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Bible verses about Sermon on the Mount
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Certain portions of Scripture seem to be etched more deeply into people's minds than others. Psalm 23 is definitely one of these, as are I Corinthians 13 and Hebrews 11. The Sermon on the Mount, as Matthew 5-7 is commonly called, is another. Its popularity may stem from its position near the beginning of the New Testament, causing it to be read more frequently than other parts. Far more likely, however, people know it well because of its succinct and strikingly clear teachings that form many of the foundational planks of the Christian way of life. Containing Jesus' description of what His followers should be and do, it comes closer to being Christianity's manifesto than any other single portion of the Bible.

Scholars debate whether Jesus actually gave the Sermon as a single discourse, but Matthew presents it as though it was, and the issue is really moot in terms of the powerful instruction it offers. Among other things, it contains the Beatitudes, brief illustrations on the spirit of the law, and advice about the personal and private nature of a relationship with God, including the so-called Lord's Prayer. It teaches us how to avoid the pulls of this world through trusting in God and seeking His Kingdom and righteousness before all other priorities in life. Chapter 7 includes the well-known Golden Rule, a caution against judging, a warning to beware of false prophets, and a final admonition to found ourselves on solid ground by not only hearing but doing.

The Sermon's opening is quite brief, but a number of similarities and contrasts with other places, people, and events are of interest. The first is the place. Unlike the scribes and Pharisees, who held Moses' seat and taught in fine auditoriums, Jesus gave this vital address on an unknown mountain. It was not one of the "holy" mountains like Mount Sinai, Mount Zion, Mount Moriah, or the Mount of Olives, but an anonymous, ordinary mount, again outside Jerusalem, with no distinguishing holiness or history.

There are more contrasts than similarities when one compares this event with Moses and Israel at Mount Sinai. Here, Christ goes up the mountain and preaches a sermon that is really an exposition of the law. When the law was given, the Lord came down on the mount. When God spoke the law, it was accompanied by thunder, lightning, and earthquake, while the people—ordered to keep their distance—cowered in fear. This time He speaks in a small still voice, and the people are invited to draw near. Small things? Maybe, but significant in that they are recorded.

Another fact, while seemingly small, is not entirely insignificant considering these things: He sat as He proclaimed the laws of His Kingdom. This was the common practice of Jewish teachers: Jesus says in Matthew 23:2, "The scribes and Pharisees sit in Moses' seat." However, His sitting intimates something more than merely accommodating the prevailing mode of teaching of that time. Mark 1:22, from a time very early in Christ's ministry, reads, "They were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes." In Matthew this comment appears as the concluding remarks of the Sermon (7:28-29). As Jesus declares His Kingdom's laws, He speaks with an authority that transcended that of the Jewish leaders. Therefore, His posture is better seen as symbolic of the King sitting on His throne and "laying down the law."

Virtually every picture of this Sermon, whether in a movie or painting, portrays Jesus speaking to a large multitude. Some reason exists to assume this because Matthew 4 ends with great multitudes following Him; chapter 5, as the sermon begins, opens with Him seeing the multitudes; and when chapter 8 begins, great multitudes follow Him again. In Mark and Luke when He was preaching other messages, "great multitudes" and "innumerable multitudes" describe the size of the crowds listening to Him. Undoubtedly, Jesus attracted large numbers of people to hear Him.

However, in this case the stronger evidence lies with the understanding that it was a sermon intended for His disciples. Though others besides the twelve may have been listening, Jesus did not speak to a great multitude. Matthew 5:1 begins with, "And seeing the multitudes, He went up on a mountain . . .," clearly giving the impression that He went up the mountain to withdraw from the multitudes. Then the verse says, ". . . and when He was seated, His disciples came to Him." The multitudes did not consist of disciples. The disciples were those already committed to Him and His way. It is they who gathered before Him, and at this time in His ministry, it was a very small number. Verse 1 gives the distinct impression that Jesus gave His concentrated instruction to a small group of people. When He came down from the mountain, multitudes again became part of His following.

