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Passage: Matthew 5-6

On Sunday, October 11, 2015, Yujin wrote,

But I say to you, make no oath at all... But let your statement be, ‘Yes, yes’ or ‘No, no’; anything beyond these is of evil (Matthew 5:33-37).

This command is repeated by Jesus' half-brother, James: 

Above all, my brothers and sisters, do not swear—not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. All you need to say is a simple “Yes” or “No.” Otherwise you will be condemned (James 5:12).

Why such an emphasis on not taking oaths? What's wrong with swearing that you will do what you say you will do? The simple answer is that the New Covenant instruction is to avoid swearing and to simply give your "yes" or "no" to whatever is asked of you. 

Now, it has been argued that God swore with oaths, many Old Testament saints swore with oaths, and Paul swore with oaths. Yet,to say that these examples negate the command would be to put the cart before the horse. 

First, the command has no application to God because He truly knows all things and suffers none of the limitations that would restrict the taking of oaths.

Second, while Old Testament saints took oaths, we can clearly see the folly in what they did. Consider Joshua's rash oath to the deceiving Gibeonites in Joshua 9. Consider Jephthah's foolish vow to sacrifice whatever came out of his house in Judges 11. And there are others like these. 

Third, when we consider Paul's swearing of oaths, we must remember that he was an apostle and given direct revelation by God (e.g. Romans 1:9; Galatians 1:20; 1 Thessalonians 5:27). His oaths, then, would fall within the allowable parameters for taking of oaths, since they were sanctioned by God. 

Friends, there is rarely, if ever, any good reason for us to swear with oaths. We can never be sure about the future, and so our oaths and promises bind us in a lottery with no benefit, only condemnation. Our guarantees are presumptuous and deceptive because they are based on an uncertain foundation. We do not have knowledge or power over the future, so on what basis can we promise anything. Thus, our attitude should always be, "If the Lord wills..." And the best we can give someone is our "yes" and "no" within the parameters of our limitations. 

As Jesus, and so also James, let us not swear at all. As much as we can, let us make no promises ourselves, and let us teach our children against such as well. In doing so, we will promote a culture of honesty. We will not subject our integrity to the lottery of an uncertain future by making promises we may not be able to keep. And if others insist on an oath, and you feel compelled to swear, at least clearly understand both the implications and the consequences of what you are doing. Consider this one example of a vow to God:

When you make a vow to God, do not delay to fulfill it. He has no pleasure in fools; fulfill your vow. It is better not to make a vow than to make one and not fulfill it. Do not let your mouth lead you into sin. And do not protest to the temple messenger, “My vow was a mistake.” Why should God be angry at what you say and destroy the work of your hands? Much dreaming and many words are meaningless. Therefore fear God (Ecclesiastes 5:4-7).


Passage: Matthew 5-6

On Saturday, October 12, 2013, Stephen wrote,

I was so happy this morning as I read the Sermon on the Mount and could see the glimpse of the joy that King David had in his heart toward God's Law.  It is truly sweeter than honey!  The Beatitudes shout into my ear how important it is for us to have deep conviction of our depravity, which leads us to mourning, meekness, and hunger and thirst for righteousness, followed by manifestation of God's characters in our lives such as being merciful, absence of evil, making peace, perseverance, and so forth.  God doesn't merely motivate us to be morally perfect in our deeds but demands and wills total transformation of our being! Praise be to our Lord and Savior!


Passage: Matthew 5-6

On Saturday, October 12, 2013, Yujin wrote,

Jesus' Sermon on the Mount can sometimes be very unsettling. For example, there are commands to pluck out one's eye or cut off one's hand if they cause you to sin. There are also commands to give to everyone who asks and not to refuse anyone who seeks a loan. In light of the absolute form of pronouncements like these, we presume that they should always be obeyed literally in every circumstance. But is this correct? Or are Jesus' words to be taken like the Proverbs of Solomon, as "principles stated in the extremes" (A.M. Hunter as quoted in The New Bible Dictionary, s.v. Sermon on the Mount). I lean toward this latter understanding. One of the best expositions I've discovered that brings this out is by Bob Deffinbaugh on bible.org. Here's the whole text of his sermon:

The Sermon on the Mount

 I. Introduction

Our lesson in this From Creation to the Cross series is Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.354 We will be looking primarily at Matthew’s account of this discourse as given in chapters 5 through 7 of his Gospel. Now I’m sure you are all at least somewhat familiar with the Sermon on the Mount. This is probably the best known part of Jesus’ teaching, not only among Christians but among people in general. Sayings from the Sermon on the Mount have become part of our everyday language; sayings such as “do unto others” … “judge not,” “turn the other cheek,” and so on. But I would suggest it is also one of the least understood parts of our Lord’s teaching, and certainly the least obeyed. In this day and age, when we in the church seem to be looking more and more like the society around us, there may be no better medicine than the Sermon on the Mount. It describes what human life and human community look like when they come under the gracious rule of God.355 And in a word, what do they look like? Different … not the same.

It is of course impossible to address the details of the Sermon on the Mount in this one lesson. It is ambitious enough to attempt an overview. But as I thought about it, there is good reason to step back and consider the Sermon on the Mount as a whole. I do of course recommend detailed study, but if we jump into the details before we look at the whole, we are in constant danger of missing the forest for the trees. We all have a tendency to pick on certain particular statements and to concentrate on them at the expense of others. We must realize that “no part of the Sermon can be truly understood except in light of the whole.”356

The Literary Style of the Sermon – Before we proceed, I think it is worth noting the literary style of this sermon. The Sermon on the Mount has been rightly categorized as wisdom literature – in fact, it is wisdom literature in the best tradition of the Old Testament.357 It reads very much like what we might find in various places in the Book of Proverbs. This is important because, like Old Testament wisdom literature and the books of the Prophets, this passage is poetic in nature.

The Sermon on the Mount is full of the parallelism typical of Hebrew poetry. It is clearly evident in the Beatitudes as well as other places. 358 Poetic parallelism is seen virtually throughout the sermon as Jesus uses parallel thoughts to provide vivid contrasts as He teaches. We must also remember that the language of poetry is imagery.359 Poetry is designed to stir the emotions and create vivid mental pictures, not feed the intellect.

My point is this – poetic passages must be understood as poetic in nature, and we must not try to interpret them with the same inflexible literalism we might employ with prose. As one scholar has noted, “Proverbs are principles stated in extremes.”360 How tragic that someone would actually “pluck out his eye” or “cut off his hand” (5:29-30) in an attempt to control his lust, which, incidentally, has reportedly happened. So, let’s just remember that in the Sermon on the Mount we see Jesus speaking in the Old Testament wisdom form and poetic style.

