Survey of the New Testament - Lesson 10
In this second lesson on Matthew we will finish the Sermon on the Mount with special emphasis on the Lord's Prayer
A. Introduction to the Sermon on the Mount
B. Undivided Loyalty: Righteousness (Matt. 5:17-48)
C. Undivided Loyalty: Acts of Piety (Matt. 6:1-18)
D. Undivided Loyalty: Total Commitment (Matt. 6:19-24)
E. Undivided Loyalty: Total Trust (Matt. 6:25-34)
F. Final Instructions (Matt. 7:1-12)
G. Conclusion: Only Two Options (Matt. 7:13-27)
H. The Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20)
- In this lesson, you will learn the purpose and outline of the New Testament and the importance of studying the New Testament.
- The lesson teaches about the writing and transmission of the Old and New Testaments and emphasizes the importance of understanding the process.
- You will gain insight into the canonization of the Bible and its importance in shaping our understanding of the Bible as the authoritative Word of God.
- This lesson gives an overview of the formation, transmission, and translation of the New Testament to show its reliability and significance today.
- The lesson provides knowledge and insight into Mark's Gospel, including the background and purpose and the beginning of Jesus' ministry with a focus on the theological themes in Mark 1:1-5.
- This lesson covers Jesus' life and teachings in the Gospels of Mark, including miracles, predictions of his death and resurrection, and teachings on various topics.
- In this lesson, you will understand the contents and context of Mark 13, which includes an eschatological discourse by Jesus, the destruction of the Temple, the signs of the end, the parousia and the coming of the Son of Man, and the necessity of watchfulness.
- This lesson provides an overview of Mark 14-16 in the New Testament, including the Last Supper, the arrest and trial of Jesus, the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, and the commissioning of the disciples.
Having covered the basic story of Jesus' life in Mark, in this lesson we look at two specific teachings in Matthew, namely the virgin birth and its ramifications on our world-view, and the Beatitudes, the first part of the Sermon on the Mount.
In this second lesson on Matthew we will finish the Sermon on the Mount with special emphasis on the Lord's Prayer
In this lesson we will summarize the gospel written by Luke (temptation, the sinful woman, discipleship) with an emphasis on material that he alone includes (the Parable of the Good Samaritan)
We will pay special attention to John's presentation of Jesus as God and the many "proofs" of his divinity (with emphasis on the Prologue and the I Am sayings). We will also talk about John's use of the phrase "believe into."
In the second half of John we will focus on the Upper Room Discourse, the nature of servanthood, the Holy Spirit, and Jesus' "High Priestly Prayer."
The first part of Acts is the story of Peter and the expansion of the church from Jerusalem, to Judea, and the beginning of the movement to the ends of the earth. We will also talk about the significance of "tongues" as well as the "kerygma."
Paul begins his first missionary journey through Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey), and writes his letter to the Galatians, and we close with the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15).
In Paul's Second Missionary Journey he travels through Asia Minor to Corinth. We will look at his two letters to the Thessalonian church with an emphasis on his basic teaching to new converts and Jesus' return.
We will look quickly at Paul's Third Missionary Journey and then center on the first part of his first letter to the Corinthian church as he deals with divisions in the church, immorality, church discipline, and lawsuits.
There's a lot to cover in this lesson, issues of marriage, divorce, remarriage, spiritual gifts, our resurrection, the intermediate state (what happens to us between death and the final judgment), and finally the whole issue of money and giving.
Introduction to the letter, and discussion of Paul's doctrine of sin, salvation, righteousness, and faith.
Discussion of life after conversion (reconciliation, sin, sanctification, the Holy Spirit), and the relationship between Jews and Gentiles
Paul's discussion of the ethics of the Christian life, a Christian's relationship to the government, and a final discussion of "weak" and "strong" Christians
A quick discussion of Paul's arrest and series of imprisonments, and then an indepth look at Ephesians with an emphasis on our spiritual blessings, salvation, and Paul's call to walk in love.
Philippians is a joyous book, giving us a glimpse of Paul's prayer life and his call for unity in the church. The "Christ Hymn" in chapter 2 receives special attention.
Philemon gives us a glance into the world of slavery and what Paul really thought of it. Paul also addressed the nature of Jesus as both human and divine because there were people teaching heretical views at the time.
The Pastoral Epistles show us how to deal with heresy and addresses the issues of men and women in ministry and also that of leadership.
Hebrews contains two basic charges -- the supremacy of Christ over all, and the necessity of Christians persevering in their Christian walk.
James is full of practical advice. It is especially concerned to show that changed people live in a changed way, and also addresses the topics of pain and suffering, temptation and sin, and the tongue.
Peter calls his people to be faithful in their commitment to Christ especially in the midst of suffering, all the while encouraging them to keep an eye on the future and what lies ahead.
John is especially concerned to discuss the role of ongoing sin in the life of a believer, the assurance Christians have of their salvation, and the command to love.
Instead of being concerned with the identity of specific events happening at the end of time, we should primarily be concerned with these central truths: it is going to get worse, we must continue to be faithful, and in the end Jesus (and we) win.
We have been using the Statement of Faith to determine what we talk about in the New Testament. You have now seen every part of the Statement in its Biblical context. To conclude, we walk through the Statement to make sure its meaning is clear.
This New Testament Survey class is a great opportunity for you to consider solid reasons for current issues like, why you can trust your Bible, that Jesus was a historical person who taught, performed miracles and came back to life again after he had died, and the importance of knowing what the Bible teaches so you can live your life differently by loving God and others. In his New Testament Survey class, Dr. Mounce helps you to look at the life of Jesus from the perspective of four eyewitnesses who each emphasize a different aspect of how Jesus lived his life and related to other people.
When you move on to study the book of Acts, you get a window into what the early church experienced when the disciples transitioned into life without having Jesus physically present with them. Their lives changed when they received the Holy Spirit. Peter and the other disciples continued the ministry of Jesus by preaching the gospel in Jerusalem, healing people and confronting the Jewish leadership. They also dealt with practical concerns that you face anytime you have a group of people that are living and functioning together. Paul’s conversion and ministry to the Gentiles impacted the world.
In this New Testament Survey class online, you can walk with Dr. Mounce along Paul’s missionary journeys. Stop along the way and read the letters Paul wrote to instruct and encourage the new believers as he teaches them basic theology and helps them understand how they can live and serve together as the body of Christ. Learn about the other apostles and study the letters they wrote to believers in different life situations.
Hebrews was written to Jewish Christians to emphasize the supremacy of Jesus and to warn them to not turn their back on their faith. James illustrates that how we live shows what we really believe. John reminds us to love each other. He also shares a vision of the end of the age to remind us that circumstances will get worse, Jesus will return and make everything new, and that it’s important to persevere in your faith. In the last lecture of the class,
Dr. Mounce summarizes the main ideas of the New Testament Survey class by showing you how you studied and articulated each article of the statement of faith at various times during the class.
