By Chuck Missler
from the February 05, 2008 eNews issue
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The Sermon on the Mount is the longest discourse recorded in Scripture and it was addressed to believers! (This would be a source of condemnation to the unsaved.) Don't let the familiarity of this passage lure you into thinking that you have mastered it; it is tough ground and one of the most misunderstood portions of Scripture.
The word beatitude is not found in your Bible. It simply means "blessing" and comes from the Latin word for "blessed." Note that these verses deal with attitudes - what we think in our hearts, and our outlook on life. "Beatitudes" are the attitudes that ought to be in our lives if we are true Christians. These first 16 verses of Matthew 5 describe the true Christian and deal with character. The rest of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5, 6, and 7) deals with the conduct that grows out of character. Character always comes before conduct, because what we are determines what we do. There is a definite progression in these verses. They show how the person begins with his or her own sense of sin and finally becomes a child of God and the results that then follow:
- "Poor in spirit" (v. 3): This is our attitude toward ourselves, in which we feel our need and admit it.
- "Mourn" (v. 4): This is our attitude toward sin, a true sorrow for sin.
- "Meek" (v. 5): This is our attitude toward others; we are teachable; we do not defend ourselves when we are wrong.
- "Hunger and thirst" (v. 6): Here, our attitude toward God is expressed; we receive His righteousness by faith because we ask for it.
- "Merciful" (v. 7): We have a forgiving spirit and love others.
- "Pure in heart" (v. 8): We keep our lives and motives clean. Holiness is happiness to us - there are no substitutes.
- "Peacemakers" (v. 9): We should bring peace, between people and God, and between those who are at odds with each other.
- "Persecuted" (v. 10): All who live godly lives will suffer persecution.
It's interesting that there are eight beatitudes listed; the number eight in Scripture usually represents a new beginning. (The unwritten 9th Beatitude: "Blessed are the flexible, for they will not be broken.") The rest of the Sermon on the Mount shows the results of the new life in the believer:
Salt of the Earth
Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? It is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men. - Matthew 5:13
Salt was used as a preservative; it preserves materials from corruption. Salt also creates thirst and introduces flavor. Salt speaks of inward character that influences a decaying world. Our task is to keep our lives pure that we might ''salt'' this earth and hold back corruption so that the Gospel can get out.
Light of the World
Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid...Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. - Matthew 5:14, 16
Light speaks of the outward testimony of good works that points to God. Our good works must accompany our dedicated lives as we let our lights shine.
The Higher Righteousness
Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven... For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven. - Matthew 5:19a, 20
What a blow to the Jew! He knew the extremes that the professional Law-keepers resorted to! What was to become of them? This is the key point of the passage. You cannot break the commandments and get away with it. But you cannot keep them in your own strength either. The only way you can keep them is to come to Jesus Christ for salvation, power, and strength. The commandments are not a way of salvation but a means to show you the way to salvation - through the acceptance of the work of Jesus Christ.
The scribes and Pharisees were not insincere: they tried to adhere to the keeping of the Law. Although misguided, they were zealous and sincere. Anyone that tries to reconcile himself to God by his works, his rules, or his legalism is pharisaical. Is there any other way to heaven other than by Jesus Christ? If there is, Jesus' own prayers were not answered - in Gethsemane, Jesus pleaded with the Father three times for an alternative.
What are "these commandments" being referred to in Matthew 5:19? The ones we find in the remainder of Matthew 5 and continuing in Chapters 6 and 7. Jesus will emphasize "my words" (Cf. Mt 7:24-27). His call was to obedience (Jn 14:15, 21, 23; 1 Jn 5:3). Does the Christian need to "keep the Law"? The fact of the matter is that the Law is still a standard: it reveals to me that I cannot measure up to God's standard. This drives me to the cross of Christ. The only way I can fulfill the Law is by accepting the only One who could fulfill it - Jesus Christ.
Jesus Fulfilled the Law
Jesus became our sacrifice and shed His own sinless blood on our behalf. He offered Himself once for all for the sins of all mankind (Hebrews 7:27, 9:12, 26, 28, 10:10, 1 Peter 3:18). Everything was fulfilled just before Jesus’ death on the cross when He uttered His last words: "It is finished!" (John 19:30) tetelestai = "paid in full." The second way He fulfilled the Law is that He taught and commanded what God’s will is under the New Covenant for those who would enter the Kingdom of God. He gave us a new set of rules. Paul called those rules Christ’s Law. Some of those were the same as God gave in the Old Testament Law. Many were changed, but most of Old Testament Law was not included at all in Christ’s Law. "For Christ is the end of the Law for righteousness to every one that believeth (Rom 10:4)." New Testament believers are not under the Law; Jesus abolished the Law through His sacrifice on the cross.
The Purpose of the Law
- "Through the Law we become conscious of sin." (Rom 3:20)
- "The Law was added so that the trespass might increase." (Rom 5:20)
- "It was added because of transgressions until the Seed [the Lord Jesus Christ] to whom the promise referred had come." (Gal 3:19)
- "So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith." (Gal 3:24)
- "Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the Law." (Gal 3:25)
Paul was the writer who most discussed the question of the Old Testament Law and its applicability to the New Testament Christian. He was in a unique position to do so, having been a Pharisee who had been taught by Gamaliel (Acts 22:3), an esteemed teacher of the Law. The Law said, ''You shalt not kill [murder]'' (Ex 20:13); but Jesus said, ''Don’t be angry with others.'' Anger is like murder in the heart and it can lead to evil words and actual murder. And while actual adultery is far worse than inward lustful fantasies, the inner desires can quickly lead to this forbidden sin (Ex 20:14). We must deal ruthlessly with ourselves and not encourage the imagination to ''feed on'' these sins. The eyes and the hands (seeing and touching) must be kept under control.
In Matthew Chapter 5, the King speaks of the righteousness His subjects must possess. It must be a righteousness to exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, and that comes only through trust in Christ. Matthew Chapter 6 deals with the external part of religion: the righteousness that the subjects of the kingdom are to practice. The internal motive, of course, is the important thing in what you do for God. Chapter 7 deals with judging others, prayer, and the "Golden Rule."
The Law of Christ
Jesus did not set aside the Law of Moses, He fulfilled it! He takes the Law of Moses, interprets it in the extreme, and in an absolute sense. And then He absolutely fulfills it! Remember that your salvation does not accrue because of your ability to fulfill Matthew 5, 6, and 7, but because Jesus did - and you can appropriate His achievement to your benefit. Do it now, in the privacy of your own will.
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