There is no doubt, though, to whom this message applies. Some parts of its instruction might be considered as of a general nature, yet the overwhelming majority of it applies only to the converted, those having the Spirit of God. Its thrust is not evangelistic—intended to call people into the church—but internal, as it sets standards for those already converted to prepare them for God's Kingdom when it comes in its fullness. The instruction is intensely practical; it deals, not as much with things to be believed, but with things to be done.

The Sermon tells us what our attitudes must become and admonishes us to be lights to the world. We must not lust or allow our anger to be uncontrolled or frivolous. We must turn the other cheek, agree with our adversary quickly, go the extra mile and love our enemy. It tells us how to pray, fast, do charitable deeds, lay up treasure in heaven, be single minded, exercise our faith in trusting God, seek Him before all other things in life, and much more. The point is clear. These are all things the converted must actively do to witness for God, glorify Him, and be in His Kingdom. They are not intended to be the limit but a summary of the attitudes, thoughts, and works of one striving for the Kingdom of God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beatitudes, Part One: The Sermon on the Mount


 

Matthew 5:3-12

During His earthly lifetime, Jesus demonstrated these qualities in His own person, and He expects us to do likewise. It is interesting and noteworthy that God places the Sermon on the Mount near the beginning of the very first book in the New Testament, immediately after Jesus begins to preach the gospel of the Kingdom of God. Also of note is that it follows His call for repentance - for deep, heartfelt, sincere, and radical change in a person's thinking and way of life. This change is what causes conversion to God's way. Then the Beatitudes appear as the preamble to the best-known sermon ever preached, teaching intended for those who have repented and are being converted.

We must not be deceived into thinking Jesus intended the Beatitudes for eight separate groups of disciples, some of whom are meek, while others seek righteousness, and yet others endure persecution. Far from it! These are eight distinct qualities of the same group, all of whom are to be poor in spirit, merciful, mourning, making peace, etc. Nor should we pass them off as intended only for an elitist group singled out from among the disciples, thus forming a kind of spiritual aristocracy. They are Christ's specifications of what every disciple ought to be. All of these qualities should characterize each of His followers.

Just as surely as every Christian character should produce all nine segments of the fruit of the Spirit, so Christ's eight Beatitudes describe His ideal for every citizen of God's Kingdom. Unlike the gifts of the Spirit, which He distributes as He wills to different members of His body to equip them for different kinds of service, the Beatitudes are qualities each Christian needs. We cannot escape our responsibility to seek them all.

Each beatitude pronounces the person who possesses that quality as "blessed." We need to understand this word because, as some have rightly noted, the Greek word used by Matthew, makarios, can also be translated as "happy." Happy, however, is not the correct translation in this context. Happiness is subjective; the same things do not always make everybody happy. And we can certainly rule out mourning as a producer of happiness. Instead, Jesus makes objective judgments about the state of the citizens of God's Kingdom. He declares, not what they feel like, but what God thinks of them. People with these qualities gain His approval. Because God thinks well of them, they are "blessed." God's blessing is far broader and exceedingly more important than merely being "happy."

The second half of each beatitude reveals what the blessing is. Just as surely as all eight of the qualities should be part of each Christian, so each should share in the eight blessings. As the eight qualities provide broad overviews of our responsibilities, the eight blessings give us insight into the broad privileges that come to us because we are meeting our responsibilities and God is pleased.

Are the promised blessings intended for the future or now? The answer is both. God does not expect a Christian to have to wait until the future becomes the present to be blessed. Although we must endure heavy trials and pressures from time to time, is it not possible to be blessed with contentment and a sense of well-being - rather than a troubled spirit and debilitating anxiety - while patiently going through them?

Is not the Kingdom of God a present reality that we can, as Paul says in Colossians 1:13, be "translated into" in the here and now? Can we not obtain mercy and be comforted now? Can we not become children of God now, and in this life have our hunger satisfied and thirst quenched? The reality is that all eight blessings have both a present and future fulfillment. We enjoy the firstfruits now, yet the full harvest is yet to come. As R.G.V. Tasker, professor of New Testament exegesis at the University of London, writes, "The future tense . . . emphasizes their certainty and not merely their futurity. The mourners will indeed be comforted, etc." (The Gospel According to St. Matthew, p. 61). We receive some of the blessing now but much more later.

