The Gospel of Matthew
"E. Schuyler English: The Gospel According to Matthew"
The Book of MATTHEW
"Behold, I will send My messenger, and he shall prepare the way before Me: and the Lord Whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to His temple, even the Messenger of the Covenant, Whom ye delight in: behold, He shall come, saith the Lord of Hosts" (Mal. 3:1).
In type (See Appendix E.) and in promise the Old Testament is replete with prophecies concerning the Messiah and of those things which shall attend His coming. But the prophets saw both advents blended in one horizon and were unable to distinguish the separating interval between the first and second coming of our Lord. The Lord Jesus clearly pointed to this fact when His disciples asked Him why He spoke in parables: "Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the Kingdom of the heavens, but to them it is not given. ... For verily I say unto you, that many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them: and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them" (Matt. 13:11, 17). It was their failure to discern that our Lord was to come in humiliation before He should come in glory which led Israel to reject their King. In Malachi 3:1, quoted above, we have a clear illustration of the confusion in the prophets' minds of the two advents of the Lord Jesus. That the first portion of the verse, "Behold, I will send My messenger, and he shall prepare the way before Me," refers to John the Baptist is evident, for our Lord so stated, as recorded in Matt. 11:10. The balance of the verse, however, surely speaks of Him when He shall return in glory with His saints after the Great Tribulation, and not of Him when He was rejected by His people in His humiliation.
The forerunner of Messiah, John the Baptist, he of whom Isaiah and Malachi spoke, was the last of the Old Testament prophets. His rejection and ultimate cruel death were a symbol of that which should befall the Light concerning Whom he bore witness. With the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ and His death and resurrection the New Testament was established, and henceforth those who prophesied spoke not of the first covenant which was made old by the new, but of the new covenant of grace whereby "They which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance." "So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for Him shall He appear a second time without sin unto salvation" (Heb. 9:28).
"In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, and saying, Repent ye: for the Kingdom of the heavens is at hand" (Matt. 3:1, 2).
"The Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart" (1 Sam. 16:7). John the Baptist came not to the high places, but in the wilderness, outside the camp; his raiment was of camel's hair, his meat was locusts and wild honey. Yet this was the one of whom the Lord Jesus said that he was more than a prophet: "Verily I say unto you, among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist" (Matt. 11:11); of him also the angel spoke these words: "For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, ... and he shall be filled with the Holy Spirit, ... and many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God" (Luke 1:15, 16).
John the Baptist was not afraid to speak of the sinfulness of man. "Repent ye" -- return to God, obey the law. That was the proper message, that man should forsake his evil ways and return in repentance to the Lord. Today we live in the age of grace when salvation by grace through the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ is freely declared. But under law then, or under grace now, man is a sinner. It is just as necessary that we preach of man's sinful condition under the new covenant, as it was under the old, for unless man is convinced of his own need of salvation, and repents in his heart, he cannot receive the Saviour.
"The Kingdom of the heavens is at hand." As was pointed out in our introduction, "the kingdom of the heavens" has three aspects: (1) That Kingdom which had been covenanted to the seed of David (2 Sam. 7:12, 13), of which Messiah, the Lord Jesus, the Son of David should be the King established for ever. The Kingdom was here offered. The King was rejected by His people Israel, and consequently, the Kingdom was postponed. (2) That Kingdom which, after He was rejected, the Lord described in the parables recorded in Matthew thirteen. This had to do with Christendom, the sphere of professing Christianity, and will be discussed more fully in the study of the thirteenth chapter. (3) That Kingdom as it will be set up upon the earth when the Lord Jesus returns in glory with His own, when God's will shall be done on earth as it is in Heaven, when there shall be no end of the increase of the government and peace of the Prince of Peace, but His Kingdom shall be established even forever.
It was fitting that John the Baptist should have preached that the Kingdom was "at hand," for the King was upon the earth and was soon Himself to declare that the Kingdom had drawn nigh. But Israel did not repent, but turned its back upon the King and His kingdom. We shall find that Christ then turned to the Gentiles with a new message. He shall yet sit upon the throne of His Father David: "After this I will return and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down: and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up: that the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom My Name is called, saith the Lord, Who doeth all these things" (Acts 15:16, 17).
"Repent ye" was the message to Israel, and many went out to him "and were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins" (Vs. 6). Throughout the Word of God the Jordan is a type of death. When Israel left the wilderness and crossed the Jordan into Canaan (Joshua 3), Jordan was a symbol of death, of crucifixion with Christ and entrance thereby into the heavenlies. So John baptized, and those who confessed their sins and repented in this manner witnessed to the death which they deserved. John, of course, knew nothing of the fact that our Lord was to be rejected and crucified, nor did Israel; therefore, John's baptism was not Christian baptism, that is, into Christ's death. Nevertheless, we can see in the ceremony a foreshadowing of our Lord's death and resurrection for us.