Like all our classes on BiblicalTraining.org, you can register and login to access free NT survey materials. Study with a partner or a group so you can discuss what you are learning as you go. You will be glad you did!
New Testament Survey: Structure, Content, Theology - Students Guide
While the New Testament is a series of 27 books and letters, it paints a unified picture of the coming of the Messiah, his life, death, and resurrection, and his teaching on...
Dr. Bill Mounce
Survey of the New Testament
Introduction to the Sermon on the Mount
Last week we looked at The Beatitudes, and tonight we’re going to look at the rest of the Sermon on the Mount. What the rest of the Sermon on the Mount does is it spells out the implications of the Beatitudes. In other words, if you are a blessed person, with those eight beatitudes, this is what life starts to look like for you. Of course this is all a process, but nonetheless that’s the relationship between the Beatitudes and the Sermon. I think the heart of the Sermon is a call to be wholehearted in your commitment to Jesus. I think that’s what makes the Sermon on the Mount challenging, even difficult at times. It’s calling for undivided loyalty. In my terms, Jesus is saying, I want you to be a fully devoted follower of me. There’s nothing in this Sermon that’s part time or part way, it’s all or nothing, and that’s exactly the point that Jesus is making.
A part of having a wholehearted commitment means that you don’t just believe the truths, but you obey them. Or if you can flip that statement on its head, being a fully devoted disciple not only means that you obey them externally, but that you actually believe them internally. From both directions, you understand what the Sermon on the Mount is all about.
Let me just warn you again about the issue of hermeneutics that we discussed last time: Jesus is speaking forcibly about general truths, usually against a background of Jewish misunderstanding. Some of these statements are very strong. The application challenge is to ask what exactly does that mean and how does it affect my life.
Undivided Loyalty: Righteousness (Matt. 5:17-48)
It may be helpful for you to keep your outline open as we go through it although the notes also reflect the outline structure. I’m going to use the numbers in the outline just to go through this. I called part 2 Undivided Loyalty: Righteousness. Much of the Sermon as I said is about undivided loyalty, but in this section, Matthew 5:17-48 he’s specifically dealing with issues of righteousness. Here’s the basic point that he’s going to make in this section is that external legalistic obedience of the Jewish leaders does not meet God’s standards. The external, in other words, the things that make you look religious, isn’t what’s most important. The Pharisees were very good at the external with all the praying and giving and the fasting and all the things they did to appear to be religious people. The point of this passage is that this external obedience alone isn’t what God requires. His standards are much stricter than that, because he requires the heart. Now you see in respect of what I said earlier, it’s not only a matter of doing the right things, but having the right heart behind it. That’s what he’s getting at. To put it in our language, it’s not enough to go to church every time the doors are open; it’s not enough to dress up nicely and give money when the offering goes by. None of that is what meets God’s standards, it’s the heart that shows itself in right actions—that’s what God requires. In a nutshell, that’s what is going on in 5:17 to the end of the chapter.
Introduction (Matt. 5:17-20)
He begins by making the point in 5:17 and 20, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets.” That’s just one of the old ways of dividing up the Old Testament: The Law would have been the first five books, and the Prophets are all the historical books from the prophetic literature. “I have not come to abolish them,” (the laws or the prophets), “but to fulfill them (17). For truly, I say to you, until Heaven and earth pass away, not an iota,” the smallest Greek character, “not a dot,” the little twist on a Hebrew character, “will pass from the Law until all is accomplished (18). For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the Scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of Heaven (20).” Put yourself in the original audience’s shoes; think how that must have felt. Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the most religious people that you can possibly imagine, you’re not going to get into Heaven. It certainly would have caught their attention.
What Jesus is saying in this passage when he’s talking about not abolishing the law, but fulfilling it, what he’s saying is that the Old Testament in its entirety points to Jesus. The Old Testament is the bottom of a triangle that’s coming to a point, pointing and all of it eventually is pointing to Jesus. When he talks about fulfilling he’s not talking about fulfilling in the sense of a prophecy, but he’s talking about fulfilling in a much more basic sense, that the Old Testament was getting people ready for Jesus. For example, Jesus fulfilled the sacrificial system. You have all the laws of Leviticus, everything connected with animal sacrifice, and their purpose was to point people to the ultimate sacrifice, which is Jesus on the cross and to teach them what was involved in that sacrifice. The entire food law, all the kosher laws, are fulfilled in Christ. The Kosher laws, what you can eat and what you can’t eat, are designed to help us understand the difference between being clean and being unclean before God. Jesus pronounces all the food laws passé—they’re all gone—because it is in Christ that we are either clean or unclean. That’s what Jesus means when he says he is the fulfillment of the law, that the law, the whole Old Testament is pointing to Jesus, and he’s the culmination of all the hopes and dreams and aspirations that there are in the Old Testament. It is because he is in that role that he is able to interpret the Old Testament. He’s going to take the Pharisees on in this chapter. He’s going to say, “You have said this, but because the Old Testament points to me, I’m the one who gets to interpret the Old Testament.”
One other quick qualification then we’ll get into these. You know the phrase, “the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees.” Understand that when Jesus gets into disagreeing with the Jews, he’s not disagreeing with the Old Testament; that’s an important point to make. What he’s disagreeing with is the Jewish interpretation of the Old Testament. Jesus isn’t correcting the Old Testament, he’s correcting the Scribes and Pharisees misunderstanding of what the Old Testament taught. See the whole point of saying that your righteousness, your right conduct before God has to be better than the Scribes and Pharisees. Again the point that he’s making is their observances are all external; it’s all show; there is nothing inside; there is nothing underneath that’s good. So the way in which you and I exceed the righteousness, the good works, the good deeds, the living rightly, the way we do that better than the Scribes and Pharisees is not to be more legalistic, but is to understand that God requires our heart to be righteous as well as our actions. That’s basic.
Anger and Murder (Matt. 5:21-26)
What he then does, is he gives us six illustrations of the righteousness that illustrates this point. The first has to do with anger and murder. I’m going to spend a little more time on this so we can get a feel for what he’s doing. We’ll speed up on the other five. Matthew 5:21 and following says, “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’” Among other places he’s referring to the sixth commandment in Exodus 20. “But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council” (the governing board) “and whoever says, ‘You fool!’” (it’s like saying, you stupid idiot, but it’s stronger than that; in Aramaic, it’s raka) “will be liable to the Hell of fire (22).” That’s the basic point he’s trying to make. What he’s saying is that the sixth commandment is broken with the heart attitude that leads to the action. See they would have said, “Well I’ve not murdered anyone so I haven’t broken the commandment.” Jesus says, “You’re not understanding the commandment.” When God gave the commandment in Exodus 20 on Mt. Sinai, the point was you’re not even supposed to get angry with people because it’s anger that leads to the action.
