the kingdom principles (laying the foundation)

Dore's Sermon on the MountSo, first things first. As Jesus begins His sermon, we notice a few things. This sermon is primarily given to His disciples (Matthew 5:1). The crowds are present (Matthew 5:1; 7:28), but the immediate audience is those who professed allegiance to Jesus. This sermon, then, is not the program one must follow in order to become a disciple; it is a way of life that is pursued by those who already are disciples. In unity with every biblical writer, Matthew makes it abundantly clear that a relationship with God is a gift one receives by God’s grace. Jesus is the light of all nations, calling upon people to receive the kingdom of God (Matthew 4:17). He graciously invites people to become His disciples (Matthew 4:18-22). He reaches out in love to all who call upon Him by faith (Matthew 8:2-3, 5-7; 9:2, 22, 29). No one earns his or her way to God (cf. Matthew 19:16) — salvation is God’s gift, and His alone.

The sermon on the Mount is not meant to be a “new Law” in the sense that Jesus was laying down new regulations for people to observe. People then, just as people now, absolutely did not need more rules telling them how God wanted them to live. The problem, as amply illustrated by the history of Israel, was that people consistently minimized or bent the rules in order to fit their own interests.

It must be said that Matthew 5:20 underscores the theme of the entire sermon.

“…unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

The problem with the Pharisees’ style of “righteousness” was that they bent the Law to fit their practice, and then pretended they were successfully following it all. Jesus clearly states again and again that was not acceptable. What the people need to truly see was the full demands of the Law, realize their inability to keep the Law, and realize that we all stand only through the grace of God.

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