Please turn with me in your Bibles to Matthew chapter 1 as we begin an exposition of this great Gospel. Let’s hear the word of the living God beginning in verse 1 of Matthew 1.
“The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. To Abraham was born Isaac; and to Isaac, Jacob; and to Jacob, Judah and his brothers; and to Judah were born Perez and Zerah by Tamar; and to Perez was born Hezron; and to Hezron, Ram; and to Ram was born Amminadab; and to Amminadab, Nahshon; and to Nahshon, Salmon; and to Salmon was born Boaz by Rahab; and to Boaz was born Obed by Ruth; and to Obed, Jesse; and to Jesse was born David the king. And to David was born Solomon by her who had been the wife of Uriah; and to Solomon was born Rehoboam; and to Rehoboam, Abijah; and to Abijah, Asa; and to Asa was born Jehoshaphat; and to Jehoshaphat, Joram; and to Joram, Uzziah; and to Uzziah was born Jotham; and to Jotham, Ahaz; and to Ahaz, Hezekiah; and to Hezekiah was born Manasseh; and to Manasseh, Amon; and to Amon, Josiah; and to Josiah were born Jeconiah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon. And after the deportation to Babylon, to Jeconiah was born Shealtiel; and to Shealtiel, Zerubbabel; and to Zerubbabel was born Abihud; and to Abihud, Eliakim; and to Eliakim, Azor; and to Azor was born Zadok; and to Zadok, Achim; and to Achim, Eliud; and to Eliud was born Eleazar; and to Eleazar, Matthan; and to Matthan, Jacob; and to Jacob was born Joseph the husband of Mary, by whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ. Therefore all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; and from David to the deportation to Babylon fourteen generations; and from the deportation to Babylon to the time of Christ fourteen generations.”
Thus ends this reading of God’s holy and inspired word. May He add His blessing to it. Let’s look to Him again in prayer.
Our Father, we ask that You would bless our attendance upon Your word this day. Show it to us as Your inspired word meant for our edification and enable us to see the wonderful things which You have stored up for us in Your Word. And we will give You all the praise and all the glory. For we ask it in Jesus’ name. Amen.
We begin today a study of the gospel and a gospel. We use that word, gospel, in different ways. Sometimes we use gospel with a capital G to refer to one of the four books which begins the New Testament. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are all called gospels. That is, they are books which record the message of the deeds of God for salvation of His people. Gospels are not biographies in the modern sense. They do not give us in many places a complete account. Often times, we are left wishing that the author had told us more. We thought last week what it would have been like to listen in on Paul, and Luke, and Mark in prison talking about the life of Christ. And oh, the things that they could tell us about our Lord.
But Gospels are not written simply to give us a biographical account, they are written for a redemptive purpose. A gospel is a record of what God has done to save sinners. Through the incarnation, the earthly life, the mighty acts and the suffering and death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ. That is what a Gospel is. And that is why John says, if he were to write everything that he could write about Christ, that he supposed that the world could not contain all the books that he could write about him. He didn’t do that. He gave us a gospel. He gave us a book which recorded specific things for the benefit of our salvation. Not simply to tickle our curiosity, not to reach and scratch our historical fancy, but to help us in our saving knowledge of God. This is what a gospel is. Not a biography, but a record of the saving acts of God.
The gospels, contain, of course, the gospel. When we use gospel to refer not to a book, but to the message, we mean this: The gospel is the good news of salvation addressed to a world lost in sin. That is what the gospel is. It is good tidings of great joy brought to those who deserve to be condemned, but who through the mercy of God, have found salvation through Jesus Christ. The gospel is the good news of salvation addressed to a world lost in sin. It is often said that the various gospels in the New Testament are aimed in particular directions. It is said, for instance, that John is specifically written to show that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world. That is not only of the Jews, but of all the Gentiles as well. Sometimes it is said that Luke is written specifically to convey the Gospel to the Greeks. Other times it is said that Mark is written explicitly to convey the gospel to the Romans. And Matthew, it is said is written to convey the gospel to the Jews. It is written in language and in style and in concept designed to appeal to those who knew the Old Testament and whose thought world had been formed by allegiance to the God of Israel. Whatever the narrow purpose of Matthew is, the broad purpose of Matthew is clear. I would like to suggest four things are involved in Matthew’s purpose as he sets down to write the Gospel, what does he set forth to do?
