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Why Study the Book of Matthew?


This is a guest post by Drew Hunter. He is the author of Matthew: A 12-Week Study in Crossway’s Knowing the Bible study series.

Making a Unique Contribution

Why do we have four different gospel accounts in our Bibles? Why do we need Matthew when we have, for instance, Mark?

The answer is, in part, because each uniquely contributes to our understanding of the glory of Christ. Four sketches of a two-dimensional object wouldn’t seem necessary. But with a glistening diamond in our hands, we don’t wait a full second before we turn it. No one perspective will do.

The diamond of Jesus’s glory is too great to be limited to one perspective. All of the gospels accomplish a few common purposes, but they do it in different ways. Matthew’s account provides a unique window through which to see the glory of Christ.

Showing the Old Testament Roots of the Gospel

Matthew stands as a hinge between the Old and the New Testaments in our Bibles, and it is well-suited for the task. Matthew begins with a backward look toward the Old Testament story, identifying Jesus as “the son of David, the son of Abraham” (Matt. 1:1). The genealogy that follows is no mere list of names. It is more like a genealogical story, summarizing the storyline of the Old Testament as it stretches from Abraham, through David, and into Israel’s longing for redemption (Matt. 1:1–17).

With his recurring quotations and allusions to Israel’s Scriptures, Matthew is showing us that the Old Testament is a story that finds it’s completion in Christ. Jesus arrived in the midst of this story to bring all its promises and longings to fulfillment.

Explaining the Nature of Christ’s Kingdom

The Old Testament story ends with longing for a King to come establish God’s kingdom. This kingdom will bring reconciliation to God for sinners and restoration to flourishing for creation. Matthew announces the arrival of this King and the dawn of this kingdom through Jesus’s message and ministry. Jesus’s words declare how his people will be ethically transformed (Matt. 5­–7) and his works display how his creation will be physically healed (Matt. 8–9). This is a glimpse of the kingdom of heaven on earth.

Yet Matthew shows us, especially in chapter 13, that this kingdom does not arrive all at once. The mystery of the kingdom is that while it has already dawned in Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection, it will not arrive in its fullness until Jesus returns.

Drawing Attention to the Heart of Christ

That Jesus is a king means he has authority. But Jesus’s authority is exercised with gentleness, humility, and service toward those who trust him. Matthew gives numerous glimpses of the heart of Christ. Jesus tells sinners and sufferers alike to “take heart” (Matt. 9:2, 22; 14:27). He has “compassion” on the crowds (Matt. 9:36; 14:14; 15:32).

In the only New Testament text that explicitly shows what Jesus’s heart is like, we learn that he is “gentle and lowly in heart” (Matt. 11:29). It is profoundly comforting to know we have a King whose heart is stirred with affection for us, sinners that we are. In Matthew, we continually see Jesus’s sheer willingness to forgive and welcome sinners, and there is no greater evidence of this than the cross. It is there that Jesus humbly serves us to the uttermost, willingly giving his life for ours (Matt. 20:28).

Calling Us to a Life of Missional Discipleship

As we trust Christ we’re caught up in this story, we’re a part of this kingdom, and we have his heart. Matthew also shows us that this is all meant to powerfully transform us from deep within. As those who follow Christ, we receive the privilege and responsibility of reflecting the heart of Christ toward the world. From first to last, Jesus’s words to his disciples show that mission is at the forefront of his expectations for them (Matt. 4:19; 28:19). Matthew ensures that we leave his gospel with a commission ringing in our ears to “go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations” (Matt. 28:19). As we follow Christ, we follow him into the world with a mission. To be a disciple is to make more disciples.

Persuading Us of the Treasure of Christ

As we look at the diamond of the glory of Christ from Matthew’s perspective, this is what we will see. As we do, we’ll also be persuaded that it is the height of wisdom to give up everything to follow Jesus. The kingdom of heaven is, after all, “like a treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field” (Matt. 13:44).

