The Sermon on the Mount
Dr. John Hoole – July 26 & August 2
Sometimes God gives an unbeliever more insight into the lives of Christians than most Christians have. For instance, someone once said to Hannah Whitall Smith, the author of the very successful book, “The Christians Secret of a Happy Life,” “You Christians seem to have a religion that makes you miserable. You are like the man with a headache. He does not want to get rid of his head, but it hurts him to keep it. You cannot expect outsiders to seek very earnestly for anything so uncomfortable.” I don’t know what you may think of this statement, but I believe in some instances this unbeliever was correct in his assumptions. He obviously had seen such demonstrations from believers. And because they are miserable they have little to offer a world that is desperately searching for happiness.
Today, we begin a new series which will help us know how Christians should live and act. Today we embark upon the longest sermon of Christ in the Bible – The Sermon on the Mount. If we follow the instructions Jesus gives in this sermon, then we are assured we will be blessed. That word, BLESSED, is used 9 times in the first 10 verses of this sermon. Since there are various definitions of this word in our world, we will investigate what Jesus had in mind when He used this word.
Let me begin with the very first verse of the Gospel of Matthew. Matthew 1:1 (NKJV). 1The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.
We will look at this verse in more detail later, but I need to make one important statement here. Stating that Jesus is the Son of David show Christ is the rightful heir to David’s throne. And Matthew makes the case through his gospel that Jesus is the King. And the reason I wanted to bring this up at the very beginning is to make this statement: “The Sermon on the Mount is a manifesto of the King on how He wants us, his subjects, to live their lives.” It contains the core essentials, the foundation of our thoughts and attitudes
To begin our discovery of this great sermon, let me ask you some very basic questions.
WHO WROTE THE BOOK IN WHICH WE FIND THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT?
Gospel of Matthew
THE PERSON, MATTHEW, WAS ALSO KNOWN BY ANOTHER NAME. WHAT WAS IT?
WHAT WAS HIS OCCUPATION BEFORE BECOMING A DISCIPLE OF CHRIST?
He was a tax collector
Matthew 10:2-4 (NIV)
WHAT IS ANOTHER BIBLE WORD FOR A TAX COLLECTOR
WHAT OTHER TAX COLLECTOR DO WE KNOW BY NAME IN THE BIBLE?
Luke 19:2 NKJV
Zacchaeus was the chief tax collector in Jericho.
Look at two different verses that tell of Jesus calling Matthew to follow Him. Notice that Matthew calls himself “Matthew,” while Mark calls him “Levi.”
Matthew 9:9 (NIV)
Mark 2:14 (NIV)
IN WHAT GROUPING OF NEW TESTAMENT BOOKS IS THE BOOK OF MATTHEW
HOW MANY GOSPELS ARE THERE?
WHAT IS THE MAIN THRUST, OR MESSAGE, OF THE GOSPELS?
In one sense, the Gospels are historical, in that they relate the basics of the life, teachings, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In addition, though, the Gospels relate the “good news” of Christ’s invitation to enter into His life, and let Him become the center of our life.
WHY DO WE NEED FOUR GOSPELS?
Since they, essentially, have one subject, the life and teachings of Jesus Christ, why couldn’t one account do?
2 Corinthians 13:1 (NKJV) reads:
The Gospels are more than just a report of the life and teachings of Jesus. The writers of the four Gospels did not function like modern reporters, who just reported “the facts.” A closer examination of the gospels reveals that the authors were more like editors than reporters. To use an analogy from Television, they are the producers, not the camera crew. They are not simply aiming the camera at whatever action happens to be going on, but are cutting and splicing the film, under the prodding of the Holy Spirit, to create an effect. The authors of the gospels took the stories and sayings of Jesus and presented them in various ways in order to accent various truths about His identity, His mission, and His call to discipleship.
Each of the Gospels show a different view of Jesus.
CAN YOU TELL ME HOW EACH GOSPEL PORTRAYS JESUS CHRIST
Matthew portrays Jesus as the King
He is the rightful heir to the throne of David.
Mark portrays Jesus as a Servant. He came not to serve, but to give his life.
Luke portrays Jesus as the Son of Man. He was the perfect Man. Hence, He is dependent on the Father, a friend of outcasts, compassionate and neighborly.
John portrays Jesus as the incarnate Son of God. In John, the deity of Jesus Christ is often asserted. He is God, who became flesh, and dwelt among us so that we could behold the glory of the Father (John 1:14).