John Donne, author of the poem used in the song, "No Man Is an Island," says of the Sermon on the Mount: "All the articles of our religion, all the canons of our church, all the injunctions of our princes, all the homilies of our fathers, all the body of divinity, is in these three chapters, in this one Sermon on the Mount." No doubt he employs a measure of hyperbole here, but it indicates the esteem that those who search deeply into this message hold for it. The Beatitudes are this profound message's introduction, paving the way for us to receive the rest. They are like a verbal bomb blast that forcefully gathers our attention by establishing standards of responsibilities of great height and depth.

Attempts to classify them into groups have met with some success, but John Chrysostom (AD 347-407) described them simply, "as a sort of golden chain." Like the Ten Commandments, each stands alone, but at the same time it is firmly linked to all the others, making a complete set of qualities each child of God must have to be in His Kingdom. One commentator sees the first three beatitudes as having overlapping qualities and combines them in one link, the following four in a second link, and the eighth as a final link in a three-link chain. The simplest grouping is probably the best, however. The first four, dealing specifically with one's relationship with God, sets the stage for the final four, which have more to do with one's relations to man.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beatitudes, Part Two: Poor in Spirit


 

Matthew 5:3

We can gauge how important the quality of humility is to our relationship with God by considering its setting. It appears in the Sermon on the Mount, three whole chapters in which Jesus lays out before His followers the foundational teaching that, if followed, will work to produce a good relationship with God. The foundation of the foundation, we might say, is the Beatitudes, and the very first quality He presents, implying its prime necessity, is poverty of spirit.

Poverty of spirit is the diametric opposite of the haughty, competitive, self-assertive, self-sufficient arrogance of pride that says, "This is the way I see it." Being poor in spirit has absolutely nothing to do with being hard up in one's circumstances—in fact, it has nothing to do with the physical realm. It is a fundamental part of the spiritual realm, of which God and the purity of His attitudes, character, and truths are the central elements.

"Poor in spirit" is poverty as compared to God's qualities. It is poverty in terms of Holy Spirit. It is to be destitute in regard to the fruit and power of God's Holy Spirit of which we all desperately need. This attitude is the product of self-evaluation in which a person, comparing his own to God's spiritual qualities, finds himself utterly impoverished of any virtue of value to eternal life. Not only that, he finds himself utterly unable, powerless, to help himself to become like God.

Thus, a person who is poor of spirit clearly sees and appreciates his dependence on God both physically and spiritually. Humility is a fruit of the realization of his complete dependence. He is nothing in his own eyes and knows that his proper place is face down in the dust before God.

The apostle John writes in I John 5:4-5, "For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God." The honest recognition of need, the desire to glorify God, and the practice of overcoming leads a called-out one to live by faith.

Jesus Christ is the One that God has assigned to oversee and empower us. He is the Helper and Advocate (I John 2:1) who goes alongside, enabling us to be created in His image. From Him, we draw spiritual strength, and He gives grace to the humble.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Living by Faith and Humility


 

Matthew 5:5

Meekness (gentleness, NKJV) is so important that it is the third characteristic Jesus mentions in His foundational teaching, the Sermon on the Mount: "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth" (Matthew 5:5). Obviously, the world's ideal of the perfect man is very different from His. The meek are among those so favored that they will share in Jesus' inheritance of the earth.

He was not the first to state the importance of meekness, but He was the first to collect, in what we call the Beatitudes, a God-authored, organized list of the characteristics of the perfect man. Others have made lists of outstanding virtues, but Jesus' list is unique in that He relates them to the Kingdom of God and in the depth and breadth of what He meant.

How can this be, though? Given how modern man considers those who are meek, His statement about meekness is almost incomprehensible. The world would word this, "Blessed are the strong, who can hold their own." The world favors more conspicuous and so-called heroic virtues. Those who are strongly—almost fiercely—competitive, aggressive, and assertive are the ones who receive recognition, admiration, and reward. Do they not seem to end up on top of the pile, possessing the most and best despite other obvious and perhaps even offensive flaws in their character?