II. Context and Theme

Now let’s look at the context of our passage. The events leading up to the sermon are described by Matthew in chapter 4. We will look briefly at verses 12, 17, and 23. Beginning in verse 12, we read:

“Now when He heard that John had been taken into custody, He withdrew into Galilee; 13 and leaving Nazareth, He came and settled in Capernaum, which is by the sea, in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali.”

Dropping down to 4:17, we read, “From that time Jesus began to preach and say, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’”

There are two things to notice here: First, the phrase “From that time” refers to the arrest of John the Baptist. This is apparently the event Jesus chose to launch His public ministry. Secondly, Matthew wants us to see that Jesus’ message is linked directly to John’s message (3:1-2). There is a continuity made explicit by Jesus’ use of the same phrase John had used, and we are right to see Jesus as essentially picking up where John left off.

Then in 4:23 we read,

“And Jesus was going about in all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness among the people.”

Matthew is introducing a theme which will wind its way through the rest of his gospel. That theme is the kingdom of heaven. As you read through Matthew’s Gospel, you will see that the Sermon on the Mount is the first of five great discourses. As a way of identification, each one of these discourses is marked at its conclusion with essentially the same phrase, namely, “when Jesus had finished these words.” It occurs here at the end of the Sermon on the Mount in 7:28. You will find it again in Matthew 11:1, 13:53, 19:1, and 26:1, each time at the end of an extended discourse by Jesus to His disciples. What you should note is that in one way or another, these five discourses all deal with the same theme: the Kingdom of heaven. This was the great burden of Jesus teaching – and we see it particularly evident here in the Sermon on the Mount.

Repent for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand.” If we view this proclamation as not only Matthew’s introduction to what follows but also a summary of it, then in a word, the message of the Sermon on the Mount is, “What it means to repent and belong to the kingdom of heaven.”

III. The Kingdom of God

But let’s talk for a moment about this kingdom which Matthew has introduced to us here in his gospel. As an aside, I will mention that while Matthew primarily uses the term “kingdom of heaven” and other gospel writers (notably Luke) prefer the term “kingdom of God,” it is clear that these two expressions mean exactly the same thing (e.g., compare Matthew 5:3with Luke 6:20). In the past some have tried to maintain a distinction between the kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of God;361 however, the vast majority of theologians today recognize the terms as synonymous,362 and I therefore use the terms interchangeably.

The word translated kingdom has two elements. It refers first to the king’s reign and rule, and secondly to the king’s realm.363 The Kingdom of God, then, is primarily the reign and rule of God, the expression of His gracious sovereign will. In an ultimate sense, God sovereignly rules over all things, and His realm is therefore all creation. But that is not the kingdom in focus here. Here we are talking about the kingdom of God among men, that kingdom anticipated by the Old Testament prophets, that kingdom to be mediated through the coming Messiah. You will note that Matthew has spent the first four chapters of his gospel confirming to us that this Jesus is the Messiah, the one with the right to the throne, the coming King. As one commentator put it, with the coming of Jesus Christ “the new age had dawned, and the rule of God had broken into history.”364

This is precisely why Jesus proclaimed that the Kingdom of heaven is at hand – because Jesus Himself is the King in God’s Kingdom, and where He reigns, there the Kingdom of God is already present. To those who first heard Jesus, this was a staggering message because they understood (at least in part) what He was saying. He was preaching that the long-hoped-for day, the day of the reign of God, was no longer confined to the future – it was now. That explained the urgency of His call to repent. In light of the presence of the King Himself, repentance, and for that matter a new life altogether, was called for.

Jesus proclaimed the same Kingdom as John the Baptist (and the Old Testament prophets); however, He did in the course of progressive biblical revelation explain it more fully. He also broke it out into its temporal components, and emphasized each element separately. For example: At times, Jesus spoke of the kingdom as being present in the person of the king. This aspect was more than “at hand;” it had already arrived. We read in Matthew. 12:28, “But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.”This is Phase I. The kingdom was inaugurated by and manifested in Jesus Christ at His first coming.

At other times, Jesus spoke of the kingdom as being present in a sense broader than His own person. For example, the parables of the kingdom in Matthew 13 show us the kingdom in its “mystery” phase. The mystery is the coming of the kingdom into history in advance of its consummation.365 This is Phase II. Christ now reigns in the hearts of His people, and Hisrule is played out through the work of kingdom citizens during this present age. The Sermon on the Mount and other principles of kingdom living articulated by Jesus apply directly to kingdom citizens in this period between His first and second coming.

However, Jesus never ignored the final consummation of the kingdom or even the uniquely Jewish flavor of the millennial reign (see Matthew 24-25). At the Last Supper, Jesus spoke of the future consummation of the Kingdom which will be manifested at His second coming. InMatthew 26:29, we read, “But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” This then is Phase III, which in turn ushers in the final eternal state.366

Therefore, recognizing that the kingdom of God was inaugurated by Christ at His first coming and that it continues today in a spiritual sense in those who are believers, let’s turn now to the Sermon itself.

IV. Overview

The Setting – We are primarily looking at Matthew’s account of the Sermon on the Mount, but we should note the parallel account in Luke 6. We don’t have time here to harmonize the accounts. Let me simply suggest that there is strong internal evidence that the two accounts are describing the same event in spite of the differences one may note.367 That is at least my assumption. We just don’t have time to get into the details.

I mention this because I want us to pause just long enough to get clear on who the audience is for Jesus’ sermon. In Matthew 5:1, we are told that He sat down and His disciples came to Him. We must not think this is referring only to the twelve – for we see in Luke 6:13 that early that morning He called His disciples to Himself and chose the twelve from among them. So there were other disciples – apparently a large number of them according to Luke 6:17. Therefore, we must understand that it was the twelve along with many other disciples who came to sit around Him.

We also see, not only from Luke’s account (6:18) but from the end of Matthew’s account (7:28), that a multitude was also there, gathered at least within hearing distance. So, to whom was Jesus speaking? You could look at it as a three-tiered audience – the twelve as His newly-appointed inner circle, the other disciples, and then, perhaps at a distance, the multitude. Even though His words were directed to His disciples (5:2) – which is indeed significant – I would suggest that He also spoke for the benefit of all.

Looking at the sermon itself, we can see four main sections: the first (5:3-16) describes the subjects of the kingdom, the second (5:17–5:48) deals with the precepts of the kingdom, the third (6:1-7:12) the righteousness of the kingdom, and the fourth (7:13-27) the tests of the kingdom.