First of all, he is interested in conversion. Matthew isn’t simply wanting to tell you an interesting story. He is not simply wanting to give you an account of sort of strange facts that occurred in his day in time. He wants what he tells you to convert you. Throughout the book, he, in fact, records instances where people who knew the Bible, rejected the teachings of the gospel, but were eventually converted to it. Matthew is no detached historian. What he says is true but he doesn’t tell it to you simply to tell you something interesting. He tells it to you because he wants it to grip and change your life. He is aiming for conversion.
Secondly, Matthew is aiming for sanctification. Isn’t it interesting how much of the teaching included in Matthew’s gospel, a gospel which tells us the basics of Christ’s life and death and resurrection, surely to encourage us in that conversion. Isn’t it interesting, though, how much of this gospel is given over to teaching how we should live. Think of Matthew’s long record of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. From Matthew 5 to Matthew 7, he gives us the longest account of it. And what does that sermon tell us, but how to live kingdom life in a fallen world. How to be Christians in a world which is impacted and affected by sin. Matthew is very concerned that we are not only converted, but we are transformed in our conversion to Christ likeness.
Thirdly, Matthew is interested in vindicating Christ and Christianity from false charges and false teachings. Throughout the gospel, people make various charges against Christ about His claims. And make various charges against Christians about their teaching. And Matthew is interested in this book in vindicating. He is doing Apologetics. He is defending the faith in the book. In fact, one of the purposes of this genealogy, beginning the book, is for the purpose of vindicating and defending the faith against false charges. We’ll talk about that in just a moment.
The fourth and final thing that this book aims to do is of course, it aims to focus upon evangelism: Conversion and sanctification and vindication and evangelization. All four of those things are purposes of Matthew. Matthew records for us in rather full scope the Great Commission of our Lord and he has in view throughout his gospel the spreading of the gospel to the ends of the earth. All of those things are in view as Matthew sits down to write. Why does he begin this book, a book intended to induce conversion, sanctification, to vindicate the faith, and to promote the evangelization of the world, why does he begin it with the genealogy? Perhaps, we southerners have some more sympathy with the fact that he would begin the book with genealogy. We are very much into our ancestors. And genealogy is quite important. When I first met my wife before we went the family reunion for the first time, she pulled out a blank sheet of paper and explained to me the family tree. This was requisite in going to a family reunion as a fiancée’. We appreciate genealogy in the south. In fact, it has often been said of those outside South Carolina, that South Carolinians are very much like the Chinese. They both eat rice and worship their ancestors. We should appreciate genealogy here in the south. We do, I am sure.
Genealogy was also important in Israel. It was important through all the stages of the life of Israel. Think of Israel entering into the land of Canaan. One’s genealogy determined what land you got and how much you got. Think of genealogy in the time of David. That was so important not only for determining David’s line, but for other reasons. Think of genealogy in Israel after the deportation to Babylon. Israel had been taken into captivity. When she comes out of captivity, who are going to be her priests? For God has ordained that only the sons of Aaron, the sons of Levi are to be priests. But how do you know that, unless you have your genealogy. And so the Jewish had faithfully kept their genealogies even in the time of deportation. For we are told throughout the New Testament that many Jews still knew what tribe they were from, even though the tribes had long since ceased to live in the areas allotted to them as they entered into the Promised Land originally a thousand or twelve hundred years before. Yes, they still knew where they were from. Saul could still say, I am a Benjamite. We can still hear of a prophetess from Asher and Jesus was of the tribe of Judah. Genealogy played an important role in Israel and by beginning with the ancestry of Jesus, Matthew is establishing Jesus’ pedigree. And he is setting forth the stage to show that Jesus had fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah.
