Today, we come to the Sermon on the Mount.
Much ink has been spilled on this sermon of Christ to the Jewish people. It would be nearly impossible for me to address everything Christ says. Therefore, I will touch on two aspects of our Lord’s Sermon:
- How He Uses the Law
- The Context of the Covenant
How He Uses the Law
Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire. (Matthew 5:21-22, KJV)
It is often thought that Christ increases the demands of the moral law to demonstrate that none can fulfill its demands; for that reason, Christ’s mission was to fulfill it for the purpose of its abrogation.
However, this is not -exactly- the case.
As we learned in our study yesterday, God looks not only to our external obedience to His commands but also to the intentions of our hearts. Christ’s purpose in this Sermon is to expose the depths of our sin for the purpose of showing us our need for a Savior.
We see this expressed in Westminster Larger Catechism Q.95:
Q. Of what use is the moral law to all men?
A. The moral law is of use to all men, to inform them of the holy nature and will of God, and of their duty, binding them to walk accordingly; to convince them of their disability to keep it, and of the sinful pollution of their nature, hearts, and lives; to humble them in the sense of their sin and misery, and thereby help them to a clearer sight of the need they have of Christ, and of the perfection of his obedience.
Christ, through the Sermon on the Mount was putting our sinful hearts on display. God is not glorified by outward obedience only. He is glorified by the heart that, by faith, sees the depth of its sin, repents of its sin, comes to Christ’s obedience, and seeks righteousness by the Spirit.
Are you putting on a show for God? Are you hoping the works you do will earn His favor? Repent. The works of Christ are sufficient and nothing of your own may be added to them. Seek Christ first and by the Spirit you will live to do the will of the Father.
The Context of the Covenant
Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men. (Matthew 5:13, KJV)
What did Christ mean by calling the people the “salt of the earth”? There are a variety of interpretive views; I’d like to suggest one here that may help us understand these words. I believe Christ is using covenantal language.
Wilhemus à Brakel, theologian of the Dutch Further Reformation, writes this in The Christian’s Reasonable Service about the nature of a covenant:
It was customary to eat a meal in conjunction with the act of covenanting… For this purpose salt was used, which is pure and stable and keeps food from spoiling.
We see a reference to this in the Scripture as well:
Ought ye not to know that the LORD God of Israel gave the kingdom over Israel to David for ever, even to him and to his sons by a covenant of salt? (2 Chronicles 13:5, KJV)
What was Christ getting at? He was telling the Jews that they were God’s special covenant people. A holy nation set apart for the world. However, by disobedience, they lose the character that makes them holy. They are to show with the other nations what holiness is. Instead like the other nations, they have lost their saltiness, and become like the other nations of the world. Christ is calling them back to be a holy people. Christians, as God’s covenant people, should be set apart from the world. There ought to be a character to us that is different because of the work of Christ in us.
As John tell us:
Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. (1 John 2:15, KJV)
Are you living like the world? Can anyone see Christ in you, the Spirit at work in your heart? Examine yourself today, whether you have been following the pattern of this world. Go to Christ in prayer and repentance, asking him to transform you more into his likeness.