First Section - Picture of Kingdom Citizens (5:3-16) – Every kingdom eventually has subjects, and Jesus begins His sermon by painting a picture of the kind of people who would populate His kingdom (5:3-16). Before He lists any responsibilities for them, He first wants His audience to see the character traits of kingdom citizens. He does this in what we commonly refer to as the beatitudes. We should note that the beatitudes do not refer to different groups of people as if some are merciful, others are peacemakers, and still others are called upon to endure persecution. Rather, this is a beautifully poetic way of describing the qualities of a kingdom citizen. All these qualities are to characterize each of His people.

Jesus also wants His audience to see that these qualities come with great blessing – which stands in stark contrast to that which this world can offer. What is this blessedness? The second half of each beatitude explains it. Taken together, we see that these kingdom citizens possess the kingdom of heaven, they inherit the earth, they are comforted and satisfied. They receive mercy, they see God, and they are called sons of God. All these blessings belong together. Just as the eight beatitudes describe the qualities of every citizen of the kingdom (at least in the ideal), so the eight blessings belong to each of them.

Some have taken the beatitudes (and in fact the whole sermon) as a description of what one must do in order to enter the kingdom of God. They see the beatitudes as a list of things you must do in order to receive the blessings mentioned. This cannot be further from the truth. It is clear from the text that Jesus is describing the qualities and duties of those already in the kingdom. The Sermon on the Mount is not a presentation of the gospel telling one how to get saved. As Dr. S. Lewis Johnson has humorously pointed out, when the Philippian jailer asked the apostle Paul, “what must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30), Paul did not reply with,“Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”368 The Sermon on the Mount is not how to get into the kingdom, but how you are to be because you are in the kingdom.

So let’s be clear right here at the beginning. Jesus told Nicodemus “unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (Jn. 3:3). Citizens of this kingdom are those who are born again believers. Jesus Himself makes it clear that to enter this kingdom is in fact to enter salvation and eternal life.369

This section ends showing the role of the kingdom citizens in an unbelieving world. Jesus says you, as kingdom citizens, are to be “salt” and “light” (5:13-16) in such a way as to bring glory to your Father in heaven. When He says “your Father,” He is saying something that can only be true of believers, not people in general. Although in this sermon Jesus was addressing a mixed audience (believers and unbelievers), He was speaking specifically to His disciples (Matthew 5:2), and He was addressing them as true disciples, i.e., true believers.

Second Section - Precepts of the Kingdom (5:17–5:48) – After the brief exposition about the members of the kingdom, the Lord now gives truths about the nature of the kingdom itself (5:17–48). This section is characterized by the repeated phrase, “you have heard it said, … but I say.” Jesus is going to do some interpretation of the Old Testament Law for His listeners, and He prefaces this by first stating He came not to abolish, but to fulfill the Law. Then He emphasizes the fact that “not one jot or tittle of the law will pass away until all is fulfilled.” Now, He makes this clear at the outset because He knows that what He is about to say is going to shock His listeners. He wants them to listen carefully and not take what He is about to say as negating the Law in any sense.

Some have said that Jesus here contrasts the letter of the Law with the spirit of the Law. But I don’t think that’s the case. The key, I believe is the phrase you have heard it said.” In virtually every other place where Jesus refers to the Law (or Old Testament), He uses the phrase, “It is written” (e.g., Matthew 4:4, 7, 10; 21:13, 26:31). Here He uses the phrase “You have heard.” I would suggest that this is not a contrast between the letter of the law and the spirit of the Law. This is a contrast between a perversion of the letter of the law – the oral tradition perpetuated by the scribes and Pharisees – and the true letter and true spirit of the Law. So here, in six masterful strokes, Jesus says, “you have heard it said, … but I say,”thereby rejecting the scribal interpretations of the Law.

Although Jesus essentially quotes the Old Testament in some instances, it is clear from His arguments that He is dealing with abuses of the Law encouraged by the Pharisaic tradition.

Take for example Matthew 5:38“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’” This is indeed a quote from the Law; it is stated in Exodus 21:24Leviticus 24:19-20, and Deuteronomy 19:18-21. But two things must be noticed from the context in the Old Testament: (1) The passage in Deuteronomy makes it clear that this was a law for the civil courts; it was instruction for the Judges in Israel; it was to define appropriate justice. (2) Although the law defined justice, it also restricted retribution and prevented personal revenge. It is not unreasonable to say its primary purpose was to restrain. But the scribes and Pharisees had extended this principle from the law courts (where it belongs) to the realm of personal relationships (where it does not belong). This is not how you treat your neighbor, but that’s exactly how the Pharisees used it and abused it. It was being used as an excuse for the very thing it was meant to abolish, namely, personal revenge.

The Old Testament repeatedly forbids personal vengeance. Leviticus. 19:18“You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the Lord.” Proverbs 20:22“Do not say, ‘I will repay evil;’ Wait for the Lord, and He will save you.” Proverbs 24:29“Do not say, ‘Thus I shall do to him as he has done to me; I will render to the man according to his work.’” – All of which Jesus beautifully expressed by saying, “turn the other cheek.” The concept of “turning the other cheek” is not limited to the New Testament; it was there in the Old Testament.

With a little digging, I think you’ll find this to be the case with Jesus’ other examples – He was correcting perversions of the Law perpetrated by the religious teaching of His day – all of which, incidentally, point to an issue of the heart.

Third Section - Righteousness of the Kingdom (6:1-7:12) - The first half of chapter 6 deals with kingdom righteousness regarding, basically, our worship of God. Jesus deals with giving, praying, and fasting – although these are particular areas of Pharisaic abuse, there are plenty of applications for the church today. The principle is given at the outset in verse 1,“Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.”

The second half of chapter 6 deals with righteousness regarding the intentions and ambitions of our heart. Basically, the emphasis is on our focus in life and how we expend or invest our energies. The principle here is given in verses 19-20, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures upon earth, … But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven.”

In verses 1-12 of chapter 7, Jesus deals with righteousness in relation to how we treat others. We are not to be judgmental especially with regard to fellow believers, yet we are to exercise discernment concerning unbelievers. Jesus is not simply saying, “do not judge.” His point is that we are to judge wisely, just as the earlier principle is to invest wisely. Where does one find such wisdom? He must turn to his heavenly Father … and ask (7:7-11).

