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The Call of God to New Testament Characters


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Title: The Call of God to New Testament Characters

The Call of God to New Testament Characters
Lesson 7
Lesson TextMatthew 99-12
Matthew 99-12 9 And as Jesus passed forth from
thence, he saw a man, named Matthew, sitting at
the receipt of custom and he saith unto him,
Follow me. And he arose, and followed him.
Lesson TextMatthew 99-12
10 And it came to pass, as Jesus sat at meat in
the house, behold, many publicans and sinners
came and sat down with him and his disciples. 11
And when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto his
disciples, Why eateth your Master with publicans
and sinners?
Lesson TextMatthew 99-12
12 But when Jesus heard that, he said unto them,
They that be whole need not a physician, but they
that are sick.
Lesson TextMatthew 913
Matthew 913 But go ye and learn what that
meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice
for I am not come to call the righteous, but
sinners to repentance.
Lesson TextMatthew 2421-24
Matthew 2421-24 21 For then shall be great
tribulation, such as was not since the beginning
of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.
Lesson TextMatthew 2421-24
22 And except those days should be shortened,
there should no flesh be saved but for the
elect's sake those days shall be shortened. 23
Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is
Christ, or there believe it not.
Lesson TextMatthew 2421-24
24 For there shall arise false Christs, and false
prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders
insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall
deceive the very elect.
Lesson TextMatthew 2425-27
Matthew 2425-27 25 Behold, I have told you
before. 26 Wherefore if they shall say unto you,
Behold, he is in the desert go not forth
behold, he is in the secret chambers believe it
Lesson TextMatthew 2425-27
27 For as the lightning cometh out of the east,
and shineth even unto the west so shall also the
coming of the Son of man be.
Focus VerseMatthew 2411-13
Matthew 2411-13 And many false prophets shall
rise, and shall deceive many. And because
iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax
cold. But he that shall endure unto the end, the
same shall be saved.
Focus Thought
Loyalty is a character trait of great strength.
When attached to the right cause (in this case
Gods kingdom), it is the greatest gift to the
success and continuance of that cause and its
I. Levi the Publican
Culture Connection Top Priority Loyalty to God
and His Kingdom
Members of the United States Armed Forces take
an oath when they enlist. In the oath the
individual solemnly swears (affirms) to defend
and support the Constitution of the United States
of America against all enemies and bear true
faith and allegiance to the Constitution.
I. Levi the Publican
This pledge serves to influence all activity a
military person may encounter. It presupposes an
attitude of compliance for future obligations and
predetermines future action whenever making
decisions. These affirmations of loyalty can
result in conflicts with conscience. A conscience
is scarred in the call to kill another human
being or in witnessing carnage from military
operations or civil disasters.
I. Levi the Publican
Loyalty, a military core value, is drilled into
the individual with intense training utilizing
physical stress and emotional tension. Loyalty
then becomes an automatic Aye, aye, Sir with
the demand for decisions, actions, or feelings.
That automatic choice may conflict with similar
loyalties made to family or faith. Marriage vows
and religious commitments to church and God may
twinge the conscience after such automatic
I. Levi the Publican
Afterward, the person may stop to reflect and
then discover this conflict in loyalties and
reveal compromised convictions. Consequences may
be guilt, remorse, and sometimes the desire to
disavow one or more of their loyalties.
I. Levi the Publican
Such conflicts in loyalties occur in
friendships, employment opportunities, and a host
of other real-life situations. These mental
battles for loyal priorities may incite a sense
of futility leading to moral compromise.
Helping people discover and explore these
priorities and loyalties is a key component of
I. Levi the Publican
Contemplating the Topic
The Gospel bearing Matthews name is the front
door to the New Testament. Yet very little is
known about its author, one of the twelve men
Jesus handpicked to follow Him. We do know a few
things about Matthew, however. Prior to his
calling he was known as Levi.
I. Levi the Publican
As a tax collector he apparently had set aside
his commitment to the law of Moses in order to
secure a lucrative position under the auspices of
the Roman government. When Jesus called him,
however, Levi left the customs table immediately
to follow Him and became known as Matthew, the
gift of Jehovah. Woven throughout his story is
a common thread of loyalty, first to the Roman
government for the wrong reasons and then to
Jesus and His kingdom for the right reasons.
I. Levi the Publican
Matthews loyalty shifted paradigmatically from
self and Caesar to Christ and service.
Matthews years of negotiating through the vast
labyrinth of governmental regulations and coping
with the animosity of Jewish opposition served to
give him a unique perspective on Gods heavenly
kingdom. He referred to that kingdom forty-six
times in his Gospel, shifting the focus from
himself and placing it squarely on King Jesus.
I. Levi the Publican
He wrote as skillfully as a government scribe,
probably referencing his meticulous notes on the
life of Jesus and relying on his accurate recall.
Just as a tax collector under the flag of Rome
based his power on Caesars authority, Matthew
recognized that the authority of the kingdom of
Heaven was vested entirely in Jesus Christ. His
loyalty and submission to the Kings authority
shines through every line of Matthews book.
I. Levi the Publican
Searching the Scriptures Levi the Publican
We have only a sparse knowledge of Matthews
life prior to his call to follow Jesus. Mark
noted that Matthews fathers name was Alphaeus
(Mark 214). Luke devoted one sentence to reveal
Matthew was first known as Levi, and he served as
a government tax collector (Luke 527).
I. Levi the Publican
These verses, along with Matthews own account in
chapter 9 of his book, begin to piece together
the story of this outstanding apostle. In
Matthews day, the government taxed all
commodities being transported along the ancient
trade routes, as well as those from local
merchants. According to Holman Illustrated Bible
Dictionary (2004), Levi probably maintained an
office in or near Capernaum, a city located about
a mile east of the trade route that
originated in Damascus.
I. Levi the Publican
His duties required business savvy. He kept
abreast of the value of wool, flax, linen,
pottery, brass, silver, gold, barley, olives,
figs, wheat, and the like. He compared the values
of domestic and foreign monetary systems. He
developed communication skills and learned to
deal with all manner of people. It is quite
possible that Levis business brought him daily
to the fishing docks that sat on the northern
banks of Galilee, and that he had heard
Jesus speak.
I. Levi the Publican
He may have heard about the miraculous draught of
fish Peter and his partners hauled in at Jesus
word. Perhaps what he had seen and heard
motivated him to follow Jesus. Publicans were
Jewish citizens who pledged their loyalty to the
Roman government in exchange for political
appointments. These bureaucrats collected taxes
from their Hebrew brethren. In addition to
Caesars portion, the publican could tack on his
own surcharge as a commission.
I. Levi the Publican
The Romans cared only that their coffers were
kept full, so the overcharging and harassment
perpetrated by the collectors caused them no
concern. As a result, the Jews hated the
publicans not only for embracing the Roman
authority, but also for seemingly ripping holes
in their pockets. When they arrived at the toll
booth or tax office, their profits seemed to
vanish. Prior to his encounter with Jesus, this
was Levis profession.
A. Matthew the Worldly Jew
  1. Matthew the Worldly Jew

