This summer, I celebrated four years of ministry at Faith BFC, Spring City, PA. After three and a half years and one hundred thirty-one sermons I also finished preaching through my first gospel, Matthew. My goal in this article is to unpack why I chose Matthew as my first sermon series at Faith. Before I explain my reasoning, let me share two preliminary thoughts. First, preaching or studying any book of the Bible is a good thing. Matthew was just my choice, Second, the reasons I chose Matthew are not unique to Matthew. A study and sermon series in Exodus, Isaiah, or Philippians, can find the same reasons. We can find Christ, see His Kingship, apply it to His Church, and keep the Scriptures connected in any other book of the Bible. Sometimes we just need to pick a book, focus on Christ, and glorify Him by growing in our faith through the work of His Word on us.
So why did I choose Matthew first? Veteran pastors will tell younger men to start in the Gospel of Mark. I received this advice. Why not an easier book to exegete like Galatians or 1 Peter? There are at least four reasons I chose Matthew’s Gospel of Jesus Christ first.
Christ and His Work
First, Matthew was an easy choice because it makes Jesus and His work explicit compared to other books that make Christ and His work more implicit. Matthew is a gospel, the narrative of Jesus life, death, resurrection, and perfect work of saving His people from their sins.
As New Covenant believers Christ is our Federal Head, the purpose of our lives, and the only Mediator between us and our Creator. Christ is the Head of His Church, the highest authority in our lives through His Word and the King of His Kingdom. Christ must be the center of His people. If this is who Christ is to His people, then He must be the center, focus and climax of the Lord’s Day sermon. Every sermon must have Christ at its heart. His work, His words (teaching), and His witness in our actions must be saturating our sermons. Christ is the center of a Christian sermon. Matthew makes this goal easy. Matthew’s Gospel is about the work of Christ. His gospel is saturated with the words (teachings) of Christ. Matthew’s intended response for his reader is to live as witnesses, kingdom members under the rule and reign of Christ as their King. Matthew makes Christ explicit for easy Christ-centered application.
Christ the King
The second reason I chose Matthew was because of his specific focus on Christ; the Kingship of our Savior. My series title was, “The King and His Kingdom.” The kingly aspects in the narrative of Jesus is the heartbeat of Matthew’s specific gospel. Matthew makes Christ’s kingship clear. Beginning with Christ as the son of David (that promised eternal Son on the eternal throne) and ending with Christ having “all authority on heaven and earth.” Matthew underlines the life and work of Christ as a kingly life and work. He even pictures the climax of Christ’s work, His crucifixion, as an upside-down coronation and enthronement of Jesus as King in His work of saving His people from their sins.
In the conclusion of his Gospel, Matthew records Jesus commissioning His followers by saying, “teach them (disciples) to observe all that I have commanded you.” The Christian life is a life of observing or obeying the words and decrees of Jesus. His Word reigns and rules over His people. His commands are the guidelines of His people. Christ is King over His kingdom made up of His people, those He has saved from their sins. The kingly commands of Christ are critical for kingdom members.
Lessons for the Church Today
A third reason I chose to preach through Matthew first was the applicable nature of the book to the local church. Matthew covers different areas that are important to ecclesiology (the theology of the church). He covers kingdom ethics (chapters 5-7). He deals with evangelism and the responses we will face when being faithful (chapter 10). He touches upon church membership (chapter 16) and church discipline (chapter 18). He gets into the last things and “beginning of the end” truth (chapters 24-25). Even ending his gospel with the heartbeat of the church – disciple-making (chapter 28).
Matthew is a delightful book to unpack because it comes with such a wide variety of applications. Whether it deals with the Christian as an individual or the corporate reality and responsibility of the local church, Matthew contains issues and implications that are good for a pastor to exposit for his congregants.
A Bridge between the Old and the New
A final reason I chose to preach Matthew first was because of the beautiful biblical-theological nature of the book. It truly is the bridge from the Old Testament to the New Testament, the connective tissue of the shadows of Christ to the substantive work and person of Christ. Yes, Matthew is the first book of the New Testament, and it begins with that great “genealogy” (think eleven genealogies from Genesis) in the introduction. But a common word for Matthew is “fulfilled,” using it fifteen times. Matthew also quotes, has Jesus quoting, or alludes to dozens of other Old Testament texts throughout.
Not only is Matthew explicit with the connective threads to the Old Testament, Matthew is also the “king” of typology. Whether it is in the opening chapters showing Jesus to be a typological Moses or towards the end of his Gospel when Matthew points to Jesus being the typological fulfillment of the temple. Matthew shows a clear shadow/ substance or type/antitype aspect to Christ and His work. There were numerous weeks where we were going from Testament to Testament seeing the beauty and richness to our King and His work to save us from our sins. Matthew helpfully demonstrates that the Bible is one complete and perfect story. The story of Jesus Christ redeeming His people by crushing the head of the snake and conquering sin.
Matthew has been a rich, edifying series of sermons over the last 4 years, especially in light of the challenges we have all faced. If after reading this article you find yourself reading from Matthew or adding the book to your daily Bible study or preaching plan, I have accomplished my goal. I pray your love for Christ and His Word has been stirred, especially in Matthew.
Soli Deo Gloria,
Pastor Jeff Kauffman, Faith Bible Fellowship Church, Spring City, PA