Matthew 3: The Trailblazer (7)
Pray Psalm 66.13-16.
I will go into Your house with burnt offerings;
I will pay You my vows,
Which my lips have uttered
And my mouth has spoken when I was in trouble.
I will offer You burnt sacrifices of fat animals,
With the sweet aroma of rams;
I will offer bulls with goats. Selah
Come and hear, all you who fear God,
And I will declare what He has done for my soul.
Sing joyfully Psalm 66.13-16.
(Regent Square: Angels from the Realms of Glory)
To Your house we come with off’rings, what we vowed, Lord, help us do.
O, receive our praise and homage as we give ourselves to You.
Come and listen, all who fear Him: hear what this great God can do!
Read aloud and meditate on Matthew 3.
1. From this chapter, what seem to be the key components announcing the Kingdom?
2. For what was John preparing the people? What was “at hand”?
John came as the forerunner and trailblazer of Christ. Christ came to bring the Kingdom of God to earth as it is in heaven – His rule of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. John understood this, steeped as he clearly was in Old Testament revelation; so his message of repentance was with a view to the coming of the Kingdom of God.
The coming of the Kingdom, not just of the salvation of the Lord. These days what we hear preached in many churches is the gospel of salvation, not the Gospel of the Kingdom. The gospel of salvation promises forgiveness, peace, a measure of happiness here and now (defined rather as you like), and a home in heaven in the great hereafter. The gospel of salvation mentions the Kingdom, but typically ignores its present implications and postpones its full realization.
As we shall see, the coming of the Kingdom has far vaster and more immanent and present implications than what most believers suppose.
John declared that the Kingdom of God was “at hand”. Jesus came to bring it, as the rest of Matthew’s narrative explains. The Gospel of the Kingdom includes the Good News of salvation, but not the salvation offered in today’s gospel of salvation. The salvation realized within the Kingdom is entered by repentance – of which we hear precious little in the gospel of salvation. The salvation realized in the Kingdom proliferates in works “worthy of repentance” – that is, works that prove repentance is real, self-denying, sacrificial, others-serving, witness-bearing, stake-your-life-on-it works.
The Gospel of the Kingdom transforms accepted traditions and ways, replacing them with the holy and righteous and good Law of God, and all His Word. It is not an add-on to one’s present busy life, but a replacing of that life with a new life, in which Christ the King rules for His glory in and through every aspect of one’s life by His Word and Spirit.
The religious leaders of John’s day believed they were God’s chosen people, His pals and confidants, and that if anyone was going to heaven it was they.
John called them a “brood of vipers”, leaving no doubt concerning his view of their paternity.
Jesus came to bring a new, long-anticipated, all-encompassing and all-transforming dimension of being to this world of time and space. His is not the gospel of salvation only, but the Gospel of the Kingdom; and if we believe anything other than what Matthew is about to unfold for us, then we’re believing another gospel, a form of near-Christianity, and not the “at hand” rule of King Jesus over every area of life.
That King and His Kingdom are making all things new by His Word and Spirit. And the great victory that made it all possible begins here, in the Jordan River, before it unfolds with holy violence and total triumph in the wilderness of Judea.
1. Why is the gospel of salvation another gospel? What does it lack?
2. John said we must enter the “at hand” Kingdom by repentance, then prove our citizenship in “fruits worthy of repentance”. Is this a form of salvation by works or unto works? Which is the true Gospel?
3. What does it take for us to know that God the Father is “well pleased” with us?
The kingdom of heaven? This refers to justification by faith and sanctification by the Spirit. This is why it says elsewhere, “the kingdom [of heaven] is within you.” Cyril of Alexandria (375-444), Fragment 17
I am an ambassador in Your Kingdom, Lord, and today I will carry out that assignment as I…
Pray Psalm 66.1-12.
Pray that God will use present conditions in the world to prepare people for the proclamation and Good News of the Kingdom of God. Ask God specifically to use you as a trailblazer and witness in someone’s life today.
Sing Psalm 66.1-12.
Psalm 66.1-12 (Regent Square: Angels from the Realms of Glory)
Shout for joy to God, all people, sing the glory of His Name!
Give Him glorious praise and say, “How great Your pow’r and great Your fame!
All the earth shall worship gladly as they praise Your glorious Name!”
Great and awesome is our Savior in the works which He has done.
He the sea and river dried to let His people cross as one.
Then our joy was great to worship Him our mighty, sovereign One.
He the nations watches ever – all you rebels, humbled be.
Bless our God, all men and nations, praise His Name eternally!
He preserves our souls, and He will keep His paths beneath our feet.
You have tried us, Lord, as silver, and have brought us into nets,
made us carry heavy burdens, let men trample o’er our heads.
But through all Your grace sustained us and has brought us through to rest.
T. M. Moore
The Gospel of Matthew will help us grow in the knowledge of Jesus Christ. Two companion books can supplement our study of Matthew. To Know Him examines what it means to belong to Jesus and to love and serve Him (click here), while Be Thou My Vision enables us to gain an even larger perspective on Jesus (click here).
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. All psalms for singing adapted from The Ailbe Psalter. All quotations from Church Fathers from Ancient Christian Commentary Series, General Editor Thomas C. Oden (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2006). All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (available by clicking here).