Christology in the Gospel of Matthew

In preparation for a paper on the Divinity of Christ this post examines Christology as presented in the Gospel of Matthew. I decided to specifically look into Matthew’s Gospel because it was recently charged in an online discussion forum I take part in that the writer of the Gospel of Matthew did not believe Christ was God. This post researches that question. What did the writer of Matthew’s gospel believe about Jesus Christ? This post represents just the beginning of my research and could turn into multiple posts.

I think the proper place to start is at the end of Matthew’s Gospel:

16 But the eleven disciples proceeded to Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had designated. 17 When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some were doubtful. 18 And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (NASB)

The type of Christology presented in the above passage is intended to be the culmination of everything that comes before it in Matthew’s gospel. Here are my observations of the above passage:

Verse 16: All eleven disciples are present during these events. It is probably relevant if we consider that John’s gospel is much more explicit than Matthew’s. If the gospel of Matthew disagreed with the conclusions of John’s gospel (based on shared experiences), surely it would have argued that Christ wasn’t God just as explicitly. However, such explicit arguments against Christ’s deity are not found in Matthew’s gospel. In fact, I believe the culmination of Matthew’s gospel is in complete agreement with John’s.

Verse 17: The eleven disciples worshiped Christ. The Greek word translated as “worshiped” is “proskuneo.” Strong’s Dictionary defines this word as “to Fawn or crouch to, that is, (literally or figuratively) prostrate oneself in homage (do reverence to, adore): – worship. This verse paints such a powerful image that Matthew Henry wrote, “They gave divine honor to Him, which was signified as by some outward expressions of adoration. Note, all that see the Lord Jesus with an eye of faith are obliged to worship Him” (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible).

I think it is also noteworthy that Matthew’s gospel records that some were still doubtful at this point. I think this gives us all direction when we face doubts concerning the identity and person of Jesus Christ – in the face of doubts, we should worship  Him.

Verse 18: Christ claims all authority in heaven and on earth. “Authority” or the Greek “Exousia” denotes not just the power of authority but the right of privilege to possess such authority (see Thayer’s Greek Definitions). Christ owns the right to claim such authority because He is divine. In his commentary on the Book of Matthew, Dr. Thomas Constable refers to this verse as “Jesus’ great claim.” I think it is a claim that is directly tied into His divinity.

Verse 19: In response to Christ’s universal authority, the disciples are to go out and make disciples of all nations. Christ’s authority is no longer seen as one localized to the Jewish nation as Messiah, rather, it transcends the Jewish nation and applies to all people everywhere. Jesus is portrayed as having sovereign control and authority over all things in heaven and earth. This is a divine sovereignty that is in accord with the attribute of sovereignty that is reserved for God Almighty.

Furthermore, the second part of Verse 19 is one of the clearest expressions of the Trinity we find in Scripture, “… in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” So much so that it has been written:

“It is one thing for Jesus to speak about his relationship with God as Son with Father (notably 11:27; 24:36; 26:63- 64) and to draw attention to the close links between himself and the Holy Spirit (12:28, 31-32), but for ‘the Son’ to take his place as the middle member, between the Father and the Holy Spirit, in a threefold depiction of the object of the disciple’s allegiance is extraordinary.” R.T. France in his commentary on Matthew.

Surely, Christ is claiming divinity in this expression of the Holy Trinity!

Verse 20: From Edmond Heibert’s An Expository Study of Matthew 28:16-20, “This Gospel ends not with a command but with a promise, or rather a fact. Jesus will be with His disciples as they carry out His will. This is His great commitment. Immanuel is still God with us (1:23; cf. 18:20). The expression “to the end of the age” (Gr. pasas tes hemeras) literally means “the whole of every day.”1321 Jesus promised to be with us every day forever. It does not mean He will cease being with us when the present age ends and the messianic kingdom begins. Throughout the present age (Gr. sunteleias tou aiovos) Jesus’ disciples are to carry out His Great Commission.”

So is it true that the Gospel of Matthew fails to present Christ as God? I would suggest a belief in the deity of Christ is the very culmination of this gospel! Was it as developed as John’s Gospel or expressed in the same manner? Certainly not! But I think the Gospel of Matthew honestly depicts the evolution (if I may use this word) of thought concerning Christ. This final passage of this gospel expresses a culmination of thought that perhaps begins with Peter’s confession in Matthew 16:15-16 that Christ was the Son of the Living God. An expression that Thomas Constable writes, “He further defined Jesus as the Son of the living God. This is a more definite identification of Jesus as deity than “God’s Son” or “a son of God” (14:33). That title leaves a question open about the sense in which Jesus was God’s Son. The Jews often described their God as the living God, the contrast being with dead idols. By referring to God this way Peter left no doubt about the God who was the Father of Jesus. He was the true God. Since Jesus was the Son of God, He was the Messiah, the King over the long anticipated earthly kingdom (cf. 2 Sam. 7:14; Isa. 9:6; Jer. 23:5-6; Mic. 5:2). Peter expressed belief that Jesus was both Messiah and God.”

2 thoughts on “Christology in the Gospel of Matthew

  1. Lucas Dawn September 28, 2012 / 11:44 am

    The allusion in Mt. 28:20 to Immanuel, God with us, through the promise of being with us (everywhere, all the time) also points to divine omnipresence.

    Like

  2. Clark Goble September 28, 2012 / 3:22 pm

    Very good point Lucas … thank you!

    Clark

    Like

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