Matthew 4
James Gray - Concise Bible Commentary
Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil.
Now when Jesus had heard that John was cast into prison, he departed into Galilee;
Matthew 4:12-5:12


THE STARTING POINT (Matthew 4:12-17)

For antecedent and parallel events, read John 1:15-51; Luke 3:1-20; Luke 4:14-32, which explain why John the Baptist was imprisoned, and why Jesus left Nazareth. Identify Capernaum on the map, and read up its history in a Bible dictionary since it becomes important as the center of our Lord’s ministry in Galilee. Zabulon and Nephtalim, or Zebulun and Naphtali, we recognize as names of tribes of Israel and locations in Canaan, called after them. Locate them on the map, and compare Isaiah 9:1-2 RV, which is to have a completer fulfillment at the second coming of Christ. The “Kingdom of heaven” He “began to preach” (Matthew 4:17) was that which He came to set up in Israel had the nation received Him. Not a spiritual Kingdom only, but a manifested Kingdom like that of David, wherein righteousness should reign.


He had met these men before (John 1), and called them to be His disciples. Having believed on Him, they are now called into His service.

THE FIRST WORKS (Matthew 4:23-25)

The teaching was in the synagogues, and the preaching in the open air where the crowds gathered. Note the theme of His preaching, not the gospel of grace which now saves the sinner, but the “gospel of the Kingdom”: the good news that the earthly Kingdom promised to Israel was ready to be set up if they would have it. Later, when His rejection by Israel is confirmed, this gospel ceases to be preached, and the gospel of grace takes its place. The gospel of grace is preached in the present dispensation of the church, but when the church, the body of Christ, is complete, and caught up to meet Him in the air (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18), then the gospel of the Kingdom will be again preached because the Kingdom will be drawing near a second time. The miracles of healing are in connection with the gospel of the Kingdom. That is not to say that there are no such miracles at present, but only that they are peculiar to setting up the earthly Kingdom, and doubtless will be seen again in a marked manner as the day approaches. The Satanic counterfeits of these miracles now in many places indicate the time is at hand.


Beginning here and extending to the close of chapter 7 we have what is called the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:1); but we are not to suppose that these words were all spoken at one time, or in their present connection. In comparison with the other Gospels suggests differently. For the purpose of the Holy Spirit in Matthew’s Gospel, however, it was desirable to group them as though they formed a single discourse. Addressing the Jew, he is showing that Jesus is the King who has come to set up His Kingdom, and in these words, chapters 5-7 sets forth at one glance the laws or code of that Kingdom. We must be clear about this. The Sermon on the Mount does not set forth the terms of salvation for sinners. Neither is it the experience which the church will perfectly attain in this age, but is primarily Jewish and pertains to conditions on the earth when the manifested Kingdom of the Messiah is in vogue. It would be wrong to press this too far, and say that the Sermon on the Mount has no application whatever to the Christian church or the times in which we live, for God is the same through all dispensations, and the underlying principles of His government never change. But just how to apply it must be determined in detail, and by the never failing light of the Holy Spirit who has been given to lead the Christian into all the truth (John 16:13).

The first twelve verses, or the Beatitudes, constitute an exordium to the discourse, in which is set forth the characteristics of the heirs of the Kingdom. There are nine beatitudes, and dispensationally viewed, show us Israel, or rather the faithful remnant of Israel, in the tribulation period awaiting the Kingdom. They will be poor in spirit, and shall get the Kingdom. They will mourn and shall be comforted. They will be meek and shall inherit the earth. They will hunger and thirst after righteousness, and shall be filled.

But in an accommodated sense the beatitudes apply to believers in the present age. There is a heavenly side and an earthly side to the Kingdom, and it is only those who are “poor in spirit,” humbling themselves on account of sin and believing on the Lord Jesus Christ, who, through the new birth, receive the Kingdom. They who now mourn for their sins are comforted in forgiveness and cleansing through the blood. They who now hunger and thirst after righteousness are filled. We have here a picture of a redeemed and sanctified man, an ideal man whom the Savior is to make actual by saving him from his sin.

For private study or classroom work, it would be desirable to include the whole of the Sermon on the Mount in one lesson, but for the purpose of this commentary, we pause here.


1. Divide this lesson into four parts.

2. Did you read the scripture references for the antecedent or parallel events?

3. Have you looked up Capernaum?

4. Why does Matthew so often quote the Old Testament?

5. What is meant by the “Kingdom of heaven” in this case?

6. What is the distinction between “the gospel of the Kingdom” or “gospel of grace”?

7. What is set forth in the Sermon on the Mount?

8. What is set forth in the beatitudes?

9. What is their historical sense?

10. How do they apply to us in an accommodated sense?

James Gray - Concise Bible Commentary

Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

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