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The Master's Men Part 3: Matthew and Thomas

Grace To You / John MacArthur
The Truth Network Radio
July 28, 2022 4:00 am

The Master's Men Part 3: Matthew and Thomas

Grace To You / John MacArthur

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July 28, 2022 4:00 am

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As Jesus passed forth from there, He saw a man named Matthew and He said, Follow Me.

What is the point of putting that there? The point is in verses 1 to 8, Matthew is giving a demonstration that Jesus came to forgive sin. And Matthew slips himself in there in one verse to show that indeed Jesus can forgive sin. Ever feel overwhelmed when facing some challenge?

You may have looked at your situation and asked, How can I, with my weaknesses, my lack of ability, the flaws from my past, how can I get this done? Well, today on Grace To You, John MacArthur continues his study of the Master's men, profiling the twelve Jesus chose, despite their flaws, for the most significant task ever, building His church. You might think that Christ would have trained an entire army of skilled leaders to accomplish such a feat, but in the end He used just a few everyday men, people like you and me.

So join John now as he begins the lesson. Jesus Christ to the world. It's a tremendous thrill for me, and I trust for you as well, to find out that these men chosen as the personal agents of Jesus Christ, these men that we imagine so often to be stained glass saints with some kind of holy perfection that has eluded the rest of us, are nothing more than people just like we are. And that God is in the business of using all kinds of people to do very, very high level, divine, spiritual and eternal tasks. It struck me particularly this week as I was thinking about the apostles, how few there were of them. You know, when we think about a church having a great impact, we think about a church having a lot of people. I was talking to a gentleman from Europe who said to me, you know, it's so difficult for us because we only have twenty-nine people in our church. And he said, I live in a city, the city of Leon, which has two million people and there are only fifteen churches.

Most of them don't have any impact at all. The odds are so much against us. And yet as you study the disciples, you find that these twelve, really eleven, were pitted against not only the human system, but the demon system as well. Just eleven faithful men, not particularly gifted either. And yet these men literally turned the world upside down. It is amazing what God can do with just a very few people. Humanly speaking, the world hails the few who attack the many, you know? I mean when an individual goes up against great odds, the world esteems them heroes even if they lose. We remember their courage. We remember their devotion of duty, but they lost.

I believe there are some more amazing things than this. You see, man may be courageous. Man may be devoted to fulfill his duty, but he is still man. And because he is weak, he cannot overcome certain odds.

But quite the contrary is it when God gets into the act. Shamgar, a judge in Israel, one day picks up an ox goad, a sharpened stick used to prod an ox, and with it kills six hundred enemies. And then there was Deborah and Barak. And soon after the great victory of Deborah and Barak, a new enemy arose in the land of Israel. The enemy was the Midianites.

And in league with the Amalekites, they sort of dominated Israel for seven years. Israel came to the place where they were about ready to give in to this oppressing domination when God raised up a very unique man by the name of Gideon. Gideon was ready to do battle with the Midianites and their allies, the Amalekites, and he gathered his army and his army numbered thirty-two thousand men. God said, that's too many.

That's thirty-one thousand seven hundred too many. And he cut it down to three hundred men. And in Judges 7, 12, it describes the enemy. And the Midianites and the Amalekites and all the children of the east lay along in the valley, and it was the valley of Moath, and they were like grasshoppers for multitude, and their camels were without number like the sand by the seaside for multitude. It doesn't mean that God couldn't count them, it means that standing there and looking, there was no way you could sort out heads or animals to make a count. They were just like the sea sand. And here was Gideon with his three hundred.

You know who won? Gideon. And all he did was make a bunch of noise and the Midianites and the Amalekites all killed each other in the confusion. You see, when you add the supernatural, then the few not only become heroes because of their courage and their devotion, but because of their victory. One more illustration, and maybe this sums up the point, 1 Samuel chapter 13.

Turn to it for a moment. The seemingly endless struggle with the Philistines is going on. Saul is the reigning monarch of the people of Israel, and they again face a battle with the Philistines. They are in a severe situation, very bad.

