The Principles of the Kingdom: The Sermon on the Mount
Matthew 5 – 7
A helpful outline of the next portion of Matthew’s gospel:
- Matt. 5 – 7 gives us the principles of the kingdom
- Matt. 8 – 9 gives us the powers of the kingdom
- Matt. 10 gives us the preaching of the kingdom
Chronology. The sermon on the mount did not take place chronologically at the beginning of the Lord’s ministry, nor was it all given at one time. This is clearly seen by the fact that it begins by Jesus speaking to the disciples (Matt. 5:1) and closes with Him addressing the multitude (Matt. 7:28-29). Matthew pieces the whole discourse together (compare with Luke, where only bits and pieces are given) and gives it to us as a comprehensive declaration of the principles of the kingdom of heaven. The same method is used in Matt. 8-9. The sermon on the mount is not recorded in Mark or John. Only bits and pieces are given in Luke, where the Spirit of God takes the liberty, according to His sovereign wisdom, of keeping back certain portions, so that the order would be such as to make certain moral points.
O U T L I N E
The Beatitudes: The Blessedness of the Subjects of the Kingdom
The rightful King unfolds the principles of His kingdom. It is right and proper that, after Jesus was proven to be the rightful Messiah (Matt. 1-4), that He would go up into the mountain and lay out the principles of His kingdom, which was near at hand. These principles give us an outline of proper Christian living. It is Christ that defines what a Christian is! Recall that the Queen of Sheba was impressed, not merely with the wealth of Solomon, but with the moral characteristics of his servants; “happy are these thy servants”, etc. That is a parallel with the beatitudes given in Matt. 5:1-12; “blessed are the…” What a privilege to be part of His kingdom!
Which aspect of the kingdom is in view? The kingdom at this point in Matthew is “at hand”, because the postponement was not yet official. However, the way the Lord speaks even in Matt. 5-7 shows that He was speaking of a time when the King was in rejection, because there would be “mourning”, and “persecution for righteousness’ sake”. It clearly speaks of a time when evil would be allowed to continue on earth. The time of all things being set right was still distant. However, these characteristics belong to subjects of the kingdom at all times. It certainly applies to Christians today.
Kingdom teaching is Christian conduct. In Acts 20 Paul said he preached three things: the gospel of the grace of God (v.24), the kingdom of God (v.25), and all the counsel of God (v.27). The first thing was the gospel, the second was the practical conduct of Christians who are part of the kingdom, and the third was the counsels of God concerning Christ and the Church. We need to take heed that we not neglect kingdom-teaching. While it is not the highest truth in the Word of God, it is very important.
Christian conduct, but not the substance of Christianity. Many believers think that the sermon on the mount is the apex of Christian teaching… it is not. We have to turn to the epistles where Paul unfolds the truth of the mystery, and the nature of the Church of God. The word “blessed” or “happy” is used over and over in vv.1-16. These blessings are for happiness on this earth. We are told in Eph. 1:3 that we have been blessed will “all spiritual blessings in heavenly places”! Our spiritual blessings are ours right now, but the rewards mentioned here will be fully realized in the Millennial kingdom!
Christian conduct, but not the Christian gospel. Another mistake would be to think that these characteristics of the subjects of the kingdom are requirements to be saved. Some have taken these descriptions in that way. It then becomes a gospel of works, much the way lordship salvation does.
- The Setting (vv.1-2)
- The Nine Beatitudes: Seen Perfectly in the Life of Christ (vv.3-12)
The Setting (vv.1-2)
¶ But seeing the crowds, he went up into the mountain, and having sat down, his disciples came to him; 2 and, having opened his mouth, he taught them, saying, v.1 The setting. The circumstances at the end of ch.4 are arranged by the Holy Ghost to show that universal attention had been directed to the Lord, and to the coming kingdom. William Kelly said, “When all are on tip-toe to hear Him, then the Lord unfolds the character of the kingdom of heaven.” There are seven occasions in Matthew where we find the Lord on a mountain: Matt. 4:8; 5:1; 14:23; 15:29; 17:1; 24:3; 28:16. Here the mountain is compared to Sinai. We have the original Lawgiver come forth in manhood, having gone up another mountain, now revealing to His disciples His heart and mind. He has every right to enlarge or amend His own law!
The Nine Beatitudes: Seen Perfectly in the Life of Christ (vv.3-12)
#1: Poor in Spirit (v.3)
3 Blessed are the poor in spirit, for “theirs” is the kingdom of the heavens. v.3 “Poor in spirit” is the thought of a humble attitude (Isa. 57:15; 66:2). It is in contrast to someone who is forward and pushy. When a person is repentant, they become poor in spirit. The enjoyment of the “kingdom of heaven” is their reward!
