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Jesus’s message in the Sermon on the Mount, “Happy are the hurting,” is the opposite of Trump’s stump speech. Christ is, of course, eternally right.

Donald Trump is having the time of his life proclaiming the gospel of this world: “Blessed are the rich, strong, and beautiful because they don’t make stupid deals.” If Trump’s sole goal in life was to write the antitheses of the Sermon on the Mount, he could do no better.

Of course, Trump is not alone in his opinion that “rich and beautiful are better.” His polling numbers demonstrate that many are making a deal with Trump according to the details in his “Sermon Through the Media.”

It is worth considering the differences between Christ’s beatitudes and Trump’s beatitudes. Who is it that is blessed? Contrast the gospel of a “would be king” with that of the only true King and see why it is the Trumps of the world who are really hurting. In his book, The Jesus I Never Knew, Philip Yancey interacts with Monika Hellwig who lists the following advantages to being poor.

  1. They poor know they are in urgent need of redemption.
  2. The poor know not only their dependence on God and on powerful people but also their interdependence with one another.
  3. The poor rest their security not on things but on people.
  4. The poor have no exaggerated sense of their own importance, and no exaggerated need of privacy.
  5. The poor expect little form competition and much from cooperation.
  6. The poor can distinguish between necessities and luxuries.
  7. The poor can wait, because they have acquired a kind of dogged patience born of acknowledged dependence.
  8. The fears of the poor are more realistic and less exaggerated, because they already know that one can survive great suffering and want.
  9. Then the poor have the Gospel preached to them, it sounds like good news and not like a threat or a scolding.
  10. The poor can respond to the call of the Gospel with a certain abandonment and uncomplicated totality because they have so little to lose and are ready for anything.

Yancey continues:

In summary, through no choice of their own–they may urgently wish otherwise–poor people find themselves that befits the grace of God. In their state of neediness, dependence, and dissatisfaction with life, they may welcome God’s free gift of love.

See also:
Who Gets Helped By Jesus

On the Lord’s teaching about prayer in the Sermon on the Mount, Stott comments:

We see again that the method of Jesus is to pain a vivid contrast between two alternatives, in order to indicate his way the more plainly. Regarding the practice of piety in general, he has contrasted the pharisaic way (ostentatious and selfish) with the Christian way (secret and godly). Now regarding the practice of prayer in particular, he contrasts the pagan way of meaningless loquacity with the Christian way of meaningful communion with God.

From The Message of the Sermon on the Mount, pages 142-152.

Ditches to Dodge

What Jesus Encouraged

Stott’s Comment – “Thus Christian prayer is seen in contrast to its non-Christian alternatives.”
Hypocrisy “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 6 But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. God- Centered: “My” not “Thy” Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. “It is God-centered (concerned for God’s glory) in contrast to the self-centredness of the Pharisees (preoccupied with their own glory).”Stott summarizes that we do not come to God “hypocritically like play actors seeking the applause of men.”
Babbling [7] “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. [8] Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Intelligent and Thoughtful: To a personal God Give us this day our daily bread,and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. “And it is intelligent (expressive of thoughtful dependence) in contrast to the mechanical incantations of the heathen.”Stott summarizes that we do not come to God “mechanically like pagan babblers, whose mind is not in their mutterings.”

Screenshot 2015-08-13 16.05.25

Christ said his disciples are the "salt" of the world.Our series on the Sermon on the Mount continues this Sunday at the Red Brick Church. Below are summaries of the sermons thus far. The audio for the sermons is available on our church web site.

1/25/15 – In the introduction to this series, we saw that when considering the Sermon on the Mount (SOTM), the greatest sermon ever preached, we should expect to be blown away and blessed by the authority of Christ in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 7:28-29).

And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes. Matthew 7:28-29

Jesus’s authority resided in Himself and it was and is breathtaking.

Matthew framed the SOTM with the Authority of Christ.

  • Matthew’s genealogy documents Jesus as the perfect culmination of the entire Old Testament (Matthew 1-2).
  • Matthew proclaims Christ as the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy (Matthew 1:22, 2:15, 17, 23, 3:15, 4:14).
  • Jesus is presented as a new and better Israel (Hosea 11:1).
  • Jesus is a new and greater Moses (Exodus 19:20). (Notice that the Christian imperative follows the indicative!)

In the scope of the first sermon, we compared Christ’s authority with that of Hinduism and the false god Genesha. We see that Christ’s authority is far different and in him we can have complete confidence. Indeed, seeing the authority of Christ gives us confidence to follow wherever he calls.

2/15/15 – In the second sermon in this series, we saw that the central subject of the SOTM is the Kingdom of Heaven / God. Christ, the King, announced the inauguration of the Kingdom. The Kingdom began, in a sense, with Jesus’s arrival. However, we await the consummation of the Kingdom when Jesus will establish His Kingdom.

The Gospel of Matthew shows us the centrality of the Kingdom of Heaven theme by bracketing this entire section of the Gospel with a Kingdom announcement (Matthew 4:23, 9:35) and with an immediate emphasis on the Kingdom of God in the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3, 10).

While there is an “already” aspect to the Kingdom of Heaven, the Kingdom has not yet been fully consummated. When considering the consummation of the Kingdom, we turned to Revelation 20:4 and saw the promise of the Millennial Kingdom when Christ will reign in this space and history and Satan will be bound.

