The Sermon on the Mount


In considering the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ, we do well to remember that they had a primary application to the Apostles.  After the resurrection of Christ, a great work lay before them, that of preaching the gospel throughout the world, a work which was accompanied by the severest persecution.  Jesus therefore during those three and a half years in which he was intimately associated with them, was preparing them for this great work.

When Jesus spoke he addressed the multitude in the presence of his disciples, who were closely assembled around him with the multitude beyond.  Among the disciples would have been the Apostles.  This was the case with the Sermon on the Mount given during his Galilean Ministry which we are considering at present.  The Sermon on the Mount occupies Matthew chapters. 5, 6 and 7.

The things which Jesus teaches on the Sermon on the Mount are a complete contrast to the way of life of the Pharisees.  Hence Jesus’s words in Matthew 5:20:

“For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter the kingdom of heaven.”

These words show that religious formalism is not acceptable to God.

As you will see from the division of Christ’s words Christ emphasizes 7 qualities and 2 consequences of those which are still blessings.  It appears that there is a progression in these blessings.

Jesus said “Blessed are the poor in spirit”.  This is defined in Isa.66:2.

“For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the Lord: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word.”

Let us also look at Psalm 34:18.

“The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.”

Those who are poor in spirit suffer affliction so they mourn, hence Jesus’s words “Blessed are they that mourn”.  When we mourn we learn to endure all things with an even temper.  This leads to meekness.  Meekness however is not weakness.  Moses was meek before Yahweh but strong before men.  Nevertheless he endured all things with an even temper.  This is true meekness.  When we develop that true meekness towards God, then we hunger and thirst after God’s righteousness.  The more we behold God’s righteousness, the more we are conscious of our own wretchedness and manifest the quality of mercy towards others. Conscious of our own failings and the failings of others, we desire to be “pure in heart”.  Moreover we learn to be peacemakers.  But the consequence of these things is that they lead to us being persecuted for righteousness and of being accused wrongfully.  Although Jesus manifested all these qualities he was persecuted for righteousness sake and falsely accused.  So with us brethren and sisters.  In the measure that we manifest these qualities we shall suffer these things.  Hence the Apostle Paul’s words in 2 Tim.2:8-13

“Remember that Jesus Christ of the seed of David was raised from the dead according to my gospel: Wherein I suffer trouble as an evil doer, even unto bounds; but the word of God is not bound.  Therefore I endure all things for the elect’s sakes, that they may also obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.  It is a faithful saying: For if we be dead with him, we shall also live with him; If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us: If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself.”

Let us keep in mind that these words were primarily intended for the Apostles, but have a secondary implication to us insofar as we show the same dedication as the Apostles. Their manifestation of these qualities we have considered leads on to three important factors in v.13-20.

“If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself.  Of these things put them in remembrance, charging them before the Lord that they strive not about words to no profit, but to the subverting of the hearers.  Study to show thyself  approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.  But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more un godliness.  And their word will eat as doth a canker: of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus; Who concerning the truth have erred saying that the resurrection is past already; and overthrow the faith of some.  Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his, And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.  But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonour.”

Jesus continues in the Sermon on the Mount;“Ye are the salt of the earth”.  Salt was associated with all the sacrifices,   the heave offerings which the children of Israel offered unto Yahweh for the priests and with the covenant.  For our speech to be seasoned with salt it must reflect a life of sacrifice.  Although our speech is towards others it must be directed towards Christ our high priest and it must reflect our association with the new covenant.  Hence the words of the Apostle Paul in 2 Cor.2:15-17.

“For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish:  To the one we are the savour of death unto death; and to the other the savour of life unto life.  And who is sufficient for these things?  For we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ.”
“Ye are the light of the world”.

 It was not the scribes and Pharisees but the unlearned Galilean Apostles who were to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world.  A distinction should be made between the “good works” of v.16 and the alms of ch.6:1 which were to be done in secret.  The Apostles let the light of the truth shine forth from them and as we know “turned the world upside down”.  It is a work of God to believe on Christ and to manifest this belief before men, but it should be done in such a way that men glorify God.  There is an example of this in Acts 14:11 & 15 (possibly refer to this only).