And as you flow through chapter 13, it goes from bad to worse to worst. Verse 5, 1 Samuel 13, the Philistines gathered themselves together to fight with Israel. Thirty thousand chariots, six thousand horsemen, and people like the sand which is on the seashore in multitude. And they come up and encamped and mick-mash eastward from Beth Avon. Now here is an overwhelming enemy, literally overwhelming enemy. And when the men of Israel saw they were hedged in, for the people were distressed, the people did hide themselves in caves and thickets and rocks and high places and pits.

You just get the picture. They see these Philistines, everybody dives for the nearest cover, jumping in holes and caves behind the bushes, climbing hills. And some of the Hebrews, verse 7 says, even went over the Jordan to the land of Gad and Gilead. They got out of the country, they left the nation. And Saul was in Gilgal, and everybody else was shaking.

Overwhelming enemy. Verse 8, he tarried there seven days according to the set time Samuel had appointed, but Samuel came not to Gilgal and the people were scattered from him. He's getting a little antsy now. And Saul said, bring here a burnt offering to me and peace offerings. Now he's getting so nervous that he's going to do something religious to get God involved. And so verse 9 says, he offered a burnt offering. And Saul said, bring this burnt offering, and he offered the burnt offering. Now the problem with that is there was only one personality in the land that was permitted to carry out the offering of an offering.

And who was it? A priest. Saul is intruding into the office of a priest. It came to pass as soon as he had ceased offering the burnt offering, behold, Samuel came and Saul went out to meet him that he might bless him.

Now he's going to act real religiously, real spiritual. And Samuel says, what have you done? And Saul said, because I saw that the people were scattered from me and that thou camest not within the days appointed.

And he knew that he was a representative of God and he wasn't there. And the Philistines gathered themselves together at Michmash and he's going to all of these excuses. Well you weren't here and the time was running out and the Philistines were there and I said, the Philistines will come down now upon me to Gilgal.

Self-defense, you know, I'm going to get it. And I haven't made supplication to the Lord and I forced myself therefore. In other words, I just knew I shouldn't do it, but I just made myself do it and offered a burnt offering. And Samuel said to Saul thou has done foolishly, thou has not kept the commandment of the Lord thy God which he commanded thee for now would the Lord have established thy kingdom upon Israel forever. If you just obeyed God, God would have defeated the Philistines and established your kingdom for good. But...verse thy kingdom shall not continue. The Lord has saw him a man after his own heart.

Who was that? David the next king. And the Lord has commanded him to be captain over his people because thou has not kept that which the Lord commanded that your disobedience got you nothing. Now the problem to begin with was an overwhelming enemy and now the problem is a lack of a leader.

They not only have an overwhelming enemy, but they've just lost their leader. To make it worse, verse 19, there was no blacksmith throughout all the land of Israel. For the Philistines said, lest the Hebrews make themselves swords or spears. Apparently the Philistines had sort of eliminated all the blacksmiths so they couldn't make any weapons. So all the Israelites, verse 20, went down to the Philistines to sharpen every man his plowshares and his maddock and his ax and his sickle and they had a file for the sickles and the maddocks and the forks of the axes to sharpen the goads. In other words, all they had left was farm implements and so they were all there sharpening their farm implements to use in this war.

And the only people who had a sword, it says in verse 22, were Saul and Jonathan. Third problem. Number one, overwhelming enemy. Number two, no leader.

Number three, inadequate weapons. They really are in trouble. Now watch what happens. Jonathan says to the young man that bears his armor, chapter 14, verse 1, Come, let's go over to the Philistine's garrison that's on the other side.

You see, now wait a minute, Jonathan. What are you going to do? You take your armor...the armor bearer was usually a small boy. What are you going to take this little kid and go do this for?

What's the point? Verse 6 kind of crystallizes it. This is the key verse.