The theme of the Kingdom of Heaven should give us great hope. Though much in this life is not as it should be, Jesus is coming back. So we pray, “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

We need to meditate on the hope of the Kingdom of God because it is so wonderful. The message of the Bible is that something went terribly wrong. But God will defeat sin and one day we will be with Him on a new earth.

2/22/15 – Sermon on the Mount III: The Sequence of the Beatitudes

In the third sermon, we saw how the Kingdom of God is received. We must come to Christ recognizing that we have nothing to offer which is to say we should be “poor in spirit.”

The SOTM begins with the beatitudes. A “beatitude” is a blessing with an explanation of the blessing and a condition for it. To be “blessed” by God means to enjoy his favor. Some translate this happiness but “happy” is too superficial of a translation. Rather, it means to know the favor of God with the confidence a small child has in the favor of a parent.

The beatitudes begin with the beautiful truth that Christ extends his unmerited favor to who humbly receive it: the poor in spirit. Just as was the case with God delivering Israel out of bondage in Egypt (Exodus 2), Jesus begins with salvation / deliverance and then lays out the conditions of those who follow him.

The blessing of the beatitudes is the Kingdom of Heaven as we have seen. While the Kingdom has been inaugurated, we can look forward to the day when Christ will reign with his people on earth when the Kingdom is fully realized.

The beatitudes are extended to those willing to acknowledge their spiritual poverty. Blessed are the:

  • “Poor in spirit” – Meaning those who recognize they have no assets to bring about a solution to the world’s problems – –
  • “Those who mourn” – Those who see that the problems of the world are rebellion against God and consequently are grieved
  • “The meek” – Those who see that the offense is not against them personally, but rather that it is against God and that we are complicit in the offense.
  • “Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness” – Those who long for God to set things right. The people who hunger and thirst for righteousness are missions minded people who long to see the glory of God shine around the world.

There is a sequence of sorts to the beatitudes. One leads to the next. Those who are poor in spirit will mourn. Those who mourn will be meek and hunger and thirst for righteousness.

Lest we feel overwhelmed at how far short we fall of the beatitudes, at the conclusion of the sermon, it was stressed that those who think they have nothing to offer should run to the Cross where they will meet a gracious Savior.

3/1/15 – Sermon on the Mount IV: The Cycle of the Beatitudes

The SOTM should be approached with anticipation (astonishing authority), hope (the Kingdom is at hand!), joy (Jesus blesses those who are poor in spirit), but also soberness because we see later in the sermon that there are some who think they part of the Kingdom who are not.

[21] “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. [22] On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ [23] And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ Matthew 7:21-23

Consequently, we should compare ourselves to the Beatitudes and see if they are characteristic of our lives – – or if their opposites are more characteristic.

Are we poor in spirit? Or self-sufficient?

Do we mourn? Or are we entertained by sin?

Are we meek? Or defensive?

Do we hunger for righteousness? Or are we apathetic about missions?

Are we merciful? Or impatient?

Pure in heart? Or thinking the wrong things?

Persecuted? Or afraid?

If, in reviewing this list, we find that we fall short – – then we are brought back to the first beatitude – – the gospel goes out to those who are “poor in spirit.” Let us recognize our need for Christ and Him alone.

So, we see in this sermon that there is also a cycle to the beatitudes. We begin on our knees in need of grace. But as God extends us grace, we are merciful peacemakers. Yet, we can anticipate that we will be knocked flat by persecution and find ourselves again reminded that we are poor in spirit.

See also:

The Sermon on the Mount Notes on Authority

The Gospel of Matthew’s Use of Inclusio or Bracketing

Kingdom of Heaven Notes

7 Reasons I am Excited About Preaching on the Sermon on the Mount

 

The Cycle of the BeatitudesWhen studying the beatitudes, it is helpful not only to notice a sequence to the beatitudes, but also a cycle. Give my artistic limitations, I need someone to illustrate the point. Submit to me an illustration by Saturday and I may incorporate it in Sunday’s sermon. Salvation is by grace, but if you help the sermon out with an illustration, there is surely some sort of blessing that awaits. Maybe I’ll give you a mint.

Nearly everyone notices the sequence of the beatitudes (Lloyd-Jones, Keller, Bruner for example). But Bruner, in Matthew: A Commentary. Volume 1: The Christbook, Matthew 1-12, page 156) helpfully sees not only a sequence but also a cycle. A Christian begins empty (poor in spirit, mourning, meek, hungry for righteousness). He or she is then graciously blessed by God and extends mercy, is pure in heart, and makes peace. Suffering, however, is inevitable for the Christian and soon enough the believer is knocked flat. Amazingly, persecution brings us back to the place of being on our knees and empty: crying out to God.

Bruner calls this cycle “the aerobics of discipleship.” He says that when he teaches the beatitudes:

I first draw a little stick figure on its knees and with its hands reaching up to heaven to represent the blessed poor; then a little stick figure standing up with its hands reaching out to the world to represent the blessed helpers; and finally a little stick figure flat on its back, with its hands reaching back up to heaven again to represent the blessed persecuted.

 He continues:

Altogether, I see in the sequence of Blessings the grace of the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who picks up all who are down and sends them out in the world to pick others up, knowing this lead these very helpers, mysteriously, to be thrown back down in persecution and, so into need; from whence they will rise again from their knees to their feet, where they will again be knocked down and so on the rest of their lives – – the aerobics of discipleship.

I am sure that many of you will agree about two points:

(1) Bruner’s insight into the Beatitudes as they relate to the Christian life is excellent. We should not be surprised at suffering as though something strange is happening.