Finally, in verse 12, the intent of the Old Testament law is summarized in the golden rule: “Therefore, however you want people to treat you, so treat them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” Jesus began His teaching on kingdom righteousness in 5:17 with, “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets;” and now concludes it by saying, “this is theLaw and the Prophets.”

Fourth Section - Tests of the Kingdom (7:13-27) - Christ outlines three tests which will prove our righteousness is truly from God. These tests are presented as the two ways, two trees, and two builders. False Christianity will fail these tests.

First, true citizens of the kingdom of God go by the narrow way (7:13-14), which I believe speaks to the fact that Christianity is basically counter-cultural. By that I mean the society around us is going one way, the broad way, while we are to be going the narrow way, the way of Christ, e.g., by turning the other cheek, going the extra mile, putting our personal rights aside for the sake of another.

Secondly, true citizens of the kingdom are like the tree that bears good fruit (7:15-23), which refers not only to the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23): joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control, but to holy living (Romans 6:22) and good works (Ephesians 2:10).

And thirdly, true citizens of the kingdom build their house on the rock (7:24-27), which is Jesus Christ. Righteousness is not based on a church, a creed, or a good life, but on Jesus Christ who died for the believer.370 And here the point is that a true believer is a doer of the word and not a hearer only (James 1:22). The imagery of this section all points in one direction: the kingdom will be populated by those who live for an audience of One, namely, Jesus Christ the King.

The Sermon Concluded (7:28-29) - The sermon then concludes with a note about the crowds responding to Jesus in a way which they never did to the scribes. The crowd was “astonished at His teaching, for He taught as one having authority” (7:28-29). They were apparently more impressed with His authority than with the content of the Sermon itself. As one commentator put it, “The main question the Sermon forces upon the crowd is not so much ‘What do you make of this teaching?’ as ‘Who on earth is this teacher?’”371 – a question which the Gospel of Matthew clearly answers.

V. Concluding Remarks

Not a code of ethics - It is extremely important to remember that the Sermon on the Mount is a description of character and not a code of ethics or morals. It is not to be regarded as a law – a kind of new “Ten Commandments” or a set of rules and regulations which are to be carried out by us – but rather a description of what we as Christians are meant to be, illustrated in certain particular respects.372 Jesus is not laying down a new code of legal regulations but communicating great ethical principles and how they affect the lives of those within the kingdom. “It would be a great point gained if people would only consider that it was a Sermon, and was preached, not an act which was passed.”373

All kinds of approaches to this sermon can be found in the church. Some have seen it as a message calculated to produce the greatest possible guilt in the fewest possible chapters! It has often been presented that way: “Here is the standard. Look how miserably you have failed. Pull yourself together and do better.”

This approach ignores what we have already seen is central to the sermon’s message, namely our relationship to Jesus Christ. We cannot avoid some degree of guilt as we read Jesus’ words. Undoubtedly, as He describes the lifestyle that is appropriate to citizenship in His kingdom, we sense how far short of its glory we fall. But the sermon is not aiming to produce a sense of hopelessness and despair in us; rather, it is intended to set before us a glorious vision of what the Lord means for our lives to become. As Bob Deffinbaugh once said, “It challenges us to live an excitingly distinctive life, adding savor to our society,”374 and bringing glory to God. The sermon is Jesus’ manifesto. It describes a regal lifestyle, the new behavior pattern for the new kingdom we have entered.

A new birth is essential - The righteousness Jesus described in the Sermon is an inner righteousness. Although it manifests itself outwardly and visibly in words, deeds and relationships, yet it remains essentially a righteousness of the heart. It is what a man thinks in his heart and where he fixes his heart which really matter. It is here too that the problem lies. For men are in their nature “evil.” As we are told in Jeremiah 17:9“the heart of man is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick.” And it is out of the heart that evil things come. Just as it is the tree itself which determines its fruit, so it is with man. There is but one solution – make the tree good, and its fruit good. A new birth is essential.

Only a belief in the necessity and the reality of a new birth can keep us from reading the Sermon on the Mount with either foolish optimism or hopeless despair. The high standards he set are appropriate only to believers.

We could never earn citizenship in His kingdom by accomplishing Christ’s standards. Rather by living out His standards, or at least approximating them, we give evidence of what – by God’s free grace – we already are.375

Negative tests to apply - Martyn Lloyd-Jones recommended some principles which should govern our interpretation of this Sermon, suggesting that we might apply these “negative” tests as we study it: 376

(1) If you find yourself arguing with the Sermon on the Mount at any particular point, it means either that there is something wrong with you or your interpretation of the Sermon is wrong. In his own words, he said he found that test “very valuable.”

(2) If our interpretation makes any injunction appear to be ridiculous then we can be certain our interpretation is wrong. For example, in 5:40, Jesus says if you are sued for your shirt, give your coat too. This command has often been made to sound ridiculous. However, it is not to be taken as a mechanical rule. He’s not teaching how to behave if you are sued. He’s teaching a principle – I am to be of such a mind and such a spirit that under certain circumstances and conditions I must do just that – throw in the coat also, or go the extra mile. I am to be such a person that if it is God’s will and for His glory, I would readily do so. That is the issue, and it is very practical – nothing our Lord ever taught can be ridiculous.

(3) Finally, if you regard any particular injunction in this Sermon as impossible, once more your interpretation and understanding of it must be wrong. Jesus died and gave us the Holy Spirit that we might be able to live the Sermon on the Mount. We may not live it perfectly, but in the power of His Spirit we must work at living it. In 7:24, He says, “everyone who hears these words of mine and acts upon them” is wise. When giving the Great Commission, Jesus says, “make disciples, … teaching them to observe all that I commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20); and that certainly includes the Sermon on the Mount.

Be very careful as you read the Sermon on the Mount and especially when you talk about it. If you criticize it at any point, you are really saying a great deal about yourself.

Making Jesus Lord - Living the Sermon on the Mount means, fundamentally, submitting to the authority of Jesus. It means coming to Him, taking His yoke, and learning from Him (Matthew 11:28-30). This means that we might want to dispense with the myth that we can have Christ as Savior to begin the Christian life, and then at some later stage, submit to Him as Lord or make Him Lord in our lives.

That kind of thinking reveals a profound confusion about what the New Testament teaches. For one thing, we do not “make” Jesus Savior or Lord. And further, if having Christ as our Savior means belonging to the Kingdom of God (and it certainly does), we cannot possibly live in His Kingdom without His being King and Lord.

But submitting to the authority of Jesus can be described more explicitly. He expresses His authority through His Word, the Bible.

