Saint Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist

The call of St. Matthew is highly instructive about how we also can be effective witnesses to Jesus.  St. Matthew was a tax collector and therefore considered dishonest.  It is likely that even though he was involved in a trade that was shunned by society he was still a God-fearing man.  We learn that after St. Matthew responds to Jesus’, he is at table in his home with Jesus and joined by many other tax collectors and sinners.  These other people were probably friends or at least acquaintances of Matthew – they understood they were welcome in his home, and they understood that they would be able to receive healing from Jesus.  St. Matthew played an important role in facilitating the work of Jesus.  St. Matthew’s hospitality – though shunned by the pious – served the mission of Christ.

St. Matthew expresses his understanding of his own calling in a veiled way by the words of Christ he records: “Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do… I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.”  St. Matthew understands that the reason he was called was his illness, his sinfulness.  He experienced healing and forgiveness and wanted his friends who suffered the same to receive the physician’s cure.  Those who stand outside and are content to judge do not get to know Jesus.  Those who do not want to receive Jesus as healer and physician will not receive him or know him.


What is this one body? They are the faithful throughout the world—in the present, in the past and in the future.… The body does exist apart from its enlivening spirit, else it would not be a body. It is a common human metaphor to say of things that are united and have coherence that they are one body. So we too take the term body as an expression of unity.1


Those who read very closely recognize the Trinity in this passage. Paul writes of God the Father “who is above all and through all and in all.” All things are “from God,” who owes his existence to no one. All things are “through him,” as though to say through the Mediator. All things are “in him,” as though to say in the One who contains them, that is, reconciles them into one.2


With the Ephesians as with the Corinthians and many others, this subject has been a constant temptation to arrogance, despondency or envy. For this reason he uses the simile of the body everywhere.… Pay attention to what he says. He does not say “according to each one’s faith,” so that he may not induce despondency in those who have not received the great gifts. Rather what does he say? “According to the measure of Christ’s gift.” “The truly capital things,” he says, “are common to all: baptism, salvation by faith, having God as Father and partaking of the same Spirit. If someone has more in grace, feel no resentment, for his task is greater too.” … What does “according to the measure” mean? It does not mean according to our own merit, for if so then no one would have received what he has received. But of his gift we have all received. Why has one received more, another less? This, he says, means nothing, but it is a matter of indifference, since each person contributes to the work of upbuilding.3


There are five ways of speaking about the Scriptures: speaking in tongues, speaking in revelation, speaking in knowledge, speaking in prophecy, speaking in teaching.… But there is another thing apart from these. It is being an evangelist. This means to relate what Christ did and announce that Christ himself is to be worshiped.4


“First apostles,” because these had all the gifts. “Then prophets,” for there were some who were not apostles but were prophets, like Agabus. “Third, evangelists,” those who did not travel everywhere but merely preached the gospel, like Priscilla and Aquila. “Shepherds and teachers” means all those in positions of trust. Are these shepherds and teachers of less account? Certainly it seems that those who are stationary and reside in a single place, like Timothy and Titus, [are of less account] than those who go about the world preaching the gospel. But on another reading we cannot from this passage deduce subordination and precedence but from a different letter.5


By maturity he means here the perfecting of conscience. For a grown man stands firm while young boys’ wits are tossed about. So it is with the faithful. We mature until we attain the unity of the faith, that is, until we are all found to share a single faith. For this is unity of faith when we are all one, when we all alike acknowledge our common bond. Until then we must labor. If you have received the gift of upbuilding others, be sure that you do not overthrow yourself by envying someone else’s gift.6


The Lord, about to give salvation to all sinners believing in him, willingly chose Matthew the former publican. The gift of his esteem for Matthew stands as an example for our salvation. Every sinner must be chosen by God and can receive the grace of eternal salvation if one is not without a religious mind and a devout heart. So Matthew was chosen willingly by God. And though he is immersed in worldly affairs, because of his sincere religious devotion he is judged worthy to be called forth by the Lord (“Follow me”), who by virtue of his divine nature knows the hidden recesses of the heart. From what follows, we know that Matthew was accepted by the Lord not by reason of his status but of his faith and devotion. As soon as the Lord says to him, “Follow me,” he does not linger or delay, but thereupon “he arose and followed him.”7


  1. HOMILY ON EPHESIANS 10.4.4. Edwards, M. J. (Ed.). (1999). Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians (pp. 159–160). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
  2. ON FAITH AND THE CREED 19. Edwards, M. J. (Ed.). (1999). Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians (p. 161). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
  3. HOMILY ON EPHESIANS 11.4.4–7. Edwards, M. J. (Ed.). (1999). Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians (p. 163). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
  4. EPISTLE TO THE EPHESIANS 2.4.11–12. Edwards, M. J. (Ed.). (1999). Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians (p. 165). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
  5. HOMILY ON EPHESIANS 11.4.11–12. Edwards, M. J. (Ed.). (1999). Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians (pp. 165–166). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
  6. HOMILY ON EPHESIANS 11.4.13. Edwards, M. J. (Ed.). (1999). Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians (p. 167). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
  7. TRACTATE ON MATTHEW 45.1. Simonetti, M. (Ed.). (2001). Matthew 1–13 (p. 177). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
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