The three main civilizations of the first century were the Jewish, the Roman, and the Greek. Three of the Gospels were written especially for these three groups.
Let’s look again at the very first verse of the Gospel of Matthew.
Matthew 1:1 (NKJV)
I am not a writer, but it would seem to me that the opening paragraphs and pages in a book are very important. The opening of a book either grabs the attention of the reader…….or it loses their attention. I find this also true in the Bible in how a book puts its message forward very early. Many Bible books, on their very threshold - in their initial paragraphs - give a picture as to what the rest of the Book will cover in greater detail.
Genesis begins with the words “In the beginning.” The entire book of Genesis is a book of beginnings. You might even say that the Book of Genesis is the “seed plot” of the entire Word of God, since it is the very first book in the Bible. The rest of the Bible is a blossoming out of the seed truths found there.
The Book of Genesis gives the only true and reliable account of the origin of all the basic entities of the universe and of life except for the origin of God Himself - for obvious reasons. At the very outset of this Book, the words “In the beginning,” indicate the theme of the rest of the book.
In Genesis we find the:
• origin of the universe
• origin of the solar system
How does the Book of Hebrews begin?
Hebrews 1:1-2 NKJV
The discourse throughout the book of Hebrews is a series of presentations of contrasts between the Old and the New. It is a contrast between revelation, as it came by the prophets concerning the coming Messiah, and revelation through Christ Himself.
God spoke “in times past” is contrasted to God has spoken in “these last days.” God spoke to the fathers ---- God spoke to us.
Gradually, step by step, the writer of Hebrews takes us through the old dispensation (mainly the Old Testament) and shows its deficiencies, until at last in the 11th chapter he parades a file of the heroes of faith -- the best that those “past times” had to offer. But he does so only to contrast them to Christ. At the very threshold of the Book, we are given a synopsis of the rest of it.
It appears that the Book of Psalms begins the same way. At its very outset, we are given a hint at what the central thought will be in the Psalms that follow.
Psalms 1 NKJV
Psalm 1 depicts a set of contrasts. A contrast between the “godly” and the “ungodly.” -- the god-centered and the self-centered persons -- those obedient to the Word and those disobedient. This Psalm depicts in brief what the general theme of the entire Psalms will be. Also, much is said in the Psalms as to the end of the wicked, as well as the triumph of the man and woman who follows God.
The same is true of the Book of Matthew. I think it would do us well to see how this book starts and let it help us when we get to the Sermon on the Mount, later in the Book.
Again, let’s look at the very first verse of the Gospel of Matthew.
As mentioned earlier, the words “Son of David” connects Jesus with the throne. And as the “Son of Abraham,” He is connected with the Land and the Promise where God said that in Abraham’s seed all the nations of the earth would be blessed. The lineage shown in the first chapter of Matthew shows the direct descents. It verifies the fact that Jesus is the rightful heir to the throne of Israel.
We hear Isaiah 9:6-7 quoted at every Christmas time.
The Old Testament prophets prophesied that the coming Messiah would reign on David’s throne. Matthew is establishing that Jesus is that Messiah.
Matthew is the only Gospel writer that tells the story of foreign royalty coming to visit baby Jesus. He is the only one who records the wise men asking, “Where is He that is born King of the Jews?” (Matthew 2:2). 9 times Matthew calls Jesus the Son of David -- Only 5 more times in the rest of the New Testament.
This opening chapter of Matthew shows us what will be emphasized through the rest of the book. The primary thought of Matthew is that Jesus is the rightful heir to the throne and that He will eventually sit on David’s throne.
Let’s examine the lineage given in Matthew 1 a little further. Four women are mentioned in Matthew’s account. Two of them were gentiles (Rahab and Ruth) and two were Jews (Tamar and Bathsheba). Rahab was a harlot (James 2:25) and Tamar and Bathsheba committed adultery (Genesis 38; 2 Samuel 11:1-5). Ruth was a pure woman (Ruth 3:11).
The genealogy of Matthew depicts the royal line through Solomon, son of David. Luke 3 depicts the lineage through Nathan, another of David’s sons.
“The Book of the genealogy” is a phrase which is peculiar to Matthew. It is a unique expression, and you won’t find it anywhere else in the New Testament. If you start going back through the Old Testament, back through Malachi and Zechariah and back through the major prophets and the books of poetry and back to the Pentateuch you will almost come to the conclusion that it is nowhere else in the Bible.
Then all of a sudden, you come to the fifth chapter of Genesis and see: “This is the book of the genealogy of Adam……” (Genesis 5:1)
There is that expression again. There are two books:
• the book of the genealogy of Adam, and
• the book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ.