And Jonathan said to the young man who bore his armor, Come, let's go over to the garrison of the uncircumcised. It may be that the Lord will work for us. Now watch this line, here's the key. For there is no restraint to the Lord to save by many or by what? Few.

Did you get that? It doesn't matter to God whether you have a lot or a little. That is never the issue with Him. He can put all of His divine power through one person as easily as He could put it through a multitude. It doesn't matter to the Lord. Verse 7, His armor bearer said to him, Do all that is in thine heart, turn thee, behold I am with thee according to thy heart. Now that's a good little guy.

That's a good guy. All right, Jonathan says, You and me, let's go over there and take on the Philistines. And he says in verse 10, If they say, Come up unto us, then we'll go up. For the Lord hath delivered them into our hand, and this shall be the sign.

In other words, God, we're going to trust You to give us a sign. If they say, Come up, we'll say, The Lord's going to give them to us, and we'll go right up. The Philistines are up on the heights, and they're down below. And so they got there in verse 11, and they said, Hey, up there, Jonathan and my armor bearer. Verse 11, And both of them disclosed themselves to the garrison of the Philistines. And the Philistines said, Behold, the Hebrews come forth out of the holes where they've hidden themselves. And the men of the garrison answered Jonathan, his arm bearer, and said, Come up to us, and we will show you something.

We'll show you your head, is what they meant. And Jonathan said to his armor bearer, Come up after me, for the Lord has delivered them into the hand of Israel. Now that is faith, folks. That is faith. The victory's ours.

Let's go. And so they started climbing up this, whatever it is, cliff or hillside. Verse 13, And Jonathan climbs on his hands and his feet. Here he is crawling up the thing on four, and his armor bearer is coming up behind him. And they got to the top, and they fell before Jonathan and his armor bearer, and they slew all of them. And the first slaughter, which Jonathan and his armor bearer made, was about 20 men. And you can imagine that little guy wondering what in the world was going on when all these guys were dropping at his feet.

I don't know what he was using. And the earth started to quake, and everything started shaking and trembling. And before the whole thing was over, you can drop all the way down really to verse 22. All the men of Israel who had hidden themselves in Mount Ephraim when they heard that the Philistines fled, even they also followed hard after them in the battle, so the Lord saved Israel that day. Now listen, here's the point. God is not restrained by many or by few.

Doesn't matter. Not only can God make them heroes because of their courage and their devotion, but because of their victory. Now let's go back to Matthew 10 and with that as a background, remind ourselves of the uniqueness of these 12 men. Twelve men who literally turned the world upside down. Not only were they heroes because of their courage, because of their devotion, their obedience, but because they accomplished their goal. They literally established the church and you and I are the product of their work. They touched a whole world. They extended the kingdom. Just these 12, one of them unfaithful, 11 faithful, humble, simple people just like us.

And we're right back where we started, people. Listen, what kind of people does God use? He uses the common kind like we are. He uses the unqualified. God is in the business of accepting unqualified people because nobody's qualified. The Lord uses strong, bold leaders like Peter who take courage, initiate plans, strategize, confront, command people and who make big, big blunders. And He uses humble, gentle, inconspicuous souls like Andrew who seek no prominence but quietly bring people to Christ. And He uses zealous, passionate, uncompromising, task-oriented, insensitive, ambitious men like James as well as sensitive, tender, loving, people-oriented, believing, intimate truth seekers like John. And He uses skeptical, analytical, mechanical, slow-witted, weak-faith, visionless, pessimistic, insecure men like Philip.

And He uses seekers of truth, honest, open, clear-minded, meditative, deeply surrendered men like Nathanael Bartholomew who are full of faith and understanding and yet who are flawed by serious sins such as prejudice. Now we're going to meet two others that He uses, Matthew and Thomas, verse 3. The second group of four is Philip, Bartholomew or Nathanael, Thomas and Matthew. Let's take Matthew first. Matthew is mentioned in every list, always in the same group, but nothing is ever said about Matthew and nothing is ever said by Matthew except one tiny little thing.

