The following is taken from the FAQs answered by Don Stewart, available at the BLB.
Each Gospel Was Written For A Distinct Purpose
It is important that we understand these sources and what they are trying to accomplish. The Gospels are neither biographies of the life of Christ nor are they a disinterested record of certain events in His life. Each writer wants the reader to know the truth about Jesus and become a disciple. To accomplish this purpose, each Gospel is aimed at a certain audience and each writer is selective of the events he includes.
The Gospel according to Matthew is aimed primarily at the Jew, the person familiar with the Old Testament. Jesus is portrayed as Israel’s Messiah, the King of the Jews. Matthew records how the promises God made in the Old Testament, with regard to the Messiah, are fulfilled in Jesus. Matthew begins his book by stating the family tree of Jesus:
The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham (Matthew 1:1).
This genealogy demonstrates that Jesus is the rightful heir to the kingdom that was promised to David and his descendants and sets the tone for the book. The remainder of the book emphasizes that Jesus has the credentials to be Israel’s Messiah.
Mark, on the other hand, is not writing to the Jew or to those who are familiar with the Old Testament. His audience is basically those people in the Roman Empire who are unfamiliar with the religion of the Jews. Consequently, Mark’s Gospel does not start with the birth of Jesus or any family tree that demonstrates Jesus as a fulfillment of prophecy. It starts, rather, with the beginning of Jesus’ ministry.
The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God (Mark 1:1).
Mark’s is a Gospel of action. Jesus is portrayed as the servant of the Lord doing that job that God has sent Him to do. Thus, the emphasis is on doing, and Mark shows that Jesus got the job done. Consequently Mark’s gospel records more miracles of Jesus than Matthew, Luke, or John.
Luke was written to those more intellectually minded. He states his purpose in the book’s prologue:
Inasmuch as many have taken in hand to set in order a narrative of those things which are most surely believed among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write to you an orderly account (Luke 1:1-3).
Luke is not writing as an eyewitness but as one who is recording eyewitness testimonies. His portrayal of Jesus is as the perfect man. Hence, he focuses on those events in Jesus’ life that stress His humanity. The Greeks in their art and literature were always looking for the perfect man. The Gospel of Luke reveals that man.
John, the writer of the fourth gospel, was an eyewitness to the life of Jesus. The things he recorded were for the purpose of establishing the fact that Jesus was the eternal God who became a man. John wanted his readers to exercise faith toward Jesus.
And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name (John 20:30,31).
When John states his purpose he also states that he is selective in what he has recorded.
Summing Up The Testimony Of The Four Gospels
We can sum up the testimony of the four gospels in the following manner.
In Matthew, Jesus is the Son of David (Isaiah 11:1; Matthew 1:1)
In Mark, Jesus is the Son of Man (Zechariah 3:8; Mark 8:36)
In Luke, He is the Son of Adam (Zechariah 6:12; Luke 3:38)
In John, Jesus is the Son of God (Isaiah 4:2; 7:14; John 3:16)
The four gospels were written to cover four aspects of the life and ministry of Jesus. Each gospel writer wrote from a different perspective to a different audience. They each looked at the character of Jesus from different angles. Thus the number of four arises from the four different perspectives we have given about Christ’s life and ministry.
Each author is presenting a different aspect of Jesus’ character. In Matthew Jesus is the king; in Mark; He is the servant; in Luke; He is the perfect man; in John, He is God. This is because each writer addressed a different type of audience.
The Gospels are not intended to be a history or biography of the life of Christ in the modern sense of the term. Each author is selective in what he portrays. Jesus did many more things than the Gospels record as John testified.
When the Gospels are compared with each other we get an overall portrait of Jesus. He was God from all eternity who came down to earth as the perfect man. He was the Messiah of Israel, the King of the Jews, the one who did the job that God sent Him to do. This is the testimony of the four Gospels.
