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Matthew 5-7 by Robert Dean
If someone sues you for your shirt, would you take off your coat and hand it over, too? That's what Jesus told His disciples in the Sermon on the Mount. Listen to this lesson to learn how this astonishing message was taught to believers to show them how they must confront the full rigors of discipleship. Learn about the future Kingdom of Heaven. Discover the five interpretative frameworks for this discourse and which one is most logical. See how our role of ruling and reigning with Christ is determined by what we do on earth and how this leads to a richer, fuller life today.
Series:Matthew (2013)
Duration:45 mins 39 secs

Introduction to the Sermon on the Mount
Matthew 5–7
Matthew Lesson #017
December 22, 2013
www.deanbibleministries.org

The passage covering the Sermon on the Mount is arguably one of the most difficult sections of Scripture to interpret. When we get to a passage like this and read it we wonder how in the world we can do this. What is Jesus talking about in some of these passages? And as we read certain phrases what we are doing is making an assumption. That is, when certain phrases are used we think that what this is talking about is salvation, how to get to heaven. One of those phrases is "inheriting the kingdom". If we read through and study that phrase as it is found throughout Scripture it is very common for people to interpret that phrase as getting into heaven when you die.

There is an illustration of how this is abused and misunderstood with our media today with the Phil Robertson issues related to Duck Dynasty and his interview in GQ where he made certain statements about the practice of homosexuality and he paraphrased from 1 Corinthians 6:9, which reads: "Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor {the} covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God." If you have listened to or read anything in the media you will have run across many who take that to mean that those who commit any of this list of sins (and there are parallel passages to this in Galatians and Revelation and a few other places) you can't get into heaven. And that creates a conflict, especially for any Christian who understands the concept of grace, which that the basis for our salvation is not what we do or don't do, it is what Christ did on the cross; that the only work that matters when it comes to determining our eternal destiny is what Christ did on the cross—that He paid the penalty for our sins and that salvation is a free gift. It doesn't matter what sins we commit because one sin is like another sin in terms of disqualifying us from fellowship with God.

When we commit low-level sin it is just as disqualifying for us in relation to the absolute righteous standard of God as a major sin, whatever you might consider to be a major sin like some of those listed here—homosexuality, adultery, sexual immorality. But stealing? What if you are just a minor shoplifter and are still guilty over that pack of gum you shoplifted when you were seven years old? Or drunkards, alcoholics, revilers, extortionists. None of these will inherit the kingdom of God. This seems a bit like, well if this is true then why go to the prisons and conduct a prison ministry where you are trying to get prisoners saved? Because if this is true then they can't get to heaven. So either this phrase "inherit the kingdom" relates to getting into heaven (in which case we have a major theological conflict in the Scriptures) or it actually means something beyond just getting into heaven when we die physically.

Inheriting the kingdom is a major theme in the Sermon on the Mount. There are other phrases that we will see were used in a parallel manner: obtaining the kingdom, obtaining eternal life, even the phrase entering, which is used with different senses. So we have to look at the text. But this is crucial for understanding what Jesus is talking about in the Sermon on the Mount. We have to fit this within the context. That is one of the most important rules for interpretation.

Last time we focused on Jesus' call of the disciples on Matthew 4:18-22. When we compare this passage with John chapter one this is something about a year after He initially met James and John, Peter and Andrew, and Nathanael. Now He is challenging them to a higher level of involvement with His ministry. They are already believers in Him as Messiah, they were already Old Testament saints because most of these that are initially mentioned were already disciples of John the Baptist and had responded to his message. So they were what we would call Old Testament type believers, and they are simply transitioning to a recognition that Jesus is now the promised and prophesied Messiah.

Matthew uses the last part of chapter four to set up this teaching discourse in Matthew 5-7, known as the Sermon on the Mount. It is important to understand that there are these five discourses or instructions or teachings in Matthew, and the narrative portion simply serves to set up these five discourses. In these discourses Jesus is training His disciples so that they can live out their spiritual life in spiritual maturity and obedience after He ascends to heaven. Remember that Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are writing long after the church age has begun. So they are writing these Gospels not just to explain the work of Christ on the cross (they are doing that too) but their audience is always church age believers, and that is an important thing to remember. There is direct application and implication for us as church age believers.      

Matthew focuses our attention on the call of these disciples at the end of Matthew chapter four, also emphasizing what Jesus is doing during this stage of His ministry: teaching preaching and healing. Teaching has to do with giving instruction as to what the Old Testament meant. He is teaching in the synagogues specifically in relation to the Messiah. Preaching, i.e. proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom. The kingdom of heaven isn't here yet but it is near, near in His person because He is the King who has come to offer Himself to Israel. And as the sign that He is the King He is healing all kinds of sickness. This is important to understand because the kingdom is not there yet, but He is telling them it is about to come. What is necessary for the kingdom to actually arrive is that Israel needs to repent, to turn back to God in obedience.