Matthew lived near the village of Capernaum.
This small fishing town played a significant role
in our Lords earthly ministry. Not only did He
take up a brief residence there after John the
Baptists imprisonment (Matthew 413), but Peter,
James, John, and Andrew lived and worked there.
I. Levi the Publican
They operated their fishing business on the
northern shore of the Sea of Galilee, and this
probably is the spot where they cast their nets
on the other side and hauled in such a huge
catch the net began to break (Luke 5). This small
community of about 1,500 souls loved Jesus (Luke
442), and from it He called five of His twelve
disciples the four listed above and Matthew.
I. Levi the Publican
Matthews decision to serve the Roman government
was probably part of a well-calculated plan.
Siding with the foreign power secured for him a
lucrative position, and being an agent of the
worlds most powerful government would certainly
stroke a young mans ego. Along with his loyalty
to Caesar came the protection of the occupying
army and the security of lifelong employment. An
impressive future lay before Matthew, as long as
Rome remained in power and at the top of his
list of loyalties.
B. Levi the Tax Collector
  1. Levi the Tax Collector

During the Old Testament period when the Jews
were exiled in Babylon and unable to worship in
the Temple at Jerusalem, they established
community synagogues for worship and for training
children in the ways of the Law. Publicans were
ostracized from the community and denied
admittance to the synagogues, for their way of
life disqualified them from participating in the
Jewish worship.
I. Levi the Publican
For example, collecting taxes required their
presence in areas the Jews avoided, and the job
necessitated contact with people and animals the
Law said were unclean. In addition, some Roman
positions required Jews to pledge allegiance to
the reigning Caesar, which meant the people
making the pledge considered service to Caesar
more vital than a commitment to the true God of
their fathers.
I. Levi the Publican
But the animosity did not emanate only from the
people who paid the taxes the tax collectors
reciprocated in kind and dealt out contempt and
abuse to those they cheated. After Matthews
transformation into a follower of Jesus, he
invited the Lord and His disciples to his home as
the honored guests at a lavish banquet. Perhaps
Matthews concern for the salvation of his former
colleagues caused him to invite many of them to
the feast as well.
I. Levi the Publican
Outraged Pharisees pulled some of the disciples
aside and accused, Why does your Teacher eat
with tax collectors and sinners? (Matthew 911,
NKJV). This typified the feelings of the Jews
toward their compromising brethren. From the
Pharisees perspective, if a person associated
with publicans and sinners, it meant he sided
with them and to side with them meant the
offending person shared in their sins.
I. Levi the Publican
The tradition of the elders, passed from one
generation to the next, taught that any person
desiring to honor God and the law of Moses would
avoid publicans and certainly would never share a
meal with them.
C. Loyal to Self
  1. Loyal to Self

