Christians desperately need to know the difference between true Christianity and the counterfeits that are so prevalent today. One man writes: “We live in a day when image rates higher than character, when style counts more than real accomplishment. We are impressed with outward appearances. We are easily distracted from unspectacular disciplines that lead to excellence. Life is skimmed from the surface. The depths remain largely unexplored.”
The Sermon on the Mount, by contrast, is Jesus’ philosophy of life, delivered at a time when his popularity was soaring. The opening verses of the sermon, known as the Beatitudes, neatly contrast how to succeed in the kingdom of heaven as opposed to the kingdom of this world. A while ago, someone wrote a modern secular man’s version of the beatitudes:
Blessed are self-made and the self-sufficient, because they did it all by themselves.
Blessed are those who play it cool, because they avoid being hassled by life.
Blessed are those who demand their rights, because if they don’t, someone else will.
Blessed are those who go for all the gusto, because you only go around once.
Blessed are those who show no mercy, because anyone dumb enough to get caught deserves it.
Blessed are those who bend the rules, because after all, everyone is doin’ it.
Blessed are those who intimidate others, because if you don’t, someone else will grab your chips.
Blessed are those who despise the good, because everyone knows that good guys finish last.
Modern society lives by the rules of the survival of the fittest. The bumper sticker says it all: “The one who dies with the most toys wins.”
Some time ago, the owner of the Chicago Bulls made this statement when Michael Jordan first retired: “He’s living the American Dream. The American Dream is to reach a point in your life where you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do and can do anything that you want to do.” It might be some people’s American Dream, but definitely not Jesus’ dream as in the beatitudes, which seems to be a strange paradox in Christian living:
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Your Initial Response
How do the beatitudes contradict society’s values? Which worldly values are most difficult for you to reject? How can you begin to change your lifestyle to better reflect God’s values?
1Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him,
2and he began to teach them. He said:
3“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
5Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
6Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
7Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
8Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
9Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
10Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.
12Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (NIV)
1) “Eye” (“i=Eye”)
iEXP Bible Study Method
1 Draw a question mark at the place where you have difficulty of understanding.
2 Put a question mark next to all the difficult words.
3 Circle the words and works of Jesus Christ and number them in ascending order.
4 Underline “blessed” and number them in ascending order.
5 Highlight the reasons why believers were blessed and number them in ascending order.
2) “Expound” (E)
iEXP Bible Study Method
“Blessed” means happy and fortunate, and mostly it was used on the privileged recipients of divine favor. This word can describe a person’s inward contentedness that is not affected by circumstances. What is more precious is that God desires His children to enjoy this kind of blessedness. The blessedness that Christ talks about was different to the idea that common people perceive; in other words, He advocates a brand new and extraordinary axiology (the study of value or quality). Carnal and childish Christians cannot comprehend this concept of value.
1 Why did Jesus Christ sit down and preach (Matthew 5:1)?
2 Is Matthew 5-7 the same incident recorded in Luke 6?
3 Why did Jesus Christ have to preach this message?
4 Why could people have these behaviors inherit the above blessedness (Matthew 5:3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11)?
The Comparison of Matthew 5 and Luke 6
1 The Traditional Point of View
From Augustine the Church Father up to now, many scholars regard Luke 6:20 and Matthew 5-7 as two separate discourses.
2 One Discourse
Those who advocate both passages are of the same offer the explanations below: First, only the audience is different. Second, it only reflects the different choice of words. Third, both authors employed different methods of writing, namely, Matthew chose to write it topically, and Luke recorded his gospel chronologically.
Purposes of the Sermon
1 Purpose One
Christ taught His followers true righteousness and it was completely different to the righteousness taught by the scribes and Pharisees.
2 Purpose Two
Christ described the laws of His kingdom and He uses these spiritual principles to govern the lives of humankind.
3 Purpose Three
The message of Christ relates to the Old Testament law and the traditions of the scribes and Pharisees; so that we can compare them individually.
The Importance of the Sermon
1 The Need of New Birth
The standards of the Sermon on the Mount surpass those of Moses in the law, indicating without new births, human beings simply cannot live out these standards.
2 Draw Near to Lord Jesus
The purpose of listening to this discourse is to draw near to the Lord Jesus, as only He can meet God’s standard.
3 Happiness and True Success
Only by means of living according to the direction of this discourse, believers can experience real happiness and success.
4 Life of Witnessing
To live according to the principles of the Sermon on the Mount was one of the most effective ways to witness for Christ.
5 Pleasing to God
This kind of lifestyle not only benefits oneself and others, but the most important thing is that, it enables a person to please God.
Location of the Mount
The legendary Sermon Mount was a hill that slopes up gently from the north shore of the Sea of Galilee. According to Luke, it was apparently a level ground near Capernaum (Luke 6:17).
The Posture When Delivering the Sermon
A rabbi commonly sits down to teach; the teaching is considered to be informal and unofficial if he speaks while standing or walking. Matthew deliberately recorded the posture of Lord Jesus while preaching, because mainly the Jews were his audience. Lord Jesus sat and preached, indicating that His teaching was authoritative and official.
Those Who Are Poor in Spirit (5:3)
“Poor” is used to describe a “destitute” or “mendicant” in the Greek World. It can be interpreted as humble or poor in spirit here. “Spirit” (Strong’s number 4151) means spirit or human spirit. The poor widow of Luke 21 still had a bit of financial ability to offer, but the word “poor” used here was extreme poverty. It can be used to describe a person who crouched in a corner begging. One hid one’s face with one hand for one was ashamed of being recognised. The Lord Jesus depicted vividly that a person with a destitute heart would certainly inherit the kingdom. Why? The reason was very simple, only a person such as this would understand oneself correctly, and know their own needs; then they would surely come to seek the satisfaction of God, showing that they were partakers of the kingdom of heaven.
