Note: This blog is the first in a twelve-week series of posts on teaching the Gospel of Matthew.
I have the distinct privilege of not only teaching New Testament and Greek at Charleston Southern University but also of being an elder and teacher at Crossroads Community Church in Summerville, SC. We host a church-wide Bible study and discipleship class on Sunday nights very creatively called “Sunday Night Discipleship.” Beginning in April of 2021, I taught a twelve-week series through the Gospel of Matthew at Crossroads. These twelve blog posts will be a digest of what I taught them along with some handy references for anyone who might want to teach through Matthew as well.
Here is what the next twelve weeks will look like:
Week 1 – Introduction to the Series and a Primer for Teaching Matthew (you are reading this one right now!)
Week 2 – Dividing up the Text and the Outline of Matthew
Week 3 – A Bibliography for the Study of Matthew
Week 4 – The Background of Matthew and Its Themes
Week 5 – The Birth of Jesus (chapters 1-2)
Week 6 – Matthew’s First Narrative – Introduction to Jesus’ Ministry (chapters 3-4)
Week 7 – Matthew’s First Discourse – Sermon on the Mount (chapters 5-7)
Week 8 – Second Narrative and Discourse (chapters 8-10)
Week 9 – Third Narrative and Discourse (chapters 11-13)
Week 10 – Fourth Narrative and Discourse (chapters 14-18)
Week 11 – Fifth Narrative and Discourse (chapters 19-25)
Week 12 – Passion and Resurrection (chapters 26-28)
A Primer for Teaching Matthew:
As I prepared to teach Matthew there were some practices I wanted to make sure I followed each week. I give these to you below. Thy are mostly common sense, the kinds of things you’ve heard in church probably your whole life. They are, indeed, indispensable to the faithful teaching of God’s Word.
1. Read, read, read.
There is no substitute for reading the Scripture. You really can’t read the Bible enough, especially if you plan to teach it. I read through Matthew every week for all twelve weeks that I taught. Additionally, I read through the chapters I would be teaching that week every day throughout the week. That sounds like a lot of reading, but it really isn’t. The entire Gospel of Matthew is less than 40 pages. Three or four chapters in Matthew is only three or four pages of daily reading. It is true that I am a professional reader, but even for slow readers, the Bible is very manageable.
2. Read ahead.
Matthew isn’t an anthology of stories. It isn’t a series of verses. It isn’t a collection of chapters. It is a book. That means that Matthew knew what he was going to write in Chapter 28 when he wrote Chapter 1. And that means that if I’m going to teach Matthew 1, I have to understand Matthew 2-28. That is why I read Matthew through every week. That is also why I read ahead in the scholarly books on Matthew I relied on for this series. I have a few good commentaries I consulted (see below), and I knew I needed to read as far ahead in them as I could. As much as I was able, I wanted the “whole picture” before I began to teach the very first thing about Matthew.
3. Read good books.
You need to read the Bible, and you need to read good books about the Bible. Good books about the Bible are not a replacement for the Bible. The Bible is God’s Word. The Bible is inspired, infallible, and inerrant. Good books about the Bible are none of those things. But good books about the Bible will help you 1) see how other Spirit-filled Christians have understood and taught the Scriptures for 2,000 years, 2) avoid some common mistakes about the biblical material you are reading, 3) answer some really difficult questions about the Bible that experts are typically so helpful with, and 4) become a better reader of the Bible yourself. In part three of this blog series I’ll be sharing with you what I believe are some of the best books on Matthew.
4. Think about your audience and your mission.
You may be a Bible teacher in your church’s student ministry. Or maybe you are a Bible-study leader for men or ladies in your church. Or perhaps you teach the “seniors” Sunday School class at your church. I teach a wide range of adults (young, old, married, widowed, kids, no kids, etc.) on Sunday nights. Most of my folks are leaders in our church. Many of them teach the Bible in our church. Knowing your audience and keeping them in mind as you teach are important. The four goals I had for my people as I taught Matthew are the same goals I have for any group I teach. This is my mission.
- I want to teach them the material. This probably goes without saying, but my mission was to teach my people the Gospel of Matthew. I wanted them to know the book better. I wanted them to understand God, Jesus, and the gospel better. I wanted them to be able to answer hard questions about Matthew better. I wanted them to understand more fully the mysteries of the Kingdom of God. Because I wanted them to know these things better, I taught them these things in some detail.
- I want to call them to obedience. If all I did was teach my folks the facts of Matthew’s Gospel, I didn’t accomplish my mission. Matthew is not just information about Jesus. Matthew is a manual for discipleship. If Matthew was written to call people to follow Jesus ever more deeply, and I taught Matthew in a way that failed to call my people to follow Jesus ever more deeply, then I haven’t really taught Matthew at all. I’ve missed the entire point. The Christian teacher never just conveys information. The Christian teacher disciples. I want to disciple when I teach, and so should you.
- I want to teach them to be better readers of the Bible. As I taught my folks to be better readers of Matthew, I also wanted to teach them to be better readers of the whole Bible. I didn’t want to only teach them the Parables of the Kingdom in Matthew 13. I also wanted to teach them how to read a parable, no matter where they find it, so they can read and understand all of Jesus’ parables. I didn’t want to only teach them the structure of Matthew; I wanted to teach them to find and understand the structure of any Bible book. If, when our series on Matthew ended, my folks weren’t better readers of the whole Bible, then I didn’t accomplish my mission.
- I want to teach them how to teach. The call to follow Jesus is the call to teach. Not everyone is called to be an elder. Not everyone is called to be a formal teacher in the church, but everyone who follows Jesus is called to disciple the nations. And that means teaching. You can’t follow Jesus and not be a teacher of some sort. I also recognize that many current and future teachers listened to me teach Matthew. So, as I taught, I wanted to teach them how to teach. Sure, I did this by example. They saw what I did (for good or for ill) and learned from that. I need to do more than that though. Every week I included a section in the lesson entitled “teaching this material,” where I gave tips for how to explain this to non-Christian people, teach it to new believers, and call mature Christians to follow Jesus better from the text at hand.
5. Give them something you made.
I have found that it is always helpful for me and for my students for me to give them a handout that I’ve made. It forces me to think through, understand, and summarize the material. And it helps them follow my teaching. Even if you are using a quarterly or some sort of Bible study workbook, a handout from you with an outline, a summary, or some questions will greatly help you organize your thoughts and teaching and will help your audience grow. I produced a collection of handouts for Matthew that our class worked through, and I’ll share them with you in some form in this blog series.
I’m really enjoyed diving into the Gospel of Matthew. I pray that my students and those of you reading this blog will be as blessed by the journey as I was.