Several years ago Joseph Lupo, a Roman Catholic priest, did a market study which resulted in his placing a full-page ad for priests in the East Coast edition of Playboy Magazine. More than 600 young men responded, and at least 28 of these tested out as likely candidates for the priesthood. In previous years, the best he could hope for was as many as 10. The public response to his approach was also enlightening. Compliments outran complaints 7 to 1. But he was not troubled by the critics anyway. The main thing is, he got results.
Lest we be too quick to criticize, let me suggest that we who would be called "Evangelical Protestants" are guilty of the same kind of approach to Christian ministry. We package and promote Christianity no differently than Madison Avenue sells toothpaste or deodorant. We run our churches in such a way that if God had died 20 years ago, no one would have yet discovered it.
The evil of which I am speaking is called "secularism". Christians are guilty of secularism when they think and act like the world about them. We fall into the evil of secularism when we attempt to go about doing the work of God in the world's way. We have succumbed to secularism when we adopt the same attitudes, values, and goals as those who do not know Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. It is to this matter of secularism that our Lord directs His attention in the "Sermon on the Mount". This is a call to Christians to live differently, and thus to be salt and light.
Last week as we started to discuss the "Sermon on the Mount", we mentioned several things that bear repeating. We asked the question, "To whom was the 'Sermon on the Mount' intended?" My answer to this question was, "All believers". To be born again is to be a kingdom citizen:
Colossians 1:13 (NKJV) He has delivered us (saints - Colossians 1:2) from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love,
All believers, and only believers, are kingdom citizens.
The Sermon on the Mount has inspired a mountain of books, but most of them miss its intention and misinterpret it, because they don't understand WHO it was written to. For example, Leo Tolstoy, the Russian novelist, wrote that if all people would only practice the ethics of the "Sermon on the Mount", society would be transformed into a utopian kingdom. Mahatma Gandhi, an Indian Hindu, loved the "Sermon on the Mount". Like Tolstoy, Gandhi thought that if only people practiced the Sermon on the Mount, all problems would be solved, and peace and harmony would prevail throughout the world.
Others, such as Julian the Apostate, a fourth-century Roman emperor, had their own interpretations of this passage. In light of his interpretation of verse 3, Julian reportedly said, "Let us then confiscate all the properties of Christians, for the Bible says, 'Blessed are the poor; they will inherit the kingdom of God.'" Theological liberals of modern times have interpreted the "Sermon on the Mount" as being a road map to social progress. The problem with that interpretation is that the history of the last century repudiates such superficial understanding of societal problems.
Let me assure you, Tolstoy, Mahatma Gandhi, and all theological liberals were wrong in their interpretations of the "Sermon on the Mount". Why? No unbeliever is able to live out these ethics. For an unsaved man, this sermon is not the way of life but rather a source of condemnation; for it sets a standard so high and holy that no unsaved person can by any possibility keep it.
Matthew 5:44 (NKJV) "But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you,
How many people do you know that love their enemies, bless those who curse them, and do good to those who hate them? It's rare to find a believer who lives like this; certainly no unsaved person can do this.
Matthew 6:19-20 (NKJV) "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.
Do unbelievers do this? They don't believe in an after life, so why should they put treasure there? It seems like our society is all about laying up treasures on earth. So I say it again, "No unbeliever is able to live out these ethics". These are the ethics of grace, and only Spirit-born, Spirit-controlled citizens of heaven are able to live by these kingdom regulations.
Speaking of Christ, Paul said:
Titus 2:14 (NKJV) who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.
Jesus Christ redeemed us, He has made us alive and translated into His kingdom from the dominion of darkness. We are under the rule of Jesus Christ the King; therefore, we are to demonstrate by the divine dynamics of the Holy Spirit a measure of the character outlined in this sermon. When we do so, we shine as lights in this dark, crooked, perverse, and immoral world.
This sermon is addressed to all believers; all believers are kingdom citizens and are therefore to live in accordance with these principles.
Another important question that we sought to answer was, When is the kingdom to come? Is it here now or is it yet future? We saw that when John and Jesus began to preach, they said that the kingdom of heaven was "at hand" - it was near! We also saw that later in His ministry Jesus said that the kingdom had arrived:
Matthew 12:28 (NKJV) "But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you.