See the Scribes and Pharisees were all concerned about the external actions, but Jesus says that God’s really concerned with the internal heart and the internal problems that lead to the actions. If you are angry with your brother, then you have broken the sixth commandment, because you have the attitude which, if you don’t watch it, will end in the action of murder. God requires more than mere external obedience. I need to qualify, this doesn’t mean that anger and murder are the same thing. It doesn’t mean that anger and murder have the same punishment. Don’t misunderstand what I’m saying, but it is saying that you and I have broken the commandment when we are harboring the attitude that will lead to the action that breaks the commandment.
Do you see the connection with the Beatitudes on this? If a person is consumed by their own spiritual poverty—think through the Beatitudes, hungering for God’s righteousness and treating others with meekness—mercy and peace they cannot live in anger towards other people. If you are a blessed person, you’re not going to live in anger. It can’t happen. Again, that’s the logic flow that goes through the whole sermon.
Typical to this section as well, is that once Jesus has corrected their misunderstanding there is usually some follow up, and you have a follow up here in verses 23-26: “if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go (24).” This is the case where you have done something wrong and you haven’t gone to your brother to ask for forgiveness. “First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison (25). Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny (26).” All that is saying is deal with your anger and deal with it quickly. Dealing with your sin against your brother takes priority over external forms of being religious, like offering your gift.
Now, how are you going to deal with the absolute nature of this statement? We’re in the whole area of hermeneutics that we talked about last time. How are you and I going to understand what Jesus is saying? Jesus says that anyone who is angry is going to go to the Hell of fire. That’s a really absolute statement isn’t it? Everyone who has ever been angry says, “Well, no, I think it means something else.”
Is there ever a time to be angry? The Bible is very clear on that: Jesus was angry when he cleansed the temple, he was angry in Matthew 23, the woe chapter, where he calls down curses on the Pharisees. Because it’s Jesus we call it righteous indignation, but he was mad, he was ticked off, I mean let’s be honest. You can’t read very far in the Bible without finding that God is a God of wrath who hates sin, and wrath is anger. It’s very clear that the psalmist hates God’s enemies, and he’s right to do so. Probably the strongest of the verses is Ephesians 4:26 and there are different ways to translate it, but the best way is as an imperative where Paul says, “be angry.” In other words, sometimes the only Godly response to a situation is to get mad about it. “Be angry, but don’t sin.” “Okay, Paul, how do I not sin when I get angry?” He’s says, “Well you avoid sin by not letting the sun go down on your anger; deal with it quickly.” In Ephesians 4:26, Paul’s saying the same thing that Jesus is saying. You’ve got this statement here that appears to say if you’re angry you’ve sinned, but you’ve got many other situations in which anger is the right response and we’re in fact told to get angry in one place.
This is the issue of hermeneutics and I can’t solve this problem for you. I’m still struggling with it myself. Understand that I think the strength of Jesus’s statement is made in contrast to the Pharisees’ legalism. That’s what’s pushing him, that’s one reason I think he’s making statements so strongly, because they can be as mad as they want and it doesn’t matter to them; as long as they don’t plunge the knife into someone they think it’s okay. Jesus is focusing against that legalistic mentality that as long as I don’t do the action then God’s happy with me. That helps me understand some of the strength of this statement.
I’m a simple guy on the Bible, I just like to believe what it says and so any time I soften it in my teaching, I get really nervous because I’m not liberal in any shape, way, or form. I feel like I’m being liberal in doing this, but it’s the only way that I can make the Bible agree with itself and that’s important to me so I’ll do it: Jesus has his strong statement, “Don’t get angry”, but we know there are times and places to be angry. Just as he’s going to say, “Don’t pray in public, go pray in your inner room,” then “By the way, here’s the way you pray in public: Our Father who is in Heaven.” They go “Wait a minute Jesus, what happened?” He’s making these strong statements against the Pharisees’ misunderstanding and we have to understand them in the light of that. Even though they are being stated as absolute truths, they are not necessarily absolute truths. They are not always true all the time. It sticks on my tongue to say that, but I don’t know how else to make the Bible consistent. The other option is to say the Bible contradicts itself and I don’t want to say that.
Lust and Adultery (Matt. 5:27-30)
The second example is the whole area of lust and adultery. Matthew 5:27 says, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery (27).’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman,” (notice these 3 words), “with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart (28).” The basic message is clear: the attitude that leads to the action breaks the commandment, not just the action itself. The thing that was so emphatic for me is that the Greek is explicit: everyone that looks at a woman with the intention of lusting is a very specific Greek phrase. Here, you have to get into the difference between sin and temptation. Temptation is going to come; there’s nothing we can do about it; thoughts will fly through our heads. But it’s the looking with the intent to lust; looking with the intent to undress her in your mind that is the attitude that leads to active adultery, and it is the attitude that breaks the commandment as well as the action.
Let me say something about the follow up verses, 29-30, because it illustrates very clearly the problem with interpreting. Jesus did not speak with the intention of being absolutely clear all the time. When they said, “Why do you always speak in parables?” he said that it was so they could hear and not hear. The purpose was that Jesus taught in ways that caused people to reflect and to mull over and to force them to commit themselves to what he was saying if they were really going to understand it. That’s something else that’s going on in this passage. “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into Hell (29). If your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into Hell (30).” Dan Wallace, a friend of mine who teaches at Dallas Theological Seminary, tells the story of a young man who took a screwdriver and gouged his eyes out because he couldn’t control his lust. Guess what—the lust didn’t go away.
Again this is hermeneutics, and it’s why we have to reflect on this. I don’t want any of us to water down what Jesus is saying, I guess that’s my concern. Let me ask you a question: Is it better to lose your eye and go to Heaven than to have both your eyes and go to Hell? Yes. Is it better to lose a hand and go to Heaven than to have two hands and go to Hell? Yes. This isn’t a hyperbole. Sometimes people say, “he’s being hyperbolic, he’s exaggerating for an effect.” No he’s not, because those are very true statements. Again this is the problem with hermeneutics. We cannot water down what Jesus says, but we also can’t take what he says and take it out of context, because that means that after two sins we’re all blind; after two sins we can’t type. It doesn’t make any sense that way. Again, he’s trying to say the issue here is total commitment to God. There’s nothing as important as wholehearted, total commitment—not your eye, not your hand.
Divorce (Matt. 5:31-32)
Number 3 is the issue of divorce. “It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce (31).’ But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery (32).” We obviously don’t have time to get into the whole issue of divorce, but let me say just a couple of things in context here. There’s a pretty good book out there called, Divorce and Remarriage: Four Christian Views, edited by Wayne House and published by Inner-Varsity Press. It’s a good book to read if this is an issue.