(2) My illustration of Bruner’s point is terrible. Surely you can do better. Let me know in the comments if you have an image. Or email me a picture and help all involved!

Christ said his disciples are the "salt" of the world.Given that Matthew summarizes the response to the Sermon on the Mount by saying that the crowds were astonished at Jesus’s teaching (Matthew 7:28-29)- – and remembering that the Gospel concludes with Jesus saying, “All authority has been given to me (Matthew 28:18) – – any study on the Sermon on the Mount needs to consider the authority of Christ.

As I noted earlier in this series of posts, currently I am preaching through the Sermon on the Mount. Our time on Sunday mornings is limited so I am also making my study notes available. Bear in mind that these are simply my notes and are not particularly well organized and certainly not edited. Some of the material is technical. Previously I posted my notes on the Kingdom of Heaven and Matthew’s use of inclusio / bracketing.

Authority (ἐξουσία /exousia) – “The right to control or govern over” (Louw and Nida).[1]

Matthew concludes the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 7:28-29) by observing that the crowds were astonished at Jesus’s authority. This summary statement demonstrates that a great deal of attention should be given to what is meant by Christ’s authority. Ultimately we will see Jesus’s incredible yet true claim that his authority rested in Himself and was not derived like that of the Scribes.

But first, we should consider the reaction to Christ’s authority. Matthew’s gospel says that the on looking crowds were “astonished.” The word translated “astonished” means to be so amazed as to be practically overwhelmed.[2] My paraphrase is that those who heard the Sermon on the Mount were “blown away.” It helps gauge the level of the crowds astonishment at Jesus’s authority to observe how the word translated “astonished” in Matthew 7:28 is used by Luke in Acts 13:12. In Acts 13 when a man is struck blind after opposing the early church. Luke gives the following account.

 [4] So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia, and from there they sailed to Cyprus. [5] When they arrived at Salamis, they proclaimed the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews. And they had John to assist them. [6] When they had gone through the whole island as far as Paphos, they came upon a certain magician, a Jewish false prophet named Bar-Jesus. [7] He was with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, a man of intelligence, who summoned Barnabas and Saul and sought to hear the word of God. [8] But Elymas the magician (for that is the meaning of his name) opposed them, seeking to turn the proconsul away from the faith. [9] But Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him [10] and said, “You son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, full of all deceit and villainy, will you not stop making crooked the straight paths of the Lord? [11] And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon you, and you will be blind and unable to see the sun for a time.” Immediately mist and darkness fell upon him, and he went about seeking people to lead him by the hand. [12] Then the proconsul believed, when he saw what had occurred, for he was astonished at the teaching of the Lord. (Acts 13:4-12 ESV)

 Luke uses the same word to describe the astonishment of the on looking Sergius Paulus, “a man of intelligence,” who had summoned Barnabas and Saul to hear the Word of God.

In reading the Gospel of Matthew, we begin to be astonished with Jesus’s authority even in the way that Matthew presents Christ leading up to the Sermon on the Mount. Matthew’s gospel:

  • Begins by tracing Jesus’s genealogy demonstrating that he is the culmination of the whole flow of the Old Testament.[3]
  • Continues by showing how Jesus is the fulfillment of prophecy[4]
  • Brings Moses to mind by showing how both Moses and Jesus were threatened as infants (Exodus 2:1-10, Matthew 2:16-18).[5]
  • Emphasizes that Jesus comes out of Egypt like Israel
  • Leads up to the Sermon on the Mount with Jesus’s victory in the wilderness.

As the Sermon on the Mount begins, Jesus goes up on the mountain. Matthew’s Jewish readers would have seen a parallel between Jesus going up on the mountain and Moses who went up on the mountain to receive the 10 commandments.[6] As noted above, Jesus has already been paralleled with Moses in that both their lives were threatened as infants (Exodus 2:1-10, Matthew 2:16-18).

Further, the idea of Jesus sitting down with people coming to hear him teach also stressed his authority. Jesus opens his mouth – there is a split second of suspenseful silence – and Jesus begins to speak.[7]

In the content of his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus’s authority expressed itself in several ways.

  1. Christ spoke as the authority rather than appealing to policies. Notice his repeated use of the saying, “Truly I say to you” (ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν/ amen legō humin) (5:18, 6:2, 5, 16, 25, 29) and “But I say to you” (ἐγὼ δὲ λέγω ὑμῖν) (5:22, 28, 32, 34, 39, 42) – Jesus’s use of these two phrases demonstrates how he took a posture of unique and divine authority. The latter phrase, “but I say to you,” appears six times as noted and is used in each case to clarify the meaning of the law and to show how the scribes and Pharisees had missed the heart of the matter. Recognizing Christ’s bold assertion of his authority allows us to dispense with any nonsense that Jesus was merely a great moral teacher.[8]
  2. Jesus insisted on a radical internalization of biblical principles. Whereas the scribes focused on behaviors, Jesus focused on the heart: (Matthew 12:33-37/Tree and Its Fruit, Overflow of Heart, 19:16-22/Rich Young Ruler).
  3. Jesus applied truth in fresh ways that made sense in contrast with the arbitrary standards of the scribes. One example would be the matter of healing on the Sabbath and the Pharisees failure to give priority to the weightier matter of mercy (Matt 12:1-14). It’s like NFL rules where they are so caught up in defining a “catch” that it no longer describes a catch. Jesus said “I am the rule” – – not the NFL and I tell you the heart of the matter.