On the surface, this beatitude seems to have little meaning, and what there is seems to contradict the plain facts of everyday life. No sensible person, looking about the world or studying history, could sincerely accept it at face value. Unfortunately, many Christians have ignored it in practice, perhaps regretting that no doubt it should be true, but that it certainly is not so in the real world. Rather than taking God at His Word, they remain conformed to the world's standard of practice, missing the benefits meekness will produce in their lives. Remember, Jesus Himself says this: Blessed—happy, favored—are the meek.

So we must decide. Jesus either meant what he said, or He did not; He either knew what He was talking about, or He did not. Jesus is either a reliable guide, or He is not. We must either take Jesus seriously or not, and if we do not, we should drop His teaching altogether. If we decide to straddle the fence and strive for some characteristics but not others, we become hypocrites. Of course, the true Christian will accept it, learn from it and grow in it.

What Jesus says is a very practical doctrine. It may at first seem impractical, foolish, and even wild, but He was no sentimental dreamer who dealt in empty platitudes. He was an unflinching realist who has given us a great key to prosperity and dominion under God's purpose. One commentator, Emmet Fox, author of an entire book on the Sermon on the Mount, states that this beatitude "is among the half dozen most important verses in the Bible."

"The meek shall inherit the earth," and when they do, they will proceed to govern it. Meekness is a virtue God has determined those who will have dominion in His Family must possess. Without it, will we even be there?

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit: Meekness


 

Matthew 6:24

Most people who are familiar with the Bible are aware of this statement made by Jesus during His Sermon on the Mount. This teaching on the inadvisability of trying to serve two masters comes at the end of a line of comparisons between two major elements of life. Earlier, He had spoken about two different kinds of treasure, the earthly kind and the heavenly kind. Then He mentioned the good eye and the bad eye, or perhaps it would be clearer to call them the focused ("single," KJV) eye and the confused eye, which illustrate a person's outlook on his life. Obviously, Jesus is trying to help us see the dichotomy between God's way and the way of this world, man's way, or Satan's way, however we may wish to look at it.

In this verse, He moves on to the human will, telling us that it is impossible to give full allegiance to more than one entity, whether it be a family member, a boss, a cause, or even football teams! As He says, one of them will always be slighted in some way. One's true loyalty will soon be revealed when circumstances conspire to force a choice between them. At the fish-or-cut-bait moment, we will choose to give our time and attention to the one that we really love, and the other we will "hate" by comparison.

As a native of the Steel City, I am a Pittsburgh Steeler fan and always have been. Yet, I have lived in Charlotte since 1992 and have been a fan of the Panthers since the team's first NFL game in 1995. I know a great deal about both clubs, watch most of their games, and avidly follow their player acquisitions and moves. It is good that the Steelers are an AFC team, while the Panthers are an NFC team, so they rarely play each other. But what happens when they do? There is no question: I root for the Steelers. My choice shows that I "love" the Steelers and "hate" the Panthers; I am "loyal" to the black and gold and "despise" the black, Panther blue, silver, and white. In such a situation, I cannot cheer for both.

In the last phrase, Jesus makes it clear that the choice often comes down to God on the one hand and "Mammon"—a word that denotes wealth and possessions—on the other. True, His audience, mostly Jews, had and still have a reputation for pursuing wealth overmuch, but His true audience is everyone. We all want more things, and we sometimes go to extreme measures to get them. When faced with the decision of following God or following the money, too many pick the latter, and in doing so, reveal our true loyalties.

He desires His disciples, therefore, to take note: The true Christian puts God first in everything. If a promotion at work means that a Christian will have to work on the Sabbath or blur some of his principles, he needs to choose God and turn down the promotion. If he can avoid a heavy tax assessment if he fudges the numbers a little on his 1040, he should choose God and submit an honest return. If he finds a wallet filled with cash, he must choose God and return it to its owner. In every case in which we must decide between obedience to God and gaining for the self, God must be our constant choice.

