The Genealogy of Christ
“The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham…So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; and from David until the carrying away into Babylon are fourteen generations; and from the carrying away into Babylon unto Christ are fourteen generations.”
The New Testament begins with the history of the earthly life, death, resurrection, and ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is given four times, by four different men (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John), from four points of view. Yet, in these four narratives there is one complete story, without a single contradiction. Four distinct gospel narratives tell the blessed story of Christ’s doing and dying as the sinners’ Substitute. Four times we read of his precious words, works, and worth as our God-man Mediator. How thankful we ought to be for the four gospels! Each one compliments and reinforces the others. “To know Christ is life eternal. To believe Christ is to have peace with God. To follow Christ is to be a true Christian. To be with Christ is heaven itself. We can never hear too much about the Lord Jesus Christ” (J.C. Ryle).
The verses in this study are the opening lines of the New Testament, the beginning of the story of the Lord Jesus Christ. At first glance it may appear to be just a list of names. But it is much, much more. These lines are given, not by the pen of men alone, but by the direct arrangement and inspiration of God the Holy Spirit. Read them with serious thought. What we have before us is "not the word of man, but of God" (1 Thess. 2:13; 2 Tim. 3:16). Let us cherish the Book of God. It is "The Holy Bible!" We should, each of us, constantly give thanks to God that he has given us his Word in our native tongue. This Book is able to make us wise unto salvation (2 Tim. 3:15). This Book is able to thoroughly furnish us for every good work in this world (2 Tim. 3:17). It is our responsibility to search, and study, and seek to understand the message of this Book, and to govern our lives by it (John 5:39; 2 Tim. 2:15). In the last day we will be judged out of this Book and required to give account to God for our use or neglect of the light he has given us.
Wise they are who follow the counsel of J. C. Ryle--"Read the Bible reverently and diligently, with an honest determination to believe and practice all we find in it. It is no light matter how we use this Book. Above all, let us never read the Bible without praying for the teaching of the Holy Spirit. He alone can apply truth to our hearts, and make us profit by what we read."
Why Four Gospels?
People sometimes wonder why we have four gospel narratives. The reason is really very simple. ― Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John show us our Savior’s full character, his full person and work from four angles. They do not give us four different pictures, but four different views of the same picture. Really, they present the Lord Jesus like a statue, each allowing us to view the statue from a different side. I say that because in some ways a statue is better than a picture. A statue allows us to see the image it represents from all sides. The four gospels have been compared to the four cherubim of Ezekiel and Revelation.
· Matthew shows Christ as the King, as the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, who has come to save his people from their sins.
· Mark presents him as Jehovah’s Servant, who has come to fulfil his Father’s will, the ox ready to serve and ready to be sacrificed upon the altar.
· Luke, the beloved Physician, presents him as the Son of Man, full of human sympathy and tenderness, as the cherub with the face of a man suggests.
· John, like the eagle soaring into the heavens, sets the Savior before us as the Son of God, with a majesty that transcends all our thought and imagination.
The Gospel of Matthew is thought by some to have been written as early as within eight years after our Lord’s ascension. Others think it was written later, 15 to 20 years after the ascension. It was written by Matthew, whose name means, “gift of the Lord.” Here he proves that Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ of God by giving us his genealogy and, at the same time, shows us that the Son of God has graciously identified himself with the people he came to save.
The passage now before us (Matt. 1:1-7) contains the genealogy of our Lord Jesus Christ, in the time of Joseph his reputed father, tracing his genealogy through Joseph. Luke’s genealogy differs from Matthew’s simply because Luke traces the Savior’s genealogy through his mother, Mary. Frequently, when reading the genealogical records of Scripture, there is a tendency to neglect them because many fail to see any meaning or value in them. That should never be the case. Clearly, there are five lessons to be learned from these seventeen verses.