A little bit of background here: Remember that Moses allowed divorce. Jesus later said, “he allowed it because you’re so hard hearted, but he allowed divorce if a man (and again it was male oriented) would find anything that was indecent in the woman.” The word behind indecent is a very general term for sexual sin of any kind; it’s not a specific thing. In Jesus’s day the Rabbis were basically split into two camps. One of the head Rabbi’s was the man named Hillel who defined indecency as anything: She burned your toast, you divorce her. The other group of Rabbis was under Shimiel said that you could only get divorced in the case of actual adultery. What is interesting is that Shimiel said that divorce was required—that if your wife actually committed adultery, you had to divorce that person. Jesus is siding with Shimiel, he’s siding with a stricter interpretation, but the difference is that divorce isn’t required it is only tolerable, barely tolerable. What Jesus is doing in his day and age, when so many of the people were saying, “She burned my toast, I’m going to divorce her,” he’s saying, “no, no that’s not what God wanted. What God wants is that divorce be possible, but only in the case of sexual immorality,” so he’s taking the stricter interpretation. Let me just say one thing in passing and you can argue about it on Sunday morning. Historically, the Evangelical church has held tightly that if you’re divorced it has its ramifications for the rest of your ministry. I find myself wondering why, if we’re going to hold onto that literal interpretation, why we’re not gouging out eyes and cutting off hands. These six are all parallel and we’ve got to treat them the same way. I’m not quite sure what this looks like in real life frankly. I’m not obviously purporting divorce, but there’s has to be some consistency that if we’re not going to gouge out eyes and cut off hands, then I wonder if what we’re doing here is theologically accurate.
Oaths (Matt. 5:33-37)
The fourth example has to do with oath taking. The Jews had developed a very complicated system of oath taking. For example, they say, “If I swear by the altar then I don’t have to keep my word, but if I swear by the gold on the altar I do.” It’s a very developed sense of being able to lie. Jesus says to just say yes or no and mean it. Don’t get into these elaborate legalistic ways of getting around the truth. Going to the inside, he’s saying to just say what’s true, just say yes or just say no. Be that person. By the way I don’t think that this is a prohibition against saying, “I promise”; it’s not a prohibition, I don’t think, of taking an oath. Some people have held that position. Paul takes an oath in Romans 1:9, he says, “God is my witness,” that’s oath taking. Even God takes an oath doesn’t he? Genesis 9: “I promise to never send a flood.” Paul and God are taking oaths and so I think probably it’s okay if I say I promise in a court of law or I say I promise to my wife.
Retaliation (Matt. 5:38-42)
The fifth example is that of retaliation: “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth (38).’ But I say to you, do not resist the one who is evil, but if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also (39).” Of course, after he hits you on the left cheek you can deck him because you don’t have any other cheeks, that’s what my Bible says—No. Think of the connection again between the Beatitudes and this point: A person who mourns over his own spiritual state who pursues God’s righteousness, who is merciful and a peace maker, will not at the same time always insist on his personal legal rights, but will be willing to be meek, and will be willing to be non-retaliatory. Don Carson writes, “Personal self-sacrifice displaces personal retaliation.” There is a point in time in which at your digression it’s not an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. There are times when we say you know what, I’m just going to take that and move on. Does that mean that’s always the right thing to do? Somebody walks into church Sunday morning with a machine gun and shoots half the people. This is a personal ethic and it’s an ethic that you decide that there are times when an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth is not the right response to a situation. Don’t hold to the letter of the external law, but look inside, be that person and then see how being a beatitude, a blessed person works itself in day to day life.
Hatred (Matt. 5:43-47)
Finally dealing with the issue of hatred in Matt. 5:43, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy (43).’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you (44).” Love your enemy is in the Old Testament, Leviticus 19:18; hate your enemy is not in the Old Testament. This is one of the scribal understandings, it’s a Pharisaical understanding of the Old Testament that is simply not right. The point is that you should love and pray even for your enemies.
Conclusion (Matt. 5:48)
He concludes this section in verse 48, “You therefore must be perfect, as your Heavenly Father is perfect, you therefore must be perfect, as your Heavenly Father is perfect.” Our standard, your standard and my standard, ultimately is divine perfection. Our standard is not the Pharisaical external obedience. Remember what Paul says, that as for the law I was perfect, that’s him speaking as a pre-Christian, as a Pharisee and yes, he could have been perfectly right on in his Pharisaical external obedience to the law as the Pharisees understood it. But Jesus is saying that’s not the standard; the standard is God’s perfection. Is this attainable? No, it’s not. None of us can be perfect. So why even try? What’s he’s striving for is the reflection of the heart attitude, which does show itself in behavior.
Let me give you three things on this. First, remember we talked about the already and the not yet, that Christians live in the in-between, that God’s Kingdom is come, but it hasn’t come in its fullness. It will come in its fullness when Christ comes back again. We are children of the Kingdom and we have the standards of the Kingdom knowing that we’ll never hit them because we are still sinners, but we still strive for them knowing that someday when the Kingdom comes in its fullness, sin will be removed and we will be perfect as our Father in Heaven is perfect. This is a great verse to show why that is such an important way to look at New Testament theology. We have a standard; we’re never going to hit it, but we strive for it. We don’t get discouraged because it pleases our Father to strive for it. When we fail, we are forgiven and we know that someday we finally will hit it when all sin is removed and we are in Heaven with him.
Secondly, Luther’s well known on this point for saying, “This is what forces us to our knees,” in recognition that we cannot do it on our own. The whole point of law is to push us in the right direction, saying this is what godliness looks like, this is what God wants for us. When you stated this bluntly, “be perfect,” you go, “I can’t,” and Luther would say, “that’s the point, you’re supposed to say, ‘I can’t do it.’” I turn to God and I turn for his strength and his encouragement and his sustenance to it. The third is, who has done it perfectly? Jesus. That’s why any works salvation where you’re trying to earn favor with God so you merit salvation is such foolishness. Because the only way that we are going to be perfect is that Jesus lived a perfect life, died a perfect and made perfect forgiveness available to us. That’s the only perfection that we will have in this in-between time in which we live and it’s because of his perfection that someday we will be perfect in Heaven.
Like I’ve said several times, the Sermon on the Mount, while it may be the most famous is one of the most difficult two chapters in the Bible to understand. You read it and you think you’ve got it, and then you start to apply it and you work through it and you realize how really deep it can go. It’s just something you have to reflect on and mull over as different situations come up in your life you start to apply it. That’s just the way it is.
Undivided Loyalty: Acts of Piety (Matt. 6:1-18)
Chapter 6 then is the next part, and again we’re still dealing with the whole issue of undivided loyalty, but here he is centering on different acts of piety; different ways people show their religiosity.
Introduction (Matt. 6:1)
He’s starts off in verse 1 with a theme, “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in Heaven.” When they talk about your righteousness, they are talking about acts of piety. He’s saying when you do acts of piety in order to be seen, in order for people to say, “isn’t he special?” you have no reward. The only reward you’re going to have is for people to say, “isn’t he special?” but you’re not going to have any reward from God.
