crowd of people listening October 6 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today’s Bible reading (NIV) or alternate versions (use your browser arrow to return): Matthew 5-7

True Righteousness and Grace Living (the Sermon on the Mount)

If a large group of people gathered in a room, hanging on your every word, what would you say to them? Would you tell jokes like you were in a comedy club? Would you say, “Let's have a party”? Would you make a political speech? Would you preach to them? What would you do? In today's Bible reading, Jesus teaches masses of people who gather to hear Him. In one of these sessions, He gives what is commonly termed The Sermon on the Mount. The life lessons were given to His disciples and the crowd gathered on a mountainside in the area of Galilee. What He tells them is also profitable to us.

First, He tells them what a life of blessing looks like for those who are children of God, heirs to His kingdom (Matthew 5:1-12). Look here to see the meaning of each beatitude.

Next, He tells believers in God that their mission is to be salt and light in the world. Salt is a preservative and gives flavor. They are to preserve goodness and dispense grace, even during times of persecution (certainly, this is a difficult thing to do). Light illuminates things. Jesus wants their good character and deeds illuminated, not for personal glory but so others will praise God and be attracted to him, the source of light and life. Do our lives preserve goodness and dispense grace? Do our good character and deeds show God's glory?

After this, Jesus contrasts true righteousness with the righteousness of the religious leaders, the Pharisees. Many of us (like the Jews) would like to think we could just follow the example of religious leaders. After all, they follow God, don’t they? Many do but not all. Some teach others the right way but do not follow it themselves. Others teach a form of righteousness, supposedly obtained by doing or not doing a list of things, but they are not teaching God's righteousness.

The Jews were taught that keeping all the Law of Moses, interpreted by the additional traditions of the Scribes and Pharisees, will bring them righteousness. Jesus shocks the crowd and religious leaders who are watching by saying, “I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:19-20, NIV). This relates to the meaning of the beatitudes Jesus just shared with the crowd.

Jesus’ mission, however, is not to abolish the Law and the Prophets, the charge of which the Pharisees and teachers of the Law accuse him, but he comes to fulfill them (Matthew 5:17). The Law refers to the Laws of Moses (primarily Deuteronomy). The words, “The Law and the Prophets” probably encompasses all the Old Testament teachings (The Bible Knowledge Commentary of the N.T., edited by Walvoord and Zuck, ©1985, p.30). The Apostle Paul instructs us “But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe” (Romans 3:21-22, NIV). (more...)

Salvation has always been by faith, not by keeping the Law. Even so, the Law is God’s holy standard. Jesus says,

Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:19, NIV).

Jesus instructs the Jews to keep the Law by faith; obeying the Law is what pleases God and fulfills his requirements; however, they are not to nullify it by their traditions. The Pharisees have traditions which legally keep the letter of the Law but destroy its intent. They practice the Law hypocritically. They are like some tax advisors, lawyers and politicians, today— they look for loop holes in the law to get around its intent.

Jesus speaks truth with authority over the traditions of the religious leaders and teachers of the Law. He counters their teachings on murder, adultery, divorce, the taking of oaths, revenge, and their treatment of friends and enemies: “You have heard it said, but I say to you...”(Matthew 5). What audacity! The religious leaders must have thought, “Who is this fellow that he can speak with authority over us?”

Many Christians know the answer: Jesus is none other than the Son of God. He came down from heaven, but was originally with God his Father and the Holy Spirit when God dictated the Law to Moses and spoke through the mouths of the prophets. He has perfect character. The religious leaders were hypocrites. Character is important to God—what we say and do matters to him. We need to go beyond the laws of God and exercise the intent of it—acting with grace, humility and righteousness as Christians—this is true righteousness and grace living. This is what we must teach, regardless of the size of our audience. Even if our audience is our children, grandchildren, or a Sunday School class, we must still teach them these truths.

A note to teachers and preachers: The crowds were amazed because Jesus spoke with authority, not like the teachers of the Law (Matthew 7:28). We, too, should speak God's Word with authority, instead of being all squishy in our doctrine like milk toast. We have the truth of God in his Word. People are looking for truth. Let's teach it, preach it, and apply it to our lives. Let’s not just teach about the Bible, giving various opinions, let’s teach the Bible. Let's remember to teach not only the Law of God but also the grace of God. God gave both Law and Grace.

Lessons to Live By

  • We must be careful to follow true spiritual leaders, leaders who teach and preach the entire Bible, and live it.
  • We must respect and obey all of God’s Word. We must not add to it or detract from it.
  • True righteousness is what God requires. True righteousness comes from God through faith in Jesus Christ (more...) and leads us to obedience.
  • We must go beyond the laws of God as Christians—by faith we must act with grace, humility, and righteousness.

Focus Verses

John 1:16-17 (NIV) “From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”

Here is a clip of the Sermon on the Mount from the Jesus film. Watch here.

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A Look Ahead: We want to become like those who have had an influence on our lives, to become their Protégés. Usually, this is a good thing, but Be Careful Who You Follow! Learn more about it in our Next Lesson.

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