Now, if the kingdom of God had come in the first century, then it should be clear that the nature of the kingdom was spiritual. Time defines nature. Jesus said that the kingdom "has come" - TIME, so the NATURE of his kingdom must be spiritual. I think that Jesus tried to stress this point by saying that the kingdom did not come with observation:
Luke 17:20 (GWT) The Pharisees asked Jesus when the kingdom of God would come. He answered them, "People can't observe the coming of the kingdom of God.
The spiritual nature of the kingdom is easy to understand if you see that the kingdom is the church. I said last week that the Kingdom and the Church are synonymous. The two words are used as synonyms in Matthew:
Matthew 16:18-19 (NKJV) "And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. 19 "And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven."
Here Jesus discusses the Kingdom and the Church almost in the same breath. Jesus tells Peter, "The confession you just made will be the foundation of My Church and I'm going to give you authority in the kingdom". When Jesus told Peter he was giving him authority in the Kingdom, was Peter being given power of something that he would never exercise. Would this exercise of power not happen in his life time? Had the Kingdom really come? Jesus said that the Kingdom "had come".
If you accept the concept of the Church and the Kingdom are one, then lights should begin turning on. We could say that when a person enters into a Covenant relationship with God by faith and becomes a member of his church that he also gains citizenship in Christ's Kingdom.
Colossians 1:12-14 (NKJV) giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light. 13 He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, 14 in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.
The Kingdom of the Son, Kingdom of light, and the redemption and forgiveness of sins are present tense. Rescued from the dominion of darkness is past tense. Why is the kingdom of the son and the kingdom of light present tense? Because the kingdom had come and it was present when Colossians was written.
So, let's look at how the Bible describes the Kingdom and the Church. We receive redemption and forgiveness in the Church:
Acts 2:47 (NKJV) praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.
We also see that redemption and forgiveness of sins happens in the Kingdom of Christ:
Colossians 1:13-14 (NKJV) He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, 14 in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.
So redemption and forgiveness of sins happens in the Church and in the Kingdom of Christ. Why? Because they're the same. Could you have redemption in one and not the other? NO! The kingdom is the church, and the church is the kingdom.
Matthew 19:23-26 (NKJV) Then Jesus said to His disciples, "Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 "And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." 25 When His disciples heard it, they were greatly astonished, saying, "Who then can be saved?" 26 But Jesus looked at them and said to them, "With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."
Their question, "Who then can be saved?" revealed the connection in their mind between entering the kingdom of heaven (v. 23) with being saved (v. 25). To enter God's kingdom is to be saved, and to be saved is to be in God's kingdom.
Both the Church and Kingdom are spoken of as being present tense. Both are spoken of as where we receive redemption and forgiveness of sins through Jesus. Both the Kingdom and the Church are headed by Christ.
To elaborate a little further on "when" the kingdom was to come, let's look at the Greek word mello. The Greek verb "mello" in the infinitive means: "to be about to"(see Thayer, Arndt & Gingrich, New Englishman's Greek Concordance). With this in mind, look at what Paul said to Timothy in the first century:
2 Timothy 4:1 I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will [mello] judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom
The word "will" here is the Greek word mello. Paul is telling Timothy that the judgment, resurrection, second coming, and the consummation of the kingdom were all "about to" happen.
Paul also told Felix that the resurrection and judgement were "about to" happen:
Acts 24:15 (NKJV) "I have hope in God, which they themselves also accept, that there will [mello] be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust.
Paul uses the word mello here, "There is about to be a resurrection." Please keep in mind that Paul said this in the first century.
Acts 24:25 (NKJV) Now as he reasoned about righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to [mello] come, Felix was afraid and answered, "Go away for now; when I have a convenient time I will call for you."
Notice that Felix understood that judgement was to come soon, because he was afraid.
Ephesians 1:21 (NKJV) far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to [mello] come.
Paul, in the first century, said, that there was a new age "about to come." It is very important to understand the meaning of "this age" (Old Covenant) and "the age about to come" (New Covenant). The New Covenant age is the Kingdom which is the Church.
We also talked about the "already but not yet" aspect of the kingdom. And we saw that the "already but not yet" was only a first century condition (this age). This is absolutely essential to a proper understanding of Scripture.
We see this "already but not yet" in the opening verses of the "Sermon on the Mount". The first and last beatitudes are present tense, and the six in the middle are future ("Theirs is the kingdom of heaven" in verses 3 and 10. But, "They shall be comforted... They shall inherit the earth..." and so on in verses 4-9). I think this is Jesus' way of saying that the kingdom of heaven is present with the disciples now ("Theirs is the kingdom of heaven"), but that the full blessings of the kingdom will have to wait for the age to come ("They shall inherit the earth"). The kingdom was fully consummated in AD 70 with the destruction of Jerusalem and the Jewish temple.
