Seminary Program

This is where we post the essays from many of our Universal Life Church Seminary students. When students finish a ULC course, they write a comprehensive essay about their experiences with the course, what they learned, didn't learn, were inspired by, etc. Here are their essays.

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Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Gospel of Matthew

                                                       The Gospel of Matthew

Matthew portrays a very God like, all-powerful Jesus, with very few humanistic characteristics.

Matthew 2:3, "at this news King Herod became greatly disturbed." I thought the king would be happy to hear about the birth of Jesus. Apparently the kings intentions were not very nice. I really find this passage interesting, mainly because it separates God from the kingdom. Meaning the King has power and is afraid of losing it to the Son of God. 

Matthew's description of healing is very interesting; he gives Jesus more powers then Mark did. In Matthew 4:23 Jesus goes into Galilee and heals every disease and every sickness among the people, he does this with such ease. He helps a man with Leprosy in 8:2 by simple touching his hand and saying "be clean." In Matthew 8:12, Jesus says to a man, go and your friend will be healed because of his faith. Faith definitely plays the biggest role in Jesus' healing. 

Matthew refers to faith often throughout the gospel; you have to have faith to be saved by the lord. It's the only way you can believe in something that no one has ever seen. In Matthew 8:25, Jesus is on a boat in the middle of a storm, when his men say, "Lord, save us! We are perishing!" Jesus says, "why are you fearful, o you of little faith." Jesus stops the storm and his men are amazed. 

It would be so easy to be scared in that situation, you have Jesus sleeping as waves come over the boat, I might loss a little faith myself, especially if it happened in the twenty-first century. A great example of faith comes in Matthew 9:22, when he cures a woman with a hemorrhage, she is cured by touching his clothing. And Jesus tells her it was because of her faith. Faith comes into play many times in Jesus' healing, many times he doesn't even have to touch the person in order for them to get better. Faith to me is a very tough concept to grasp, if I ever do then I'll have the lord on my side. 

Jesus according to Matthew has very few humanistic characteristics, but he is definitely human because he was born to the Virgin Mary. According to the gospel it seems like people get there faith from his healing more then his teachings, a more humanistic Jesus would have to be a great teacher in order to get the faith of the people. Jesus sends his disciples out to spread the word of the lord. 

He warns them though people will try to arrest you and kill you. He tells them to be careful, but have faith that God will watch over them. One thing Jesus tells them that really shocked me was "He who loves father or mother more then me is not worthy of me." I understand you must love God more in order to have faith, but I could never put a Holy Spirit ahead of my family. In my opinion, one of the most important world masterpieces we can study is the Gospels in the Bible.  Especially the Gospel of Matthew.  This book continues to make a profound influence on thousands of people on the earth.  It is inspires, teaches, demands, and gives us hope.  It sets essential guidelines for living.  It is the foundation for salvation.  Nothing else could ever be so important to all of humankind.    We can relate to it because it tells us about ourselves.  It also tells us about others.  It discusses the issues that we hold at the core of our society.  Even for non-believers, the book of Matthew is the foundation for our society's moral, cultural, and ethical beliefs, accepted practices, and basic laws. This book affects all people who hear it.  It is a fascinating literary masterpiece. 

               Beginning in the New Testament the Bible moves from strict enforcement, punishment, and prophecy, into the glorious presentation of the Son of God.  He is spoken of hundreds of times in the Old Testament through symbols and prophecies -- all pointing to the future and the coming of Someone.  The Old Testament cannot be read without being aware of that constant promise running through each page.  Someone is definitely coming.

        In opening the Gospels, that Someone comes forth in the fullness of his glory, and it is absolutely fascinating.  We  get a chance to see Christ as he is.  Because what Christ was, is   what he is, and what he will always be.   We are given a view into the depth and fullness of his character and being and life.  That is why the Gospels are so important to us. 

               The word gospel means "good news."  It was the message that Jesus forgives the sins of all who trust in Him.  The Gospel of  Matthew is the first book in the New Testament, and has been called the most important book that has ever been written for Christendom.  Matthew was a Jewish tax collector who obeyed  Christ's call and became one of the original twelve apostles.  

Matthew's name means, "gift of  God."  Jesus gave him this name in  place of his given name, Levi when he joined with Christ.