This genealogy in fact teaches us at least four great truths about the Lord Jesus Christ. And I would like to concentrate on those truths with you today, just briefly. Let me say that this genealogy teaches so many things else, I would love to go through this genealogy and look at the stories which are brought to mind by the names that are recorded. Every time you glance to a name, you see the name Jacob, and oh, the stories that come to mind. And Tamar, the story that comes to mind, and Ruth, and Obed. And on and on, one would love to tell those stories, but we can’t. But maybe you can study that on your own. Let’s hear then these words that Matthew has for us, really that the Lord has for us from the pen of Matthew.
I. Jesus is the Messiah.
The first great truth that we learn from this genealogy is that Jesus is the promised Messiah. Matthew’s great purpose in setting down this genealogy is to bring home that point. Jesus is the Christ. He is the Messiah. In other words, He is the one sent by God to deliver Israel from her sin and oppression. In verse 1, we read what is effectively the title of the genealogy, the record of the genealogy of Jesus, the Messiah. Already, Matthew identifies Jesus as the Christ. Jesus as the Messiah. He comes back and he says the same thing at the end of the genealogy. Look down at verse 17. There he says, “so all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations. From David to the deportation of Babylon, fourteen generations, and from the deportation of Babylon to the Messiah, fourteen generations.” Notice how the generational shift concludes with the coming of the Messiah. Matthew is reminding us that though Jesus was born, in many respects like we are born, though virginally conceived. And he is going to talk about that in a moment.
Though Jesus was born, like we are born, he was a real human like we are human, yet He is different in this way at least. Whereas we do not choose to be born, Jesus chose to be born. Babies do not have the capacity to choose to be born. Sometimes we think they do, but they don’t. Babies cannot choose to be born.
Jesus in addition to being passive in His birth like us, was active in that he chose to come as Messiah. And this is one of the great emphases of Matthew, and it is one of the great emphases of the Gospels. Jesus chose to come. As Messiah, He was not only born, but He came. He came as the Messiah appointed by God, anointed by God, equipped by God, sent by God, and He came voluntarily to save us.
Jesus is the fulfillment of the Old Testament hope of Israel, Matthew is reminding us. He is the Messiah. And he elaborates on that truth in the next two phrases in verse 1.
II. Jesus is the Son of David: He is the fulfillment of all the Davidic covenantal promises.
He calls Jesus the Son of David. When he says that, he is telling you that Jesus is the one in whom we find the fulfillment of all the promises that were made to David. In fact, the whole genealogy is structured around David’s house. If you look at verses 1-6, you see the origins of David’s line. From Abraham to David’s father. If you look at verses 7-11, you see the rise and the decline of the house of David. If you look at verses 12-17, you see the descent into obscurity into the house of David. In fact, it is almost if the house of David is going to go extinct. It is going to go underground. It ceases to rule in Israel. The whole genealogy is structured around that. And isn’t it beautiful that just when you think David’s line has become extinct, then the root comes from the stump of Jesse.
Then the branch, the righteous branch comes, who is a greater king and a greater Lord then David or his descendants ever were. Matthew is reminding you that Jesus is the fulfillment of the promise that God had given to David in II Samuel chapter 7, verses 12 and 13, when he promised to put on David’s throne a son who would rule forever and ever. That was not fulfilled in Solomon as glorious as was his reign. And it was not fulfilled in the sum total of the kings of Israel as impressive as that reign was. Some say it was the longest dynasty, human dynasty, ever to rule in the history of the world. But that was not the fulfillment. No, the fulfillment of that promise of God in II Samuel 7 was in Christ.