And look in Matthew 9, 9 and there's where you find it. Mark and Luke both allude to the same thing in just the same few words and that is the extent of everything we know about Matthew. And as Jesus passed forth from there, He saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax office and He said unto him, Follow Me, and he arose and followed him. And when Matthew puts his name in the list in chapter 10 verse 3, he says, Matthew the tax collector. And may I hasten to add that no other disciple in the list is ever associated with his job. Why does Matthew say, Matthew the tax collector?

I mean, that's not something you're proud of. No, a tax collector was the most hated, despised, despicable human being in the society of Israel and Matthew is showing us his genuine humility and sense of sinful unworthiness. Why does Matthew even comment about himself in verse 9? As Jesus passed forth from there, He saw a man named Matthew and He said, Follow Me.

What is the point of putting that there? The point is in verses 1 to 8, Matthew is giving a demonstration that Jesus came to forgive sin. Verse 5, Thy sins be forgiven thee. Verse 6, The Son of Man hath power on earth to forgive sins.

And Matthew slips himself in there in one verse to show that indeed Jesus can forgive sin, for He sees Himself as the vilest sinner. That may be a reason why Matthew never speaks. He never asks a question. He never makes a comment.

He never appears in an incident. He just is absolutely faceless and voiceless through the entire narrative of the Gospels. And it may be that his humility was born out of his overwhelming sense of sinfulness, that he was so overwrought by the sin of his life that once forgiven, grace was so superabundant in his case that he felt himself unworthy to even speak a word. And so he is the silent man until the Spirit of God asks him to pick up his pen.

And then he is given the privilege of writing the opening of the New Testament, 28 chapters on the majesty of the King of Kings himself. Matthew was a traitor. Matthew was an extortioner. Matthew was a robber and a thief. Matthew was greedy. Matthew was a social pariah or outcast. And he knew it.

And look in Matthew 9, 9, and there's where you find it. You see, to be a tax collector is to be a publican. And what that meant was that you as a Jew were used by the Roman government to collect taxes from the Jews to give to Rome. You then sort of worked for the oppressor.

You were a traitor first class. And not only that, but you bought the right to collect taxes. So you paid the government, you bought into the system. And then the government would stipulate a certain amount of tax that had to be collected and that was given to Rome.

And then you were free to collect anything more you could from the people and that you kept for yourself. And so there were bribes and extortionist roots taken, abuses beyond what we could even dream. They hated the tax collector so much that the Talmud said it is righteous to lie and deceive a tax collector. That is the Talmud says that, not the Bible.

So keep that in mind. No tax collector was ever permitted to testify in a court of law because everyone knew they were liars and took bribes. No tax collector or publican could ever enter a synagogue or a temple to worship God because they were cut off from God and that's why in Luke 18 when you have the publican, it says, and the publican standing afar off beat on his breast and said, Lord, be merciful to me, a what? A sinner.

He couldn't even go in the place. They were the worst, turned their back on their people, bought into an evil oppressive system, a pagan uncircumcised system where the people worshipped a false God, the emperor, traitors. There were two kinds. There were Gabai, G-A-B-B-A-I. They were the general tax collectors. They collected property tax, income tax, poll tax, standardized.

There was not apparently as much graft at that level. Then there were the mokhes, M-O-K-H-E-S. They collected the duties. They collected duty on everything. They set up their little deal where the roads crossed and they collected on all import, all export, all items bought, all items sold. They set tolls on roads, tolls on bridges, tolls on harbors.

They set tolls on axles, how many legs on your donkey, packages, letters, you name it, everything, everything. That was Matthew. He was a mokhes, taxed everything. There were two kinds of mokhes. There was what was called a great mokhes. He was a guy who hired some hireling to do the tax collecting and he faded into the background. He didn't really want to be associated with the actual activity itself.

