TODAY’S READING: MATTHEW 5-7
The Constitution of the King and His Kingdom (chapters 5-7).
HIGHLIGHTS & INSIGHTS:
As we make our way through the Gospel of Matthew, there are several things you want to keep in the forefront of your thinking that will help to keep you between the white lines.
Understand that Matthew is not written from a chronological standpoint, as are Mark and Luke. I like the way John Phillips explains Matthew’s approach. “He tends to group his material in order to produce a cumulative effect for the point he is making that Jesus is the Messiah of the Jews. For example, beginning in chapter 5 (today’s reading), we have the Sermon on the Mount – what Jesus TAUGHT. This is followed by a series of miracles in chapters 8 to 9, by no means in the order of occurrence, but which show what Jesus WROUGHT. These miracles are followed in turn by a series of reactions to Jesus, illustrating what people THOUGHT. It seems clear that Matthew’s material is arranged so that it can be easily remembered and certainly the contents of his gospel are more easily remembered than the contents of the other synoptics.”
Also keep in mind the specific Jewish nature of this Gospel. The Book of Proverbs talks about the importance of identifying landmarks. Proverbs 22:28 says, “Remove not the ancient landmark, which thy fathers have set.” Proverbs 23:10 adds, “Remove not the old landmark; and enter not into the fields of the fatherless.” Obviously, from an historical standpoint, this has to do with the importance of identifying the land boundaries, and the importance of allowing them to remain intact. To apply the principle to the Bible itself, however, from a devotional standpoint, we could say that the “ancient landmark” of the Bible that you never want to lose sight of or remove is the Jew! Once you lose sight of the Jew in terms of interpreting the Bible, you will find yourself in “the fields of the fatherless.” For example, there are four Books of the Bible where people allow themselves to get doctrinally discombobulated. Matthew is the first, Acts is the second, Hebrews is the thir!
d, and James is the fourth. Every doctrinal controversy and division in the Body of Christ is going to come out of a verse, passage, or chapter in one of those four Books. Coincidentally enough, all four of them have something in common. They are all related specifically to the Jew!
Once you lose the ancient landmark of the Jew in these Books, you might well end up in “the field of the fatherless” believing in works for salvation; that baptism is a requirement for salvation; that you can lose your salvation; that tongues and healing are for today, and on and on, and on. All of those false doctrines are propagated today because somebody lost sight of the Jew in these Books!
That is very important to recognize as we come into today’s reading in Matthew 5, 6 and 7, which is Matthew’s record of the first sermon Jesus ever preached, what we call “The Sermon on the Mount.” You must understand that all the way through the Old Testament, God has been promising the Jews a kingdom. They understood that kingdom to be a literal earthly kingdom where God’s ruler (His “anointed” – Hebrew; His “messiah” – Greek) would sit on the throne of David. That kingdom is what the Book of Matthew is all about. It is referred to as the “kingdom of heaven,” and Matthew’s Gospel is the only Gospel in which the phrase appears, where it is found some 32 times!
Matthew’s Gospel presents Christ as King of the “kingdom of heaven,” the kingdom promised to the Jews in the Old Testament, and referred to as the “kingdom of Israel” (Acts 1:6). In yesterday’s reading, the King appears (chapter 2), in chapter 3 He is heralded, and in today’s reading (chapter 5 and verse 1), He sits, and delivers the constitution for the kingdom! But recognize, the subject of His sermon isn’t “heaven,” but the “kingdom of heaven”! (Note 5:3, 10, 19, 20; 7:21) And the sermon isn’t directed to the Gentiles, or the church of God, but to Jews! You say, “But it’s in the New Testament!” Sure it is, but the context of the Book, much less the sermon, is strictly Jewish! (And do recognize that you don’t really enter into the New Testament, according to the Bible’s definition, until the death of Christ, which in Matthew’s Gospel isn’t until chapter 27! Hebrews 9:16-17 says, “For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. Fo!
r a testament is of force AFTER MEN ARE DEAD: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth.” That means that in the strictest sense of the word, we don’t actually enter the New Testament until the very end of each of the Gospels. More will be said about this tomorrow.)
As you read the Sermon on the Mount today, recognize that our Lord’s audience is Old Testament Hebrews who at that time were still under the law. His sermon is designed to present the real intent of the law, and to present the principles of the millennial kingdom (i.e. the “kingdom of heaven”). Yes, there are truths that we as Gentiles in the Church of God can apply devotionally to our lives, but it has no application whatsoever to how we are saved.