“And saying, Sirs, why do ye these things?  We also are men of like passions with you, and preach unto you that ye should turn from these vanities unto the living God, which made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are therein:”

So with us brethren and sisters, we should let the light of the truth shine forth from us in such a way that men glorify God.  This is shown in 1 Pet. 3:15-17:

“But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give  an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:  Having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ.  For it is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well doing, than for evil doing.”

But they were to remember that Christ was a fulfilment of the law and it was to be upheld by them until all was fulfilled.  When all was fulfilled by Christ the law was to pass away.  This took place in AD 70 when the Mosaic “heavens and earth” passed away (note v18).

“For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit.”

As we have said these words of Christ were a complete contrast to the way of life of the Pharisees.  Hence Christ’s words in Matt.5:20:

“For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.”

Christ now enunciates ten principles, five of which we propose to deal with here.

He firstly deals with love of our brethren.  He shows here that our attitude to our brethren and sisters is most important.  Our motives and words are seen by Christ as actions.  To use terms of vilification towards our brethren and sisters shows a lack of understanding of the truth, for we fail to appreciate that they are God’s children and one day we hope to be in the kingdom with them.  We should lay down our lives for one another, loving in deed and in truth, our objective being to help one another to attain to the kingdom.  This was the objective of the Apostle Paul as we see from 1 Thess. 2:19-20.

“For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing?  Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming. For ye are our glory and joy.”

Our state of mind when we come to the breaking of bread is very important.  We should not come to the love feast of hate in our mind or use it to attack our brethren and sisters.  Any instant, where has ought against another should be settled beforehand, otherwise it is better not to partake of the emblems.  Moreover we should take care not to be the cause of another person’s anger and avoid situations which will bring evil upon us provided of course that we do not compromise the truth.  Let us look at Prov. 15:1.

“A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.”

The second principle in Matt 5:27-30 is very heart searching.  The harbouring of evil thoughts may be a problem with some more than others.  I know it is a problem with myself.  Clearly we are not intended to amputate limbs, but to cut off the truth which can lead to the action.  This is explained in Rom.6:6-13.

“Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.  For he that is dead is freed from sin.  Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him:  Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more;  death hath no more dominion over him.  For in that he died, he died unto sin once:  but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God  Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that te should obey it in the lusts thereof.  Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin:  But yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.”

The words of  James are very relevant: 1:12-15.  How important it is that we fill our minds with that wisdom which comes from above (Jas.3:17-18).

“But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.   And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.”

It was when David went out to be at the battlefront with Joab that he failed with Bathsheba.  How important it is that we are engaged in the warfare of the truth;

“Walk in the spirit and ye shall not fulfill the lusts of the flesh”.

The third principle concerns the love of our wife (Matt.5:32).

“But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his life, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced commiteth adultery.”

These words were possibly by Christ because of the Pharisees who were widening the laws of divorce allowing it for the most trivial of causes.  It appears to me that here Jesus is placing the responsibility upon the husband.  The husband who puts away his wife causes her to commit adultery.

The next principle covers swearing.  A helpful verse is Matt.5:34:

“But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God’s throne.”

The words in Jas.4:13-17 are also helpful.

“Go to now, ye that say To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: Whereas ye know what shall be on the morrow.  For what is your life?  It is even a vapour, that appeareth for  little time, and then vanisheth away.  For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this or that.  But now ye rejoice in your boastings: all such rejoicing is evil.  Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin”.

The important thing is that we acknowledge Yahweh in all our ways, then he will direct our paths.

The fifth principle is non-resistance to evil.  All of these teachings of the master are rooted in the Old Testament but this is particularly so of this pricinciple as we see from Lev.19:18.

“Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the LORD.”

And Prov.20:22.

“Say not thou, I will recompense evil: but wait on the Lord, and he shall save thee,”

The principle of Matt.5:40 is shown in 1 Cor. 6:7.

“Now therefore there is utterly a fault among you, because ye go to law with one another.  Why do ye not rather take wrong?  Why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded?”

These verses go against our natural inclinations particularly Matt.5:44:

“But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;”

Where we fail to follow the words of Jesus then our conduct can be a hindrance to the great work of others.  This worthy objective must override our feelings so that we suffer wrong for the sake of the truth.

“Be ye therefore perfect, even as your father which is in heaven is perfect”.


Carlo Barberesi