Before the Lord called this Galilean tax
collector to follow Him, Levi probably followed
wherever his own selfish wishes led. By virtue of
his position as a publican, Levi had turned his
back on the traditions that generations of his
family had cherished and followed. He had to
value that position above any friendly
relationships, and if he cared about the scorn of
his community, he did not let it show.
I. Levi the Publican
The adage take care of number one certainly
would have applied to Levi. In order to achieve
and maintain such a position, Levi had to pledge
his loyalty to a worldly system that often was
diametrically opposed to the training in godly
principles he had received as a child. Like many,
he may have reasoned he could compartmentalize
his life by keeping his job and commitment to
Caesar separate from his devotion to God.
I. Levi the Publican
It probably did not occur to him that his
immersion in an ungodly system might drown him.
Regardless of his internal rationalizations, the
outward manifestation of his profession indicated
Levi was devoted and loyal to the worldly Roman
A. Matthew Called to Transfer His Loyalty
Matthew the Christian
  1. Matthew Called to Transfer His Loyalty

Since Matthew lived in a region Jesus once had
called home and a place He continued to frequent,
it is possible Matthew knew Jesus quite well
(Matthew 413).
I. Levi the Publican
Regardless of whether they had met long before or
not until the day Jesus stopped by Matthews
table of customs, something significant compelled
Matthew to respond immediately when Jesus spoke.
Transparency 1
I. Levi the Publican
To read Lukes account of the event, one might
suppose that Jesus call to Matthew was a
spur-of-the-moment afterthought as He spied him
in passing. Luke wrote, After these things
Jesus went out and saw a tax collector named
Levi, sitting at the tax office (Luke 527,
NKJV). However, we know from Jesus explanation
to Nathanael that He knew exactly where to find
those whom He chose to call.
I. Levi the Publican
For instance, He once said to Nathanael, Before
Philip called you to come and see, when you
were under the fig tree, I saw you (John 148,
NKJV). Surely He knew precisely where to find
Matthew, and He went that way on purpose to call
Matthew away from his life of tax collection.
Soon after his conversion, Matthew hosted a
feast, which was attended by Jesus, His
disciples, and many of Matthews publican
I. Levi the Publican
The scribes and Pharisees reprimanded some of the
disciples and asked the reason for this offense.
Before the disciples could open their mouths to
defend their behavior, Jesus interrupted They
that are whole need not a physician but they
that are sick. I came not to call the righteous,
but sinners to repentance (Luke 531-32). If the
scribes and Pharisees had looked at the publicans
through a different lens, they would have seen
that their sin-sick souls needed a Saviors
I. Levi the Publican
This was the reason Jesus cameto reach out to
those who needed Him most. Our loyalty to God
requires that we be loyal to His cause. We must
sacrifice our personal comfort and our own
opinions so we can accomplish His work. If we
interact only with the individuals who share our
own comfort zone and speak only to those whose
lifestyles we approve, we will overlook the very
ones Jesus died to save. He came to seek and to
save those who are lost (Luke 1910).
B. Matthews New Loyalty
  1. Matthews New Loyalty

None of the New Testament writers recorded
anything about Matthews life after he accepted
the Lords call and became one of His disciples.
We can, however, reach some conclusions regarding
Matthews life and character by consulting his
Gospel. Whatever selfishness may have motivated
Matthew to serve Caesar, it had disappeared by
the time he wrote his Gospel.
I. Levi the Publican
He omitted any references to his own life or
personal contributions to the cause of Christ,
but he wrote of the kingdom of Heaven forty-six
times. If he once had been selfish, he proved he
had found a better way by admonishing his readers
to remain faithful to Jesus regardless of the
tribulation coming upon the world. (See Matthew
I. Levi the Publican
He further proved his loyalty by warning of
impostors who would come in the name of the Lord
and try to insinuate themselves into their midst.
The loyalty that kept Matthew close to Jesus is
the same loyalty that keeps present-day disciples
secure in Christ.
C. Matthew Accepted
  1. Matthew Accepted