As John Calvin put it, the Bible is the scepter by which King Jesus rules His people.377 It is in Scripture that Jesus continues to give His teaching. When we read it, study it, and seek to obey it, we hear His voice and recognize His authority (see John 10:3-5). That is why one mark of the Christian ought to be loving study of Scripture and a growing obedience to everything Christ teaches us through Scripture.

As you turn to the Sermon on the Mount, you ought to ask yourself if you have settled these issues in your own life. And you ought to pray that through hearing Christ’s voice in this sermon, you will grow in settled obedience to whatever He says to you.


353 This is the edited manuscript of a message delivered by Jim Ellis at Community Bible Chapel on February 17, 2002. Jim is a member of Community Bible Chapel and can be reached by email.

354 The title, Sermon on the Mount, is not found in the text. It is likely that the first one to call it such was Augustine, who wrote a treatise on this passage ca. 395 A.D. while still Bishop of Hippo. See Robert Guelich, The Sermon on the Mount, (Word Publishing, 1982), p. 15.

355 John R. W. Stott, The Message of the Sermon on the Mount (Inter-Varsity Press, 1978), p. 18.

356 Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount (Eerdmans, Reprinted 1991), p. 22.

357 Gary A. Tuttle, The Sermon On The Mount: Its Wisdom Affinities And Their Relation To Its Structure, JETS 20/3 (September 1977).

358 See for example Matthew 5:19; 6:14-15; and 7:6.

359 Leland Ryken, How to Read the Bible as Literature (Zondervan Academie Books, 1984), p. 888.

360 A. M. Hunter, Design for Life, 1953, as quoted in The New Bible Dictionary, s.v. Sermon on the Mount.

361 Cf. John F. Walvoord, Matthew - Thy Kingdom Come, (Moody Press, 1974) p. 30.

362 Cf. Ed Glasscock, Matthew, Moody Gospel Commentary (Moody Press, 1997), p. 70; D. A. Carson, Matthew, Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 1 (Zondervan, 1995), p. 100; Gerhard Kittel and Gerhard Friedrich, Theological Dictionary of the New TestamentAbridged in One Volume, ed. Geoffry Bromiley (Eerdmans 1985, reprinted 1992), s.v. basileia.

363 Bauer, Gingrich and Danker call the kingdom [1] “kingship, royal power, royal rule” and [2] “the territory ruled over by a king.” See Bauer, Walter, Gingrich, F. Wilbur, and Danker, Frederick W., A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (University of Chicago Press, 1979), s.v. basileia.

364 Stott, p. 18.

365 George Eldon Ladd, A Theology of the New Testament (Eerdmans, Revised Edition, 1993), p. 91.

366 This three-phase view of the kingdom is discussed in D. Matthew Allen, The Kingdom of God in Matthewhttp://bible.org/article/kingdom-matthew . For more on the kingdom of God, Ladd, pp. 54-117.

367 William Hendriksen, The Gospel of Matthew (Baker Book House, 1973), p. 260.

368 S. Lewis Johnson, The Beatitudes (1): From Poverty to Royalty, Believer’s Bible Bulletin, n.d. Lesson 9, p. 2.

369 E.g., Jesus equates entering the kingdom with entering life in Mark 9:45-47.

370 Warren Wiersbe, Wiersbe’s Expository Outlines on the New Testament (Victor Books, 1992), p. 36.

371 Stott, p. 213.

372 Lloyd-Jones, p. 28.

373 J. Denny as quoted in The New Bible Dictionary, s.v. Sermon on the Mount.

374 Bob Deffinbaugh, Highlights in the Life and Ministry of Jesus Christ, Lesson 20, Biblical Studies Foundation, www.bible.org/docs/nt/topics/l&m/toc.htm.

375 Stott, p. 29.

376 Lloyd-Jones, p. 29.

377 As quoted by Sinclair B. Ferguson, Kingdom Life in a Fallen World (NavPress, 1986), p. 21.

 


Passage: Matthew 5-6

On Sunday, October 14, 2012, Fernando wrote,
Matt 5
48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Taking the word perfect to mean 'complete' here seems quite fitting. Otherwise you have statements like 'be good to the bad' as your father is without error.
But rather you can see something like if you are concerned for others be concerned for ALL others. Let your nature be about being concerned for others, not 'sometimes Yes' 'sometimes No,' some Yes' 'some No.'

But as Nehemiah had to participate, we are instructed in proverbs, psalms, the writings to the Corintians, the godly do not want misfortune for their enemies, but seek their redemption, their turning to God. The Godly want goodness to happen.

Romans 2:11, God is not partial.

He does not turn off parts of himself for people, he is wholly himself in every situation. Both judging and merciful, both loving and wrathful, both requiring and graceful. He doesn't turn parts off to favor particular people, including his own son.

We are called to be this way too: as your heavenly father.

He does not contradict himself, in him these things are executed in perfection, executed in completeness.

Passage: Matthew 5-6

On Friday, October 12, 2012, Yujin wrote,

In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven (Matthew 5:16).

Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven (Matthew 6:1).

Does Jesus contradict himself in the very same sermon? First, He says that we should do our good deeds to be seen by others. But then He says that we should not do our good deeds to be seen by others. Which is it?

There is no contradiction here, but there is a nuance of meaning that should not be missed. Notice that in both texts the focus is on the Father. In the first case we are called to do our good deeds before others, not so that they may glorify us, but so that they may "glorify our Father in heaven." In other words, we are to make a deliberate effort to direct the glory to God. This is an external and visible act that we do.

In the second case, Jesus commands almost the exact same thing but in the negative. In other words. He instructs against any move to bring attention to ourselves from others ("do not announce it with trumpets"), or even from ourselves ("do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing"). 

Therefore, whether we are to do good deeds to be seen by others or not to be seen by others, we've got to undersatnd the qualifiers that Jesus gives. Yes, we are to make our good deeds visible when it is "to glorify our Father in heaven," but we ought never to do our good deeds in front of others in order to "be seen by them" (i.e. to draw praise to ourselves). We are speaking of ends and motives here. 

Here's a practical example. Let's say you personally support a certain ministry like World Vision. Ideally, you shouldn't go around and tell everybody that you are giving and how much you are giving. You should keep this to yourself, seeking only God's approval and reward. However, if you are counteracting criticism by unbelievers (e.g. that believers are stingy and don't give to help the needy), you may let your giving be known, remembering to add that you are giving in keeping with the love and command of God. Also, if you are trying to encourage people on the sidelines to give to a good organization, you may let them know that you too are giving to it. Thus, on the one hand you are not seeking to get attention for yourself because you are keeping your personal giving, for the most part, private; however, you are using the example and testimony of your giving to glorify by God by silencing criticism of the church by unbelievers and also encouraging fellow believers to give.