III. Jesus is the Son of Abraham: He is the fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenantal promises.
Notice also in the phrase in verse 1. Jesus is the son of Abraham. Matthew is reminding you that he is the fulfillment of all the promises of God to Abraham. He is the fulfillment of the substitution on Mount Moriah when that ram was caught in the thicket bush and substituted for Isaac. He is the ultimate one who would be substituted for the house of Israel.
Isn’t it interesting by the way that this genealogy begins with a supernatural birth and it ends with a supernatural birth. It begins with the birth of Abraham’s son Isaac. Supernatural. Not exactly like the virgin birth of Christ. For Abraham and Sarah came together and yet they were beyond the age of child bearing. Supernaturally Isaac has been brought into the world. Christ is brought into the world supernaturally. Even in a way that transcends this. All of these themes are recorded to remind us that Jesus is the Messiah. He is the one hoped for by the people of God.
IV. Jesus is Virgin Born: He was supernaturally conceived, indicating His divine origins and character. Secondly, this genealogy teaches us that Jesus is divine. He is not only the Messiah, He is the Son of God. We see this stressed again in verse 16 and in verse 1. Jesus is virgin born. He is supernaturally conceived. That supernatural conception of Christ, that virgin birth of Christ is meant to point to His divine origins and character. Note the change in verse 16 in form from the rest of the passage. Throughout the passage, the phrase had been, and Abraham begot Isaac, and Isaac Jacob, and so on. Here, however, we are told explicitly in verse 16 that Jacob was the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, by whom Jesus was born. Isn’t it interesting how carefully Matthew states that. Joseph is not his physical father. He is the father in a legal sense, in covenantal sense, but Jesus is born of Mary. He is not of Joseph’s seed. Joseph is the legal human father of Jesus, Matthew is reminding you, not his physical human father. And this itself is designed to point that Jesus is divine. He is the Son of God. His divinity is being set forth here. Matthew is going to expand on this at the end of the chapter. And Luke stresses this point too. Jesus’ virgin birth points to the truth that He is the Son of God.
IV. Jesus is (humanly speaking) descended from David: He was a legitimate child born of the line of David.
Thirdly, we note in this passage that we are told that Jesus is truly human. He is not only the Messiah, He is not only divine, but He is truly human. Jesus is humanly speaking descended from David. He was a legitimate child born of the line of David. And this is stressed by the whole inclusion of the whole genealogy. What significance could that possibly have? Well, it had immediate significance in the time of Matthew, because in Matthew’s time, both the Jews and the Romans were accusing Christ of being the illegitimate child of a Roman soldier and Jewish maiden. There were all sorts of stories attempted to besmirch the character of Jesus Christ and to call into question His origins. You remember in John 8 that the Jews say various things about Christ. They say first that He was from Galilee. They say secondly that He was a Samaritan. And thirdly, they suggest that He was illegitimately conceived. And Matthew responds to all of those charges by saying let me set the record straight once and for all about the Lord Jesus Christ. His line was a legitimate line from the house of David and He was virgin born. And so Matthew defends the legitimacy of Christ’s birth, and the circumstances of His birth against the attacks of the first enemies of Christianity.
This came to bear as well a few decades later when a group of people went about teaching in the church that Jesus was really not human. He only appeared to be human. There were people who are called Dosetics. That comes from the Greek word, which means to seem or to appear. And they taught that Christ only seemed to be human. He only appeared to be human. But actually He was not. Matthew’s doctrine contained here in the genealogy directly contradicts that type of teaching. And a few years later, when the Gnostics came along, and began to teach that Jesus was not Jewish, and that Christianity had not relation to the religion of Israel, again, Matthew’s genealogy clearly sets forth the pedigree of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. But what does it mean for us today? Jesus’ humanity is one of the most important doctrines of Christianity and it is one of the most important doctrines for our comfort. If Christ is not fully human, He is incapable of sympathizing with our weakness as human. But He is fully human. He has born our flesh. He has experienced our temptation and weakness. A. W. Tozer once said, “we know how God would act, if He were in our place.” He has been in our place. He is in our place in the Lord Jesus Christ. Christ became what He was not, human without ceasing to be what He was, divine. So this passage teaches that Jesus is the promised Messiah. That Jesus is divine, and that Jesus is human.