Matthews response to the call of Christ
mirrored that of the other disciples from
Capernaum (Luke 511). And he left all, rose up,
and followed him (Luke 528). For these men,
there was no looking back. It appears that,
although they previously may have rejected this
publican, the disciples whom God had chosen from
Capernaum accepted Matthew without hesitation.
I. Levi the Publican
Matthew served alongside the men who once held
him at arms length. Their loyalty to Jesus
became the common bond that fused them together
and erased the differences that once existed.
Matthews acceptance by the disciples proved he
found his place inside the family of believers
who were charged with establishing Gods church.
He later wrote a book describing all he had
witnessed, and it eventually became the first
book in the New Testament canon.
III. Loyalty, the Gift of God
Loyalty, the Gift of God
The qualities Gods Word teaches us to develop
are characteristic of His own nature. God desires
loyalty from His children because He is loyal.
There shall not any man be able to stand before
thee all the days of thy life as I was with
Moses, so I will be with thee I will not fail
thee, nor forsake thee (Joshua 15). God
promised to be loyal to Joshua to the same degree
He was loyal to Moses, and He remains loyal to
every person He calls.
A. The Great Gift to Self
  1. The Great Gift to Self

An individual who does the right thing is
usually the greatest benefactor of the deed.
Loyalty produces its own rewards. It eliminates
the inner conflict produced by double-mindedness.
Loyalty begets sincerity. Sincerity develops
honesty and a peace-making spirit.
Transparency 2
I. Levi the Publican
Only the passing of time reveals whether or not
a person is loyal. Loyalty and faith are not
proven during the exciting first few weeks when
the call is still fresh. Like gold in the
refiners fire, loyalty and faith slowly reveal
their presence as time and trials apply pressure
and heat that force out the dross until only the
pure remains.
I. Levi the Publican
In essence, loyalty to Gods Word becomes the
pathway to deliverance from the tribulation Jesus
described in Matthew 24. Only a firm commitment
to follow no one but Jesus can prevent a disciple
from being deceived by false Christs (Matthew
2424). And our faith and loyalty to His Word
will prepare us for His coming. Thus the loyal
disciple benefits most from his own loyalty.
B. The Great Gift to Others
  1. The Great Gift to Others

The benefits of being loyal extend far beyond
personal rewards. Loyalty breeds trust, and trust
is the cornerstone of the foundation of all human
relationships. Those blessed with loyal friends
find themselves free from jealousy and envy.
Pettiness and selfishness are seldom evident in
relationships between loyal friends.
I. Levi the Publican
Perhaps no story better illustrates the loyalty
of friendship than that of Jonathan and David.
When Jonathans father, Saul the king of Israel,
became angry at David and resolved to kill him,
Jonathan warned David and preserved his life (I
Samuel 19), even though he knew it meant he would
lose his right to the kingship of Israel. As
Sauls anger intensified, Jonathan risked his own
life to warn and protect Davids. Ultimately,
Saul and Jonathan died in battle (I Samuel 31).
I. Levi the Publican
When David became king, he commanded his
servants to find out if any of Sauls relatives
had survived the battle and its aftermath. And
David said, Is there yet any that is left of the
house of Saul, that I may shew him kindness for
Jonathans sake? (II Samuel 91). Even though
Jonathan had died, the loyalty of their
friendship survived. When the message came
that one of Jonathans sons still lived, David
sent for him in Lo-debar, located in Gadarene
territory just southeast of the Sea of
I. Levi the Publican
Fearfully, Mephibosheth entered the kings
presence and bowed low, expecting retribution
from the one whom his grandfather had tried to
murder. Instead of judgment, Mephibosheth
received the promise of blessing, provision, and
restoration of all that had belonged to his
grandfather Saul. And David said unto him, Fear
not for I will surely shew thee kindness for
Jonathan thy fathers sake, and will restore thee
all the land of Saul thy father and thou shalt
eat bread at my table continually (II
Samuel 97).
I. Levi the Publican
The benefits of Jonathans loyalty to David came
to Mephibosheth several years after Jonathans
death. Since loyalty is a facet of Gods
nature, believers will experience the full power
of loyalty as they grow in their relationship
with Jesus Christ. Individuals who were under the
sentence of death, who once pledged their loyalty
to Christs evil opponent, people whose sins were
too many to be enumerated, will be clothed in
spotless raiment at the Marriage Supper of
the Lamb.
I. Levi the Publican
Therefore, let us hold fast the profession of
our faith without wavering (for he is faithful
that promised) (Hebrews 1023).
C. The Great Gift to the Cause of Christ
  1. The Great Gift to the Cause of Christ