He’s going to look at three specific acts of piety: alms giving, prayer, and fasting. I need to say that when he’s talking about the hypocrites, “don’t do things like the hypocrites do them or the Gentiles do them,” he’s certainly talking about the Jewish leaders, the Pharisees and the Scribes, saying don’t be like them. When he calls them Gentiles (it’s a matter of interpretation), I’m inclined to think he’s still talking about the Jewish leaders. In other words, he’s not being very nice. Gentiles are non-Jews, the worst thing in the world to a Pharisee would be to not be a Jew but to be a Gentile. Jesus is pretty scathing in what he’s saying, even in the words that he’s using. Make sure when you do your acts of piety you don’t do them in order to be praised by people, but do them to be praised by your Father in Heaven.
Almsgiving (Matt. 6:2-4)
The first example is almsgiving, of giving money, in Matthew 6:2-4: “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 3But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4so that your giving may be in secret. Your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” Evidently they would get a trumpeter or a group of trumpeters, and blow a blast to get everyone’s attention and then they would give money, probably in the offering at the temple to be given out to the poor.
Fasting (Matt 6:16-18)
I’m going to skip the second act of piety because I’m going to come back to it in detail. The third act of piety in verses 16-18 is about fasting and it says when you fast don’t let anyone know it, don’t go around so miserable that people will say, “oh he must be fasting, what a holy person he is.” But he says, fast and look normal so no one will know you’re fasting. Your Heavenly Father will reward you. Same basic message.
Prayer (Matt 6:5-15)
The second act of piety is that whole issue of prayer and I want to spend a little more time on this because it has the Lord’s Prayer in it. We’re in Matthew 6:5-15. “When you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room,” (if you’re reading the King James it says your inner room, those are two different Greek words that are only one letter different; room and inner room or prayer closet, just in case you’re wondering why they are different), “and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. Your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”
Like I said earlier, does that mean we can’t pray in public? No because the Lord’s Prayer is a public prayer: “Our Father who is in Heaven.” But certainly as opposed to “tooting your own horn,” in prayer you are not to be doing. Evidently the trumpet was blown several times each day, like the Muslims still do, and when the horn blew it would be time for prayers. What evidently the Pharisees do is that they would gauge where they were walking so when the temple trumpet was blown they would be in a visible place. They would stop at Division and Francis just at the right time, the trumpet blows and they could pray to God. Apparently individuals heralded their own praying as well with trumpets, look at me, I’m about to pray. The point is to pray properly. Don Carson writes “Jesus wants to teach us that praying, in order to be a genuine act of righteousness, must be without ostentation, without show, directed to the Father and not to men, primarily private and devoid of the delusion that God can be manipulated by empty garrulity”—which means loquacious, or wordy. Evidently the Pharisees would go on and on and on and on as if somehow their many words would convince God to act, which of course is not what convinces God to act.
There’s an old joke: the pastor got up and he preached this long prayer and someone said, “that was the most beautiful prayer ever given to men,” and the answer was “Yes, because that’s who it was for.” The point is that in our prayers, we cannot be manipulative by trying to coerce God. Jesus is going to go on to say, “he already knows what you want.” Rather our prayers are to be short and to the point.
He said what not to do and then, in the follow up section we have one of the most famous passages in the Bible, the Lord’s Prayer. Let me start reading in verse 7: “When you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do,” in other words, just don’t keep talking and talking and talking, “for they think that they will be heard for their many words. 8Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. 9 Pray then like this:” and then we have the Lord’s Prayer. That is an interesting title—Lord’s Prayer—because Jesus could never have prayed this prayer because there’s a request for forgiveness of sins, but it is the Lord’s Prayer in that the Lord Jesus said it. It’s very common to understand the Lord’s Prayer as broken into two parts. In the first part, the first half focuses on praising God, a very good lesson to follow in prayer. Often in our time of community prayer, together we’ll start by saying, “Let’s just praise God, don’t ask him about Aunt Tillie’s big toe, don’t pray for the money to be given to meet this week’s loan on the building, none of that stuff, but you start focused on God and on praising him.
The prayer goes, “Our Father in Heaven,” now there are actually three sermons right there. Notice this is a corporate prayer, it’s not “my Father.” In Western culture everything is so individualistic, but even in this prayer, and that’s not to say you can’t pray by yourself, obviously, but Jesus is envisioning the disciples together, praying together, so it doesn’t say “my Father,” it says, “Our Father in Heaven.” He’s our father in the sense that we can approach him as a member of the family, there’s a sense of closeness. Yet he’s our Father in Heaven—there’s a sense of majesty and grandeur and separation when we say he’s our Father in Heaven. Then Jesus uses three imperative verbs to call on God to act in a certain way. We don’t call them commands because you don’t command God, but grammatically they are imperatives, they are calling on God to do things.
The first one is, “Hallowed be your name.” Hallowed means holy, separate from sin. In other words, “be your name,” and a person’s name stood for the essential you. Your name was who you are. When you and I pray hallowed be your name, what we’re doing is we’re calling on God to act through me and through other people so that the end result is that God himself will be treated with reverence, that God will be seen to be Holy. When we say hallowed be your name we’re saying, God act in such a way that people understand that you are Holy, may you work through me so that people can see in what I say and do, and what I don’t say and what I don’t do, that my God is a Holy God, separate from sin. May that be true through everyone else. That’s quite a mouthful isn’t it. It’s frustrating because Jesus says that you’re supposed to pray like this. We weren’t supposed to just repeat the Lord’s Prayer, which is generally what happens right. I don’t know what denominational traditions you were raised in, but a lot of denominations just repeat the Lord’s Prayer every Sunday and it becomes wordless babble. Loquacious. The very thing that it wasn’t supposed to do, and yet we say, hallowed be your name. Now when you say it you may know what it means. May you act in such a way through me that people see that you are separate from sin, that you are Holy.
The second imperative I want to translate as: “May your Kingdom come.” In other words, in the Lord’s Prayer we’re calling on God to send his Kingdom, the rule and reign of God in the hearts and lives of his people. I think that there are at least two ways in which that can be understood. One is that may your Kingdom come through my life; may my life and may my words be a witness so that your Kingdom increases through my witnessing. There’s also a second sense, meaning, may your Kingdom come in all its fullness. In other words, Jesus may you come back again; may you bring an end to history and time and may your Kingdom come in all of its fullness. The earliest chant of the early church was Maranatha. As far as we know that’s Aramaic phrase; it’s at the end of 1 Corinthians 16, and Maranatha means come Lord Jesus. From the very beginning of the church, the church has cried out, come Lord Jesus. That’s what this is saying here too. May your Kingdom come, O God, may you bring an end to all this mess around us, may your Kingdom come in its fullness. In the meantime, may your Kingdom come and expand through me as I am a viable witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
The third imperative is, “May your will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.” This certainly has to be one of the central affirmations in all of the Sermon on the Mount and if you’re looking for something to hang on to as key, this is one of them. May your will be done. That’s the whole point; may we be doing what you want us to do. Just as the angels and the saints who are in Heaven are now perfectly doing what you want them to do, may that also be the case here. May your will be done. The primary characteristic of a disciple is to do the will of his master, and that’s what we’re praying when we pray the Lord’s prayer. That’s the first part where we are focused on praising God and calling on him to act in a way that will bring him honor and bring him glory.