So the answer to the question, "When is the kingdom to come?"- it was inaugurated at the coming of Christ, and it was consummated when Christ came in judgement on Jerusalem in AD 70. The kingdom of God is the Church! And all Christians are kingdom citizens.
Kingdom of God vs. Kingdom of Heaven
Another question that we have to seek to answer is, "Is the Kingdom of heaven different from the kingdom of God?" The great theme of the "Sermon on the Mount" is the kingdom of heaven. Matthew, alone of New Testament writers, uses "the kingdom of heaven". Why? Is he trying to make a distinction between the kingdom of God and heaven? No! Matthew was like many Jews of his day who would avoid using the word "God." They felt it was too holy, too exalted; therefore, euphemisms like "heaven" were adopted.
Classic modern premillennialism interprets the "Sermon on the Mount" as Jesus' instructions explaining how God's people are to live during the Millennium (a thousand year period that is yet future). They say that these instructions were never intended for the church. This view says that the Kingdom of Heaven and the Kingdom of God are two different things.
John Walvoord, in his commentary on Matthew, writes, "Although the kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of God are similar, there seems to be some distinction. The kingdom of heaven refers to that which is obviously in its outer character a kingdom from above and seems to include all who profess to be subjects of the King. The kingdom of God is more specific and does not seem to include any but true believers who are born again " (page 30).
To refute this false notion, we simply have to look at several passages that show that the kingdom of God and the kingdom of heaven are synonymous:
Matthew 4:12 (NKJV) Now when Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, He departed to Galilee.
Matthew 4:17 (NKJV) From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."
Now let's compare that with what Mark says:
Mark 1:14-15 (NKJV) Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, 15 and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel."
Are Matthew and Mark speaking of the same event? Yes, they are; that should be quite obvious. That is why Matthew, Mark, and Luke are called the "synoptic gospels". Synoptic comes from two Greek words which mean: "to see together" and literally mean: "able to be seen together." The reason for that name is that these three gospels each give an account of the same events in Jesus' life. The kingdom of God and the kingdom of heaven are the same.
Matthew 5:3 (NKJV) "Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Luke 6:20 (NKJV) Then He lifted up His eyes toward His disciples, and said: "Blessed are you poor, For yours is the kingdom of God.
The result of being "poor in spirit" is inheriting the kingdom of God or heaven.
Matthew 8:11 (NKJV) "And I say to you that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.
Luke 13:28-29 (NKJV) "There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and yourselves thrust out. 29 "They will come from the east and the west, from the north and the south, and sit down in the kingdom of God.
If you study out all the uses of kingdom, you will find that several things are true. You will see that the kingdom of God is identical with the kingdom of heaven. You will also see that the kingdom of God is synonymous with the kingdom of the Son. Therefore, we must conclude that the kingdom of the Son is synonymous with the kingdom of heaven, which is synonymous with the kingdom of God. You will also see that the kingdom of the Son is the same as the kingdom of the Father. They all are referring to the same kingdom. It must follow, then that any passages that speak of the kingdom of the Son must be the same as the kingdom of God, the kingdom of the Father and the kingdom of heaven.
What is a Kingdom?
It is customary to speak of a kingdom (basileia) as being made up of two component parts:  an authority to rule, and  the realm or territory over which the king's reign is exercised. Vine, for example, speaks of the kingdom as being: " sovereignty, royal power, dominion; and  the territory or people over whom a king rules". Strong similarly states that the kingdom consists of "royal power, kingship, dominion, rule; and the territory subject to the rule of a king".
The kingdom of God is the rule or reign of God. The rule of God where?
John 18:36 (NKJV) Jesus answered, "My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here."
It is a spiritual, not geographical, kingdom. God reigns in the hearts of people!:
Hebrews 8:10-11 (NKJV) "For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 11 "None of them shall teach his neighbor, and none his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' for all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them.
What do you need to have a kingdom? Only two necessary components: a king and subjects. You don't need a geographical realm. During World War 2 some of the "kingdoms" of Europe were controlled by Nazis. Kings & Queens were in exile. Did they cease being kings/queens because they didn't have a country? No. They still had loyal subjects!