How did you get into the family of Adam? You got in by birth. You didn’t perform it; in fact, you had nothing to do with it. But that’s the way you and I got into the family of Adam. We got there by birth. But, according to Romans 5:12, in Adam all die. Adam’s book is a book of death.
What a relief it is to turn to the gospel of Matthew and enter a new book, “the book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham” Unlike the first Adam, Jesus Christ, who in 1 Corinthians 15:45 is called the “last Adam”, obeyed God and was therefore able to exercise dominion over His kingdom.
The first Adam was tested in a beautiful garden and failed. But the Last Adam, Jesus, was tested in a wilderness, and He succeeded. Because the first Adam was a thief, in that he took that which was not his to take, he was cast out of Paradise. But the Last Adam turned to a thief on a cross and said, “Today you shall be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43)
The book of “the generations of Adam” ends with a curse. But the “book of the generation of Jesus Christ” ends with the promise “there shall be no more curse” (Revelation 22:3).
The gospel of Matthew presents Jesus Christ as God’s King.
WHAT DID THE JEWS THINK OF MATTHEW?
What did Jews think about tax collectors in general? They hated the publicans. Many of them were extortionists, exacting from the Jews more taxes than the Romans required.
I find it interesting that this man, hated by the Jews, turns around, once he became a follower of Jesus and sends a message to his own people concerning their King. This is the most Jewish book in the New Testament. Many theologians believe the gospel of Matthew was originally written in Hebrew. It points back into the Old Testament, and refers to more O.T. prophecies than any other book.
Let me ask you a few questions about the Sermon on the Mount.
Matthew 5:1 seems to indicate that Christ was teaching his disciples. But when you get to the end of the Sermon, you find something else.
Matthew 7:28-29 says the people were astonished. Who were the people? Just the disciples?
TRUE - FALSE
CAN YOU REMEMBER AND LIST ANY OF THE ITEMS JESUS COVERED IN THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT?
I will say much more about this in the next few weeks, but I need to state here what I believe to be the purpose of the Sermon on the Mount. It may not be the only purpose, but it is a primary one.
I have already stated that the Book of Matthew portrays Jesus as the King. In the Sermon on the Mount, the King says that He wants his followers to be different -- different from both the secular world and the nominal church -- from the irreligious and the religious.
One of the key verses of the Sermon on the Mount is found in Matthew 5:20.
Matthew 5:20 (KJV)
If our righteousness, or holiness, is to surpass that of the religious community, we need to understand what this means.
During the time of Christ’s ministry, there were several religious group at work in Israel.
NAME SOME OF THE RELIGIOUS GROUPS ACTIVE DURING JESUS’ MINISTRY.
Each claimed to have the answer to Israel’s problems.
The Pharisees claimed that the nation could experience freedom and blessing only if the people returned to the traditions of the fathers. They were strict legalists who believed strongly in what we call the Old Testament.
The Sadducees, on the other hand, urged the people to update their religion. They were socially minded and wanted to have a religion that was relevant and that made sense intellectually. But is so doing, they rejected the supernatural. They were the modernist and the religious liberals of their day. Jesus agreed with them that the Word must be a living reality today, but He rejected their anti-supernatural approach. “For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, neither angel, nor spirit” (Acts 23:8). When the Sadducees tried to trip Him up with their theological questions, Jesus swept them aside with one devastating statement: “Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God” (Matthew 22:29.)
The Essenes taught that salvation would come only through separation from the world, so they established their own communities and remained outside the normal life of the nation. Jesus would have agreed with their desire for holy living but He would have rejected their isolationism.
At the other extreme were the Zealots, a revolutionary group that sought to overthrow Rome by revolt and force. Unwilling to wait for gradual change, the Zealots murdered and destroyed in the name of Jewish patriotism. Jesus chose one from this group to be a disciple of His. – Simon Zelotes or Simon the Zealot (Luke 6:15). No doubt Jesus admired their zeal and devotion, but He opposed their violent methods.
If you look closely, or deeply enough, I think you will see that we have religious groups similar to these today. We have those who cry, “Go Back!” and attempt to return us to “the good old days” of our fathers. Another group says, “don’t look back. We’ve got to make our Christianity more relevant. “We need to modernize and liberalize our religion to be more in tune with today’s world.” The radical extremists try to destroy by force anything that doesn’t conform to their point of view. And the separatists isolate themselves from the very people who may need their help. The names of the groups will change from generation to generation, but the basic aims are the same.