Bill saysDecember 11, 2012 at 10:36 am
This is a good explanation imho. I have long understood the differences in the four gospels as being attributed to the fact the they were written by four different people. The fact that each of the writers had a different target audience had not occurred to me, but makes a ton of sense. Thanks for sharing these insights.
Tom C. saysDecember 11, 2012 at 10:58 am
Great summary! It helps clear up a LOT of confusion.
david yarborough saysDecember 11, 2012 at 12:04 pm
this helps meunderstand the for and gives me a more clear of Christ jesus thanks God Bless you
may the grace from our father and the peace from our lord be with you & yours
Eric saysDecember 11, 2012 at 2:38 pm
While it is true that Matthew shows Jesus as king, Mark as servant, Luke as man, and John as God, the reason is not because they are addressing different audiences. Rather, they are all written to the Jews ONLY because Jesus was “not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 15:24). Each writer has a different focus to show the Jews that Jesus fulfills all branch prophecies of the Messiah in the Old Testament, which showed that the Messiah would come as Israel’s king, Israel’s servant, Israel’s man, and Israel’s God. Therefore, they can believe the gospel Jesus proclaimed, withdraw themselves from apostate Israel, and become part of saved Israel and enter God’s eternal kingdom on earth.
Carolynn saysDecember 11, 2012 at 4:45 pm
Yes, I thank you all so very much for the summary of the four gospel, and what they mean to me and my family. Yes Jesus came for the Jews first and than for me a gentile. He is my Lord, my Messiah, my King, my God, and my man. He is all that for me an so very much more. I just want to thank Him for coming and doing the job that no other could do but God in the flesh. For me to be able to worship and live for Him.
Be bless you men of God and my the power of God be yours the Christmas season!!!
Jim Schultz saysDecember 11, 2012 at 10:25 pm
THE FOUR GOSPELS
This may help as well, illuminating on the subject.
Book————The Red thread—-who Jesus Christ is in that book
Matthew—-Jesus Christ is Jehovah’s Messiah
Mark——-Jesus Christ is Jehovah’s Servant
Luke——-Jesus Christ is Jehovah’s Man
John——-Jesus Christ is Jehovah’s Son
Now, Who is the author of the whole Bible? God is,
Now, Who is the subject of the whole Bible? Jesus Christ is,
Now for example take Luke, why are there so many medical terms when studying the greek in Luke? Because Luke had God working with in him, (why? to get the Word, His Will down on paper) Luke had to use his own vocabulary. Luke was a doctor, that’s why Luke used medical terms to express what God was telling him to write down. It’s that simple.
Then you have John, Matthew, and Mark, did you ever wonder why there vocabulary was so different? there different,
These guys were the same,
HOW do we as students of the Word of God know that?
Well for 1, God doesn’t possess people or a believer, because of free will,
God has to work you,—-who you already are, cool isn’t it?
It’s so cool to study for example Matthew, because after a while you really get to understand who he was as a believer.
Why do you think Chris P. said Luke was for intellectually people? Because Luke was vary educated and a doctor, the others didn’t have that type of training. Now I wouldn’t go that far, he was an educated man, and had long-suits about the human body.
Now knowing that alone, don’t you think God picked the right man for the job? Yes God did, and if there was someone else better then Luke, God would have picked someone else, BUT Luke was the man. God knows what He’s doing and He hand picked who was going to write about His Son.
Just like John, he was the right believer, Holy one, Holy man of God for the right job. Who do you think picked John, Jesus? NO, God did.
Remember the verse, Holy men of God were moved by the Holy Spirit. These guys were Holy men, just like Paul, Peter, John, James, and so on.
These guys were just like us, real people, are you smart? If so, it’ll show up in your writing skills, your training, your educational up bringing. They were the same.
Anyway, I felt moved to type this for ya all, to illuminate on the subject,
Happy Speaking God’s wonderful Word
Rightly-dividing the Word of Truth,