While serving as a missionary in Laos, a missionary discovered an illustration of the kingdom of God. Before the colonialists imposed national boundaries, the kings of Laos and Vietnam reached an agreement on taxation in the border areas. Those who ate short-grain rice, built their houses on stilts, and decorated them with Indian-style serpents were considered Laotians. On the other hand, those who ate long-grain rice, built their houses on the ground, and decorated them with Chinese-style dragons were considered Vietnamese. The exact location of a person's home was not what determined his or her nationality. Instead, each person belonged to the kingdom whose cultural values he or she exhibited. So it is with us; we live in the world, but as part of God's kingdom, we are to live according to his kingdom's standards and values.
The idea of "kingdom" in both the Old and New Testaments is primarily dynamic rather than spatial. It is not so much a kingdom with geographical borders as it is a "kingdominion," or reign. In the Scriptures, the spatial meaning of kingdom is secondary and derivative. The kingdom of God or kingdom of heaven is, quite simply, the rule and reign of God. Christianity is the kingdom of God.
Now with this background in mind, let's begin to look at this sermon.
Matthew 5:1 (NKJV) And seeing the multitudes, He went up on a mountain, and when He was seated His disciples came to Him.
From the geography of Palestine we know that Christ would have been traveling along the road from Tiberias to Metula, which skirts the sea of Galilee. The road branches off at Tabgha. Capernium is just two miles further down the road. Across the road, about two and a half miles North east of Tabgha, is a hill that is approximately 330 feet high, or around a hundred meters. It is commonly referred to as the "Hill of the Beatitudes". It was on this hill that Luke records that Christ called the 12 apostles. And no doubt it was here that Christ delivered the "Sermon on the Mount".
Matthew says, "...when He was seated..." - Christ sat as he began to teach. Now, that is a Jewish custom that when the Rabbi was about to give official teaching, he always sat. We still talk about a professor who has a chair in a certain department of a university, for that matter it's the reason that when the Pope gives his official teachings ex cathedral, he does it sitting down. A rabbi might teach as he stood or strolled along, but the serious teaching came only when he was seated. This would indicate the importance that Jesus placed on what he was about to say.
And as he sat, Matthew tells us, that "...His disciples came to Him..." and verse 2 says, "And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying." Who is the antecedent of "them"? It is the disciples! "His disciples came to Him. Then He opened His mouth and taught them, saying." This sermon or teaching is primarily for the disciples. Again confirming what we already know, and that was that the Sermon on the Mount was meant for the already saved portion of society. Though the disciples where the target audience, they were not the only audience:
Matthew 7:28-29 (NKJV) And so it was, when Jesus had ended these sayings, that the people were astonished at His teaching, 29 for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.
As Jesus taught his disciples, the crowd listened in with astonishment.
Matthew 5:2 (NKJV) Then He opened His mouth and taught them, saying:
Matthew continues by saying, "He opened His mouth and taught them". Now you might think that "opened his mouth" might just be a fancy way of saying, "He said", but in the Greek the phrase has a double significance: 1. In Greek it is used of a solemn, grave and dignified utterance. It is used, for instance, of the saying of an oracle. It is the natural preface for a weighty saying. 2. It is used of a person's utterance when he is really opening his heart and fully pouring out his mind. It is used of intimate teaching with no barriers between. The use of this phrase indicates the importance of the material in the "Sermon on the Mount".
Matthew says, "He opened his mouth and taught them". Let me give you a little grammar lesson here, the Greek language uses two tenses when speaking of things which happened in the past. The first was the aorist tense which described a completed action; for example, "He shut the door." The action was done, complete. The other tense was referred to as the imperfect tense, "You paying attention?" We're going to test you on this later. The imperfect tense suggests a continuing action, "He loved his wife", "She went to work". The verb "taught" that Matthew uses is not an aorist, but an imperfect, and therefore, it describes repeated and habitual action; the translation could be: "This is what he used to teach them." The idea being that the material in this sermon was continually taught by Jesus to His disciples.
Believers, it is imperative that we understand this material that was continually taught by Jesus if we are to avoid falling into secularism. We need to remember that, though we are a heavenly people, we have earthly responsibilities, and these are defined for us in this great sermon having to do with faith and good works. Please spend some time reading through it.
Martyn Lloyd-Jones wrote: "If you read the history of the Church you will find it has always been when men and women have taken this Sermon seriously and faced themselves in the light of it, that true revival has come. And when the world sees the truly Christian man, it not only feels condemned, it is drawn, it is attracted." (Studies In the Sermon On The Mount, page 20).
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