The second half is where people generally say, “This is where we get to focus on ourselves and not on God,” and I don’t think that’s exactly right. I think what’s going on in the second half of the Lord’s Prayer is that what we’re really doing is that we’re confessing our dependence on God. In other words, saying I need you for my daily sustenance, I need you for forgiveness, I need you to keep me out of temptation. The focus hasn’t really shifted from God, but it’s just a chance for us to admit that we need him and to call on him.
We start by saying, “Give us this day our daily bread (11),” meaning we rely on God ultimately for our physical sustenance. In an affluent culture that’s often forgotten isn’t it. We think that we’re the bread-winners and that we take care of ourselves and provide for our families, and that’s simply not true and all you have to do is lose your job and everything you have and you learn very quickly that even our daily bread is a gift from God.
Every gift is from the Father, but not only are we dependent on God for our physical sustenance we are dependent upon him for our spiritual sustenance: “12and forgive us our debts.” Jesus is picturing sin as a debt that we owe God. “As we also have forgiven our debtors.” Some denominations have it, forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. When you go to another church and you’re not quite sure, you have to wait—is this a debt church or a trespass church? It all means the same thing. The fact of the matter is that we will not be obedient to the Lord’s Prayer or the Sermon on the Mount, and Jesus knows it, it’s the already and the not yet, and so he has given us a way to take care of our sins and that is to simply confess them, to admit that we’re wrong and to ask Jesus to forgive us. He will forgive us, just like we forgive those who have sinned against us.
Evidently in Jesus’s mind (and I know he’ll rest much better when he hears that I agree with him), that is such a difficult thing, that at the end of the Sermon he adds this final note, “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you (14), but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses (15).” That’s Jesus’s way of saying, “Yes, you heard me right, I meant exactly what I said.” If we do not forgive others, then God is not going to forgive us, and the way that probably works out in real life is that if we’re person who refuses to forgive, then we’re probably not the person to ask God for forgiveness. It’s really hard to ask for forgiveness of God and then refuse to give it to other people, at least that’s what the commentators say and I think they’re right.
I don’t think that Jesus is talking about the forgiveness of sins that happens on the cross and brings about our salvation. I think he’s talking about the forgiveness of ongoing sins that make a relationship with him possible. When you and I do not ask to be forgiven of our sins, we don’t automatically go to Hell, but it does affect the nature and the quality of our relationship with him. I think that’s the context of what he’s talking about. Otherwise, we all have to become rampant Arminians, every time we don’t forgive we lose our salvation. I don’t think that’s the case.
I want to tell you an interesting thing that happened when I preached on this. Four or five months ago, I had the most amazing experience after church where someone who was a first time visitor came up to me and said, “Do you believe in church discipline?” I thought, that’s an interesting question to start a conversation with, and I said, “Well, yes, the statement on church discipline is on…,” but he said, “Do you believe in it?” I said, yes. I couldn’t figure out, I just thought he was trying to figure out where we were as a church. He goes, “Well, what you said was wrong.” As a first time visitor, he wanted to exercise church discipline on me because I was wrong in what I said, and he was there to set me straight, which I thought was very interesting, saying much more about him than anything else. He was violently opposed to forgiving someone if they don’t ask for it. I think in the sermon I said, “We don’t like this because we don’t want to forgive someone until they come crawling to us, begging for forgiveness,” and that’s exactly what this man believed, that he wasn’t about to forgive anyone unless they came crawling to him, begging for his forgiveness. I said, “Well you’re going to have a really hard time with Jesus then, because I don’t see any conditions there.” What was fascinating was that in staff meeting on Tuesday, our Children’s Pastor came and said, “You won’t believe the conversation I had, someone just raked me over….” He always takes my sermons and then does them for the kids, and he had said the same thing and someone, a second time visitor in the church, just raked him over the coals for teaching their children such a horrible thing as forgiving someone without them asking for forgiveness. Now yes, you want someone to ask for forgiveness and you extend it, but that passage says you forgive other people their debts. Yes, God’s got to forgive them ultimately, but as far as I’m concerned, if you sin against me, my responsibility is to forgive you. You still have to deal with God, because he’s the one who hands out forgiveness, so maybe that’s the qualification, I just didn’t think it had to be said. They were really violently opposed to forgiving, which says a lot more about them than anything else. Anyway, it was just one of those many surprises I’ve had as a pastor.
Jesus concludes the Lord’s Prayer with “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” This is the most difficult ones to interpret because James say that God doesn’t tempt anyone, but that we are tested and that having our faith tested is a good thing. When you put all of that together, this is a difficult phrase to interpret. I think that what he’s saying is that we are crying out to God to not let us fall into a temptation that we cannot resist. I think that’s what it’s saying. Now I’ve not found any interpretation that I’m completely happy with, but that’s the best thing. He’s saying, don’t lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, meaning, don’t let me be tempted beyond my ability to endure. This of course is precisely the promise that Paul makes in 1 Corinthians 10:13, “no temptation will be given to us that we cannot resist by God’s strength.” “Evil” can also be “the evil one,” meaning Satan and there may be something in the prayer expressing a desire that we be kept safe from Satan’s direct interference in our lives as well. It’s a difficult phrase to interpret.
The question that people often ask is, “Hey, you left out a whole verse—for thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever, amen.” If you look at any modern translation, you will always find this verse either in footnotes or bracketed. Remember the discussion of textural criticism we had; I think it was the third time we got together. This was a phrase that was added around the fourth century. We know that through the history of the transmission of the documents, people liked to add things; they rarely dropped things out. I was raised having the final verse, and yes it sticks in my throat every time I stop with the word evil. That’s where Jesus stopped so that’s where I stop.
In conclusion: those who are pure in heart and seek only for God’s righteousness would never act out their piety for the wrong reason and hence in the wrong way. They will always act out their piety not to receive human praise, but always for God’s praise. That’s the point of this section in alms giving and in prayer and in fasting.
Undivided Loyalty: Total Commitment (Matt. 6:19-24)
The fourth major division in your outline is from 6:19-24, I entitled it Undivided Loyalty again because that’s what’s going on in the whole section, but these verses seem to be stressing our need to be totally committed to God.
Treasure (Matt. 6:19-21)
He talks about treasures in 6:19, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20but lay up for yourselves treasures in Heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” We are called to commit ourselves totally to Christ, and that means that our heart, as evidenced by our wealth, should not be on earth, but it should be in Heaven.