There is another religious group that I haven’t talked about. They are the Scribes. Scribes were the well-educated of that society. They were doctors of the Law. The terms “scribe” and “lawyer” are synonymous in the New Testament. They often aligned themselves, religiously, with the Pharisees.
Acts 23:9 (KJV)
Often, the scribes and the Pharisees are linked together in the same verse. like the verse we read a moment ago in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:20). The Scribes became the hair-splitters. They were more interested in the letter of the Law than with the spirit of the Law.
When old Herod called in the scribes and asked where Jesus was to be born, they knew it was to be in Bethlehem. You would have thought they would have hitchhiked a ride on the back of the camel to go down to Bethlehem to see Him. But they weren’t interested. They were absorbed only in the letter of the Law.
There is a great danger of just wanting the information and the knowledge from the Bible but failing to translate it into shoe leather not letting it become part of our lives. Through study we can learn the basic facts of Scripture, and all the theological truth contained in it, without ever allowing the Word of God to take possession of our hearts. The Scribes fell into such a category. It is a laudable attainment to know the Word of God, but also we are to translate it into life and pass it on to others.
Matt 5:20 (KJV)
WHAT WAS WRONG WITH THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF THE SCRIBES AND PHARISEES?
1. For one thing, the Pharisees believed that holiness was only a matter of outward actions.
Their righteousness was a safe system of dos and don’ts by which they could measure their spirituality. They ignored the inward attitudes of the heart.
In one of His parables, Jesus shows a Pharisee praying: “I thank you that I am not like other men – extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week, I give tithes of all that I possess” (Luke 18:11-12). Certainly there is nothing good about being an extortioner or an adulterer and there is nothing bad about fasting or tithing. But if that is the whole of a man’s religion, he has nothing! And if he is proud of it to the point of looking down upon a fellow sinner, then he is in bad condition spiritually.
In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus teaches us that true righteousness is a matter of the heart. What good are tithing, fasting and outward obedience to rules and regulations, if the heart is proud, critical, and condemning? One’s conduct must be based upon one’s character.
1 Samuel 16:7 (NKJV) reads:
…..For man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart
Proverbs 4:23 (NKJV) adds:
2. Their motives were wrong
Not only were the Pharisees and scribes mistaken about what constituted righteousness, in that they saw outward show as a primary element, but they were also mistaken in their motives for serving God. Jesus deals with this more in Matthew, chapter 6.
The scribes and Pharisees were religious in order to get the approval and praise of man. But the true Christian has a greater motive than that -- he lives for the approval and praise of God. After all, if true righteousness is a matter of the heart, and only God can see the heart then only God can give the reward.
Rev. 2:23 states, “I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts.”
Jesus warns us in Matthew 6 not to “do righteousness” – whether it be giving, fasting, or praying – in order to be seen of men. He says, “Live your life before the eye of God, not the eyes of men. Your Father sees in secret, and that is sufficient. If you live for the praise of men, you have your reward.”
The Sermon on the Mount, is truly a manifesto of our King on what kind of character will lead to right conduct.
I would like to ask a question and hear your response.
HOW WOULD YOU RESPOND TO THOSEWHO BELIEVE THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT DOES NOT APPLY TO THE CHURCH TODAY IN ANY WAY?
Many of the theologians who do not believe it applies to us today, are people I highly respect.
• C. I. Scofield (Scofield Reference Bible)
• E. Schuyler English (Holy Bible .. Pilgrim Edition)
• Lewis Sperry Chafer (Systematic Theology)
• William L. Pettingill (The Gospel of the Kingdom, Simple Studies in Matthew)
• Arno C. Gaebelein (Gospel of Matthew, An Exposition)
These theologians would assert:
1. The Lord gave the sermon to Jews, not the church.
2. The church did not even exist at the time Jesus gave this sermon.
3. The first time Jesus mentions the church is in Matthew 16.
4. In the sermon, Jesus refers back to the O.T. Law on several occasions.
These also would say, “Jesus had just referred to the Kingdom of Heaven in the previous chapter” (4:17). It is also restated twice in the Beatitudes at the beginning of the sermon. As such He is speaking to Jews only concerning the coming 1,000-year Millennial Kingdom.
The first and last of the eight Beatitudes promise the Kingdom of Heaven.
Matthew 5:3 (NKJV) Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Matthew 5:10 (NKJV) Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
How would you answer these theologians? I think there are a number of ways we can address this. While the ethics taught by Christ in these three chapters do not address all Christian topics, nevertheless it is the most concentrated portion of His ethical teachings.