The emphasis on Jesus’s authority continues to the end of the Gospel.[9] In Matthew 8 Jesus authority is referenced in both his exchange with the centurion and his rebuke of the storm. Even the wind and the waves obeyed him (Matt 8:27)!

In Matthew 9:8, the crowds are amazed that such authority was given to men.

By Matthew 10:1, Christ begins to share authority with the disciples.

Matthew argues for the authority of Christ by emphasizing the phrase “something greater.”[10]

In Matthew 12:3-4, Matthew implicitly says that Christ is greater than David.

In Matthew 12:5-6, Matthew says that Christ is greater than the Temple.

In Matthew 12:42, Matthew says that something greater than Jonah is here.

In Matthew 12:43, Matthew says that something greater than Solomon is here.

Matthew 21:23 demonstrates that the issue of authority continues to be central in the Gospel of Matthew:

And when he entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came up to him as he was teaching, and said, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?’”

Finally, Matthew concludes his gospel with Jesus’s assuring his disciples that all authority has been given to him and that he charges them to go into all the world and make disciples (Matthew 28:18-20).

See William Barclay’s chapter on the Authority of Jesus. I have not yet interacted with it extensively.[11]

One of the challenges are day is that Christians too easily accept the authoritative presuppositions of the academy without evaluating them. We need to be unapologetic in saying that we accept Christ’s authoritative Word. For more on this subject, see Alvin Plantinga’s essay, Advice to Christian Philosophers.[12] That essay concludes:

 Christian philosophers must be wary about assimilating or accepting presently popular philosophical ideas and procedures; for many of these have roots that are deeply anti-Christian. And finally the Christian philosophical community has a right to its own perspectives; it is under no obligation first to show that this perspective is plausible with respect to what is taken for granted by all philosopher, or most philosophers, or the leading philosophers of our day. . . In sum, we who are Christians and propose to be philosophers must not rest content with being philosophers who happen, incidentally, to be Christians; we must strive to be Christian philosophers. We must therefore pursue our projects with integrity, independence, and Christian boldness.[13]

************

[1] A common word, “ἐξουσία/authority” is found 102 times in the Greek New Testament.

[2] The word for astonished is “ἐκπλήσσομαι/ekplēssōmai”: “to be so amazed as to be practically overwhelmed” (Louw and Nida). It is found thirteen times in the Greek New Testament (Matt 7:28, 13:54, 19:25, 22:33; Mark 1:22, 6:2, 7:37, 10:26, 11:18, Luke 2:48, 4:32, 9:43; Acts 13:12).

[3] R.T. France, Matthew: Evangelist and Teacher (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1989), 168.

[4] See “Fulfill” on page 5.

[5] France, Matthew: Evangelist and Teacher, 187.

[6] Ibid., 18; W. D. Davies and Dale C. Allison, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Gospel according to Saint Matthew: In Three Volumes, International Critical Commentary on the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1988), 23–93.

[7] Regarding the beginning of the sermon, Bonhoeffer made an incredible observation in a footnote – that the warrant for his exposition is the phrase, “he opened his mouth.” Bonhoeffer wrote, “Even in the early Church this point was emphasized. Before Jesus speaks there is a pause – – all is silent for a moment or two.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship, ed. Irmgard Booth (New York: Macmillan, 1963), 118, fn 1 .

[8] John R.W. Stott, The Message on the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7): Christian Counter Culture, ed. John R.W. Stott, The Bible Speaks Today (Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 1978), 212–215.

[9] Occurrences of ἐξουσία/exousia in Matthew are found in 7:28, 8:9, 9:6, 9:8, 10:1, 21:23, 21:24, 21:27, 28:18.

[10] France, Matthew: Evangelist and Teacher, 189.

[11] William Barclay, By What Authority? (Valley Forge: Judson Press, 1974), 78–110.

[12] Alvin Plantinga, “Advice to Christian Philosophers (With a Special Preface for Christian Thinkers From Different Disciplines),” n.d., https://www.calvin.edu/academic/philosophy/virtual_library/articles/plantinga_alvin/advice_to_christian_philosophers.pdf.

[13] Ibid.

Our series on the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:1-7:29) continues this Sunday. This will be the first Sunday on the Beatitudes. Regarding Matthew 5:4, “Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted,” Luther explains:

So also a man is said to mourn and not be sorrowful — not if his head is always drooping and his face is always sour and never smiling; but if he does not depend on having a good time and living it up, the way the world does, which yearns for nothing but having sheer joy and fun here, revels in it, and neither thinks nor cares about the state of God or men . . . Therefore, simply begin to be a Christian, and you will soon find out what it means to mourn and be sorrowful . . . Outwardly, too, refresh yourself and be as cheerful as possible. Those who mourn this way are entitled to have fun and take it wherever they can so they do not completely collapse for sorrow (Luther, SM, 19-21, Quoted by Bruner, The Christbook, 164).

Christ said his disciples are the "salt" of the world.Currently I am preaching through the Sermon on the Mount. Given that our time on Sunday mornings is limited, I am making my study notes available. Bear in mind that these are simply my notes and are not particularly well organized and certainly not edited. Some of the material is technical. Previously I posted my notes on the Kingdom of Heaven. Today, I am posting my notes on a literary feature called “inclusio.”

Inclusio – This literary term references the bracketing of a passage in the Bible by similar phrases. Identifying literary features such as inclusios helps us both better appreciate the literary beauty of God’s inspired Word and identify important themes.

