Why did Matthew write the gospel bearing his own name? What audience was he writing to? What was the purpose for the gospel of Matthew?
Who was Matthew?
Matthew was ascribed to be one of the writers of the gospel with his name on it. He was apparently one of the twelve disciples and his former occupation was that of a publican. A publican was an official of the Roman government that must have been well paid, so that the fact that Matthew simply walked away from a comfortable life of ease is hard for Christians to understand today. Publicans were not only tax collectors but they were also public contractors that customarily supplied the Roman armies and legions with supplies that they needed for sustenance. They collected port duties (taxes) but they also supervised or oversaw public works projects of the Roman government. Matthew, who was also called Levi, the son of Alpheus (Mk 2:14; Luke 5:27), simply left everything he owned to follow Jesus Christ and like the other disciples, would be martyred for their faith in Christ. They not only left their former lives but they would also pay for it with their lives.
Who was Matthew Written to?
Matthew sees no difference between history and theology and thus the fact that the gospel of Matthew comes first is no accident. It seems to be a superb transition from the Old Testament to the New Testament. Although the New Testament, like the Old Testament, is not written in exact chronological order (time-sequence), the gospel of Matthew does make the perfect introduction for the Jews to the new and better covenant. The gospel of Matthew has been described as a swinging door that connects the Old Testament reader to the New Testament. For Matthew, the Kingdom of God was the priority. There is nearly a 400 year silence from God in the Scriptures between the Old Testament and the New and Matthew is the perfect ending of this silence. Matthew’s audience, even though it is applicable to the modern reader, has a special appeal to the Jews because of the genealogy of Jesus Christ which he traces all the way back to Abraham, the father of the nation of Israel. Matthew wants the Jews to understand that not only is Jesus King but He is also the long awaited and prophesied Messiah.
The Purpose of Matthew
As we have already read, the gospel of Matthew was written to the Jews who had been looking for hundreds of years for the Seed of Promise, the Messiah, to come. Since Genesis 12, the Promised Seed was foretold to come and this was of particular interest to the Jews. It is also of particular interest to those who study prophecy because Jesus’ coming is the perfect fulfillment in His coming at the perfect time. Even though the Roman government was firmly in control, they had allowed freedom of religion. This freedom enabled the gospel, including a copy of the gospel of Matthew, to go into most of the known world and this particular gospel appealed to the Diaspora (the Jews dispersed throughout the world) because it gave them the good news that the Messiah had finally come. Their long awaited King had come, although they expected an earthly kingdom to be established immediately. Most of the Jews who were thrilled that Christ had come, quickly turned on Him after they realized that His kingdom would not be established at this time. They had wanted a king to overthrow the Roman Empire, therefore, He whom had been worshipped and embraced, was now despised and screamed for His crucifixion.
If you have not yet repented and trusted in Christ, you don’t have the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ, you actually have bad news awaiting you (Rev 20:11-15). Instead of God being your Father, you have the Devil as your father. You are either a child of God and have Him as your Father or you are a child of rebellion that is headed toward destruction. I understand that this seems harsh but if I were a doctor, I wouldn’t rush up to you to give you a prescription if you thought you didn’t need it but I would first give you the diagnosis that you were going to die if you didn’t receive the cure. That mortal sickness is called sin and we all have a sin-sickness. Humanity has a sinful nature that will require the fierce judgment of God someday. The gospel is called the “good news” because it brings a cure for death…eternal death. Jesus, the perfect Lamb of God was sacrificed for you so that you could be seen by God as having His own righteousness (2 Cor 5:21). If you don’t believe that you are a sinner, then I am sorry…Jesus didn’t die for you because He came to die for sinners and to free us from the wrath of God. He came to make peace for us by His own body (Rom 5:1). Decide today while there is still time for He could return any moment…either as your Judge or as you Savior. This is a decision that you do not want to put off.
Another Reading on Patheos to Check Out: What Did Jesus Really Look Like: A Look at the Bible Facts
Jack Wellman is Pastor of the Mulvane Brethren church in Mulvane Kansas. Jack is also the Senior Writer at What Christians Want to Know whose mission is to equip, encourage, and energize Christians and to address questions about the believer’s daily walk with God and the Bible. You can follow Jack on Google Plus or check out his book Blind Chance or Intelligent Design available on Amazon.