V. Jesus is the Savior of the world: He is the Redeemer of women and men, Jew and Gentile, all kinds and types.
Fourthly, this passage teaches that Jesus is the only Savior of the world. This genealogy is designed to show us that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world. He is the redeemer of all kinds of people. Of women of men, of Jew, of Gentile, of all kinds and types. Have you looked over this genealogy? The names that you read bring to mind so many stories. In this genealogy are listed good men, and bad men. Abraham is listed in this genealogy, a good man, but a man with failings. Ahaz is listed in this genealogy. A bad man, with no redeeming qualities. Good women are listed in this genealogy. Ruth. Women of doubtful background are listed in this genealogy. Rahab. Good men who fail are listed in this genealogy. In fact, the very way, in verse 6, that David is introduced is interesting isn’t it? David who by Bathsheba, who was the wife of Uriah. Matthew is reminding us that everyone needs a Savior. Jew and Gentile. Good and not-so-good. Righteous and wicked. Even the righteous in this genealogy need redemption. Jesus is the Savior of the world. He is the Savior of all kinds and types of men.
You see, my friends, this message that Jesus is the Messiah, that Jesus is divine, that Jesus is human, that Jesus is the Savior of the world, is a message that at least three types of people here today need to learn. We Christians need to know and understand this truth because it is important for our growth in grace. These are among the bedrock truths of the faith. We confess them in the Apostles Creed week by week. We need to know and feed and understand these things that in the knowing of them, received by faith, we will grow strong in the word of God.
But there are other peoples who need to know these truths too. There are many people in the world today, who want to think of themselves as Christians, but who want to deny aspects of the biblical faith. Some of them say, ‘well, I am a Christian, but I can’t believe in miracles.’ Or ‘I am a Christian, but I can’t believe God really created the world by the word of His power in the space of six days.’ Or ‘I am really a Christian, but I can’t accept that Jesus was divine. At least in the sense that it is traditionally understood.’ Or ‘I am a Christian, but I simply can’t accept that Jesus is the Savior of the whole world, the only Savior of the whole world. That seems so narrow and so unpolite towards other world religions. And so exclusivistic and so condescending towards other world religions.’ ‘I am a Christian, but I don’t really believe that He is the Savior of the world.’ ‘I don’t believe that He is really divine, and if He was human, then He had to be human like me, and that means that He had to have an inclination towards sin. He has to stumble every once in a while.’
Well, this is a good passage for you if you are wrestling with those thoughts. Because that is not what the Bible teaches. And you have an easy choice to make. One may either accept what the Scriptures say. And you may embrace Christ and be a Christian. Or, one must openly reject those things and reject the claim to being a Christian. You can’t have it both ways. One is either a Christian and one assents to these truths which have been universally believed by the church and all of its parts and portions for two thousand years. They are not up for debate. We are not here to deliberate them. They are what the church, they are what the Scriptures, they are what the people of God believe. And so it is, if you are a Christian, you embrace these things.
And then finally there are some other groups of people who need to hear this word this morning. And that is those who are honest enough in the polite south to look you in eye and say, I am not a Christian even though I was born in Mississippi. You need to know these things. Because if you will embrace these truths, then you will begin an adventure of blessing that will never fail you, but will grow into eternity. For if you will embrace Jesus as the Messiah, as the Savior of the world, as Son of God and Son of man, you will find in Him delights which transcend your ability to comprehend. He is our all in all, the Messiah, the Son of God, the Son of man, the Savior of the world. Let us look to Him in prayer.
Our Lord and our God, help us to see the truth of Christ this day. And we’ll give you the praise and all the glory. For we ask it in Jesus’ name. Amen.