Two important examples of inclusios in the Gospel of Matthew show us that the Sermon on the Mount focuses on the importance of the Kingdom of Heaven. Notice the inclusio with the beatitudes in Matthew 5:3-10. The first and last beatitudes promise the kingdom of heaven:

[3] “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

[4] “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

[5] “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

[6] “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

[7] “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

[8] “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

[9] “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

[10] “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Regarding this bracketing of the beatitudes with a promise of the Kingdom of Heaven, Carson comments:

We need to notice that two of the beatitudes promise the same reward. The first beatitude reads, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (5:3). The last one says, “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (5:10). To begin and end with the same expression is a stylistic device called an “inclusion.” This means that everything bracketed between the two can really be included under the one theme, in this case, the kingdom of heaven. That is why I have called the beatitudes, collectively, “The Norms of the Kingdom.”[1]

Or, compare Matthew 4:23-25 and Matthew 9:35-38 which brackets the section of Matthew 5-7:

[23] And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people. [24] So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, those oppressed by demons, epileptics, and paralytics, and he healed them. [25] And great crowds followed him from Galilee and the Decapolis, and from Jerusalem and Judea, and from beyond the Jordan. (Matthew 4:23-25)

[35] And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. [36] When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. [37] Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; [38] therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” (Matthew 9:35-38)

On Matthew’s use of inclusio or bracketing with Matthew 4:23 and Matthew 9:35, Piper writes:

 When we look to see what is sandwiched between these two summary descriptions of Jesus’ ministry, what we see are two major sections: chapters 5–7 are a collection of Jesus’ teaching called the Sermon on the Mount; and chapters 8 and 9 are a collection of stories mainly about his healing ministry. So what it appears we have is a five chapter unit designed by Matthew to present us first with some typical teaching of the Lord concerning the way of the kingdom, and second with some typical healings and miracles to demonstrate the power of the kingdom.

 The value of seeing this is that it warns us against treating any little piece of this section in isolation. Matthew is the writer here and he is putting his material together in a particular way. He is the inspired apostle, and we should care about how he chose to put things together. That is the way he gets across his meaning.[2]

[1] Carson, The Sermon the Mount: An Evangelical Exposition of Matthew 5-7, 16.

[2] John Piper, “The Beatitudes and the Gospel of the Kingdom,” Desiring God, January 26, 1986, http://www.desiringgod.org/sermons/the-beatitudes-and-the-gospel-of-the-kingdom .

Kingdom of Heaven Notes

Chris —  February 15, 2015

Christ said his disciples are the "salt" of the world.My audience for my blog is our church family at the Red Brick Church. Currently I am preaching through the Sermon on the Mount which means that we are focusing on the Kingdom of Heaven. Given that our time on Sunday mornings is limited, I am making my study notes available. Bear in mind that these are simply my notes and are not particularly well organized and certainly not edited.

Kingdom of Heaven / Kingdom of God – The “Kingdom of God” references the sovereign rule of Christ the King with his people and a redeemed/new earth. Jesus inaugurated the Kingdom of God during his first advent and it will one day be fully manifest when Jesus returns for the consummation of his kingdom.

Contra first century messianic expectations, in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus established that his Kingdom would be first about internal transformation and morality rather than about politics and power.[1]

The Sermon on the Mount, particularly the beatitudes, describes what is necessary for Kingdom qualification. Elsewhere, we see those qualities that either disqualify one from the Kingdom (see Pharisees) or make it very difficult to enter the Kingdom (Matthew 19:16-26).

The Kingdom of Heaven / Kingdom of God should be distinguished from the universal sovereignty of God. All people are under the sovereign rule of God. But not everyone will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who recognize their spiritual poverty and are born again enter into eternal life have citizenship in the Kingdom of Heaven (John 3:3, 5).[2] Jesus begins the Beatitudes with the promise that those who see their spiritual poverty and come to Him will be received as Kingdom citizens (Matthew 5:3).

Jesus stressed that he inaugurated the Kingdom of God during his earthly ministry (Matthew 16:28).

[20] Being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, he answered them, “The kingdom of God is not coming in ways that can be observed, [21] nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.” Luke 17:20-21

Or consider Matthew 12:28:

[28] But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. Matthew 12:28

So the Kingdom of God has been inaugurated. Never the less, Revelation 20 references the Millennial (or alternatively Messianic) Kingdom and shows us that the Kingdom of God will not be fully established until Christ returns:

[1] Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain. [2] And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, [3] and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were ended. After that he must be released for a little while.

[4] Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. [5] The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended. This is the first resurrection. [6] Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years.

[7] And when the thousand years are ended, Satan will be released from his prison [8] and will come out to deceive the nations that are at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them for battle; their number is like the sand of the sea. [9] And they marched up over the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, but fire came down from heaven and consumed them, [10] and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.

[11] Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. [12] And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. [13] And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. [14] Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. [15] And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:1-15)

In order to reflect that the Kingdom has been inaugurated even though it has not yet been fully established, and following the lead of Gerhardus Vos, George Ladd, and others[3] theologians often reference the timing of the Kingdom of God using the phrase “already (Matthew 12:28, Luke 17:20-21)/not yet (Isaiah 65:17, 66:2; 2 Peter 3:13; Rev 21:1).”[4]

In the New Testament, the idea that the Kingdom has begun, but is not yet fully established, is referenced as the “mystery of the kingdom” (μυστήρια τῆς βασιλείας τῶν οὐρανῶν) John Piper summarizes:[5]

So the kingdom has come according to Matthew 12:28 and Luke 17:21; and the coming of the kingdom is still future according to Luke 19:11–12 and many other texts. This is puzzling. It threw the Pharisees into confusion. It took John the Baptist off guard (Matthew 11:2–6). It caused one crowd to want to throw Jesus off a cliff (Luke 4:29) and another want to make him king (John 6:15). It baffled Pilate when Jesus was on trial (John 18:36–37). It left the apostles confused and hopeless between Good Friday and Easter (Luke 24:21).