Just as an aside, the expression, "Do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing," is a beautiful picture of humility. The truly humble person is the one who serves others not realizing that is what they are doing. They are not thinking less of themselves or making themselves lowly in order to be more humble. No, they are not thinking of themselves at all. They are simply serving God by serving others. Busy obeying, the question of whether they are humble or not does not even dawn on them. 

---------------------

Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished (Matthew 5:17-18).

I have argued on this site that the Covenant of Law (i.e. The Law of Moses, the Ten Commandments, etc.) has been made obsolete and replaced by the Law of Christ (aka The law that gives freedom, the law of the Spirit of life). Some have used the verses above in Matthew to refute my perspective, saying that Jesus said that He did not come to "abolish the Law or the Prophets." 

But I have never said that the Law was abolished. I have argued that Christ is the fulfillment of the Law in us, which this text also teaches. I have argued that it has been made "obsolete" and "replaced" (not my words but those of Hebrews 8:7,13). So, in what sense is it still alive? It remains alive as a curse to those who remain under it. It remains alive in the larger sense, that is the whole Old Testament, which contains not simply the Law of Moses but also many unfulfilled prophecies. In fact, I think that is the sense here in Matthew. Jesus is not simply referring to the Old Covenant Mosaic Law but rather the entire teaching of the Old Testament. He is the fulfillment of the Old Testament, and there are still prophecies that remain to be fulfilled (e.g. prophecies of Isaiah, Daniel, Joel, Zechariah, etc.) pertaining to the End Times (Matthew 5:18). 

While acknowledging the continuity of certain parts of the Old Testament, the New Testament still clearly affirms that the Old Covenant (i.e. Mosaic Law) aspect of the Old Testament is obsolete and so no longer binding on Christians, who are under a New Covenant Law of Christ, prsented in large part in the apostolic epistles. 

--------------

Friends, there are so many gems in the Sermon on the Mount, but I fear that I will weigh down some of you by sharing too much at one time. So I will stop here for today with this final encouragement. If ever there is a great place to start memorizing Scripture, I believe this would be it. I would encourage you to try to memorize Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5-7. I guarantee that it will be a life-transforming endeavor. 


Passage: Matthew 5-6

On Monday, January 9, 2012 (Last Updated on 10/12/2012), Bill wrote,

The beatitudes (blessings) and the sermon on the mount teachings are both comforting and unsettling

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. 
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. 
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. 
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. 
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God..."  (Matt 5:3-8)
 
While the beattitudes reflect Gods mercy and Grace, the remainder of the Sermon focuses on Gods lofty (some might say unattainable) standards. (Matt 5:21-22) "...But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sisterwill be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell."
 
This seems to reflect the life of the Christian, and my personal experience as well.  We are constantly at odds with our nature often surrenduring to our flesh despite our sincere desire to serve God wholeheartedly.  If you have been a Christian long enough you must ultimately capitulate completely to Grace.  We are not good enough and will never be and God knew this from the beggining.  But here is the kicker - Christ still calls us to be.  The sermon on the mount virtues are put before us not as cruel "dangling carrot" but as a constant reminder of Gods expectation of our holiness.  We must push-on despite our failings and remember that its only by Grace that we are made holy.

Passage: Matthew 5-6

On Saturday, December 31, 2011 (Last Updated on 10/11/2015), Yujin wrote,
Friends, someone asked me a great question about prayer from this passage:
 
So,after a lengthy facebook conversation, I have a question and I wondered what your opinion is. If Matt 6:5-6 or 7 tells us how to pray, and sometimes hypocrites pray for incorrect purposes, then would not the fine line between public prayer and hypocritical prayer be it's purpose? The purpose being if it served the human or if it served God? That's how I always understood it but just wanted a second opinion I guess after the fb conversation.
 
Here was my response to them...
 
Matthew 6:5-15 on prayer is found within the context of the Sermon on the Mount, a lot of which has to do with Jesus' correction of the Pharisees' misuse of the Law and perhaps Jesus' change and expansion of the Mosaic Law. A part of this expansion has to do with a focus on heart issues. So, with respect to murder, even without the act, a person with a murderous intent is guilty. With respect to adultery, even without the act, a person with a lustful heart is guilty. 
 
So in the matter of prayer, Jesus again seems primarily concerned with the heart. Jesus identifies two groups that do it wrong. One group He identifies as "the hypocrites" those that pray in an attention-getting way to receive praise from others. The Pharisees exemplify this group. Another group he identifies as "babbling pagans" are those who believe their prayers will be heard by God in proportion to the length or intensity of their prayers. 
 
Concerning the first group, "the hypocrites," their main problem seems to be that the focus of their prayers are wrong. Rather than praying to God, they seek a human audience. Jesus says that because they seek the praise of others rather than God, that is all the commendation they will receive. However, Jesus counsels praying secretly to God. The words "secret" and "unseen (or invisible)" contrast with the showy prayers that are put on display to a visible audience. Jesus illustrates the right kind of prayer as one done in private, behind closed doors, and directed solely toward God. Such a person takes great pains to make sure that God is their central audience, and their intent is to gain His approval and not the approval of others. The central point is the motivation of a person's heart: Is it to gain God's approval in prayer or that of others? Is God's attention sought or that of others?
 
Just as a side note, hypocrisy almost always is a matter of the heart. It is often misunderstood as "preaching one thing while doing another." This is not hypocrisy. This may be inconsistency, but it is not hypocrisy. Hypocrisy in the Bible means "having a double standard," that is, acting or preaching in such a way that what is communicated is, "It's okay for me but not for you." It is putting yourself on one standard, usually an easier one, while putting others on a another standard, usually a harder one. It is judging others with a different measure than you judge yourself. So hypocrisy is a kind of favoritism, which God hates. 
 
The hypocrisy in prayer that Jesus highlights here is that those that pray "to be seen by others" give the illusion of devotion to God when they are really seeking praise from people. The double standard may be that while they require singular devotion to God from others, they do not require this of themselves, which is evident in their trying to share the praise that should go only to God. 
 