Drew Hunter (MA, Wheaton College) is a teaching pastor at Zionsville Fellowship in Zionsville, Indiana. Previously he served as a minister for young adults at Grace Church of DuPage and taught religious studies at College of DuPage. Hunter is the author of Isaiah: A 12 Week Study and Matthew: A 12 Week Study. He and his wife, Christina, have three young boys.


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July 3, 2014 | Posted in: AAA - BLOG UPDATE,Bible Study,Biblical Studies,Life & Doctrine,New Testament,The Christian Life | Author: Matt Tully @ 8:30 am | 0 Comments »

Midweek Roundup – 7/2/14

Each Wednesday we share some recent links that we found informative, insightful, or helpful. These are often related to Crossway books, Bibles, or authors—but not always. We hope this list is an interesting and encouraging break for the middle of your week.

1. Books at Glance discusses Why We Belong

If you don’t expect a book about inter-denominational unity and denominational distinctives and history to hold your interest, then I suggest you pick up a copy of Why We Belong: Evangelical Unity and Denominational Diversity and see if within minutes you have not already found it thoroughly enjoyable.

2. Scott McKnight reflects on The Creedal Imperative by Carl Trueman

With the skill of his field, Trueman then sketches the early church and the rise of the major creeds — from the rule of faith to the Nicene Creed and beyond — and then sketches the Reformation Confessions. (He’s a staunch Presbyterian but has a nice sketch, too, of the 39 Articles.)

The best part of this book, other than Trueman’s occasional zingers at church goofinesses and cultural nonsense, is his chapter on the usefulness of creeds. I found this chapter to be theologically helpful but also pastorally aware (he pastors).

3. Christ and Pop Culture highlight’s Greg Thornbury’s book, Recovering Classic Evangelicalism

In his book, offered for free to Christ and Pop Culture members as a part of the Creator Spotlight Rotating Bundle courtesy of Crossway, Thornbury embarks on a recovery journey using [Carl] Henry’s writings. The goal is to recapture a vision for being an evangelical in the classic sense that Henry embodied. He starts, appropriately, with epistemology (“Epistemology Matters”), before moving on to theology (“Theology Matters”), Scripture (“Inerrancy Matters”) and finally, cultural engagement (“Culture Matters”). He concludes with a chapter on why evangelicalism matters, and makes a solid case for recovery rather than abandonment.

4. Doug Wilson names his book of the month for July

I have felt for some years that the common slander against Calvinists — that we are unpoetic dolts — is not simply an unfair slander. All slander is unfair, of course, but why is this one so ubiquitous? I believe it is a strategic slander, an effort to spike some of our biggest guns. In response I have been collecting quotes on the aesthetic genius of Calvinism — I have quite a few of them actually — doing background research for a book tentatively called Puritan Poetics. Suffice it to say there will be a number of quotations from this book in there.

Every Christian preacher needs to absorb this book.

5. Christianity Today reviews Dispatches from the Front by Tim Keesee

Keesee, founder of Frontline Missions International, compiles stories from his travels to places where Christians live with profound suffering and joy. Though some of the accounts lack context, and some of the language veers into the sensational, Keesee’s stories and vivid writing bring the reader close to heroic and suffering people around the world.

July 2, 2014 | Posted in: AAA - BLOG UPDATE,Book News,Midweek Roundup,News & Announcements | Author: Matt Tully @ 8:30 am | 0 Comments »

Video: Studying the Book of Psalms

In the video below, Douglas Sean O’Donnell introduces us to Psalms: A 12-Week Study, which is part of Crossway’s Knowing the Bible study series.

Knowing the Bible Series: Psalms
from Crossway on Vimeo.

Learn more or read a sample chapter.

