Summary: This is Part 9 in a 14-part series of studies I call “The Christian Character” as described by Jesus in what is familiarly known as the “Sermon on the Mount.” In this part Jesus speaks of righteousness exceeding that of the scribes and Pharisees; murder, divorce, and oaths - and a better way.

Part 9 - Righteousness exceeding that of the scribes and Pharisees; divorce, oaths

Sermon on the Mount

The Christian Character

Matthew 5:3 - 7:27

(Cf. Luke 6:20-49)

This is Part 9 in a 14-part series of studies I call “The Christian Character” as described by Jesus to a crowd of people on a Galilean hillside as he delivered what is more familiarly known as the “Sermon on the Mount.”

The 14 parts are as follows:

Part 1 – Introduction

Part 2 – Beatitudes – the poor in spirit

Part 3 - Beatitudes – those who mourn

Part 4 - Beatitudes – the meek, and those who hunger and thirst

Part 5 - Beatitudes – the merciful and the pure in heart

Part 6 - Beatitudes – peacemakers

Part 7 - Beatitudes – the persecuted and insulted

Part 8 - Salt of the earth and light of the world

Part 9 - Righteousness exceeding that of the scribes and Pharisees; divorce, oaths

Part 10 - Eye for eye, loving neighbor and hating enemy, being perfect

Part 11 - Three things to do, not to be seen by men and a model prayer

Part 12 - Laying up treasures, eye is the lamp of the body, serving two masters

Part 13 - Do not judge, do not give what is holy to dogs and pigs

Part 14 - Ask, seek, and knock; the narrow gate; false prophets; building on the rock

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This will be a rather lengthy review as we covered a lot last week. We began to see that after the beatitudes, which form the core teaching in the sermon (and in fact all of Jesus’ teaching), the rest of Jesus’ sermon shows how the person acts who possesses the characteristics he described in the beatitudes. In the beatitudes Jesus spoke about what we are inside. Next he moves from speaking about the Christian’s heart and character, and recognizes that those who are so blessed have a relationship to society and the world. Stated another way, the rest of the sermon illustrates the outworking of the beatitudes in a world that is not blessed by possessing the qualities. The rest of the sermon, and all of Jesus’ teaching and actions amplify and explain how the person blessed by the beatitudes thinks and functions.

Jesus illustrated that by describing those listening to him – and by imputation, all in later generations who would exhibit the Christian character – as the salt of the earth, and the light of the world.

As used figuratively, the seasoning and preserving qualities of salt and light are the attributes described in the beatitudes. The only savory seasoning we may apply in our walk of life is that which resembles Christ. The only light we have to give is the light we have received. Like the moon, we shed only a reflected light. By reflecting the sun’s light, the moon becomes to some degree like the sun. Though the moon provides light to a lesser degree than the sun, the attributes of light are the same. But the moon has no light to give except what bounces from it. To the extent we become like Christ, we are capable of reflecting his light. Paul wrote to the saints at Philippi, “for me to live is Christ.”

Continuing our review of last week:

Matt 5:17-18 "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.”

What a curious statement from Jesus! Why does he say this - having no apparent connection to the beatitudes, salt, and light - at this point in the sermon?

What was “the law and the prophets?” And why did Jesus say he did not come to do the very thing he clearly did? Did Jesus, as he says here, NOT abolish the Law?

I shared my belief the Jesus spoke here of the entirety of God-breathed commandments up to that point in time. Everything God directed, Jesus was obligated to fulfill. That would include the Law given at Mount Sinai. He didn’t come to abolish it, but to fulfill it. Nor did he come to abolish the prophets, but to fulfill their prophecies about himself.

Why then does Jesus bring that up at this point? Does it have anything to do with the beatitudes, or salt and light about which he had just been teaching?

Jesus is about to launch into some teaching, which runs to the end of Matthew 5, that looks to some like he is setting himself in opposition to the Law. That, I believe, is why he brings it up at this point in the sermon - so that those who hear him seem to set the law aside would bear in mind that his teaching was not at variance with the prevailing law of his day, but a superior way of fulfilling it.

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