Behind this confusion was what Jesus called the “mystery [or secret] of the kingdom.” Let’s turn to Matthew 13 and see how the parables of the kingdom unfold the mystery of the kingdom for us. What is mysterious about the kingdom is that it has come partly but not fully. There are hints about this in the Old Testament (e.g., Isaiah 53—the suffering servant). But by and large the Old Testament does not clearly separate the two comings of Christ. It sees one great day of the Lord coming when God would deal finally with sin and defeat his enemies and gather his people into a kingdom of peace and righteousness and joy and make the earth and the heavens new and glorious with the Messiah ruling forever and ever. But it didn’t make clear that this day of the Lord—the coming of the kingdom—would happen in two stages: first, with Jesus coming as a suffering servant to atone for sin, and second, with Jesus coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.

This is the mystery (the secret) of the kingdom—the arrival of the kingdom in a preliminary, small way in advance of the final consummation when all the enemies would be defeated and all sin and satanic power and sickness and suffering would be gone forever. The mystery, as George Ladd puts it, is “fulfillment without consummation.” Fulfillment of the kingdom is here; but consummation of the kingdom is not. Many kingdom blessings can be experienced today; many are reserved for the consummation and the coming of Jesus.

Schreiner writes:

The surprising element in Jesus’ teaching on the kingdom is its ambiguous character. The kingdom can be explained in terms of the already-not yet. The kingdom was inaugurated in Jesus’ ministry but not yet consummated. It had arrived, but the full salvation and judgment promised had not yet come to pass.[6]

The inauguration of the Kingdom of God by Jesus should be see within the framework of biblical theology or God’s unfolding plan for redemption. The below table is adapted from Graeme Goldsworthy’s summary of how the Kingdom of God unfolds:[7]

The Kingdom-PatternEstablished —–EDEN 

THE FALL

Protevangelium Redemption Announced Seed of the Woman
Judgment / Grace Previewed Redemptive Act:Noah
The Kingdom Promised  AbrahamRedemptive Act:Exodus
The Kingdom —————Foreshadowed  David-SolomonRedemptive Act:Prophetic Promise of Salvation
The Kingdom at Hand—–  Jesus ChristRedemptive Act:His life, death, and resurrection
The Kingdom Consummated————-  Return of Christ

There are three major views regarding the timing and nature of the consummation of the Kingdom of God. The premillennial view holds that Christ will return prior to establishing his 1,000- year reign on earth. The amillennial holds that there is no future millennium but rather than the Millennium is taking place now in heaven. When Christ returns, the eternal state follows. The post-millenial view is that the Millennium is now and that history will progressively improve. Post-millennialism was popular during the 17th-18th centuries but is relatively uncommon now.

The below descriptions are from the Desiring God web site.[8]

Premillennialism (represented by Jim Hamilton): The return of Christ happens before (pre-) the thousand-year reign of Christ, which is a reign of the risen Christ on the earth.

Amillennialism (represented by Sam Storms): The return of Christ happens after the thousand-year reign, a reign that occurs in heaven, in the intermediate state, and not upon the earth. Those who have died in faith and entered into the presence of Christ share his rule and reign during the current church age in which we now live.[9]

Postmillennialism (represented by Doug Wilson): The return of Christ happens after (post-) the thousand-year reign, which corresponds to the Christian age, and the reign of Christ from heaven leads the church to triumph by and through the gospel to such an extent that the Great Commission will be successfully fulfilled, and the Christian faith will pervade all the cultures of all the nations of men. All Christ’s enemies will be subdued in this way, with the exception of death, which he will destroy by his coming.

Without thoroughly evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of each view, the pre-millennial position is the one held by our church. High level, here are the basic reasons we hold to the pre-millennial position:

  • Revelation 20:4 is a very difficult verse for the amillennial position to interpret.
  • A number of Old Testament passages describe a time that does not seem to correspond with either the present age or the eternal state (Isaiah 65:20, Isaiah 11:6-9, Isaiah 11:10-11, Psalm 72:8-14).[10]
  • Other passages besides Revelation 20:4 in the New Testament predict a distinct millennial age: Revelation 2:26-27, 12:5-6.[11]

Each of the major views of the millennium is prone to certain errors. Given the belief that history will trend in a negative direction until Christ returns, at times a weakness of the pre-millennial view has been an overly negative view of the short-term trajectory of history. Premillennialists have also erred at times in trying to interpret the relationship of current events to Scripture.[12]

It is important to see the theological purpose for the Millennium. The Millennial or Messianic Kingdom is when Christ will have victory in this space and history. While Jesus came humbly and gently in his first advent, when he returns he will come in all his glory and power and everyone will know that He is God.[13] It will be the time when Christ fully establishes his Kingdom and accomplishes what is necessary so that the Kingdom can be handed over to the Father. If justice is to be served, this must happen in this space and history.[14] Turner summarizes:

This Millennium is an intermediate transitional stage of God’s kingdom that further extends his rule over the entire earth, not just the colonies of the redeemed. However, because of the continuing presence of sinners, there are still difficulties and problems that finally erupt in the rebellion of Revelation 20:7-9. The ultimate extension of Christ’s rule involves the exclusion of all sinners from the renewed heavens and earth (Rev. 20:10-12; 21:8, 27; 22:15, 19).[15]

Some (especially Premillennialists?) have held that the Sermon on the Mount does not have immediate application for the age of the church. MacArthur counters:

Because of its seemingly impossible demands, many evangelicals maintain that the Sermon on the Mount pertains only to the kingdom age, the Millennium. Otherwise, they argue, how could Jesus command us to be perfect, just as our “heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt. 5:48)? For several reasons, however, that interpretation cannot be correct. First of all, the text does not indicate or imply that these teachings are for another age. Second, Jesus demanded them of people who were not living in the Millennium. Third, many of the teachings themselves become meaningless if they are applied to the Millennium. For example, there will be no persecution of believers (see 5:10–12, 44) during the kingdom age. Fourth, every principle taught in the Sermon on the Mount is also taught elsewhere in the New Testament in contexts that clearly apply to believers of our present age. Fifth, there are many New Testament passages that command equally impossible standards, which unglorified human strength cannot continually achieve (see Rom. 13:14; 2 Cor. 7:1; Phil. 1:9–10; Col. 3:1–2; Heb. 12:14; 1 Pet. 1:15–16).[16]

Keller’s explains that the inauguration of the Kingdom of God should be understood as the establishment of a new regime.

Now the kingdom of God can best be understood if we think about what happens when anybody comes into power. When a new president or a new king or a new governor or a new mayor or a new CEO … when anyone comes into power … that person’s new power is expressed through a new administration. The new administration is a new set of priorities and a new set of policies and a new set of strategies, and if the policies and priorities and strategies are wise, if they meet the needs, what happens is there is (I guess the catchphrase today is) “improved quality of life,” and that’s good!

Jesus Christ, though, is the supernatural and ultimate King; and when he comes into power, his power is expressed through a new administration called the kingdom. A new set of priorities, a new set of powers, and a new set of strategies. The effects are far greater than anything we might call “improved quality of life.” The effects are more comprehensive and radical than we can imagine.

 When Jesus Christ comes into power over our hearts or over our lives or over our families or over our groups, communities, or institutions, there’s total transformation in every dimension of the life of that entity. Therefore, the Sermon on the Mount is here to show us just how far-reaching that transformation is, and the Beatitudes can only be understood in that context. The Beatitudes we just began to read are very famous. “Blessed are the poor in spirit … Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth,” and so on.[17]

Stein points to the central importance of the Kingdom of God in the New Testament:

The heart of Jesus’ teachings centers around the theme of the kingdom of God. This expression is found in sixty-one separate sayings in the Synoptic Gospels. Counting parallels to these passages, the expression occurs over eighty-five times. It also occurs twice in John (3:3, 5). It is found in such key places as the preaching of John the Baptist, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near” (Matt. 3:2); Jesus’ earliest announcement, “The time has come . . . The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:15; cf. Matt. 4:17; Luke 4:42–43); the prayer Jesus taught his disciples, “your kingdom come” (Matt. 6:10); in the Beatitudes, “for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:3, 10); at the Last Supper, “I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it anew in the kingdom of God” (Mark 14:25); and in many of Jesus’ parables (Matt. 13:24, 44, 45, 47; Mark 4:26, 30; Luke 19:11).[18]

Historically, some theologians argued that there is a distinction between the “Kingdom of God” and the “Kingdom of Heaven.” But nearly all theologians now agree that the terms are used synonymously. Matthew favored using “kingdom of heaven” because the Jewish component of his audience was uncomfortable saying “God” directly and preferred a “circumlocution,” that is saying the same thing a different way.[19]

The phrase kingdom of God holds out a promise for the future. Davies and Allison write:

In so for as the beatitudes bring consolation and comfort to Jesus’ heavy-laden followers, they function as a practical theodicy. Although 5:3-12 does not explain evil or human suffering, the verses do by putting into perspective the difficulties of the present lessen pain and anguish and effect encouragement . . . This happens through an exercise of the imagination . . . Eschatological promises for the poor, the meek, and the persecuted reveal that all is not what it seems to be. That is, the truth, like the kingdom is hidden (cf. 11:25; 13:33,34). Only the future—with its rewards and punishments—will bring to light the true condition of the world and those in it (cf. 23:31-46). Those who use the eye of the mind in order to foresee and live for the future promised by the beatitudes will, with their faith, possess a secret vision and hope that makes powerlessness and suffering bearable.[20]

“What Jesus projects is a countermetanarrative, an alternative to Rome’s, a narrative not of coercive power but of witness. Already by Acts 17:7, his disciples are being accused of turning the whole world . . . upside down . . . So to witness the kingdom of God as far as the edges of the earth, as Jesus commissioned his disciples to do, was to expose Rome’s aspiration to limitless domination, as blasphemous.” Richard Bauckham.[21]

*********

[1] “The thrust of the Sermon on the Mount is that the message and work of the King are first and most importantly internal and not external, and spiritual and moral rather than physical and political. Here we find no politics or social reform. His concern is for what men are, because what they are determines what they do.” John MacArthur, Matthew (Chicago: Moody, 1985), 133. For a summary on the centrality of the Kingdom of God in the Synoptic Gospels, see Thomas R. Schreiner, New Testament Theology: Magnifying God in Christ (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2008), 41–79.

