While we have no means of knowing just when the Gospel of Matthew was written, or even whether (as some suppose) it first appeared in Hebrew, or was originally written in Greek as it has come down to us, it is very evident that it is placed rightfully at the beginning of the New Testament. This Gospel is very definitely the connecting link between the prophets of old and the new dispensation of grace. The many quotations in it from the books of the prophets are designed to show how our Lord Jesus Christ came as the promised King of Israel, in exact accordance with the numerous predictions that God had inspired His servants to give. Those prophecies were given from Abraham’s day to that of Malachi, when prophetic testimony ceased, and was silent for four hundred years, until John the Baptist, the last of the prophets, came declaring, “The time is fulfilled.”
Matthew is in a very real sense the Jewish Gospel. This does not mean that it has no message for Christians, but rather that it is designed by the Holy Spirit to present Christ so as to make it clear to honest Jewish inquirers that He is the One of whom Moses and the prophets spoke.
Matthew’s Gospel can be outlined as follows:
I. Presentation of King and Kingdom to Israel (1:1-12:50)
A. Genealogy of the King (1:1-17)
B. Birth of the King (1:18-25)
C. Gentile Worship of the King (2:1-12)
D. Preservation of the King (2:13-23)
E. Anointing of the King (3:1-17)
F. Testing of the King (4:1-25)
G. Principles of the Kingdom (5:1-7:29)
H. Accreditation of the King (8:1-12:50)
1. Mighty Works of the King (8:1-9:38)
2. Increasing Resistance to the King (10:1-12:50)
II. Rejection of King and Kingdom by Israel (13:1-28:20)
A. Development of Christendom (13:1-20:34)
B. Consequences for Israel (21:1-23:39)
C. Second Advent of the King (24:1-25:46)
D. Death, Resurrection, and Commission of the King (26:1-28:20)
The genealogy given in Matthew is that of Joseph, the foster father of Jesus, lineal descendant of David and heir to the throne, through whom the throne rights were transmitted to our Lord. His birth occurred in Bethlehem late in 5 b.c. or early in 4 B.C., while the visit of the wise men took place possibly some two months afterward, and this was followed almost immediately by the flight into Egypt.
We need not be surprised to find that everything in connection with the advent of the King was of a miraculous character when we realize that He was truly Immanuel, “God with us,” as predicted in Isaiah 7:14. When God came down to earth, how could it be otherwise than that certain natural laws should be suspended in order that He might enter into our world in a manner becoming to His majesty and power? So we see Him taking our humanity as born of a virgin mother, His coming made known in some supernatural way to the wise men from the East, and His life preserved by divine arrangement so that the malice of Herod could not reach Him and destroy Him. The beauty and simplicity of the narrative fills us with admiration and moves our hearts to worship and thanksgiving for God’s unspeakable Gift.
While it is of great importance that we observe and take into account the special dispensational place of this Gospel, we shall lose much if we fail to realize that it is gospel, and not law. For the gospel is God’s message concerning His Son, and here the Son is presented in His kingly aspect that we may learn to reverence Him as such and bow in subjection at His feet.