Other Volumes in the Knowing the Bible Series

| Posted in: AAA - BLOG UPDATE,Book News,News & Announcements,Video | Author: Matt Tully @ 8:30 am | 0 Comments »

Developing a Plan for Summer Bible Study

WOWM - Tips and Encouragement

This is a guest post by Kathleen Nielson and is part of Women of the Word Month, a free 31-day campaign designed to encourage and equip women for transformative Bible study. Learn more or sign up at crossway.org/women.

Make a Plan!

The title of this post says it all: We need a plan!

You’d think it would be easier in the long “lazy days” of summer. But those days will slip by if we don’t have some sort of plan for taking in the Word of God.

There’s not one perfect plan. And our lives are all different. As you develop your plan to feed deeply this summer on God’s Word, here are five suggestions to help fill these summer days with spiritual fruit.

1. Study the Bible.

Don’t just read about the Bible; we do enough of that. You’re doing it now!

I think all of us these days are a bit original-source-deprived, what with so many good resources at our disposal. The words God breathed out are living and active, powerful as a piercing sword, sweet as honey straight from the honeycomb.

Lean in to God’s breathed-out words to you.

2. Do some reading out loud.

The Bible is beautiful read out loud. For centuries, hearing it was one of the main ways people learned it. You notice things when you read God’s Word out loud (you’re also less likely to fall asleep).

Maybe you’ll choose Philippians to study this summer. In one of your first weeks, why not read through that little epistle out loud every day (or every other day)? What a great start that would be to your study of that book. Paul’s words will begin to echo in your mind—and you’ll even be on your way to memorizing some of them.

3. Mark up the passages you’re reading.

Maybe you’ll choose to work in the Psalms. What if you print out a copy of each psalm you study? After you’ve prayed for understanding and read the psalm out loud, a great way to dig in is just to start marking it up!

Spend a few minutes marking everything you notice: circle repeating words; underline phrases that stand out to you; bracket sections that seem to hold together; make squiggles by words you don’t understand; put exclamation marks by surprises; draw pictures by word-pictures; scribble comments in the margin . . . and so forth.

A pen in hand and a print-out with room for writing makes for great observation of a text. If you’re not using a study guide, you can do this by yourself. If you are, you can still incorporate this step profitably into your study.

4. Write down a few comments and prayers that grow out of the text.

If you’re using a study guide, it will probably ask you to do this. If not, you can certainly keep a page of your writing for every day of study. The point is, if you take the time to write down what you’re finding and how you’re responding to it, you will learn and grow much more effectively than if you just sit there and try to think about it.

Try to ask and answer some basic questions about the text. Many people, for example, like the “COMA” method for its simplicity:

  • Context: What can I observe about the circumstances in which this text was written? What can I learn from what comes before and after?
  • Observation: What do I notice in the text? How might I outline or explain the shape of the passage or book?
  • Meaning: What’s the main idea of the text? What does it teach me about God, and about his plan of redemption in Jesus Christ?
  • Application: How might this text lead me to pray? How does it call me to change my thinking and my living?

5. Ask a friend to share your plan.

Ideally, this would be a friend (or group of friends) who will study with you—but it could be simply a friend who will pray for you and check in with you every week or so, to catch up with how you’re doing and what you’re learning. It could be a family member, or perhaps someone at church you’ve been wanting to connect with.

Whether it’s someone new in the faith or older in the faith, you can be sure that such a connection will be encouraging both to you and to her. We’re not meant to do this growth thing alone. We need each other, in the body of Christ, every step of the way.

May we let the Word of Christ dwell in us richly through these summer days (Col. 3:16-17)!

Kathleen B. Nielson (PhD, Vanderbilt University) serves as the director of women’s initiatives at the Gospel Coalition. She a popular conference speaker and the author or editor of numerous books, including Ruth and Esther: A 12-Week Study (forthcoming), and co-editor (with D. A. Carson) of Here Is Our God. Kathleen and her husband, Niel, have three grown sons, two beautiful daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.


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Dangerous Bible Study and Puffy Christianity

WOWM - Tips and Encouragement

This is a guest post by Jen Wilkin and is part of Women of the Word Month, a free 31-day campaign designed to encourage and equip women for transformative Bible study. Learn more or sign up at crossway.org/women.

