Good News for All Nations
Writing for Tabletalk is a great honor. It is hard to put into words the privilege of having one’s writing published alongside contributions from today’s finest theologians and pastors. Those who worked on the magazine before us have set a high standard indeed and by God’s grace we hope that we can be faithful to their example.
This standard also makes writing for Tabletalk a great responsibility. We are called to be true to the legacy Dr. R.C. Sproul has set, a legacy of faithfulness to the biblical doctrines recovered during the Reformation. Our job is not to present teachings for the sake of increasing our readership; our task is to present truth, even if it is unpopular or unfashionable.
Of course, the demand that we be true to the Word of God is where we feel the heaviest weight. We lack the time and space to provide the most thorough examination of Scripture possible. No matter how many words we are allotted, we can always say more. The Bible is so rich that we must invariably choose to cover only a few aspects of the text. This means there is always something we cannot bring out in the exposition of a passage. It is always a challenge to decide what lesson from the text will most help our readers grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18).
Sometimes I wonder if the gospel writers endured a similar struggle. After all, there is much from the life and teaching of Jesus that is not recorded in the New Testament (John 21:25). This information is not found in some document the Vatican is keeping under wraps, nor is it hidden in the paintings of Leonardo da Vinci. There is nothing unknown about our Savior that will one day reveal the Gospels as works of fiction. Despite their brevity, we can be confident that the Evangelists accurately summarize the life and mission of Jesus.
Still, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John were forced to choose what to write about the Christ, lest they work for a lifetime recording the Messiah’s life only to die before completing their task. In some ways, it must have been hard for them to leave out certain events in Jesus’ life, though they did have the Holy Spirit inspiring their efforts to produce what God most wants His church to know concerning His Son. And it is a testimony to the importance of our Savior and His work that the Spirit has given us four Gospels, each with its own particular insight into Jesus. One perspective alone would never do Him justice; a fourfold witness therefore helps us to understand His significance.
Matthew’s inerrant account of our Lord’s life and ministry is the subject of our study this year. Perhaps more clearly than the other three Gospels, the first evangelist (gospel writer) helps us see that in Jesus God keeps the promises He made to His old covenant people. It is a distinctly Jewish gospel, written to point Jews to their Messiah.
Yet, we must not miss Matthew’s interest in Gentiles. From the very beginning, those who are not physical descendants of Abraham play important roles in the first gospel. The wise men (2:1–12) are obvious examples, but the mention of Rahab, Ruth, and Uriah in the Lord’s genealogy (1:1–17) shows the evangelist’s interest in Gentiles as well. The Holy Spirit, theoretically speaking, could have inspired Matthew to leave out these individuals. We can be saved regardless of whether or not we know who Jesus’ ancestors were. But under divine guidance, the tax-collector turned apostle chose to list these persons, and there is a reason why God had him reveal this information.
To show us that Jesus fulfills the deepest and truest longings of the Gentiles seems to explain why the Father includes information about them in Matthew’s gospel. Episodes in Christ’s life, from the centurion who has more faith than many of Israel’s sons (8:5–13) to the guards who call Jesus “the Son of God” (27:54), show us that our Lord’s ministry is not limited to one nation alone. The parable of the tenants (21:33–46) presents the church, made up of faithful servants from both Israel and the Gentiles, as the community in which God keeps His promises to the Israelites of old. Matthew dispels any thought that the nations are an afterthought in the saving purposes of our Creator.
Again, humanly speaking, it would have been just as easy for the Spirit not to inspire Matthew to record these particular events and teachings. Yet, we Gentiles who trust Christ today should rejoice that this data was not left aside when this gospel was written. For in having Gentile concerns reflected in so Jewish a gospel, we are assured that we are God’s true people in Christ and not second-class citizens in the kingdom. Matthew shows us that the Gospel is for all people, and for that we should be forever grateful.