Notes on Matthew

Matthew 1:16-24 —Engagement was considered binding prior to marriage, so that the words husband and wife could be used and a divorce required to nullify betrothal. It is of importance to notice that marriage is a bond that is covenantally contracted, not primarily a sexual union. Cf. 19:3-9.

Matthew 2:16 —Effect of anger out of pride and aimed at people.

Matthew 3:2 —Repentance = "a change of mind" (cf. vs. 8).

Matthew 3:8 —True repentance leads to a change of behavior (fruit=results; an evident change in one's manner of life).

Matthew 4:1-11 —Temptation. The word is colorless and may mean either "to test" or "to tempt." Every trial is both a test from God and a temptation from Satan. Here both perspectives are brought together as the Spirit and the devil both appear in the event. Help counselees to see the positive opportunity as well as the negative danger. Temptation is not sin. Jesus had to think the thoughts suggested by Satan in order to reject them. When one mentally acquiesces in those thoughts, he sins. Temptation may be overcome by the use of specific biblical truths that set forth God's alternatives (cf. vss. 4, 6, 10).

Matthew 5:23 —Cf. 9:35. Chapters 5-7 describe Christ's teaching, chapters 8-9 describe His healing ministry. Much of Matthew's materials have been arranged topically (e.g., parables of the kingdom, ch. 13; eschatological information, chs. 23-25).

Matthew 5:24 —Sickness and epilepsy are distinguished from demon possession. But demons can cause various sicknesses and madness (Luke 13:11; 8:26ff.).

Matthew 5:16 —Good works do not save, but the good works of the saved glorify God.

Matthew 5:18, 19 —The new empire is linked to the old commandments rightly understood and properly applied.

Matthew 5:22-26 —Anger may lead to rifts between brothers. Reconciliation is an urgent priority that takes precedence even over worship (cf. vs. 24, "first"). Urge counselees to settle matters quickly. Cf. also 18:15-18.

Matthew 5:29, 30 —Not literally, of course. But as mutilation would cause an impediment to acting the same way again, so the counselee is to remove temptations and to set up impediments to future repetitions of sinful behavior. He is to "make it hard for himself" to sin.

Matthew 5:31, 32 —Divorce of believers (I Cor. 7:12 makes it clear that Jesus does not speak of a marriage with an unbeliever) can be justified on the ground of sexual sin—the word translated "sexual sin" is literally "fornication," which in Bible times meant sexual sins of various sorts, including adultery (cf. Ezek. 16:23, LXX; Hos. 2:3, 5, LXX; Amos 7:17, LXX; Rev. 2:20), homosexuality (Jude 7), and incest (I Cor. 5:1).

Matthew 6:12, 14, 15 —This is not judicial forgiveness, but parental forgiveness (note use of "Father" in vss. 8, 9, 14, 15).

Matthew 6:19-34 —Worry is sin because forbidden (vs. 25). Worry comes from failure to trust God, Who promises to clothe and feed His children (cf. Ps. 37:25; Prov. 10:3), from failure to put first things first (cf. vs. 33—it is futile to seek what comes only as a by-product), and from focusing upon the wrong day (tomorrow rather than today, cf. vs. 34). See also Philippians 4:6, 7; I Peter 5:6, 7. Worry at length leads to laziness (cf. 25:24-27).

Matthew 6:21 —With money, with things, with persons, wherever one makes his investment is where his interest is. Counselees need to make withdrawals from poor (sinful) investments and make deposits leading to profitable (righteous) investments before a change of interest is possible.

Matthew 7:1-5 —Counselees must be shown the need first to consider their own sins before rebuking others about theirs. And, when they do confront another about his sins, they must be careful about the basis on which the judgment is made (vss. 1, 2).

Matthew 7:12 —Love = the fulfillment of the O.T. (Law and Prophets). Love is active and involves doing.

Matthew 8:16 —Demons cast out with a word (contrast with many unscriptural practices carried on today).

Matthew 8:26 —Example of a why-type question calculated to put pressure on the listener, but not intended to elicit information from him (cf. also 9:4).

Matthew 8:28 —Demon possession can cause violence.

Matthew 8:29 —Demons were afraid of Christ's power (never the other way around, as some misrepresent the situation today). Believers, in whom the Spirit dwells, need not fear them either.