Already early in His ministry those two religious classes who later proved to be the greatest enemies of our Lord, the Pharisees and the Sadducees, made their appearance (Vs. 7). The Pharisees were a sect who were the most moral and religious men of their day. They were ritualists, and concerned themselves with abiding within the letter of the law, and even with creating new laws; but their godliness was in form only, and not in spiritual power. The Sadducees were the rationalists, who denied things supernatural. Angels, spirits, the resurrection, the ascension of our Lord -- in these they did not believe. John, by the Holy Spirit, was immediately aware of their insincerity, and denounced them with biting words: "Generation of vipers!" These men did not believe that they needed to repent. They thought that the wrath to come, the judgment of wickedness which should accompany any rule of righteousness, would be unleashed upon the Gentiles, not upon Israel. "But," said John, "do not think because you are Jews you do not need to repent. God is able to raise up children of Abraham from stones, if He wills. Bring forth fruits worthy of repentance. Right now the axe is to be laid to the root of the tree. The Kingdom is at hand, the King is here. There will be judgment, and every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit will be cut down and cast into the fire."
"I indeed baptize with water unto repentance, but He Who cometh after me is mightier than I, Whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: He shall baptize you with the Holy Spirit, and with fire; Whose fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly purge His floor, and gather His wheat into the garner; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire" (Matt. 3:11, 12).
We learned above that very often the Old Testament prophets, though they wrote of the Spirit, were themselves unable to distinguish between the first and the second coming of the Lord Jesus. John the Baptist was of that school, and consequently we find in verses eleven and twelve, references, literally in the same breath, to Christ's first and second advents. First, in true humility and in full realization of Who the Lord Jesus is, John exalted Him. Then he said: "He shall baptize you with the Holy Spirit, and with fire." Now we know that the Lord Jesus Christ has baptized the called-out-ones, the Church, with the Holy Spirit, Who came at Pentecost. In 1 Cor. 12:13 we read: "For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body." And we know also that we have not been baptized with fire. The baptism with the Holy Spirit refers to His first coming: the balance of the prophecy has to do with our Lord's second coming, when He returns in glory. Then He shall baptize with fire; that is a baptism which the believer, who already has been baptized with the Spirit, does not desire and will not receive; for coming in judgment as well as in glory, with His fan in His hand He will purge the threshing floor, and when the wheat has been gathered and put into the garner, the chaff will be burned with unquenchable fire. We talk so much of the love and mercy of God, and it is right that we should, since the believer's destiny for eternity has been determined by that love and mercy; but God is also just and holy. Let us not forget that. There is a hell as well as a Heaven. When He shall come again, those who are out of Christ, who have never appropriated that which He has accomplished for them, will be eternally damned. Too many Christians emphasize the grace of God alone; God grant that there may be others like John the Baptist who will rise up and speak of the wrath to come. And may God bless such teaching to bring souls into the knowledge of the love of God Who sent His Son to die that they might be gathered into the garner of eternal life with Him.
The baptism of John signified a confession of sin and repentance. No wonder John marvelled when the Lord Jesus came to the Jordan to be baptized. Our Lord knew no sin; our Lord could not sin, yet He came to be baptized of John's baptism of water. He had nothing to confess, He needed not to repent, but He was baptized into death. Since He came to earth to take the sinner's place, He took it here in symbol of death, and before men signified His work upon the earth. The Lord was here, at the outset of His public ministry, to receive His anointing. From Exodus 29:4, 7, we learn that before the high priest was anointed, he was washed, and so our Lord was baptized for His anointing for His high-priestly office which began when He offered Himself without spot to His Father.
"And John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from Heaven like a dove, and it abode upon Him. And I knew Him not: but He that sent me to baptize with water, the Same said unto me, Upon Whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, the Same is He Who baptizeth with the Holy Spirit. And I saw, and bare record that He is the Son of God" (John 1:32-34). How pure and holy the countenance of our Lord must have been! John the Baptist did not know that this was the Son of God Who came to Jordan to be baptized until after the rite, when the Spirit descended, yet he knew that this Man Who approached him was a holy and righteous man, and he consequently said, "I have need to be baptized of Thee, and comest Thou to me?"
When He was baptized, the Lord Jesus went up out of the water. "And lo, the heavens were opened unto Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon Him: And lo, a voice from Heaven, saying, This is My beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased" (Matt. 3:16, 17).
The Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, was manifested at the beginning of our Lord's public ministry. These are they Who before the foundation of the world planned your salvation and mine; these are they Who in Eden said, "Let Us make man in Our Image." The heavens were opened unto Him, unto Him Who came from Heaven, and in Him they are opened unto every child of God. "This is My beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased." The Father delights in the Son; let us also find our delight in Him, which is well pleasing to our Heavenly Father.
As the baptism of our Lord Jesus Christ was typical of His going down into death for sin, so His coming out of the Jordan was a type of His resurrection by which He was declared to be the Son of God by the Father (Rom. 1:4).