While this may seem somewhat onerous, this kind of total devotion and commitment is what God demands. Jesus is also the one who said, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God" (Luke 9:62), and “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple" (Luke 14:26). Even in the verse under discussion, Jesus speaks of “serving . . . masters," which is an allusion to slavery. But we can gladly choose to serve God, the most gracious and beneficent of masters.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh


 

Matthew 7:24-27

Palestine is naturally a land of hills and mountains, and as a result, it is subject to violent rains and sudden floods. The Jordan River annually swells to dangerous levels and becomes rapid and furious. The streams that run through the hills can suddenly swell with rain and spill tremendous amounts of water onto the plains below, sweeping everything before them. Houses erected within reach of these sudden deluges - especially those founded on sand or other unreliable foundation - cannot stand before them. The rising stream shakes a house to its foundation and erodes away its base until it falls. Rocks are common there, however, so it is not hard to find a solid foundation.

With this in mind, Jesus concludes the Sermon on the Mount by illustrating the benefit of obeying His words. It is not enough to hear them; they must be obeyed. He compares a person who hears and obeys Him to a man who builds his house on a rock. Introducing the Parable of the Two Builders (Matthew 7:21-28), He says, "Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man" (verse 24). He then describes this wise man as building his house, that is, his whole life, on the rock of genuine subjection to God. Conversely, the disobedient use unfit material as the foundation of their lives.

Martin G. Collins
Parable of the Two Builders


 

Matthew 7:24-26

In the wise and foolish builders, Christ describes two categories in illustrating the building of a house. Both houses appear equally attractive and substantial, but their comparative stability differs greatly. In their construction, the materials and labor used were similar, and both houses appeared upright, solid, and sound. Many times, seemingly good people who are uncalled seem to build their lives well and wisely in terms of money, material possessions, and friends. All these things seem good to the human mind, but their end can be disastrous without a Rock foundation (James 3:13-17). The elect of God build their houses differently, by daily obedience (Psalm 111:10), service, overcoming, Bible study, and prayer.

Martin G. Collins
Parable of the Two Builders


 

Matthew 25:34-40

When we show pity, compassion, and kindness to those in difficult straits, we are practicing the merciful attitude that God expects each of His children to exhibit at all times. Of course, He does not want us to be so soft-hearted that we become an easy mark for those who would take advantage of us, but He does want us to develop a keen sense of discernment that realizes when mercy is a better option than the strict application of rules.

Undoubtedly, each of us would lend a helping hand to another who was in physical need, but there are other situations in which a physical need is not apparent that also require us to extend mercy. Particularly, we need to learn to employ mercy in our dealings with each other on a daily basis. To put it into today's language, everyone has bad-hair days, and on some days, even a normally lovable person can be very difficult to live with.

Age differences lend themselves to misunderstandings. We may still carry prejudices that rear their ugly heads from time to time, causing friction. Oftentimes, we just do not think before we speak. Mistakes made in the past can seem to hang over us like a cloud and never go away, and thus we do not feel forgiven, affecting our attitudes. And of course, we all have different backgrounds and came from situations in which we perhaps lived our lives in certain shameful ways. Each of these problems can ignite trouble with our closest family members and friends.

The problem that all of us face in making righteous judgments is that we cannot see into the other person's heart; we do not really know their intentions and attitudes. We have a hard enough time understanding ourselves, let alone someone else! In Jesus' comments about judgment in His Sermon on the Mount, He cautions us about being too critical: "And why do you look at the speck in your brother's eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye?" (Matthew 7:3). Therefore, if we have to make a judgment call, it is far better to lean toward patience, forbearance, and mercy.

So, when we find ourselves offended by anyone, rather than responding in kind, we should apply the principle of giving a soft answer (Proverbs 15:1), turning the other cheek (Matthew 5:39), and extending tender mercies (Colossians 3:12).

Satan would like us to hang on to evil thoughts about another, to hold a grudge against a brother, or to arrive at church with a resentful attitude toward a fellow Christian, but Jesus Christ wants us to remember Matthew 18:35: "So My heavenly Father will [pass judgment against] you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses." Just as He forgave each of us from the heart, He wants us to learn to forgive others in the same generous, merciful way.