Concerning the second group, the "babbling pagans (or Gentiles)," their main problem was not that their focus was on others but that it was on themselves. And they also had a wrong view of God. These pagans thought that their god would hear them because of the intensity and repetition of their words. This was exactly the situation on Mount Carmel, when the prophets of Baal were calling out all day to their god to answer them:
So they took the bull given them and prepared it. Then they called on the name of Baal from morning till noon. "O Baal, answer us!" they shouted. But there was no response; no one answered. And they danced around the altar they had made (1 Kings 18:26).
Jesus uses what pagans do as an illustration of the emptiness of using senseless repetition in prayer. Pagans do not know the true God; therefore, they don't realize that the true God, the Father, knows what people need before they even ask Him (Matthew 6:8). 
 
So Jesus tells His disciples not to be like the pagans, who will not be heard whether they have few or many words. But since believers know God, that He is all-knowing(see Psalm 139), they know that He hears their every prayer, whether it is done once or many times, in private or in public, out loud or in their hearts, or even before they have prayed it. The heart of a person that recognizes this about God would not be concerned with getting God's attention with endless and meaningless repetitions. 
 
Now, this is not to criticize persistence in prayer or emotion in prayer. Jesus in the Garden fervently prayed three times that God might rescue Him from death. Paul prayed three times that God might remove the thorn in his flesh. Jesus commended boldness in prayer, illustrating with a woman who persistently begged an unjust judge to give her justice. The Book of Hebrews tells us that in Jesus' earthly life.
... He (Jesus) offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission (Hebrews 5:7).
Notice here that the Bible says that Jesus was heard by the "one who could save him from death." Do you find that interesting? We normally think that when we say that God heard our prayers, it means that He answered them the way we want. Jesus was still crucified, in spite of His prayer for deliverance, yet here we are told that God heard His prayers. The significance is that God hears us, not in His giving us what we want. And Jesus was heard "because of his reverent submission." Remember, in the Garden, Jesus prayed, "Not my will but Your will be done." Jesus submitted to the will of God. And, in a sense, God did grant Jesus what He desired, not the first part (the "take this cup from me") but the second (the "not my will but Yours be done").
 
Again, the issue is the heart. The heart of a pagan, who does not know God, will think that they need to keep yelling, repeating, and doing all kinds of acts to be heard by their god. But we know that this is not true of our God, the Father, who knows our every need before we ask Him, so that our prayers are not so much a way to get a hearing from God, but it is rather our act of worship, whereby we seek to reverently align our will to His holy and perfect will. 
 
Jesus proceeds to explain how His disciples should pray in Matthew 6:9-13. While not going verse by verse, the key thing to take away from Jesus' model prayer is this. Prayer should always be God-ward and God-focused, so that in every prayer the underlying motivation and purpose should be "not my will but Yours be done." Therefore, all prayer should always seek to be an alignment of our will with God's will, such that even when we ask things from God, it will ultimately be for God.  

Passage: Matthew 5-6

On Wednesday, October 12, 2011, Unmi wrote,
 
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:3)

The sermon on the Mount begins with this verse. What does it mean to be "poor in spirit?" 
It is a state of being completely worthless, powerless, and helpless before God.
The truth is that EVERYONE IS "poor in spirit."

 “There is no one righteous, not even one; 
 
11 there is no one who understands; 
   there is no one who seeks God. 
12 All have turned away, 
   they have together become worthless; 
there is no one who does good, 
   not even one." (Romans 3:10-12)

However, not everyone recognizes their state of spiritual poverty for their hearts have become calloused.

10 The disciples came to him and asked, “Why do you speak to the people in parables?”
 11 He replied, “Because the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. 12 Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. 13 This is why I speak to them in parables:
   “Though seeing, they do not see; 
   
though hearing, they do not hear or understand.
   14 In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah:
   “‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding; 
   
you will be ever seeing but never perceiving. 
15 For this people’s heart has become calloused; 
   
they hardly hear with their ears, 
   
and they have closed their eyes. 
Otherwise they might see with their eyes, 
   
hear with their ears, 
   
understand with their hearts 
and turn, and I would heal them.’
   16 But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear.  (Matthew 13:10-16)

The "blessed" are for those whose eyes can see and ears can hear and therefore, can recognize and acknowledge their own spiritual poverty. Recognition of one's spiritual poverty is a gift of God, a work of the Holy Spirit within us, convicting us. It is a gift of God's mercy to those he chooses.

“I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, 
   and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”
 16 It does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy. (Romans 9:15-16)

 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit— (John 15:16)

 12 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. (Philippians 2:12-13)

It is this recognition of our spiritual state that leads to repentance which is the first step in the inheritance of the "kingdom of heaven." 

 On our own, we can do nothing to merit God's favor..Thank you Lord that you melt our harden hearts! 


Passage: Matthew 5-6

On Wednesday, October 12, 2011, Yujin wrote,
Principles for the Christian Life

Friends, Matthew 5-7 presents Jesus' well-known "Sermon on the Mount." There is a parallel to some of these verses in Luke 6:20-49. In these chapters Jesus presents the first post-Mosaic (Law) moral principles. Whereas the Law of Moses was primarily concerned with earthly rewards particularly enjoyed in the Land of Promise, Jesus here directs attention to "rewards in heaven." The benefits accrued from the Law were temporary, but these Kingdom principles would accrue eternal benefits. These principles from Jesus, along with the principles found in the epistles of the New Testament, constitute the "Law of Christ," which is the moral code of the New Covenant that was ratified by the blood of Christ. When you and I trusted in Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we died to the Old Mosaic Law and have become born again into the "new way of the Spirit," which is captured in the principles presented in these chapters and in the epistles of Paul, Peter, etc. Understanding this transition from the Old to the New is critical for a proper interpretation and application of the Old and New Testament.

A Suggestion for Memorizing Scripture

The "Sermon on the Mount" (Matthew 5-7) was the very first Scripture that I ever memorized. I can't think of any body of Scripture more relevant and practical than these for a Christian to memorize. If you would like to do it, I refer you to the Memorization Section of this website, where you can set up a memorization plan for yourself. You can choose the Bible Version, the book, and the chapter(s) you want to memorize. You can also specify how many verses you want to memorize per day and the starting date. The system will then generate a memorization plan for you, giving you the appropriate verses each day with the option to see a cumulative view of all the verses to date. You can also check off the verses you have successfully memorized. You can also maintain a history (archive) of all of your memorization plans.

The Principle of Being Salt
You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot (Matthew 5:13).

Oftentimes, interpreters make this common mistake. Rather than first allowing the biblical context to explain terms, like "salt" here, they turn to a dictionary. While normally the dictionary would not steer someone off course, in some contexts it can confuse the intended meaning. For instance, the dictionary has two primary definitions for salt, namely, that salt is a "seasoning" or it is a "preservative." Having this preconception of salt one is forced to wonder whether Jesus is saying that we are either the "preservative" or the "seasoning" of the earth. But does this fit the context, whether here or in another place where salt is used in Mark 9:49-50?
Everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with each other.