The Importance of The Genealogy Itself
First, let us recognize the importance of this genealogical record. Matthew was directed by the Holy Spirit to begin his Gospel with a long list of names. Sixteen verses are taken up with tracing out the family tree of the Lord Jesus Christ as a man, from Abraham to David, from David to Jechonias, and from Jechonias to Joseph. The seventeenth verse divides the genealogy into three groups of fourteen generations. Do not foolishly imagine that these verses are useless. Nothing in God’s creation is useless; and nothing in God’s Word is useless. These lines were not written by a man alone, but by a man who wrote as he was inspired by God the Holy Spirit. They are to be read with serious thought. We have before us a very important document, a record of monumental significance. Robert Hawker shows the importance of this record in his comments on the opening verse, — “The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the Son of Abraham.” Hawker wrote…
“The Old Testament begins with the account of the Creation. The New Testament begins with the account of Him, by whom all things were created (Heb. 1:1-2). The great design of this pedigree concerning Christ after the flesh, is to prove Christ's lineal descent from Abraham. For unless this be proved, the evidence that Christ is the promised seed, would be wanting. “For to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not to seeds as of many, but as of one, and to thy seed which is Christ. Compare Galatians 3:16. with Genesis 12:3. and Genesis 22:18. Hence, therefore, the importance of this pedigree is evident. And the correctness of the one here given, is striking…Perhaps it were a thing impossible in any other instance, but in the genealogy of Christ, to find among all the pedigrees of the Jews, from the days of our Lord to this hour, a correct genealogy of any one house, or tribe, or family, even for fourteen generations together. Whereas in this of Christ, we have three times fourteen. What can more decidedly manifest the overruling providence and watchfulness of God!”
This genealogical record is important because it is an irrefutable proof that Jesus of Nazareth is indeed the Christ of God, the Son of David, the promised Seed of Abraham. The Jews, from the very beginning of their history, kept precise genealogical records. The Scribes and Pharisees studied those records with great care. They constantly raised questions about “endless genealogies” (1 Tim. 1:4). If they could have disproved his genealogy, that alone would have been sufficient ground for their rejection of Jesus as the Christ; but they could not do it. Though the Jews argued about many things and constantly accused the Lord Jesus of horribly evil deeds, they never once brought up his ancestry. In fact, to this day, though religious heretics abound who try to undermine our faith in Christ, I know of none who have ever attempted to discredit his genealogy. The reason should be obvious to anyone. It is flawless! Though Luke’s record of the genealogy gives additional details and omits others, there is not a single point of disagreement between the two.
God’s Faithfulness to His Word
Second, in this long list of names we are made to see that God is faithful to his Word. He always keeps his Word. He promised long ago that all the nations of the earth would be blessed in the Seed of Abraham (Gen. 12:3); and Jesus Christ is Abraham’s Seed in whom all nations are blessed (v. 1; Gal. 3:13-16). God promised that he would raise up One out of the family of David to be the Savior of his people (Isa. 11:1); and Jesus Christ is David’s great Son and his Lord (v. 1; Acts 2:25-36).
These seventeen verses are a demonstration of the fact that God always keeps his Word. Let every thoughtless scoffer remember this and tremble! Though men imagine that because God does not immediately punish sin he will never punish sin, it is not so. The righteous Lord, because he loves righteousness, will destroy the wicked with his everlasting wrath (Psa. 7:11; 11:5-7). Let every believer remember this and be comforted! Our heavenly Father will be true to all his promises. “He is not a man, that he should lie” (Num. 23:19). “He abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself” (2 Tim. 2:13). “God, who cannot lie” (Tit. 1:2), has made some promises to his people; and all his promises in Christ Jesus are yea and amen (2 Cor. 1:20). He has promised saving grace to all who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 16:31), sufficient grace to his tried saints (2 Cor. 12:9), sustaining grace to those who are tempted (1 Cor. 10:13), strengthening grace to those who are weak (Isa. 41:10), restoring grace to those who are fallen (Psa. 37:24; Pro. 24:16), dying grace at the time appointed (Ex. 15:16; Heb. 2:15), and crowning grace to all who enter into heaven’s glory (2Tim. 1:12; James 1:12). And what he has promised he will perform.