Matthew 9:2 —The paralysis, in this instance, may have been the result of particular sin.

Matthew 9:12 —Recognition of need for Christ is essential to His help.

Matthew 9:32ff. —Demon possession caused dumbness.

Matthew 9:36 —Shepherding (pastoral work) involves the compassionate counseling of sheep (Christians) to help them meet distress and discouragement.

Matthew 10:26-31 —Fear of God is the one fear that expels all others.

Matthew 10:34ff. —The biblical alternative to the world's peace is the divisive sword of the gospel. Christ must come before all others, even family. Counselees who try to do as God says merely in order to please another err. They must do what God says to please Him, whether others (even loved ones) are pleased or not.

Matthew 11:17-19 —Approaches may vary, as did John's and Christ's, but their message was identical (cf. 3:2; 4:17).

Matthew 11:28-30 —Christ, unlike the Pharisees, did not call to a heavy yoke of discipleship, but to the restful yoke of His salvation (cf. Luke 11:46). A disciple is (literally) a "learner." What Christ means when He says, "Learn from Me," is "Become My disciple." Cf. also I John 5:3.

Matthew 12:22 —Demon possession caused blindness as well as dumbness.

Matthew 12:25 —Divided homes will come apart. Counselors may use this verse to show the necessity for coming to unity.

Matthew 12:28 —The purpose of casting out demons: to show that Christ had come to establish His empire in place of the empire of Satan (Dan. 7:12-14).

Matthew 12:31, 32 —Unpardonable sin. First, notice the comfort in vs. 31. No sin is too great to be forgiven except one: attributing the miraculous work of the Holy Spirit to the unclean spirit, Satan (cf. vss. 24ff.). No one who is concerned about it has committed it. Counselors should (1) explain what the sin is, then (2) say, "Now let's talk about the pardonable ones."

Matthew 13:8 —Not every believer will produce fruit alike (cf. Rom. 12:6; I Cor. 12:6). There are degrees of sanctification and varieties of experience. Either one or both of these ideas seem to be implied by the varying yields.

Matthew 13:28-30 —Apart from the regular process of church discipline (Matt. 18:15-20; I John 2:19; etc.) there is no way to judge whose profession may be doubted.

Matthew 15:5, 6 —Money put in reserve and marked "for God" could not be used to honor (help) needy parents. Honor is construed by Christ to mean more than respect and obedience. He includes financial assistance (cf. I Tim. 5:4, 8). Counselees frequently need to be urged to consider their obligations to parents. Much anxiety from guilt about sinful behavior lies in failure to meet such obligations.

Matthew 15:14 —The counsel of an unbeliever has only one outcome: failure. Blind guides in counseling often end up in the same place as their unfortunate counselees.

Matthew 15:19 —Cf. Mark 7:20-23.

Matthew 15:32 —Note Christ's concern for ministering to the physical needs of men.

Matthew 16:1-4 —Counselors should point out the evil of asking for signs. Only the signs that God gave in Christ are valid. Turn counselees from signs to the Scriptures. Cf. Deut. 13:1-5.

Matthew 16:12 —False teaching (or true) has its way of permeating one's whole life and actions. It cannot remain in the mind alone. It influences.

Matthew 17:24, 25 —Discipleship involves denying (lit., saying no to) self (i.e., one's desires to please himself) and putting self to death (taking up the cross), while following Christ. Cf. Rom. 13:14.

Matthew 17:14-18 —Demon possession caused epileptic seizures.

Matthew 18:15-20 —These verses set forth the vital reconciliation/discipline dynamic by which every difference that separates brethren may be set to rest. It allows for no loose ends. Counselors should instruct counselees in the importance of following these steps whenever anything comes between two Christians. Cf. also 5:23, 24. Verses 18, 19, and 20 are a powerful incentive to exercise church discipline, even to the extent of excommunication (let him be as a Gentile and tax gatherer—i.e., outside the church); Christ promises to be present to guide in what He has already determined to do. (These three verses are no encouragement to holding small prayer meetings.) By "church" (vs. 17), He means the ruling representatives of the church—the elders—who are the two or three (a minimal number) who execute the judgment.