Two Masters (Matt. 6:24)
In verses 22-23, there’s a very difficult passage about the eye, and then in verse 24 he talks about masters: “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” Many Christians spend most of their lives trying to prove they are the one exception, don’t we? You have to pick; you cannot straddle the fence; you can’t walk down a fence with one foot in the Kingdom of God and the other foot in the kingdom of earth; you have to decide. Am I going to serve material wealth or am I going to serve God? You can’t serve both; you have to make a decision. That’s a hard one, isn’t it? That’s a hard one. Jesus is calling for total commitment.
Undivided Loyalty: Total Trust (Matt. 6:25-34)
In section five, Undivided Loyalty: Total Trust, there is a slightly different emphasize, but if this isn’t the most beautiful passage in Scripture, then I don’t know what is. This is my all time favorite passage: “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life.” I love being anxious, do you? I love to worry, I make up things to worry about; I think of decisions I might have to make and then I want to know all the alternatives that I’m going to have and then I research each of the alternatives to see which alternative I would take if I ever have to make that decision. I just love to worry. Today, I go home and said, “Robin, I don’t want to retire in this house, we can’t fit two cars in the garage and I don’t want to be eighty-four scraping the ice off my car because it’s parked in the driveway.” Now if that’s not being anxious about tomorrow I don’t know what is, right? She knows just to let me blow it off, then I have to apologize and we move on, she’s very use to that by now.
Don’t be anxious. A quote from my father: “Living an anxious life is living like a practical atheist.” Living a life of anxiety and anxiousness, living a life of worry, is living as if God doesn’t exist—as an atheist. Don’t be anxious about your life, slow down. “What you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them (26).” Yes, but I see some really cold ones flying around during the winter, they don’t have any food! Your Heavenly Father feeds them, Bill, get over it. “Are you not of more value than they? which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life (27)?” You’ll notice the footnote in the ESV: “or add a single cubit to his stature.” The words can mean both.
“Why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin (28), yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these (29).” Yes, God, but they don’t need tennis shoes, I say. This is something I have to work on if you haven’t noticed. “But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith (30)? Therefore, do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear (31)?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your Heavenly Father knows that you need them all (32).”
Then my favorite verse in the Bible: “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you (33).” That’s really the theme of this whole section, and again one of the primary themes throughout the Sermon on the Mount. Seek for the things of God and seek for his righteousness; hunger and thirst after his righteousness, and then all these things will be added. You have to pay close attention to passives in the Bible, we call them grammatically divine passives, because God is the agent. You seek after the things of God, and God’s going to take the responsibility of doing everything else. I guess if I have to leave my car in the driveway when I’m eighty-four, I’ll be thankful I have a car, a driveway, an ice scraper and maybe the strength to still use it. Therefore, do not be anxious about tomorrow; tomorrow has enough troubles of its own, sufficient for the day is its own trouble. This is a fabulous passage where Jesus is calling us, trust me, just trust me, I’m going to take care of you, just trust me. That’s just a great passage and it’s one that you have to, I think on a weekly basis, re-read over and over and just remind yourself that God has committed himself to caring for your needs, and that that’s not what we’re supposed to be concerned about.
Final Instructions (Matt. 7:1-12)
In part six, final instructions, Matt. 7:1-12, he talks about being judgmental. The point is to check yourself first before you point out a problem in someone else. The passage doesn’t say don’t be judgmental, it’s saying check yourself out before you see a problem in someone else. He talks about patience in prayer, perseverance in prayer, and then in verse 12, he gives us the Golden Rule: “Whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” This is a statement that’s somewhat analogous to the one he made back in 5:17 about how he fulfills the Law. The Old Testament is pointing to Jesus and the essence is, treat others like you want to be treated. It’s Jesus seeking to encapsulate the Old Testament.
Conclusion: Only Two Options (Matt. 7:13-27)
Then we move on to the final section, eight, the conclusion. In Matt. 7:13, there is a great call to action. Jesus has done his teaching and now he wants to drive the point home that it is supposed to move us to action. It’s not enough to know it, we also have to do it. The thing that I want to stress in this is that all the way through, there are only two options. There’s the way of obedience, and there’s the way of disobedience. As we go through this final part of the Sermon on the Mount, ask yourself, is there any room for a carnal Christian. When I was growing up it was very common to hear people talk about a carnal Christian, a Christian that’s not really living like a Christian, and the attitude was, that’s not the best way to do things, but it’s okay, you’ll still get to Heaven. Observe if there’s any room for that in here. Observe if there’s any room for what I have been calling “event Christianity”—the idea that Christianity is raising your hand, saying a magic prayer and somehow that’s all that Christianity necessarily is. Observe if there is any room for either of those in this conclusion, instead of being a life of a disciple.
He starts off by saying that there are two ways you can live your life, verse 13, “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” So much for the church growth movement (a little tongue in cheek). I was talking with Dad the other day about the theological concept of remnant, which is one of the more important concepts in the Bible, that God always has his remnant. Those are his true believers who live in the midst of a larger group who think that they are believers, but they are not. Dad said, “Bill, the operative idea in the word remnant is small.” It’s a strange passage, when you think about why God would create the world in such a way that only few get to true life. That’s one of the questions I’ll find out when I get to Heaven. But there are two gates: there’s a narrow gate that few get into, and there’s a wide gate that a lot of people go through and destruction is on the other side. There are two ways, not three.
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves (15). You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles (16)? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit (17). A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit (18).” It’s by your fruits that you shall know them, and a tree is going to give good fruit, or it’s going to give bad fruit. The fruit here is the people’s life. It’s the person who is blessed, the person who is living in conformity with the Sermon on the Mount. His life is going to be lived as one of good fruit—that will be the characteristics of his life. “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire (19). Thus you will recognize them by their fruits (20).” People are known by their fruit, by the kinds of life that they live, and good people live good lives and bad people live bad lives. The penalty for the lack of fruit is destruction by fire. Again, there are only two kinds of trees—the good trees and the bad trees.
There are two judgments, starting in Matt. 7:21. If this doesn’t scare someone, I don’t know what will: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of Heaven." You mean there are people in church that are singing hymns and they’re going to go to Hell? Evidently. But “the one who does the will of my Father who is in Heaven….” I told you when we were back in Mark 8 the impact of the idea that as a disciple, if you want to follow me, then deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me. I shared with you the impact that that verse had on my life. This had a similar impact on my life. It’s not the one who says, Lord, Lord, it’s the one who does the will of my Father who is in Heaven. I don’t know how you can say it any clearer than that. “On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy” (this is the day of Judgment) “in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name (22)?’ then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness (23).’” This is a throne room scene, it’s either Heaven or Hell, there are only two ways to go. Evidently there are people that say, “Oh, yes, Lord, Lord” and they are going to be accompanied by many miraculous, at least apparently miraculous deeds, like prophecy, exorcism, and miracles, and they’re not Christians. It’s rather the one who does the will of my Father who is in Heaven who will inherit eternal life. There are those who do the will of God and there are those who don’t.