So what we see is the context of Matthew chapter four is the call of these disciples. In chapters 5-7 He is going to specifically teach His disciples. Even though there is a crowd there He is not teaching the multitudes—only indirectly. He is focused on teaching His disciples what is required of them to excel as disciples. Right away we know He is not talking about how to get into heaven when we die, that question has already been settled. His focal point is to challenge them with the high call and responsibility of discipleship, which is a concept that is related in the context to entering the kingdom, inheriting the kingdom and obtaining eternal life. What He means by these phrases isn't what we often think He means. Obtaining eternal life isn't having eternity in heaven, it is realizing here and now the qualitative aspect of eternal life, such that it impacts the quality of our life when we are with the Lord in His kingdom and in eternity. To boil that down what Jesus is basically saying that if we want to be a disciple we have to learn to live this kind of a life. Because it is this kind of a life that at the judgment eat of Christ is going to end up having gold, silver, precious stones, a metaphor for rewards and the giving of responsibilities in the coming kingdom to rule and reign with the Lord Jesus Christ. Those who fail to pursue the path of discipleship will lose rewards at the judgment seat of Christ and they will not have ruling and reigning responsibilities in the kingdom when it comes. Jesus Christ is gathering around Him in the church age a cadre of excellent believers who have pursued spiritual maturity so that they are prepared to be co-reigners with Him in the future millennial kingdom. 

We have probably been exposed to one or more interpretive frameworks for understanding the Sermon on the Mount. The first view salvation view. Then we have the penitential view. But the problem with both of these views is that they fail to take into account that Jesus is talking to His disciples. Jesus says to His audience that they are the salt of the earth (Matthew 5:13). He said they are the light of the world (5:14). He tells them to pray to God as "our Father" (6:9). He refers to God as our heavenly Father (6:26). Obviously Jesus considers them to already be saved, justified. What we understand here is that Jesus is teaching believers and is challenging them to a higher level of commitment to Him as believers.

Then there is the third view, which is the church view. This is held by theologians who cross the spectrum from liberal to conservative. This is the view that this is designed to instruct church age believers. Strictly speaking it doesn't work because it is not being addressed to church age believers, it is being addressed to believers under the old covenant, under the Mosaic Law. Nevertheless it does have application for us. The fourth view is the kingdom view. This was very popular among dispensationalist of previous generations. That is, it is basically saying that this is the constitution of the kingdom and so everything ion Matthew 5-7 relates to how believers are to live in the millennial kingdom and therefore it has no value or application for us today. There are some problems with that view.

 One is that the Sermon on the Mount speaks about a time that the disciples that He is addressing will go through persecution and hostility in terms of the application of the principles of the sermon. Since there is not going to be persecution, rejection and hostility in the millennial kingdom, that is a problem. In the Sermon on the Mount it speaks of wickedness being prevalent, since the disciples need to function as salt and light. That doesn't apply to the millennial kingdom. Also one of the major contradictions is that within the Sermon on the Mount the disciples are to pray for the coming of the kingdom. If this is supposed to be the constitution for within the kingdom why would one be praying for the kingdom to come? Then lastly, they are warned against false prophets. That doesn't fit the scenario of the kingdom.

Louis Sperry Chafer said that the conclusion growing out of this analysis (his) is that it is the direct and official pronouncement of the King Himself of the manner of life that will be the ground of admission into the kingdom of heaven and the manner of life to be lived. That seems to conflict with everything he taught about grace and getting into heaven. In other words, you have to live this way in order to get into the kingdom. That is what Chafer said. There has been a lot of confusion, a lot of different views on this particular passage.

Then there is the interim view, which I think is the best view. It is based on a literal, grammatical, historical interpretation. It fits the time frame when the kingdom was still being offered to Israel and His disciples. It is a time when the kingdom is still anticipated: "If you do this you will (future tense) inherit the kingdom." So the kingdom is still viewed as future and the application of the message is in a time frame prior to the arrival of the kingdom. It speaks of future rewards. The disciples are to pray for the coming of the kingdom: "Thy kingdom come". It speaks about the King carrying out a judgment when the kingdom is established. It recognizes that they will be living in a time of hostility and persecution before the arrival of the kingdom. This fits the context, and in the interim view what Jesus is doing is teaching His disciples about the kind of righteousness that should characterize the spiritual life of a disciple or follower of Christ until the kingdom comes. What we find even in many of the hard sayings in the Sermon on the Mount is that they reflect both principles articulated in the Mosaic Law of the Old Testament but they are restated in the New Testament epistles. So what is being presented in the Sermon on the Mount is a standard of life which should characterize anyone who is truly serious about pursuing spiritual maturity to prepare themselves for their future destiny within the kingdom of God. 