As to the argument that the church did not exist at the time of Christ giving this sermon, by the time Matthew wrote his gospel, the church was in existence.
I would like to address this issue in two stages:
• From Scripture outside of the Sermon on the Mount.
• From teachings of Jesus in the Sermon.
The first place I would take you is 2 Timothy 3:16-17 NKJV.
All Scripture includes the Sermon on the Mount as found in Matthew 5, 6 & 7. It also includes the Old Testament, that certainly was not spoken to the Church, but still applicable in light of the New Testament. For instance, I believe we would say the Psalm and Proverbs are profitable to us today. God has included the Sermon on the Mount which is of immense value to us also.
The second group of Scriptures I would use is 2 Timothy 4:2 and Acts 20:27.
2 Timothy 4:2 NKJV
Acts 20:27 NKJV
All of the Word of God is to be preached. While some passages are not preached as often as others, all of it is important to the believer. We are instructed to live by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.
The third point would be to take a look at the Great Commission.
Matthew 28:19-20 NKJV
Are the statements made by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount, only suggestions? No, they were imperative – commands for living a righteous life in the Lord. And the Great Commission tells us to teach people all the commands of Christ. And we are to observe all of his commands, including those in the sermon.
The fourth point would be to say that we are implored to consider specifically all the words of our Lord.
With regard to the words of Christ, is there any reason to relegate any of it to just the Jewish remnant in the last days?
1 Timothy 6:3 NKJV
This verse is followed by a warning, were we not to accept all the teaching out of the mouth of Christ. Here is what he says to those who do not take all of our Lord’s words.
Another verse that is related is found in Matthew 4:4 NKJV
This is found in the chapter immediately before the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount.
On one occasion when the Jews asked Him, “Who are you?” the Lord replied, “Even that which I have also spoken unto you from the beginning.” His words – what He has said – describes who He is.
John 8:25 NKJV
The NIV states I this way:
John 8:25 NIV
John 12:48 NKJV
48 He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him — the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day.
Yes, we are to observe the words Jesus spoke and not reject them.
We need to remember that, though we are a heaven-bound people, we still have earthly responsibilities, which are defined for us this great sermon having to do with human conduct. I truly believe the ethical teaching are so very needed in the age in which we live.
While I have presented several Scriptural reasons for taking the position that the Sermon on the Mount is applicable to believers in this dispensation, there are, within the sermon itself, verses that cannot be ascribed to the Jews during either the Tribulation or the future millennial reign of Christ on earth.
ANSWERS WITHIN THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT
In the world today, there are two kingdoms – the “power of darkness” and “the Kingdom of the Son of God’s love.” During the Millennium there be but one kingdom, for then “the Kingdoms of the world” will have become “the Kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ.” (Colossians 1:13; Revelation 11:15)
The 7th Beatitude reads: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God.” Why would believers during the Millennium be peacemakers, when the Prince of Peace is here and has established peace on earth.
Why would believers need to be the light of the world, when the source of all light is on the earth? In the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13), there is a phrase, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.” Why would that need to be prayed, since the Kingdom is already present.
Matthew 5:13 says believers are to be “the salt of the earth.” Believers are called “the salt of the earth” to be a preservative for society here. The whole tenor of the Millennium will exclude the necessity of preserving society, for the Lord will rule with a “rod of iron,” with love and peace.
In Matthew 9, Jesus was asked by the disciples of John the Baptist why the His disciples did not fast. In verses 14 & 15, Christ says, that as long as the bridegroom is present, fasting is not necessary. So, why would we fast, as mentioned in Matthew 6:16-18, if, during the reign of Christ, the Bridegroom is with us.
I believe the Sermon on the Mount contains spiritual gems which ought to be precious to the hearts of all believer, regardless of when they lived. There is rich spiritual application in the Beatitudes (5:3-12), and in the model prayer (6:9-15). What Bible lover can deny the rich verses as the following:
1. “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (5:16).
2. “But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal; for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (6:20-21).
3. “No man can serve two masters” (6:24).
4. “Be therefore not anxious about tomorrow (6:34).
5. “Judge not that you be not judged” (7:1-5). We are taught that before we judge righteously, we must first judge ourselves.
I believe the words of this sermon are as relevant today as they were when Jesus spoke them.
For “whoever hears these saying of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock, and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock (Matthew 7:24-25).
|Questions, comments & suggestions to John Hoole||
Last Updated: Wednesday September 07 2011