Those Who Mourn (5:4)
Mourn (Strong’s number 3966), means be sad, mourn, grieve over. “Shall be comforted” (Strong’s number 3870) can be interpreted as encourage, console, or urge. With a mourning heart that fears God, this person for sure would be comforted and strengthened by God, because God is the source of comfort.
Those Who Are Gentle (5:5)
Gentle (Strong’s number 4239) means meek or mild. The word sometimes was used to illustrate a soothing medicine or a soft breeze, and can be used to describe tamed animals. With an extreme gentleness, Jesus Christ appeared before the crowd, for He was the humble and gentle King (Matthew 21:5). A scholar points out the difference between being poor in spirit and being gentle, the former focuses on the human sinfulness, and the latter emphasises God’s holiness. A person who has humility, poor in spirit and gentleness are the foundation of one’s virtues. Only those who are poor in spirit have a correct understanding of themselves. They know their pathetic spiritual situations and would go to God, feeling sad and mourning before Him. Through this process, people would be tamed and would become meek, thus gaining the right of inheriting the earth (entering God’s kingdom).
Those Who Hunger and Thirst for Righteousness (5:6)
Hunger and thirst were the normal and natural response of the general public; if people felt hungry or thirsty, they would try to satisfy themselves with every effort. If they knew themselves really well, and understood that they were unrighteous, they would be satisfied in this aspect. Therefore; this would become their motivation or motive, they would try their very best to solve the problem. With regard to those who are hungry and thirsty for righteousness, the Lord ensured that these people would be satisfied in the righteousness.
Those Who Are Merciful (5:7)
A merciful (Strong’s number 1655) person would show compassion on the lowly people. It was hard for the Jewish religious leaders to show mercy because they were proud, self-righteous, and judgmental. Gamaliel the ancient rabbi said, “Whenever thou hast mercy, God will have mercy upon thee, and if thou hast not mercy, neither will God have mercy on thee.” This definitely is not the principle of the world, that is, those who have mercy on others might not receive mercy from others.
Those Who Are Pure in Heart (5:8)
“Heart” (Strong’s number 2588) is the inner person, the seat of motives and attitudes, the centre of personality. The Jewish religion is infiltrated with traditions and explanations throughout their generations, and they twisted the truth in the Old Testament. In other words, if one could clear up the impurities in the heart, and have a clean and pure heart and mind, one would definitely see God (5:8).
Those Who Are the Peacemakers (5:9)
Peacemaker (Strong’s number 1518) is a reconciler. True peace originated from God himself, because He is the one who granted peace (Lev. 26:6; 1 King 2:33; Ps 29:11; Isaiah 9:6; Ezekiel 34:25; Rom 15:33; 2 Cor 14:33; 2 The 3:16). After humankind sinned, not only did they lose peace, but also could not gain peace with their own effort. The internal peace came from God, and it was the gift granted by Him to humankind. Jesus Christ came to the earth to complete the salvation of sinners; the purpose was to grant humankind peace. Those born-again Christians possess godly qualities; peacemaking has become their vocations and it is just a natural expression in their lives.
Those Who Are Persecuted for the Sake of Righteousness (5:10-12)
Those who believed in Jesus Christ, possessed the new life of God, and got the nationality of the kingdom of heaven, would definitely be willing to be persecuted for the sake of righteousness, showing the trail of new life. Persecuted for the sake of righteousness was definitely not a brand new issue, because in the past the prophets had been treated like this. For those who suffered for God, they should be glad about it, because the reward would be great in heaven.
3) “Exercise” (X)
iEXP Bible Study Method
1 God created Adam and Eve, granting them the inheritance of the earth and the authority to rule the land; however, they succumbed to the devil’s temptation. They did not obey God’s rule and lost the possession of the earth, but the Lord Jesus stated that the meek would inherit the earth. Sinners were as if mustangs and they were untamed. If sinners could discover their problems and would be willing to be tamed, they then could inherit the earth (Matthew 5:5).
2 Memorise Matthew 5:5.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. (Matthew 5:5)
3 The Lesson of Being “Poor in Spirit”
Not only should this be our attitude, but we must recognise this very need of ours.
4 The Lesson of Mourning
This is our attitude toward sin, revealing a true sorrow for our sins.
5 The Lesson of Being Meek”
This is our attitude toward others. We must be teachable and do not defend ourselves when we are wrong.
6 The Lesson of Being Hungry and Thirsty
This is the attitude that we should have toward God. As we pray to God, we will receive His righteousness by faith.
7 The Lesson of Being “Merciful”
We must have a spirit of forgiveness and love.
8 The Lesson of Being “Pure in Heart”
We must keep our lives clean, for holiness is important to us, and we cannot replace it with other substitutes.
9 The Lesson of Being “Peacemakers”
Christians should bring peace, between people and God and between those who are in disagreement with one other. We are the ones who share the Gospel of peace.
10 The Lesson of Being “Persecuted”
All godly people will suffer persecution of some sort.
4) “Proclaim” (P)
By applying the biblical truths to their lives, believers would experience God. When the Bible students experience God and His truths, they should follow the example of the early Christians of testifying to non-believers and believers boldly. By means of speech, we witness to non-believing friends and to edify believers alike. The fourth step of the iEXP Bible study is “Proclaim”.
iEXP Bible Study Method
After finished studying the text, try to apply the truths to your daily living, family life and church life, and pray that you will experience the truthfulness and power of God’s Word. Grab the opportunity to share your experience with non-believers and believers, in family altar, small groups and social gatherings, as a way of witnessing the power of the gospel to non-believers and edification of believers.