Seldom does life unfold the way we anticipated.
Emergencies and unforeseen events interrupt our
plans and dreams. A faithful follower whose
priority is to put the will of God above his own
ambitions propels the Kingdom forward.
Faithfulness despite disappointment reveals a
loyalty to Gods Word that runs deeper than
superficial commitment, which withers when good
times give way to bad.
I. Levi the Publican
Loyalty to the cause of Christ begins with
faithfulness to His Word. Regardless of what else
we do and how well we do it, unless we are
building upon a foundation of truth, our labor is
in vain (Matthew 726). Gods Word is truth and
deserves loyal submission. Jesus prayed for those
who would follow Him, Sanctify them through thy
truth thy word is truth (John 1717). Loyalty
to a cause seems admirable, but unless it is
founded in truth, it is a lost cause.
I. Levi the Publican
God has ordained His church to be His body and
to complete His mission upon earth (Ephesians 4).
Loyalty to truth includes being faithful to Gods
plan for His church. As Paul instructed, God
designed the body to bring healing and
edification to itself. Each member finding his
place and fulfilling his role produces a church
capable of ministering to the diversified needs
that exist in every strata of society.
I. Levi the Publican
God established a system of leadership within
His church that operates under His authority.
Obey them that have the rule over you, and
submit yourselves for they watch for your souls,
as they that must give account, that they may do
it with joy, and not with grief for that is
unprofitable for you (Hebrews 1317). Therefore,
loyalty to truth requires our loyalty to the
leaders God has ordained in His church.
I. Levi the Publican
True leaders do not demand submission to their
own philosophies and ideals, but they follow the
standard expressed by the apostle Paul Be ye
followers of me, even as I also am of Christ (I
Corinthians 111). Loyalty is not blind
submission, but it is realizing, as Matthew the
tax collector demonstrated, that serving the
kingdom is more important than serving self, and
that in order to find our place we must submit to
the authority God has placed in our life.
I. Levi the Publican
Our loyalty to our leaders, then, is not just
loyalty to them, but when we submit to them we
are submitting to God. (See Romans 13.) At the
end of the age, not only will Gods people reap
the rewards of their loyalty and faithfulness and
enjoy the wonders of Heaven, but they will enter
triumphantly into the holy city.
Revelation 1714
These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb
shall overcome them for he is Lord of lords, and
King of kings and they that are with him are
called, and chosen, and faithful (Revelation
I. Levi the Publican
Internalizing the Message
Matthews own story and the written legacy he
left for all believers bear witness of the power
of the gospel of Jesus Christ to save, change,
empower, and preserve believers.
I. Levi the Publican
Unlike Moses who chose to suffer affliction
with the people of God, than to enjoy the
pleasures of sin for a season (Hebrews 1125),
Matthew chose to begin his career as one who was
perceived as a traitor to his God, his country,
and his people. He aligned himself with the
government whose occupying army controlled his
homeland. Matthews choice prevented him from
worshiping God as his family had done for
I. Levi the Publican
But God sees things we cannot see. He saw in
Matthew a man with the strength to make tough
decisions and stick with them, a man who had
organizational and writing and accounting skills,
and who could deal with all manner of people. He
saw that Matthew grasped the often elusive
concept of submission to authority, and that he
would put the good of the kingdom of Heaven above
his own.
I. Levi the Publican
Matthews quick response when Jesus beckoned
confirmed that what God sees is more significant
than what we can discern with our own eyes.
Matthews book teaches us the value of being
loyal to Gods Word. Initially, our loyalty
honors God. We submit our lives to His will and
find our place in His kingdom. But as time
passes, we begin to reap the rewards of our own
loyalty. The Lord whom we honor, honors His own
Word, which promises salvation, comfort,
provision, and healing.
I. Levi the Publican
The cycle of loyalty becomes an endless circle
along which Gods blessings flow. The ultimate
gift of loyalty is not the unwavering faith that
we give to Him, but it is the trust He places in
us, embracing the church as His bride. On that
eternal heavenly morning, we will once again
realize His undying loyalty to us. All of our
faith and devotion will be bundled up,
multiplied, and given back.
Matthew 2413
But he that shall endure unto the end, the same
shall be saved (Matthew 2413).
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