               The Gospel of  Matthew is the perfect link between the Old and New Testaments.  Matthew wrote especially to the Jews to prove that Christ is their promised Messiah and the eternal King of kings and Lord of lords.  Therefore, Matthew is careful not to alienate his Jewish readers.  Matthew also shows how Jesus fulfilled prophecy and how He is the Person who will bring in God's kingdom.  Because the "Kingdom of heaven" is found thirty-three times in this Gospel, it has been called the Gospel of the Kingdom.  The book also shows that followers of Christ are the true people of God and the heirs of the coming kingdom.  
Matthew records Jesus' birth,  Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes, the Parables of the Kingdom, and Peter's confession of Christ as the Son of God.  

               Matthew could also be called the Gospel of the King because it is  Matthew's task to present him as the King.  The prophecy was fulfilled when Jesus entered Jerusalem, "humble and riding on an ass..." (Zech 9:9).  A genealogy is given to show God's working throughout the ages to bring His Son to earth.  Jesus' legal right to the throne comes through Joseph and his hereditary  right through Mary.  

               The first chapter recounts the joyful miracle of the birth of Jesus, which is different  from every other birth.  He was conceived by the Holy Spirit in Mary's womb and born with a sinless nature.  He is "God with us" and also God like us because He took on our nature and entered into human life and experience.  When Jesus was  baptized by John, he was given his heavenly authority  as the Father's voice spoke from heaven and said, "This is my Son, whom I love;  with him I am well pleased"  (Matt 3:17).

               In chapter four, Jesus is tempted by Satan not as a personal test but for our sake, that He might personally know temptation and be able to help us when we are tempted.  He overcame the devil by using the same weapons available to us today:  the Word of God, the power of the Spirit, and prayer.  

               The Sermon on the Mount presents a picture of the truly righteous person and shows the spiritual principles that control his or her life.  Jesus defined what sin is (5:21-48) and what real righteousness is in the areas of worship (6:1-18) and wealth (6:19-34).  We lay up treasures in heaven when we consider that all we have belongs to God and we use it to magnify His righteousness and advance His kingdom (Matt. 6:33).  It means much more than merely giving offerings to God, although that is important.  It means total stewardship of life so that God is in complete control and our one desire is to glorify Him.  This is the secret of a unified life (Matt. 6:24) free of worry.  It is important because it deals with internal attitudes as well as outward actions.  In these rules of the kingdom there is an emphasis on the physical life.  Jesus was saying that if we discover him and receive him as our King, we will discover that He is the answer to all of our physical needs.  We need only to look to Him.

               This is followed by a section on miracles.  These are illustrations of the benefits that our Lord can bestow on the level of the physical life if we accept him.  Matthew assembled several   of Jesus' miracles and recorded them as proof that Jesus is the promised  Messiah.  There are five main points seen through these miracles:  God is concerned with individuals, God can meet every need, God responds to faith, God's greatest concern is the salvation of sinners,  and God calls us to help Him reach the lost.  All of these miracles show the time Jesus was willing to spend, his compassion, his ability to heal,  his  ultimate power and  his intense love and caring for all of us.  

                              This, in turn, is followed by a section of parables of the kingdom.  Jesus used the  familiar to teach the unfamiliar ("things new and old" Matt. 13:52).  He did that not to hide the truth but to arouse interest in the truth.  He wanted to get the people to open their eyes and ears and receive the truth into  their  sluggish hearts.  Jesus  also warns against things like hostility, distractions,  hypocrisy, and neutrality (you are either for Him or against Him).  He also speaks about truthfulness and forgiveness.  These parables explain how God is at work in the world today.   God is sowing His Word in  human hearts and looking for fruit (vv. 1-9, 18-23).  He is sowing His  people in the world where they can produce a harvest.  (vv. 24-330, 36-43).  At the end of the age, He will separate the true from the false and the good from the bad. 

               Beginning with chapter 16, there is a second ministry of Jesus to the nation, this time on the level of the soul:  listening, trusting and obeying Jesus.  He is offering himself on this level.  His first revelation is to his disciples only, for they are the nucleus of the coming church, and  this  takes us up to chapter  18.  Here is the transfiguration and the first intimation of Jesus' death. 

This is followed by parables of the King.  These are addressed first to the disciples, and then to the nation.  All are parables presenting him as the King who has the right to command and to determine the character of individuals.  Jesus wants to heal  your marriage and bless your family, so let Him have your all.   Nothing is said now about their  physical lives.  Are they willing to follow him;  are they willing to let  him mold and shape their lives and characters? 