In my forty-plus years in the church, I have made almost all of the mistakes a person can make with his mouth, and realizing this, I have truly appreciated those who have extended mercy and forgiveness to me. They have taught me a great lesson by their spiritual maturity: that I, too, had better extend mercy and kindness to others.

What does God require of us? He tells us plainly in Micah 6:8: "He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you, but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?"

John O. Reid (1930-2016)
Mercy: The Better Option


 

Luke 6:48

Luke describes the wise builder as digging deep and laying the foundation on a rock. The Rock on which we build is Christ Himself (Deuteronomy 32:1-4; Psalm 18:2, 46; I Corinthians 3:10-11). In this parable, Christ teaches us the importance of doing as well as hearing. In His description of the two builders, He judges them, not only by their care in building their houses, but also by the foundation on which they build. A rock foundation represents true understanding and right action - true conviction and commitment manifested in righteousness. Only in obedience and dedication to a personal relationship with Christ the Rock can we find emotional and spiritual stability - without which even our most dedicated purposes rest on shifting sand.

Martin G. Collins
Parable of the Two Builders


 

Romans 14:7-13

These verses give the proper perspective of our relationship and responsibilities to Christ and our brothers and sisters in the church. Paul wrote this to confront a problem, judging and scorn, that was dividing the church. The counsel he gives fits our circumstances, and if used, it can go a long way toward solving many of our problems. He reminds us first to remember to whom we belong, why we belong to Him, and what responsibility this gives us. We belong to Christ because He died for us, rose from the grave, and now sits at the right hand of God, judging those the Father has called into His church.

We should be acutely aware of this, knowing we are being judged according to what we do. We are to strive with all our being to please Him by living as He lived, not to serve ourselves, but to serve Him and the church. Judging each other does not fall into our area of responsibility. Living according to the Sermon on the Mount does. If we do this, we will not cause any brother to fall. We appear not to be striving hard enough to please Christ, which is why we continue to split.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beatitudes, Part One: The Sermon on the Mount


 

1 Corinthians 6:1-3

In a broad sense, Paul is teaching that we are to learn to deal with situations as God would, and our training ground is here in this life and in the church. We are undergoing extensive hands-on training for the profession of judge, which, as Paul implies, will be among our duties as children of God in His Kingdom. This is no minor matter!

Earlier in my conversion, I clearly left out one of the most important elements needed for making right judgments. Jesus points out which one in His Sermon on the Mount: "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy" (Matthew 5:7). Had I shown more mercy in those situations, their outcomes would have been far different—and definitely better.

Generally, the merciful are those people who are affected by the suffering of others. They are affected in a manner that causes them, not only to offer encouragement to one who is experiencing a rough spot in his life, but also to work to lessen his suffering.

The New Unger's Bible Dictionary defines mercy as "a form of love determined by the state or condition of its objects. Their state is one of suffering and need, while they may be unworthy or ill-deserving. Mercy is at once the disposition of love respecting such, and the kindly ministry of love for their relief."

A secular dictionary, The Reader's Digest Encyclopedic Dictionary, concurs: Mercy is the "kind, compassionate treatment of an offender, adversary, prisoner in one's power; compassion where severity is expected, or deserved." Among its synonyms are "leniency," "compassion," "forgiveness," "pity," "kindness," "tolerance," "charity," "benevolence," "clemency," and "forbearance."

The primary idea behind mercy is rendering a kindness when harshness or condemnation is expected or even deserved. A merciful person looks beyond the present state of affairs to the potential good that may result from his compassionate handling of the matter. He is willing to forgo the other's punishment, his "just deserts," or his own desire for revenge in an attempt to produce good fruit from a bad situation.

The nature of God is to be merciful to those He calls. We know that He calls the weak, foolish, and base (I Corinthians 1:26-28), those who are undesirable in society's eyes and guilty of sin in His eyes. He extends great mercy to them, redeeming them from the death penalty and setting them on the path toward eternal life in the Kingdom of God. In doing so, He sets us an example to follow!

John O. Reid (1930-2016)
Mercy: The Better Option


 

 




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