“Useless Bible Knowledge”

There is a perception among many evangelicals that Bible study is dangerous. I have heard it articulated by ministers and laypeople alike over the years. Once a woman in my Bible study told me her pastor had discouraged in-depth Bible study, saying it promoted the pursuit of “useless Bible knowledge.” I like to think that’s an oxymoron. If all Scripture is God-breathed and profitable, surely there is no such thing as “useless” Bible knowledge. So, why so many warnings that studying the Bible could actually be perilous to our spiritual health?

Spirit vs. Study?

The thinking runs something like this:

Reading and meditating over Scripture on my own, with the help of the Holy Spirit, will yield me all the knowledge of Scripture I need. In-depth studying—digging into word meanings, learning contextual information, analyzing themes, etc.—will make me prideful. If the Holy Spirit who reveals all truth doesn’t reveal something to me in my personal devotions in the Word, it must not be necessary for my understanding. In fact, that kind of knowledge will “puff me up” with pride.

As a woman who lived through 80’s fashion and hair I can say with certain authority that puffy is not good. We are right to fear the puff. But where does this fear of puffy Christianity come from? We can trace it to the words of Paul in 1 Corinthians 8:1-2, where he warns his readers that “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up.

Pursuing Knowledge without Pride

But does Bible knowledge puff up? How can we square what Paul says with the many passages in Proverbs exhorting us to pursue the knowledge of God (e.g., Prov. 10:14, 12:1, 15:14,  18:15, 19:27, 23:12)? And what of the words of Hosea 4:6:

My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you have rejected knowledge, I reject you from being a priest to me. And since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children.

The full counsel of Scripture would indicate that pursuing knowledge is a good thing, not a bad thing. In fact, Paul actually commends his Corinthian readers in the opening verses of chapter 1 for having been “enriched in [Christ] in all speech and all knowledge” (1 Cor. 1:4-5), only a few chapters before he warns about puffiness. The historical and cultural context of Paul’s words shows us that, in chapter 8, Paul is making a general statement about the pursuit of knowledge for knowledge’s sake.

Puffy Pharisees

The classic example of religious puffiness in the Bible is the Pharisee, whose in-depth knowledge of the Scriptures did nothing to soften his heart of stone. But consider this: the Pharisee’s problem was not what his head loved, but what his heart lacked. The Pharisee denied Christ, so no transforming path from his head to his heart had been established. A heart that genuinely loves God finds that the knowledge of God leads to humility, not hubris—to penitence, not puffiness.

It is worth pointing out that Paul himself was a Pharisee prior to his conversion. In a flash of light he went from puffy to preacher, and the world was never the same. Knowledge that before had only fueled his pride suddenly took on vibrancy and meaning as his spiritual eyes were opened to truth. Did his conversion cause him to forsake that knowledge? Not at all—he was thereafter able to bring the full weight of his biblical knowledge to bear on the proclaiming of the gospel, with pretty dramatic results.

Worth the Risk

So, is in-depth Bible study dangerous? Absolutely. Depending on the heart of the student, it will lead to either soaring pride or Christ-like humility. But the earnest student who loves her Savior knows that humility, though often unpleasant to gain, is not to be feared. As Christ’s example has shown us, it is greatly to be desired.

Arguably, the church today is in far greater danger from biblical ignorance than from biblical arrogance. Let us be mindful to avoid both of these perils. As those governed not by fear but by perfect love, may we chart a course for informed belief whose compass is humility and whose watchword is grace.

Jen Wilkin is a speaker, writer, and teacher of women’s Bible studies. During her thirteen years of teaching, she has organized and led studies for women in home, church, and parachurch contexts. Jen and her family are members of the Village Church in Flower Mound, Texas. She is the author of Women of the Word: How to Study the Bible with Both Our Hearts and Our Minds.


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