Key Verses

  • Matthew 5:20 “For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.”
  • Matthew 7:29 for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.

General Introduction Matthew 5-7 and the Sermon on the Mount

  • The Messiah began His public ministry in Matthew 4:17. He then gathered His team of disciples, taught them, proclaimed His kingdom message, and healed people (Matthew 4:18-25).
  • This resulted in His disciples and many people following Him (Matthew 4:25; 5:1). They had repented and awaited the kingdom of heaven.
  • Therefore, Jesus took His disciples aside on a mountain and taught them how a person who has repented and is waiting for the kingdom of heaven should live.
    • What the fruits of repentance are (Matthew 3:8, 10; 4:17).
    • How to live between that present time and the beginning of the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 5:11-16; Matthew 6:1-8; Matthew 7:1-6, 15-16).
    • The kind of righteousness which characterized the Kingdom citizen (Matthew 5:20).
  • The Theme: The Sermon on the Mount explains both how a person who has repented and is waiting for the kingdom of heaven should live, and the blessings belonging to kingdom citizens during the coming kingdom.
    • The kind of righteousness which characterizes the kingdom citizen, both now as they presently await the future kingdom and in the future kingdom (Matthew 5.20).
    • Jesus contrasts to the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, and his message amplifies the Old Testament (Matthew 5:20).
    • Jesus the king is on earth and offers the kingdom. The Sermon directly refers to that time period. The Sermon also directly refers to the time when Jesus rules his kingdom on earth after his return.
  • Matthew’s record is likely not the complete message, but instead a summary of the important parts.
  • The historical setting of Matthew 5-7 (Where, When, To Whom, What).
    • A mountain in Galilee (Matthew 4.12, 18, 23; 5.1).
    • Soon after the public ministry began and the disciples gathered (Matthew 4.17-25).
    • Disciples He had called (Matthew 5.1).
    • Multitudes also listened (Matthew 7.28).
    • Teaching (Matthew 5.1).
  • The outline of Matthew 5.
    • Characteristics of Kingdom people (Matthew 5.1-16).
    • Christ’s relationship to the Old Testament; He fulfills the Law (Matthew 5.17-19).
    • Kingdom righteousness contrasted with the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees (Matthew 5.20).
    • Illustrations of Kingdom righteousness contrasted with the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees (Matthew 5.21-48).
      • Personal conflicts (Matthew 5.21-26).
      • Man and woman relationships (Matthew 5.27-32)
      • Vows (Matthew 5.33-37).
      • Retaliation (Matthew 5.38-42).
      • Love your enemies (Matthew 5.43-48).

Different Interpretations of the Sermon on the Mount (See Dr. Thomas Constable’s expository notes on Matthew.)