Then finally there are two houses: “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock (24). the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock (25). everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand (26). the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it (27).” You can have as many degrees after your name as you want, you can have gone to as many Bible Schools as you want, you can have read as many Systematic Theologies as you want, but if all you’ve done is hear the Word of God and not done it, it’s as stupid as building a house on a beach on the sand.
Student: What about the fact that none of us are at that standard; none of us are in that place of completely doing God’s will? It seems by default that you would be not doing God’s will.
Response: This is part of the question, but we don’t perfectly do God’s will, so if I could extend the metaphor, where’s our house? I think that’s part of the hermeneutical struggle that you have with the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus is trying to say, look there are two basic options. It’s like John saying Christians don’t sin. Come on John, you just said if you confess your sin, God’s going to forgive you. It’s like saying that the idea that Christians don’t sin is the way it is in the sense that it is the way it ought to be. I think with Jesus saying it’s not enough just to hear these words; the Pharisees have heard the words. You’ve got to do the will of God; you’ve got to put it into practice. That makes you wise. I would say the attempt by God’s strength of not just hearing, but putting into practice, is going to be flawed, but that’s the direction you’re supposed to go. That’s the goal that you strive for. Jesus likes to speak in black and whites. I think that’s why John likes to speak in black and whites; he was conditioned by Jesus to think that way. None of this is supposed to discourage you. The Sermon on the Mount can get discouraging for people. That’s not what it’s there for, it’s there to say that these are our goals; this is where we’re striving. We’re all in process; none of us have arrived; none of us are ever going to be perfect; only Jesus is perfect until we all get to Heaven and then we’ll be perfect because of his perfection. It’s a process; it’s a journey; but this is the direction that you’re going. We’re all on that process and we just need to make sure that we’re not saying Lord, Lord and doing these things, but not doing the will of him.
That’s the end of the Sermon on the Mount and we’ve spent a couple of sessions on it. Much of the rest of Matthew we’ve already discussed in the context of Mark. There are some things in Matthew that are not in Mark, but the bulk of it we’ve already covered.
The Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20)
If I could go to the very end of Matthew, I want to end with this one note. I want to end on this note of the Great Commission. Jesus has died, he’s been raised from the dead, and then you have this final scene beginning in Matthew 28:16. This is called the Great Commission; it’s Jesus’s commission not only to the eleven disciples, but to all disciples of all times: “Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them (16). When they saw him” (when the disciples saw the resurrected Jesus) “they worshiped him, but some doubted (17).” They doubted perhaps what was the right way to respond to him. There was no question that they knew who Jesus was and that he had been raised from the dead. “Jesus came and said to them,” and here’s the Great Commission: “All authority in Heaven and on earth has been given to me (18). Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (19), teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age (20).”
The starting point of Jesus’s authority is that he is the resurrected Lord. He possesses all authority and he commands in his Kingly authority that you and I accomplish the Great Commission. This is a very freeing thing to me when it comes to evangelism. I don’t need someone’s permission to talk to them about Jesus, because he who has all authority has told me to go do it. That frees us up to share the Good News of Jesus Christ. From a position of authority, Jesus says, this is what I want you to do.
The English reads, "Go therefore and make disciples." The important thing to note here, and it’s impossible to bring it in the English clearly, is that there’s only really one imperative there, it reads like there are two, go and make, but there’s only one imperative and that is make. The Great Commission is to make disciples. Now the word translated as “go” picks up some of that imperatival force. Certainly the disciples are supposed to go to all the nations to preach, and certainly people among us are to go and preach, but the thrust of the Great Commission is that all followers of Jesus Christ make disciples. We are in the cloning business and we are to invite others to follow, not us, but to follow Jesus. We are to be disciples making disciples, that’s the Great Commission.
How do you make disciples? Well there are two participles, and that grammatical clue is the clue to the meaning, baptizing and teaching. How do you make disciples? Well, you baptize them. In other words, you must be involved in evangelism. You must be involved in presenting the claims of Christ to a lost and dying world. When they respond, you respond with baptizing them. Now you notice it’s baptizing in the name, which is singular, of the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit which is plural. This is one of the prime Trinitarian passages in the Bible. One of the prime passages that assumes the trinity that God is one and that God is three. We’ll talk about that more in weeks to come, but part of the Great Commission is to make new disciples, baptizing them.
The second participle is teaching. How do you make disciples? “20teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” In other words, this is what we generally call discipleship. The Great Commission is not only making new disciples, it is making fully devoted disciples of Jesus Christ. Often the Great Commission is understood only in terms of evangelism and that’s not accurate because Jesus doesn’t want the church to be a mile wide and an inch deep; that’s not the point. He wants it to be a mile wide and mile deep. The Great Commission is to make new disciples and then to help them to grow up to be fully devoted disciples of Jesus Christ. He says, “20teaching them to observe all that I have commanded,” and actually there’s a Greek word that’s left out in this translation because it’s bad English to bring it into English. The King James says, “all things whatsoever I taught you,” and the Greek is emphatic that way too. Part of the Great Commission is teaching people everything that Jesus taught his disciples. There is no biblical mandate for a church that is mile wide and an inch deep, it is not fulfilling the Great Commission.
We must make fully devoted disciples of Jesus Christ, but notice one other word here, “teaching them to observe,” he didn’t just say teaching them. Sitting in the class and learning all the facts and reading Systematic Theologies and listening to new lectures—none of that fulfills the Great Commission, but we are to teach these disciples to observe. How do you do that? In other words, this is not an intellectual thing only, it’s a behavioral thing, it’s a life style thing. How do you do that? How do you teach people to observe absolutely everything? You have to model it, don’t you? You have to model it. There’s no other way to do it, and in making fully devoted disciples we must be committed to the one-on-one and the one-on-three kinds of relationships, the mentoring relationships, the small groups as well as a larger group.
That’s the Great Commission. All authority is with Jesus and he said, make more just like yourself who will follow, not you, but me. You do that in the evangelization, in the baptizing, and in the discipleship in making fully devoted disciples by teaching and modeling the truths of Christ so it affects their lives. Then Jesus ends with this wonderful praise: “Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” To the very end of time, I’ve given you this command, I know it’s going to be a task, it’s going to be hard, but I promise I will be with you to go make disciples.
A. Matthew 5:43 : Matthew 5:21
B. Matthew 5:43 : Lev 19:18; Matthew 19:19
C. Matthew 5:44 : Luke 6:27, 28; Rom 12:20; Exodus 23:4; Job 31:29, 30; Psalm 7:4
D. Matthew 5:44 : Luke 23:34; Acts 7:60; 2 Tim 4:16; 1 Pet 3:9
E. Matthew 5:45 : Luke 6:35; Eph 5:1; Phil 2:15
F. Matthew 5:45 : Acts 14:17
G. Matthew 5:46 : Luke 6:32