[2] Carson, The Sermon the Mount: An Evangelical Exposition of Matthew 5-7, 11–13.

[3] George Eldon Ladd, A Theology of the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1974).

[4] John Piper, “Is the Kingdom Present or Future?,” Desiring God, February 4, 1990, http://www.desiringgod.org/sermons/is-the-kingdom-present-or-future ; Carson, The Sermon the Mount: An Evangelical Exposition of Matthew 5-7, 14–15.

[5] Piper, “Is the Kingdom Present or Future?” For more on the “mustard seed” beginnings of the Kingdom including an exposition of Mark 4:35, see my sermon on that passage, “Storms.”

[6] Schreiner, New Testament Theology: Magnifying God in Christ, 79.

[7] Goldsworthy, Gospel and Kingdom, 56.

[8] “An Evening of Eschatology Moderated by John Piper with James Hamilton, Sam Storms and Doug Wilson,” Desiring God, September 27, 2009, http://www.desiringgod.org/conference-messages/an-evening-of-eschatology . See also Andy Naselli, “Should Churches Require All Members to Affirm Pretrib and Premil Views?,” Andy Naselli: Thoughts on Theology, April 30, 2013, http://andynaselli.com/should-churches-require-all-members-to-affirm-pretrib-and-premil-views.

[9] Wood summarizes that some amillennialists believe that the Kingdom of Heaven is taking place now in heaven while others hold that it is the age of the church here on earth. Leon J. Wood, The Bible and Future Events (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1973), 27–29.

[10] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 1127–1131.

[11] Ibid.

[12] See Hal Lindsey, The Late Great Planet Earth, or Eight-Eight Reasons Christ Will Return in 1988, Oil, Armageddon and the Middle East Crisis, The Beginning of the End etc.

[13] Chris Brauns, “A Position on the Doctrine of Eschatology,” 1992, Unpublished, 34.

[14] Ibid., 36.

[15] David L. Turner, “The New Jerusalem in Revelation 22:1-22:5,” in Dispensationalism, Israel, and the Church: The Search for Definition, ed. Craig A. Blaising and Darrell L. Bock (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1992), 291.

[16] MacArthur, Matthew, 138. See also Harry A. Sturz, “The Sermon on the Mount and Its Application to the Present Age,” Grace Theological Journal 4, no. 3 (Fall 63).

[17] Keller, “Coming to Christ: Sermons on the Sermon on the Mount.”

[18] Robert H. Stein, “The Kingdom of God,” in The Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, ed. Walter A. Elwell (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1984).

[19] Turner, Matthew.

[20] Davies and Allison, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Gospel according to Saint Matthew: In Three Volumes, 467.

[21] Bauckham, The Bible and Mission: Christian Witness in a Postmodern World, 107.

MatthewstudyOn January 25, I will begin a preaching series, Astonished: A New Series on the Sermon on the Mount. Here are 7 reasons I am really excited for it to begin. Some of my enthusiasm is evident in my study notes and you can see a draft of them here.

1.  Jesus promised that in hearing his words and in following him we find rest for our souls (Matthew 11:28-30). So many people in our community are weighed down and worn out. I can’t wait to share how Christ offers rest.

2. The Sermon on the Mount includes some of the most famous truths ever proclaimed:

·      The Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13)

·      The Golden Rule (Matthew 7:12)

·      Judge Not Lest Ye Be Judged (Matthew 7:1)

·      The Beatitudes (Matthew 5:2-12)

·      A Major Section on Worry (Matthew 6:25-34)

There is a reason these paragraphs are famous! Let’s meditate on them together.

3.     The Sermon on the Mount changed the world.  This is no exaggeration. We will see how so much of the Sermon on the Mount has shaped our understanding of ethics and morality.

4.     The Sermon on the Mount is a manageable length. In my Bible, Matthew 5-7 is less than four pages long. These pages can be read over and over again. There is no reason everyone in our church can’t really get to know the greatest sermon every preached.

5.     Our church has made it possible for me to prepare. I’ve spent a lot of time prayerfully studying. I have some of the best resources in the history of the world.  The picture to the right is just a portion of my library. It’s a great day to meditate on and proclaim the Sermon on the Mount.  You can see a draft of some of my notes here. Keep in mind it’s a draft of my own study notes so there are lots of errors and things that need to be reworded.

6.     The Sermon on the Mount tells how we can be part of the Kingdom of God. Our joy is only as big as what we’re a part of. The Sermon on the Mount tells how we can be part of the biggest thing in the history of the universe.

7.     Most important, the Sermon on the Mount is the featured sermon of the Lord Jesus Christ. Could any sermon be more exciting to study and preach?

Christ said his disciples are the "salt" of the world.Update: You can see how my study progressed here with a draft of sermon on the mount terms and definitions.

What did I miss?

January 25, I plan to begin a new preaching series on the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). Understanding key concepts is indispensable in seeing the rich beauty of the heart of Jesus’s message. So, one of the ways I prepare for series like this one is to make a glossary of terms that I make available to our people one way or another.

If you want to help, read through Matthew 5-7 and see if you can identify any terms or concepts that need to be defined not found on my list. Here is my list thus far.

What else would help you understand the Sermon on the Mount?

Working Glossary for the Sermon on the Mount

Beatitude –

Kingdom of Heaven / Kingdom of God –

Disciples / Disciple –

Fasting –

Gentiles –

Jews –

The Law –

Light –

Macarism –

Matthew’s Gospel –

Mountain / Mount –

Oath –

Pharisees –

Synagogue –

Salt –