  • The Eternal Salvation View or Soteriological: How one gains eternal life.
    • This contradicts other scripture such as Genesis 15:6, John 3, and Ephesians: 8-9, and Romans 4.
    • This standard was impossibly high.
  • The Salvation of Society View and not personal eternal salvation:
    • This assumes that people can improve society and bring in a utopia by applying the Sermon on the Mount. Only a strong and righteous leader can do this—God’s Messiah.
    • This replaces Jesus emphasis on personal eternal salvation with an emphasis on society salvation.
  • The Conviction of Sin or Penitential View which shows people that they are sinners and need grace salvation.
    • But most of the listeners were disciples and most were believers (Matthew 5:2).
      • They are called salt of the earth and light of the world (Matthew 5:13-14).
      • They prayed to God their Father (Matthew 6:9, 26).
      • They were serving God (Matthew 6:24-34).
  • The Church View or Ecclesiastical View. The Sermon is ethical instruction for the church—“how transformed Christians ought to live in the world.”
    • But the church is distinct from the kingdom of heaven.
    • In context Jesus is teaching about the kingdom of heaven which he is offering to Israel.
    • Some similarities between the two do not make them the same.
  • The Exclusive Millennial Kingdom or Messianic Kingdom View. This view has much to commend it, but there are inconsistencies.
    • Jesus teaches about conditions that do not seem entirely appropriate to the OT Messianic Kingdom on the scale mentioned.
      • Persecution (Matthew 5:11-12).
      • Wickedness (Matthew 5:13-16).
      • Prayer for the kingdom to come (Matthew 6:10).
      • False prophets (Matthew 7:15).
  • The Inter-Advent or Interim View. Jesus instructs his disciples how to live from that present time until the kingdom begins.
    • John and Jesus had announced the kingdom as at hand (Matthew 3:2; 4:17).
    • Jesus and the disciples anticipate the beginning of the OT kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:12, 19-20, 46; 6:1-2, 4-6, 10, 18; 7:19-23).
    • Jesus is teaching within an historical context of preparation for the beginning of the kingdom of heaven on earth.
      • Predictions of persecution (Matthew 5:11-12; 7:15-18).
      • Jesus’ use the future tense (Matthew 5:4-9, 19-20; 6:4, 6, 14-15, 18, 33; 7:2, 7, 11, 16, 20-22).
      • Jesus’ disciples were the main recipients of the sermon (Matthew 5:1-2, 19; 7:29). He was telling them how to live in light of their repentance and the coming kingdom.
        • They were salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16).
        • God was their Father (Matthew 5:16, 45, 48; 6:1, 4, 6, 8-9, 14-15, 18, 26, 32; 7:11, 21).
        • They were to be righteous (Matthew 5:19—7:12).
        • They were to serve (Matthew 5:13-16; 6:16-21).
        • He taught about rewards for them for present service (Matthew (5:12, 19, 46; 6:1-2; 5, 16).
      • Jesus also taught others, those not his selected disciples (Matthew 7:24-28).
      • The topics of the sermon fit with the call for the disciples to show their repentance (Matthew 3:8, 10).
  • “Looked at as a whole . . . the Beatitudes become a moral sketch of the type of person who is ready to possess, or rule over, God’s Kingdom in company with the Lord Jesus Christ.” Zane C. Hodges, “Possessing the Kingdom,” The KERUGMA Message 2:2 (Winter 1992):5.
  • Therefore, the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), is directed to those who have repented because of Jesus’ message of the kingdom of heaven and are awaiting the beginning of the kingdom of heaven to begin on earth. Jesus tells them how to live as they await the kingdom of heaven on earth.

The Jews’ view of the Law in Jesus’ day

  • The Jews used the law in different ways.
    • The Ten Commandments.
    • The five books of Moses.
    • The Old Testament Law and Prophets.
    • The Oral or Scribal Law.
  • The Oral Law view dominated during Jesus’ time.
    • “They [Jews] held that the Law was divine, and that in it God had said his last word, and that therefore everything must be in it,[.] If a thing was not in the Law explicitly it must be there implicitly. They therefore argued that out of the Law it must be possible to deduce a rule and a regulation for every possible situation in life. So there arose a race of men called the Scribes who made it the business of their lives to reduce the great principles of the Law to literally thousands upon thousands of rules and regulations.” The Gospel of Matthew: Volume. Ed. W. Barclay, lecturer in the University of Glasgow. The Daily study Bible series, Rev. ed. Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 2000, c1975.)
    • The laws for the Sabbath Day illustrate this misuse of the Old Testament Law.
      • They were to do no work. What is work?
        • One kind of work was to carry a burden. What is a burden? They gave many definitions; e.g. “food equal in weight to a dried fig.”
        • Another kind of work was to write. What is writing? One writes if he writes two letters of the alphabet with either hand.
        • Another kind of work is to heal someone. What is healing? One could help in an illness if one’s life was in danger, but he could only prevent worsening of the illness and not “work” to make one better.
      • The Scribes devised the rules and regulations which became the law. The Pharisees kept themselves separate from common life so they might keep these laws.
    • The Mishnah is the summary of the oral law. The oral law had been worked out by the Scribes over many centuries. The Mishnah was the codified oral law. It was written down in the AD 200s.
    • After the Mishnah was written, commentaries were needed to explain the Mishnah. The Talmud’s are these commentaries. There are two Talmud’s: Babylonian Talmud and Jerusalem Talmud.