A Word of Introduction, Life-Study of Matthew, Message One, pp. 1-4
THE KING'S ANTECEDENTS
A WORD OF INTRODUCTION
The Bible is God's speaking. It has two sections. In the first section, the Old Testament, God spoke by the prophets, and in the second section, the New Testament, He spoke in the Son (in the Person of the Son, Heb. 1:1-2). This section is composed of the four Gospels, the book of Acts, the Epistles, and the book of Revelation. While He was in the flesh, the Son began to speak in the four Gospels. After His resurrection, He continued to speak as the Spirit through the Apostles (see John 16:12-14). Thus, the New Testament is just the Son's speaking to us, His ministering Himself as life and everything that we may become His Body, His expression, the church.
The Bible is a book of life. This life is nothing less than the living Person of Christ. In the Old Testament Christ is portrayed as the coming One. In the New Testament, the One whose coming was predicted has come. Thus, the New Testament is the fulfillment of the Old. St. Augustine once said that the New Testament is contained in the Old, and the Old Testament is expressed in the New. These two testaments are actually one, revealing one Person who is our life.
THE OPENING WORD
OF THE NEW TESTAMENT
Nearly all Christians are bothered by the first page of the New Testament. It has many names that are difficult to pronounce. But this page is the first part of the New Testament. In any kind of writing, both the opening word and the closing word are important. When many Christians come to the New Testament, they skip over the first part of chapter one of Matthew and start reading at verse 18. It seems that in their New Testament there is no such paragraph as Matthew 1:1-17. But thank God for this rich portion of the Word! This genealogy of Christ is an abstract of the whole Old Testament. It includes everything except the first ten and a half chapters of Genesis. If we would know the meaning of this genealogy, we need to know the entire Old Testament.
A LIVING PICTURE OF CHRIST
We need to say a word concerning the New Testament. The New Testament is simply a living picture of a Person. This Person is too wonderful. He is both God and man. He is the mingling of God with man, for in Him the divine nature and the human nature are mingled together. He is the King, and He is a bondslave. He is wonderful.
No human being has ever spoken words like He spoke, words so profound, yet so clear. For example, Jesus said, “I am the bread of life” (John 6:35), and, “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12). Plato and Confucius were two great philosophers, and people appreciated the things they said, but neither of them could say, “I am the light of the world.” No one else could say, “I am the life,” or, “I am the way,” or, “I am the reality” (John 14:6). These are simple words and short sentences—“I am,” “I am what I am,” and “I am that I am”—but they are great and profound. Can any of us say that we are the light of the world or that we are the life? If we did, we would surely be sent to a mental hospital. But Jesus could say these things. How great He is!
FOUR BIOGRAPHIES OF ONE PERSON
Jesus is all-inclusive. With Him there are many aspects. No one can exhaust in language who and what He is. Who else in history has four unique biographies written of him? Although the New Testament is a short book, it begins with four biographies of one Person, four books telling us of the life of Christ.
Each of us has four sides: the front and the back, the right and the left. If you look at me from the front, you can see seven holes on my face. But if I turn my back to you, all the holes disappear. On my right side you can see a little hole, and on my left side, another little hole. If you would make an accurate copy of my image, you need to take a picture of every side. This is exactly what has been done in the New Testament.
Why do we have four Gospels? Because Christ has at least four main aspects. Christ is great! Because He is all inclusive and unsearchably rich, He needs several biographies. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John present different aspects of Christ because each writer was a different kind of person. Matthew, for instance, was a tax collector. Among the Jewish people in ancient times, a tax collector was a despised person. Nevertheless, Matthew wrote the first biography of Christ. Mark was an ordinary man, and Luke was a physician and a Gentile. At first, John was a common fisherman, but eventually he became the very aged, experienced apostle. Each wrote a different biography about the same Christ. This living Person needs many biographies.
The book of Acts is the expansion of this wonderful Person. It is the branching out of the all-inclusive Christ. This Christ has expanded from one Person to thousands and thousands of persons. He was once the individual Christ, but in Acts He has become a corporate Christ. Following the Acts, we have all the Epistles, which give a full definition of this wonderful, universal, great Man. Christ is the Head, and the church is the Body: this is the universal Man, Christ and the church. Finally, we have the book of Revelation as the consummation of the New Testament. this book gives us a full picture of the Body Christ, the individual Christ incorporated with all His members to become the New Jerusalem.