The Church in Matthew:
Two aspects of the church must be considered in Matthew. First, Jesus consciously sought to create a new community which centered around him.
The proclamation of Jesus began with a proclamation of God’s kingdom coming:
From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Matthew 4:17 (ESV)
Jesus called disciples to follow Jesus:
19 And he said to them, “Follow (deute) me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Matthew 4:19 (ESV)
The following of the first disciples is matched by the crowds following Jesus, “And great crowds followed (ekolouthesan) him” (Matthew 4:25).
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus opens with promises which include receiving gifts of the heavenly kingdom based upon one’s relationship to Jesus:
10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. Matthew 5:10–12 (ESV)
Jesus considers himself as one who could potentially abolish but actually has the power to fulfill the law (Matthew 5:17). Jesus claims the power to exercise eschatological judgment (Matthew 7:21-23). One’s response to the instruction of Jesus will be of the most profound importance (Matthew 7:24-27; 10:5-15, responding to the message conveyed by Jesus’ representatives).
Jesus symbolically arranges a community around himself (commentators find that this constitutes a renewed Israel). Schreiner notes, “Given that Jesus defined the new community in terms of its relationship with him, it is not astonishing that Jesus spoke of the “church” (ekklesia)” (Schreiner, New Testament Theology, 681). The new community, the “church” is mentioned in Matthew 16:18 & 18:15-20).
Second, the church of Jesus would extend beyond merely Israel. This is seen first in the selection of four Gentile women in the (assuming “the wife of Uriah” was also a Hittite) in the introductory genealogy of Jesus. Jesus is welcomed not by the rulers of Israel but by foreigners (Matthew 2:1-12); and Jesus must escape to Egypt (Matthew 2:13-15). There is a hint of this in John the Baptist’s comment that “God is able rom these stones to raise up children of Abraham” (Matthew 3:9). The parable of the vineyard makes the point more clearly (Matthew 20:1-16).
A hint of the scope of the message is found in Matthew 24:9, in that “all nations” will hate Jesus’ disciples. The angels will gather God’s people from the entire world (Matthew 24:31). The centurion mentioned in Mark 15:39 shows a foreigner recognizing Jesus.
Most importantly, Jesus specifically commissions his disciples to go in all the world, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19).
The Great Commission also draws in the first strand of the church: that it was a community organized around Jesus. The distinguishing marks of those in the church are (1) baptism (an introductory rite) and (2) being taught to observe all that Jesus has commanded (Matthew 28:19-20). Thus, Jesus organized a church around himself along the same lines as the people of God under the Old Covenant (Deuteronomy 27:1).