clearly understand that there was a union of two natures, the divine and human, in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is a point of the deepest importance. We should settle it firmly in our minds that our Saviour is perfect man as well as perfect God, and perfect God as well as perfect man. If we once lose sight of this great foundation truth, we may run into fearful heresies. The name Emmanuel takes in the whole mystery. Jesus is "God with us." He had a nature like our own in all things, except for sin. But though Jesus was "with us" in human flesh and blood, he was at the same time truly God.

We shall often find as we read the Gospels that our Saviour could be weary and hungry and thirsty. He could weep and groan and feel pain like one of us. In all this we see the man Christ Jesus. We see the nature he took on him, when he was born of the Virgin Mary. But we shall also find in the same Gospels that our Saviour knew men's hearts and thoughts. He had power over demons. He could work the mightiest miracles with a word. He was ministered to by angels. He allowed a disciple to call him "my God." He said, "Before Abraham was born, I am!" (John 8:58) and "I and the Father are one" (John 10:30). In all this we see the eternal God. We see him "who is God over all, forever praised!" (Romans 9:5).

If we want to have a strong foundation for our faith and hope, we must keep constantly in view our Saviour's divinity. He in whose blood we are invited to trust is the Almighty God. All power is in heaven and earth. No one can snatch us out of his hand. If we are true believers in Jesus, our heart need not be troubled or afraid.

If we want to have sweet comfort in suffering and trial, we must keep constantly in view our Saviour's humanity. He is the man Christ Jesus, who lay in the arms of the Virgin Mary as a little infant, and knows the heart of a man. He can sympathize with our weaknesses. He has himself experienced Satan's temptations. He has endured hunger. He has shed tears. He has felt pain. We may trust him unreservedly with our sorrows. He will not despise us. We may pour out our hearts before him in prayer boldly, and keep nothing back. He can sympathize with his people.

Let these thoughts sink down into our minds. Let us bless God for the encouraging truths which the first chapter of the New Testament contains. It tells us of one who "saves his people from their sins." But this is not all. It tells us that this Saviour is "Emmanuel," God himself, and yet God with us, God revealed in a human body like our own. This is glad tidings. This is indeed good news. Let us feed on these truths in our hearts by faith with thanksgiving.


The wise men from the East(2:1-12)

It is not known who these wise men were. Their names and dwelling-place are both kept back from us. We are only told that they came "from the east." Whether they were Babylonians or Arabs we cannot say. Whether they learned to expect Christ from the ten tribes who went into captivity, or from the prophecies of Daniel, we do not know. It matters little who they were. The point which concerns us most is the important lesson which their story gives us.

1. True servants in unexpected places

These verses show us that there may be true servants of God in places where we should not expect to find them. The Lord Jesus has many "hidden ones," like these wise men. Their story on earth may be as little known as that of Melchizedek, Jethro and Job. But their names are in the book of life, and they will be found with Christ on the day of his appearing. It is well to remember this. We must not look round the earth and say hastily, "All is barren." The grace of God is not tied to places and families. The Holy Spirit can lead souls to Christ without the help of any outward means. Men may be born in dark places of the earth, like these wise men, and yet like them be made "wise for salvation." There are some travelling to heaven at this moment, of whom the Church and the world know nothing. They flourish in secret places like the "lily among thorns," and seem to "waste their sweetness on the desert air." But Christ loves them, and they love Christ.

2. Those who give Christ most honor

Second, these verses show that it is not always those who have most religious privileges who give Christ most honor. We might have thought that the scribes and Pharisees would have been the first to hasten to Bethlehem, on the slightest rumor that the Saviour was born. But it was not so. A few unknown strangers from a distant land were the first, except for the shepherds mentioned by St. Luke, to rejoice at his birth. "He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him" (John 1:11). What a mournful picture this is of human nature! How often the same kind of thing may be seen among ourselves! How often the very people who live nearest to the means of grace are those who neglect them most! There is only too much truth in the old proverb, "The nearer the church the farther from God." Familiarity with sacred things has an awful tendency to make men despise them. There are many who, from residence and convenience, ought to be first and foremost in the worship of God, and yet are always last. There are many who might well be expected to be last, who are always first.

3. Head knowledge without heart knowledge

Third, these verses show us that there may be knowledge of Scripture in the head, while there is no grace in the heart. We are told that King Herod sent to inquire of the priests and elders "where the Christ was to be born" (verse 4). We are told that they gave him a quick answer, and showed an accurate acquaintance with the letter of Scripture. But they never went to Bethlehem to seek the coming Saviour. They would not believe in him when he ministered among them. Their heads were better than their hearts. Let us beware of resting satisfied with head knowledge. It is an excellent thing when rightly used. But a person may have much of it, and still perish everlastingly. What is the state of our hearts? This is the great question. A little grace is better than many gifts. Gifts alone save no one; but grace leads on to glory.

4. Spiritual diligence

Fourth, these verses show us a splendid example of spiritual diligence. What trouble it must have cost these wise men to travel from their homes to the house where Jesus was born! How many weary miles they must have journeyed! The fatigues of an Eastern traveler are far greater than we can at all understand. The time that such a journey would occupy must have been very great. The dangers to be encountered were neither few nor small. But none of these things moved them. They had set their hearts on seeing him "who has been born king of the Jews" (verse 2), and they never rested till they saw him. They prove to us the truth of the old saying, "Where there is a will there is a way."

It would be well for all professing Christians if they were more ready to follow the example of these good men. Where is our self-denial? What pains do we take about means of grace? What diligence do we show about following Christ? What does our religion cost us? These are serious questions. They deserve serious consideration. The truly "wise," it may be feared, are very few.

5. Faith

Fifth, these verses show us a striking example of faith. These wise men believed in Christ when they had never seen him; but that was not all. They believed in him when the scribes and Pharisees were unbelieving; but that again was not all. They believed in him when they saw him as a little infant on Mary's knees, and worshiped him as a King. This was the crowning point of their faith. They saw no miracles to convince them. They heard no teaching to persuade them. They saw no signs of divinity and greatness to overawe them. They saw nothing but a newborn infant, helpless and weak, and needing a mother's care like any of us. And yet when they saw that infant, they believed that they saw the divine Saviour of the world! "They bowed down and worshiped him" (verse 11).


Excerpted from "Matthew"
by .
Copyright © 1993 Watermark.
Excerpted by permission of Good News Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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