Church Write-Up: The Sermon on the Mount and Jesus’s Fulfillment

At today’s adult Bible study, the pastor talked about Matthew 5:3-20, which is part of the Sermon on the Mount.

Here are some items:

A. The widespread Christian view is that Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount is Moses 2.0: that Jesus doubles down on the commandments of the law and requires people to obey them; otherwise, God will be upset with them and they will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven. In medieval Catholic imagery, Jesus is shown holding up two fingers as he preaches the Sermon on the Mount, and that signifies that Jesus is the lawgiver. The pastor, by contrast, offered a Christ-centered, Gospel-centered approach to the Sermon: that the beatitudes are descriptive of life in the Kingdom of God (God’s reign in and through Jesus, here and in the eschaton) rather than prescriptive law. In some way, shape, and form, I have heard this sort of message, but the pastor put it together in a rather coherent manner, one that takes into account the various aspects of the Sermon. The next item will summarize this.

B. Vv. 3-6 promises blessing on those who recognize their need for God, God’s gifts, God’s grace, and what God has done in Christ. They realize that they have nothing in themselves to offer to God, they mourn over their sins, and they desire God’s righteousness. God promises to fill them with the Kingdom of God. Vv. 6-12 discusses how Christians live in light of God’s grace. Because God has shown mercy to them, they show mercy and forgiveness to others. They carry the message of peace: God has extended to people the offer of peace through the Gospel, and God’s love shapes people and allows them to have peace with God and others. Unfortunately, because the world has different values and elevates self-importance and self-exaltation above dependence on God, it will resist and persecute the church.

C. Jesus’s message comes with a warning. Those who refuse to be rooted in Christ will experience wrath and destruction. The Pharisees focused on their obedience to the law and they missed the Kingdom of Heaven because they failed to see their need for God’s grace in Christ. Jesus’s statements against anger, lust, divorce, and oaths serve to remind people that, if they rely on the law for salvation, the law will crush them, for they fail to adhere to God’s high standards.

D. Christians, impacted and shaped by God’s grace and gifts, are the salt of the earth and the light of the world. If Christians fail to be salty—-to be grounded in Christ and God’s forgiveness and love in Christ—-then how will the world be salted? Salt and light are like God’s word, which is effective and accomplishes God’s purposes. Salt makes changes in whatever it touches: it brings flavor, fertilizes, preserves, and cleanses. Light brings illumination.

E. Jesus said that he came not to abolish the law but to fulfill it. In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus fulfills the law and the prophets. Jesus fulfills the purpose that God had for Israel by being a light to the nations (foreshadowed by the visit of the magi during his childhood). Jesus, like Israel, comes from Egypt. Jesus in the wilderness behaves as Israel should have done in the wilderness but failed to do: rather than testing God with his complaining, as Israel did, he submits to God’s testing of him in submission and obedience. Because a lot of Jesus’s words later in Matthew’s Gospel concern his death and resurrection, the pastor believes that Jesus’s death and resurrection are the fulfillment of the law and the prophets. Why, then, did Jesus say “until heaven and earth pass away”? The pastor does not believe that “until heaven and earth will pass away” and “until all be fulfilled” are parallel, meaning the same thing; rather, in his interpretation, “until all be fulfilled” is the main point, and the fulfillment can take place before heaven and earth pass away. My question would then be why Jesus said in v. 18 “until heaven and earth pass away,” and I may ask him that sometime. It does seem, though, that the pastor believes that the law has continuing relevance to the Christian. The law, in Christ, is summed up in love for God and neighbor. Christians cannot pick and choose from God’s commandments, but those who fail to observe what they consider to be the least commandment are still in the Kingdom: they are the least in the Kingdom, however.

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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