Matthew 18:35 —"From his heart" does not mean with proper emotional feelings, but rather with the sincere intention of keeping the promise of forgiveness, which is to remember his brother's sins against him no longer (cf. 15:8, where heart is contrasted with lips).

Matthew 19:3-9 —Divorce of believers is allowed (not required) for sexual sin (cf. 5:31, 32). Marriage is not a civil contract primarily, but rather a divine covenant (vs. 6). Cf. also Prov. 2:17; Mal. 2:14. God, regulating the consequences of sinful activity, does not condone it (vss. 8, 9). Cf. also Mal. 2:16.

Matthew 19:10-12 —Celibacy is not for all (vs. 11) but only for those whom God has singled out and gifted for a special work in His empire (vs. 12). Cf. I Cor. 7:7. Counselees must be helped to find their gift and find their work. I Cor. 9:5 shows that the disciples changed their minds about marriage (vs. 10).

Matthew 19:12 —Some eunuchs naturally (by birth), some unnaturally (by castration), some supernaturally (by divine call and gifting).

Matthew 20:20-28 —Cf. Mark 10:35-45.

Matthew 22:36-40 —There are "two," not three commandments here (cf. vss. 39, 40). There is no third: "Love yourself." To read that into the passage is to psychologize it. "As yourself" refers not to the content of love (that is contained in the Ten Commandments themselves) but to the nature of it (its intensity, devotedness, etc.). The second "is just like it" in that respect (with "all your heart... soul... mind" is parallel to "as yourself." Cf. Eph. 5:29 for a similar argument). Counselors err seriously when they tell counselees to love themselves. If by God's grace these commandments are obeyed, one's self-esteem will rise as a by-product. But see 10:39; 16:25. Note, none of the Ten Commandments (which these two commandments summarize) relate to love of self.

Matthew 23:4 —Cf. 11:28-30; 12:7.

Matthew 23:5 —It is of great importance for counselors to stress the need to make changes (even confession of sin) for Christ's sake, and not to be seen of men.

Matthew 23:12 —As a by-product of humility God brings exaltation; humility cannot be used as a gimmick to obtain exaltation. Counselors must watch vigilantly for such subtle trends in counselees, and ever warn against them.

Matthew 23:23b —Not an either/or but a both/and situation. Often it is important to stress this point in order to prevent reactionary, pendulum thought and action.

Matthew 23:25, 26 —There are two methods of meeting problems: reformation (change outside only) and regeneration (change inside, and this leads to outer change also). The first method leads to what is described in verses 27, 28, and must be avoided by counselors.

Matthew 24:37 —There are some unsaved persons who because of their rebellious attitudes will in the end prove themselves to be "unwilling." Counselors may compassionately try to help them, but, like Christ, cannot succeed. In such cases, Christ places the responsibility upon those who refuse help.

Matthew 24:4, 5, 11 —Counselors will find that many difficulties stem from false doctrine. Notice in vss. 5, 11 the use of the word many.

Matthew 24:23-28 —False prophets will claim miraculous proofs ("signs and wonders"). Counselees are often deceived by these, but should not be.

Matthew 24:45, 46 —Counselors from time to time will need to stress the importance of continued effort to some who are misled through eleventh-hour thinking. Cf. also II Thess. 3:7-15.

Matthew 25:24-27 —Worry at length leads to laziness, since it focuses upon tomorrow, not upon today (cf. 6:34). It is impossible to work on tomorrow's problems, since they are not yet present.

Matthew 25:35-46 —Love is demonstrated in doing (see esp. vs. 45).

Matthew 26:33 —Pride before a fall (cf. Prov. 16:18; 29:23); see also John 21:15.

Matthew 26:38ff. —Grief is a proper expression of feeling. Christ here demonstrates the fact. Cf. also I Thess. 4:13ff.

Matthew 28:8 —Note the conjunction of two emotions. Counselors at times must look not simply for one, but multiple strains.

Matthew 28:18-20 —The Great Commission is given in educational terms: "Make disciples" (i.e., students), "teaching them to observe all that I have commanded." Evangelism includes the baptism (introduction) of converted persons into the visible church as students of Christ. These persons must learn how to change their living in order to conform to Christ's revealed will for them.