The setting is described in 5:1, 2. It is near the Sea of Galilee and up on one of the hillsides near the Sea. Comparing it with Luke Jesus takes them to a somewhat flat place where He can teach them. He sits down like a rabbi (v.1). When a rabbi taught at that time he would sit down. When he read Scripture he would stand up. Jesus is teaching His disciples. The crowds are going to find Him and gather around and listen. But what we will see is that Jesus is just teaching His disciples.

The second major division is from 5:3 to 5:16, which is the section known as the beatitudes. They emphasize character qualities, and these all come out of the Old Testament. What we will see that is fascinating is that they are all related to the kingdom, even in their Old Testament context. So what Jesus is clearly doing is giving a divine viewpoint interpretation of Old Testament teaching related to the kind of righteousness needed to fully experience life in the kingdom—not getting there but fully experiencing all of the blessing that is there.

The major section of the sermon is from 5:17 through 7:12 where Jesus explains and describes the kind of experiential righteousness (not imputed righteousness), the kind of living that should characterize those who will inherit the kingdom. We are in a training ground now, and we are training and preparing for the kingdom. That principle would apply to both the Jew under the Mosaic Law in that dispensation at the time of Christ as well as the church age believer. We may have different roles and responsibilities in the kingdom but these principles would apply equally to both.

And then the fourth major division is in 7:13-27 where Jesus gives several warnings to His disciples.

What we see as we get into this is that the righteousness that is being defined is something quite different from the righteousness that is being taught by the scribes and the Pharisees. The righteous living described by the scribes and Pharisees was one of intense morality but it was an external reality. There didn't have to be an internal change or transformation. It was an externalism that focused just on going through certain rituals, and if you did those you were okay. But Jesus challenges this later on in Matthew 23:25 NASB "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence." In other words, there is not internal spiritual shift, no real devotion to God; it is just a matter of externalism and Jesus condemns that. So the kind of righteousness Jesus has been talking about is going to be the kind of righteousness that is what we would call experiential righteousness. It is the application of the Word in our lives and the righteous living that results from that.

One of the things that we have to understand as we go through this section is the use of the word "saved", it is going to talk about entering life, entering the kingdom, and we have to understand that these terms have different meanings from different authors. We saw in Romans that the word "saved" never relates to getting into heaven, it always describes something in terms of either the spiritual life or it includes the entire plan of God for salvation. God's plan has three stages and the word "saved" is used in relation to each of them, so we always have to look at the context to see what we are saved from. In phase one we talk about being saved from the penalty of sin, otherwise known as justification or regeneration. In phase two we talk about the spiritual life or sanctification, and in phase three, glorification. In phase one we are saved from the penalty of sin and we find phrases like "we were saved". But in phase two we are saved from the power of sin, and it talks about "we are being saved". Then in the future we will be saved from the presence of sin—"you will be saved". In Matthew, like in Romans, the word group "saved" always refers to the second phase; it always relates to the spiritual life. This is important so that we know what is being said. In the Gospels what Jesus teaches about discipleship isn't a conflict with what Paul teaches about salvation being a free gift.

So Jesus goes up on the mountain with His disciples. Luke 6:20 NASB "And turning His gaze toward His disciples, He {began} to say, "Blessed {are} you {who are} poor, for yours is the kingdom of God." The emphasis is that Jesus is giving instruction to His disciples. He addresses the disciples, not the listen crowd. He is not talking to unbelievers; He is talking to believers. He never addresses the issue of how to get saved, i.e. how to get into heaven when you die. That is never mentioned in the Sermon on the Mount. He never talks about what is required to get into heaven. They are already saved. He is talking to them about how to be saved in the sense of being saved from the power of sin in their life.

Jesus tells them that they will be rewarded in heaven and that they are the salt of the earth and the light of the world. This is a present reality. That is not true if He is talking to unbelievers. His assumption is that those He is talking to are going to be rewarded in heaven; they are already salt of the earth and the light of the world. He instructs them on prayer, rewards, giving, fasting; all of these are spiritual life issues. They are not how to get to heaven issues.

Then those to whom He is speaking, the disciples, ask of Him to be taught to pray. They ask several questions, all of which indicate that they are already believers. So He is teaching them how they are to live as a believer so that they will be truly rewarded. 