               Now what began as a triumphal entry into Jerusalem,  turns into the judicial entry, when Jesus judges the nation,  passes into the temple, stops the offerings, and drives out the money changers.  Jesus does this not to judge, however, but to save.  A person whose life is "nothing  but leaves" is in danger of judgment, for Christ seeks fruit (Matt. 7:15-20).  Once again you  hear the word "woe" coming in.  In chapter 23, verse 13, He says, "But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, ..."   (Matt 23:13)   All through the chapter, this word  "woe" rings out again and again. 

               This is followed by a section in chapters 24 and 25, where there are instructions to individuals again.  The instructions tell  the believers what to do until Jesus comes again. We are warned not to be deceived, discouraged, defeated, doubtful, or distracted.  

 The Word will not change.  It reveals how world history is going to shape up, what will happen in the intervening years;  what forces will be let loose upon the earth;  how the forces of darkness are going to take God's own people and test them, try them, and shake their foundations.  He declares that they can only stand as they learn to reckon upon the inner strengthening of the Holy Spirit.  When Jesus returns, it will be a time of separation:  the wise from the foolish, the faithful from the unfaithful, and the blessed from the cursed. 

People need to be born again and receive the Holy Spirit.  His coming also means as evaluation.  We must invest in our lives and make them better in order to give the glory to God.  Faithfulness is the key, because God measures us against ourselves, not against others.  Have faith and take some risks for God.   We don't always realize what our service means to Christ, so when He returns it will also be a time of commendation.

               Finally we arrive at the last section.  It is here that we are told of the betrayal, the trial of the Lord Jesus, the agony, the crucifixion, and the miraculous resurrection. We are told of how God offered opportunity to all those suffering adversity.  When, for example, Peter was given the opportunity to repent, he wept.   No matter what others did, Jesus was in complete command and know how to make the most of every opportunity.  Use all the opportunities that God gives you today wisely. Not as I will, but as you will" is the secret (v. 39).  Jesus is truly the example to follow when we suffer unjustly.  First the suffering, then the glory; first the cross, then the crown.  We should remember this the next time we are tempted to take the easy way.

               The message of the empty tomb is, "Do not be afraid!"  Jesus overcomes the world, the people, death, and the devil.  So we need not be afraid of anything as long as we have Jesus.  He also keeps His promises, goes before us, and has all authority.  He will prepare a way for us if we trust in Him for he has promised to be with us always. 

                  The great message of the Gospels, then, is that God is not up yonder on some throne; He is not waiting in some distant judgment hall to pass judgment upon us.  He is ready and waiting to pass into the center of a hungry, thirsting person's heart, and there to minister the blessing of his own life, his own character, his own being, all for us.  When the King is enthroned in life, the kingdom of God is present.  That is the message of Matthew "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand"  (Matt 4:17).

               The great question to which Matthew demands an answer is, "Is Jesus Christ King of your life?"  Have you received him only as Savior of the body or Savior of the soul?  The question that  Matthew brings before us is, "Has he become King?  Has he penetrated to the spirit?  Has he mastered your heart?  Has he laid hold of your worship as an individual, so that he is the one single most important person in all the universe to you?"  That is when he becomes King.  That is the fulfillment of the first commandment.  “You shall have no other gods before me, for you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your strength, and with all your mind."  The result will be that you will love your neighbor as yourself. 

               Countless famous authors and other literary masterpieces have drawn parallels and made references to many of the ideas of Matthew's Gospel.  Dante, St. Augustine, Machiavelli, and Erasmus to name a few. It continues to be a source of inspiration. For many people in the world, the book of Matthew is like a second creation story.  This is because it is like a new beginning.  Because of the story of Christ's resurrection, we gain hope and inspiration.  We look forward to a better time.  Because of the Sermon on the Mount, we are able to have a more positive, secure, and promising outlook on the world we are experiencing at hand. 


Albright, W.F. and C. S. Mann, eds.  Matthew:  the Anchor Bible.  Garden City, NY:  Doubleday                  and Co., Inc., 1971.

NIV Study Bible.  Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI. 1995.

Wenham, G.J., et al., ed. New Bible Commentary.  ED. IVP, 1994.

Evans, Tony.  Our  God is Awesome.  Moody Press, Chicago. 1994.

Andy Gaus  The Unvarnished Gospel , 2001.

 Rev. Steve Dunkley

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