#2: Mourning (v.4)
4 Blessed they that mourn, for “they” shall be comforted. v.4 “Mourning” here is not somebody that is very weepy or depressed. Rather, it is a mourning over the condition of things (Ezek. 9:4). They shall be “comforted” because the kingdom will be brought in, and things will be set right.
#3: Meekness (v.5)
5 Blessed the meek, for “they” shall inherit the earth. v.5 “Meekness” is not giving offense; lowliness is not taking offense (Matt. 11:29). Those who are “offensive” are willing to hurt others to get what they want. The reward to the meek is to “inherit the earth” in the Millennium.
#4: Hunger and Thirst After Righteousness (v.6)
6 Blessed they who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for “they” shall be filled. v.6 To “hunger and thirst after righteousness” is to have a desire for things to be in accordance with the mind of God. This is connected with suffering with Christ (Rom. 8:17)… to be grieved by man’s rebellion and the effects of sin on creation. The reward is to be “filled” or satisfied with righteousness in the kingdom (Dan. 9:24), when everything is set right (Acts 3:21). This verse doesn’t tell us to try to set the world right in our own strength.
#5: Mercy (v.7)
7 Blessed the merciful, for “they” shall find mercy. v.7 “Mercy” in this context is compassionate treatment of those in distress. This is uncommon in a world full of cold people. See Rom. 12:8; Jam. 2:13; Luke 10:30-34. The reward to the merciful is governmental mercy from God. This is not exemption from trials, but enjoyment of the sweetness of God’s mercy through their trials.
#6: Purity (v.8)
8 Blessed the pure in heart, for “they” shall see God. v.8 “Purity” is the thought of unmixed motives, cleanness of thought. Appreciating mercy (v.7) does not make us compromise holiness. William Kelly said, “The fuller your hold of grace is, the higher will be your maintenance of holiness”. To “see God” (Heb. 12:14) is the result of communion. It means to actually know God.
#7: Peacemaking (v.9)
9 Blessed the peace-makers, for “they” shall be called sons of God. v.9 “Peacemaking” is not the idea of passively trying to avoid sensitive issues. It is an active seeking to put issues right for the glory of God and for the blessing of our brethren (1 Sam. 25). The term “sons of God” in Matthew is not the Pauline truth of adoption. Sons of God in Matthew are those that bear the resemblance of God’s nature.
#8: Persecution for Righteousness’ Sake (v.10)
10 Blessed they who are persecuted on account of righteousness, for “theirs” is the kingdom of the heavens. v.10 “Persecution for righteousness’ sake” is to suffer for taking a stand on moral issues. A good example is John the Baptist (Matt. 14:3-4), although John wasn’t in the kingdom of heaven. How can we be “blessed” in such adverse conditions? There is a certain joy that comes from doing God’s will. The reward presented is a portion with the Messiah Himself in the kingdom of the heavens.
#9: Persecution for Christ’s Sake (vv.11-12)
11 Blessed are ye when they may reproach and persecute you, and say every wicked thing against you, lying, for my sake. 12 Rejoice and exult, for your reward is great in the heavens; for thus have they persecuted the prophets who were before you. vv.11-12 “Persecution for Christ’s sake” goes beyond suffering for righteousness’ sake; compare 1 Pet. 3:14 and 1 Pet. 4:12-13. It means to suffer because of our association with Christ. This is a far greater privilege than suffering for moral issues. Notice this change from “they” to “ye“… it is exceedingly precious. The Lord is now getting very personal. Why? Perhaps it is because slander and false accusation are some of the hardest persecutions to take. The believer’s reward is “in heaven”. The Lord identifies these disciples with a higher place altogether than “the kingdom of heaven”, which is on the earth. Instead, God gives them a portion out of the earthly scene, with Himself above. It takes in the possibility that these disciples might be martyred. The rejoicing involved with persecution is a special kind (Acts 5:40-42). What an honor to join the Old Testament prophets in their portion of earthly rejection and scorn, but with the approval of God!.
The tenth beatitude. Nine beatitudes are listed here in Matthew 5, but Paul gives us another one in Acts 20:35; “…to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that he himself said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.”
“Earth” or “land”. The expression “the earth,” could be translated “the land,” (v.5 and v.13). The “land” in scripture generally refers to the land of Israel, and often includes the entire possession of land promised to Abraham.