The central passage for understanding Matthew 5-7 is Matthew 5:19, 20 NASB "Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others {to do} the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches {them,} he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses {that} of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven."

This is not ever to be used to teach imputed righteousness, it is not about that. We have to understand the context. He is talking to believers about how they are to live, not how they are to get life.

In verse 19 there appears to be a contradiction. "Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments …" This is talking about somebody who misinterprets or misapplies the smallest commandment in the Mosaic Law, and he not only breaks it but he teaches others to do so as well. So if he is teaching them the wrong interpretation and application of the most seemingly inconsequential law that implies that he is violating the others as well. Jesus goes on to say he "shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven". But guess where he is. He is in the kingdom of heaven.  But "whoever keeps and teaches {them,} he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven". In other word, whoever is applying the Word correctly and teaching those principles shall be called great in the kingdom. This has to do with rewards and blessings versus the loss of rewards; it is not talking about getting into heaven. Always remember that salvation is free; rewards are based on works. Salvation is free, based on the work of Christ on the cross; rewards are based on our obedience under the filling of the Spirit and walking by the Spirit in terms of our spiritual life.

Verse 20 seems to contradict the first. But we have to remember we may not be reading it in context, and that is what often happens. The phrase, "For I say to you" indicates that there is a connection to the previous statement and He is giving additional explanation or information related to the previous statement. What kind of righteousness does the scribes and Pharisees have? A superficial righteousness that just is external, not internal. So it is totally inadequate. In the Old Testament when Moses is giving instruction to the Jews he is giving them all of the commandments but he is assuming they are saved. The commandments are designed to teach them how to live righteously as those in covenant relationship with God so that they will experience the blessings that God has for them. We are familiar with the fact that God said, "If you do these things I will bless you but of you don't do these things I will curse you even to the point of removing you from the land". That is the contrast. It is not getting into the land but it is staying ion the land and being blessed by God. By analogy that means that what we are finding here is, Jesus is talking not about how to get into heaven for eternity but so that when you are there you will have a rich, full experience in heaven, ruling and reigning with Christ in the kingdom and then on into eternity.

So He ends the statement by saying "that unless your righteousness surpasses {that} of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven." The phrase "enter the kingdom of heaven sometimes means getting eternal life and just simply phase one salvation. But in other places like this one it is talking about phase two salvation because entering into the kingdom isn't based on works. Otherwise we would have a real problem. But the Scriptures in the Gospels talk about what is required of a disciple and that has to do with works.

Mark 8:34, 35 NASB "And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, 'If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel's will save it.'"

Some people take this as a requirement for salvation but that would make salvation according to works. This is talking about the requirement to be a disciple, which is a believer who has decided to go on to spiritual maturity. He talks about saving the life but that is not talking about getting into heaven, it is phase two: experiencing the fullness of life, being saved from the power of sin.

Luke 14:26 NASB "If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple."

He is not saying you have to do these things in order to obtain eternal life and get into heaven when you die. He is saying this is part of the requirement for being a mature believer and being a true, genuine disciple so that in the next life we will be rewarded at the judgment seat of Christ and be prepared to rule and reign with Christ. That is works in these passages. Works, what we do, is related to our future role in the kingdom. But getting there at the time of death is not based on works. Ephesians 2:8, 9 NASB " For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, {it is} the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast." Titus 3:5 NASB "He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit." Salvation in terms of getting into heaven when we die is based on faith alone in Christ alone. But the privileges we have in the kingdom, the role and responsibility we have in the kingdom, is determined by what we do with what God gives us in this life. Because we have to grow to spiritual maturity so that we have the capacity, the understanding, the framework to be able to rule and reign with Him in the kingdom. This is what Peter talks about in 2 Peter 1:10, 11 NASB "Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain [evident] about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble [failing in the spiritual life]; for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you."

So what Jesus is teaching in the Sermon on the Mount is not how to get into heaven when you die. But it is a challenge to each of us as believers today to pursue discipleship, pursue spiritual maturity, because when we grow to spiritual maturity what we are securing for ourselves are rewards at the judgment seat of Christ and we are going to experience a richer, fuller life today than we could ever imagine, and that sets the stage for us individually for a richer, fuller experience in the kingdom of God and heaven after we die.

The challenge as we go through every lesson in Matthew is the challenge or the call to discipleship. Are we willing to be a learner of Jesus? That means to only studying the Word and learning what He says for us, but using what we learn on a daily basis so that our lives are transformed more and more into the character of Jesus Christ.