The Sinfulness and Corruption of Man
Third, our Savior’s genealogy is one of many almost incidental revelations of the universal depravity of our race. It is humbling, but instructive for us to observe how many in this list of names were godly parents who had wicked and ungodly sons. Roboam, Joram, Amon, and Jechonias were all terribly wicked men, though they had believing, godly fathers. Two lessons are obvious.
1. Grace does not run in blood lines (John 1:13). Salvation is not inherited. There are some families in which several are the objects of grace, many families in which none are the objects of grace, and very few families in which all are the objects of grace. But in all cases salvation comes to chosen sinners according to God’s sovereign prerogative (Rom. 9:11-24).
2. Fathers are responsible to train their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord; but they are not responsible for the salvation of their children, or even for their behavior beyond childhood. David was a good father. He loved his children and trained them in the fear of God. However, for the most part, his children did not heed his instruction. David was not required for that reason to relinquish his calling, either as the king of Israel or as the prophet of God.
The simple fact is it takes more than a good example, good instruction, and faithful training to save our sons and daughters. It takes the grace of God (Eph. 2:8-9). It takes the Father’s sovereign election (2 Thess. 2:13), the Son’s blood atonement (Heb. 9:22), and the Holy Spirit’s effectual call (Psa. 65:4).
Christ’s Great Compassion
Fourth, we see here something of the great mercy, grace, compassion, and condescension of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is the genealogy of the humanity of the Lord Jesus Christ, of the people from whom our Lord descended according to the flesh. Wonder of wonders, the eternal Son of God, the infinite, the almighty, the incomprehensible God assumed our nature! God took humanity into union with himself and identified himself with the people he came to save — sinners! Some of the names in this genealogy remind us of some of the saddest, most shameful events in history. Some of those here named are mentioned nowhere else in the Bible. But the last name in the list is the name of our Savior, Christ. So that he might save fallen men, the Son of God became a man (Phil. 2:6-8; 2 Cor. 8:9). — “Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift!”
It is worthy of observation that in the genealogy of Christ four of the five women mentioned were women with a reputation or a blemish that most would like to hide from their family tree. Our Savior chose to be numbered with transgressors, even in his genealogy. Tamar was guilty of incest. Rahab was a harlot. Ruth was a Moabitess, a child of a cursed race. And Bathsheba was the adulteress wife of Uriah.
We know that the Lord Jesus was made “sin for us, who knew no sin” (2 Cor. 5:21). He who was made in the likeness of sinful flesh (Rom. 8:3) was also made “a curse for us” (Gal. 3:13). But here, as the New Testament opens, the Spirit of God tells us that our holy Savior came into this world through such channels of sin and uncleanness as none could ever have imagined. He who was “holy, harmless, undefiled and separate from sinners” and “made higher than the heavens” (Heb. 7:26) came into the world through a family of sinners. What humiliation! Truly, he of whom this genealogy speaks is the Friend of sinners! He came into the world to save sinners!
Notice this, too. Two of the women named in our Lord’s earthly lineage were Gentiles. Ruth was from Moab and Rahab was from Jericho. Yet, they were as much a part of our Savior’s family as Abraham and David. Surely, this is intended to show that it was ever the purpose of God that the Israel of God, his holy nation, the church of Christ was to be made up of Jew and Gentile (Isa. 49:6; Gal. 3:28).
The fifth thing we see in this record is the great sovereignty of God’s saving grace in Christ. No one can read this genealogical record and fail to see God’s sovereignty, unless he just does not want to see it. Most families and nations were passed over; but Abraham was chosen. Isaac was chosen, but not Abraham’s other son, Ishmael. Jacob was chosen, but not Esau. Among all the families of Israel, the house of Jesse was chosen. From among all Jesse’s sons, David was chosen. Even Manasses is named in the line of those who were chosen of God and called. Therefore, it must be concluded that no human being is beyond the reach of Christ’s saving arm or sympathetic heart. Our sins may have been as many and as vile as any who are here named; but they shall never be remembered against us by God if we trust him who is the Christ, the Son of the living God.