And he retained a little more dignity because he backed off. That was called a great mokhes. Then there was the little mokhes, the small mokhes. He was too cheap to hire somebody to collect the taxes. He was so greedy, he did it himself and didn't care about the social stigma. And Matthew was that little mokhes. He was, verse 9, sitting at the tax office himself, greedy extortioner, traitor to his people. I think what makes it so fascinating to me also, he also had a name Levi, which indicates that he really was in the flow of Jewish tradition. And what also is interesting is that in the Gospel of Matthew, you might be interested to know, there are more quotes of the Old Testament than in Mark, Luke and John combined. So Matthew knew the Old Testament. In fact, he quotes out of the three sections of the Old Testament that a Jew knew, the law, the prophets and the hagiography, the holy writings. Matthew knew the law of God in the Old Testament. And yet we have no idea of him at all being interested in spiritual things. But when Jesus comes along, he says to him, follow me.

And he arose and followed him instantly. This is Grace to You with John MacArthur. Thanks for tuning in today. John serves as Chancellor of the Master's University and Seminary in Southern California. Our current study is titled The Master's Men. John, you talked today about God using ordinary men to turn the world upside down. So a question related to that. There may be a believer listening now who wants to be used to serve the Lord and bring him glory, but that person really isn't seeing how his life or her life can be making a difference.

Do you have any encouragement for that person? Well, absolutely. In some, what may be appearing to be a small way, but in reality may be a very significant way. I think we really do believe that the power in the world belongs to the big-time politicians, the people whose names are in the news, the big-time philosophers and educators, the power brokers in the business world, the movers and shakers.

We think the power in the world belongs to the great writers and the great historians and all of that. And the fact of the matter is God changes the world within the framework of his glorious kingdom using very ordinary people doing what might appear on the surface very ordinary tasks. In reality, the people who matter in the world are the people who belong to Christ, the people who are in the kingdom who are advancing that kingdom, that kingdom which cannot fail, that kingdom which is eternal. Those are the people that matter in the world. Put it simply, Christians matter.

The history of the world really rides the back of Christian people. They're the ones that are making a difference that will last forever. It might be serving in a church nursery. It might be visiting shut-ins and ministering the Word of God to them.

It might be teaching a Sunday school class and affecting the lives of children and young people and adults. It might be taking part in a prayer group on a regular basis or a Bible study, serving the Lord in many, many other ways and really never understanding perhaps this side of heaven, the impact of your life. I met a lady the other day who said to me, you said something, I think it was about 25 years ago, and what you said when I heard you say that caused me to be saved. My whole life changed the day I heard you say that. How many times has that happened to very ordinary people in very ordinary circumstances?

God always uses the ordinary because that's all He's got to work with, and He prefers the not many noble, the not many mighty, and the lowly so that He gets all the glory for what is accomplished. That's right. Thank you, John. That's an encouragement. And friend, we trust that God is glorified as you listen to these programs and apply the biblical truth that you hear. So let us know how John's teaching is making a difference in your life. And thank you for expressing your support as you're able and helping us reach countless others with the Word of God. You can mail your tax-deductible gift to Grace2U, Box 4000, Panorama City, California 91412, or call us at 800-55-GRACE or donate online at Thank you for helping us strengthen believers around the world with the truth of God's Word.

As the culture gets darker and darker, we are grateful all the more for your partnership. Again, to make a donation, dial 800-55-GRACE or go to And while you're at the website, spend some time at the Grace2U blog. You'll find practical articles from John and staff here on issues that affect your life, your family, and your church. You can also download any of John's sermons from 53 years of his pulpit ministry. That includes all the lessons from this current study of the Master's men. Now, you can take advantage of everything at our website and come back often.

The address again, Now for John MacArthur and the entire Grace2U staff, I'm Phil Johnson, encouraging you to be here tomorrow. John's going to show you why the Apostle Thomas should be known for more than just his doubts. It's another half hour of unleashing God's truth one verse at a time. On Friday's Grace2U.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-03-19 01:11:37 / 2023-03-19 01:22:11 / 11

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