In the context of Mark 9 salt clearly refers to judgment, whether judgment by God ("everyone will be salted with fire," cf. Mark 9:42-48 for this context) or self-judgment ("have salt in yourselves"). So in what sense can salt lose its saltiness? May I suggest that losing saltiness has to do with losing discernment? If the discernment of right and wrong in judgment is gone than judgment will lose its meaning. So saltiness is the discernment of right and wrong. This makes sense of the question, "how can you make it salty again?" If you lose your discernment, how can you regain it? Of yourself you cannot. To a person, if what is wrong is right and what is right is wrong, what hope is there for them? This is what was wrong with the Pharisees. They labeled the sign miracles of Jesus, which were the works of the Holy Spirit, as the works of the devil. So Jesus declared that these Pharisees committed an unpardonable sin. They turned the very thing that was given to them so that they might believe into a reason for them to disbelieve. There was no more any hope for them.

As further support for this understanding of salt as discernment, consider the image of "fire" ("everyone will be salted with fire"). Fire has the property of testing. What is good endures, and what is bad gets burned up: "Fire will test the quality of each person's work" (1 Corinthians 3:13). Since in this context salt functions like fire, we can see that as fire distinguishes good from bad, so also does salt.

Now when we turn back to our immediate text in Matthew 5:13, we can see that we are neither the earth's preservative nor it's seasoning. We are rather the discerning conscience of the earth, such that by the testimony of our speech and of our lives we show the people of the earth what is good and pleasing to God. Salt, therefore, serves as a contrast to the world system. In this sense, perhaps the understanding of salt as seasoning has some bearing. If the earth can be seen to be bland, without any sense of right and wrong, then Christians could be seen to add the flavor of moral uprightness. Now, if Christians lose their moral distinctiveness, and are just as bland as the world, then, as this text reads, they are "no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot."

Friends, let us "not be conformed to the world," by which we lose our saltiness, but let us "be transformed by the renewing of our minds," and in this way give testimony to the people of the earth "the good, acceptable and pleasing will of God" (Romans 12:2).


Passage: Matthew 5-6

On Wednesday, October 12, 2011, Yujin wrote,

Friends,

Time to time I come across good expositions of certain difficult passages in the Bible. Here is one of them on a passage (Matthew 6:23) from our reading by Pastor John Piper. May this enrich your reading and understanding of God's Word. He is someone that I have found largely faithful to the Word of God. He has a wonderful online ministry, where he offers his sermons and books for free (as downloadable PDF documents).

What is the 'Bad Eye' in Matthew 6:23?
John Piper

  A verse in Matthew is somewhat difficult to understand. It seems to dangle in the Sermon on the Mount with little connection to what goes before and after: " The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, 23 but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! " (Matthew 6:22-23).

Before it: the familiar saying about not laying up treasures on earth: "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also
" (Matthew 6:19-21).

After it: the equally familiar saying about not serving God and money: "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
" (Matthew 6:24).

Therefore, the sayings before and after Matthew 6:22-23 deal with treasure or money. In fact, the first would flow really well into the second if we simply left out the intervening verses 22-23. The gist would be "Treasure God in heaven, not money on earth . . . because you can't serve two masters, God and money." So why does Jesus link these two sayings about money and God with a saying about the good eye
and the bad eye?

The key is found in Matthew 20:15. Jesus had just told the parable of the workers in the vineyard. Some of them had agreed to work from 6 am to 6 pm for a denarius. Some the master hired at 9 am. Others at noon. Finally some he hired at 5 pm. When the day was done at 6 pm he paid all the workers the same thing—a denarius. In other words, he was lavishly generous to those who worked only one hour, and he paid the agreed amount to those who worked twelve hours.

Those who worked all day "grumbled at the master of the house" (Matthew 20:11). They were angry that those who worked so little were paid so much. Then the master used a phrase about "the bad eye" which is just like the one back in Matthew 6:23. He said, "Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?" (Matthew 20:15).

Unfortunately that last clause is a total paraphrase, not a translation. "Or do you begrudge my generosity" is a very loose paraphrase of "Or is your eye
bad because I am good ( ē ho ophthalmos sou ponēros estin hoti egō agathos eimi?)" The "bad eye" here parallels the "bad eye" in Matthew 6:23.

What does the bad eye refer to in Matthew 20:15? It refers to an eye that cannot see the beauty of grace. It cannot see the brightness of generosity. It cannot see unexpected blessing to others as a precious treasure. It is an eye that is blind to what is truly beautiful and bright and precious and God-like. It is a worldly eye. It sees money and material reward as more to be desired than a beautiful display of free, gracious, God-like generosity.

That is exactly what the bad eye
means in chapter six of the Sermon on the Mount. And that meaning gives verses 22-23 a perfect fitness between a saying on true treasure (vv. 19-21) and the necessity of choosing between the mastery of God and the mastery of money (vv. 24).

So the flow of thought would go like this: Don't lay up treasures on earth, but lay up treasures in heaven. Show that your heart is fixed on the value that God is for you in Christ. Make sure that your eye
is good not bad. That is, make sure that you see heavenly treasure as infinitely more precious than earthly material treasure. When your eye sees things this way, you are full of light. And if you don't see things this way, even the light you think you see (the glitz and flash and skin and muscle of this world) is all darkness. You are sleepwalking through life. You are serving money as a slave without even knowing it, because it has lulled you to sleep. Far better is to be swayed by the truth—the infinite value of God.

So if you are emotionally drawn more by material things than by Christ, pray that God would give you a good eye
and awaken you from the blindness of "the bad eye."


Passage: Matthew 5-6

On Tuesday, October 12, 2010, Sherry wrote,

Jesus begins his public ministry by calling his first disciples and giving the Sermon on the mount.  This sermon is very precious and beautiful to me!  When I read it it brings great peace and love to me!  It teaches us directions for living in his Kingdom.  It tells us anout forgiveness, peace, and putting others first which is totally "upside down thinking" like GMH & Yujin talk about.  Position, authority, and money are not important in his Kingdom but faithful obedience from
 the heart.

The Beaititudes describe what we should be like as Christ followers.  They teach us how to be blessed.  They also show us "upside down thinking".  If our goal is to become like Jesus,  the Beautitudes will challenge the way we live each day.