The Gospel of the Kingdom
Matthew 5, 7
Brief review of series theme – draw upon the four gospels to survey key events in Jesus’ life and key elements of His ministry. Jesus’ early public ministry took place in Galilee (MAP). Matthew summarizes two key elements of this period (read Matt. 4:23,24,25) – His public teaching and His healing miracles. It was both of these together that drew so many people to Him. Matthew follows this summary with an example of Jesus’ teaching in Matt. 5-7 (commonly known as the “Sermon on the Mount;” THIS WEEK), and with examples of His healing miracles in Matt. 8,9 (NEXT WEEK).
Matt. 4:23 says that Jesus’ teaching and preaching focused on one main theme – “the gospel of the kingdom.” As Martin Luther said, “Gospel (evangel) is a Greek word meaning glad tidings, good news, welcome information . . . something that makes one sing and rejoice.”
As Israel’s long-promised Messiah-King, Jesus announced the good news that God’s Kingdom had come within reach in His Person (read 4:17; 8 times in Matt. 5-7). Jesus also called people to change their minds (“repent”) about God’s Kingdom because they had/have big misconceptions about it – including who was eligible for it and how to get in it.
Let’s survey the Sermon on the Mount, looking for its good news and their/our misconceptions . . .
“God opens His kingdom to all who admit they can’t earn it”
Here are the opening words – read 5:3. The most important question in life is: “How can I gain entry into God’s kingdom?” Jesus declares that the condition is being “poor in spirit.” There are two Greek words for “poor.” Penes described the working poor, people who made ends meet by working hard and being frugal. Ptochos described the utterly bankrupt and destitute, who survived only by pure charity. Jesus uses ptochos here, so He is saying: “God opens His kingdom to all who admit they can’t earn it.” Ironically, the ones who are qualified are those who admit that they are disqualified.
What good news this is! No wonder so many “sinners” were/are attracted to Jesus! It is good news to hear that your main problem with God is not the sins you’ve committed, the years you’ve ignored/fled from God, etc. These are terrible, but He is prepared to forgive all of them and welcome you into His kingdom if you will only humbly admit to Him your spiritual bankruptcy and ask Him for charity (grace). Quote Eph. 2:8,9.
But this is bad news/offensive if you think (like most Jews in Jesus’ day) that by working hard (at morality, religion, etc.) you deserve/can earn entry into God’s kingdom. No wonder so many religious people were offended by Jesus! If you think you are deserving because of your Bible knowledge, comparative morality, religious upbringing, eco-friendly lifestyle, political “rightness,” etc. God’s kingdom is closed to you. But it is wide open to you the moment you change your assessment of your spiritual state, and come to Jesus as a charity case.
“I have come to fulfill God’s law on your behalf.”
Read 5:17a. So radical was Jesus’ message of grace (see above) that many people thought He was abolishing, or nullifying, the Old Testament Law. But He emphatically denied this (read 5:18) – He affirmed the eternal and binding authority of God’s Law. The key is understanding that but He came to fulfill the Law on our behalf (read 5:17b). If you are in debt $1 million to the IRS, and I pay your debt, I did not come to abolish or impose the tax law; I came to fulfill it on your behalf. In the same way, Jesus came to fulfill God’s law on our behalf. He does this in three ways:
He lived His life in perfect obedience to God’s moral law. He never transgressed God’s prohibitions, and He always loved God and people with all of His heart, mind and strength. He could ask His enemies: “Which one of you convicts Me of sin?” (Jn. 8:46), and say to them: “I always do the things that are pleasing to My Father” (Jn. 8:29). Can you imagine either presidential candidate saying this to their political enemies? We live in sin; we can’t even imagine a sinless life – yet Jesus lived His whole life this way, the only person ever to do so. By itself, this is of no help to us (EXAM FLUNKEE SEEING FRIEND’S 100% EXAM), but . . .
Because Jesus lived a sinless life, He could fulfill God’s law in a second way – He fulfilled the Old Testament sin-sacrifices. You probably know that animal sacrifice was central to Old Testament worship. God’s law taught that the penalty for sin is death, but that God would provide a blameless substitute whose death would pay for our sins. The animal sacrifices were symbolic pictures of a Person who would live a blameless life and offer Himself to take our guilt and pay the punishment of death in our place. This is why John the Baptist said of Jesus (quote Jn. 1:29), and Jesus said (quote Mk. 10:45). This is why Jesus said just before He died on the cross: “It is finished” or “paid in full.” Jesus fulfilled the penalty of the law for you, so that if you are willing to come to Him “poor in spirit,” His death pays for all of your sins forever (quote Col. 2:14)!
There is a third way that Jesus fulfills God’s law. If you receive His death for your sins, His Spirit comes to live in your heart. And as you live in dependence on Him, He enables you to “fulfill the requirement of the law” (read Rom. 8:4) – a lifestyle of love toward God and others. Not perfectly in this life, but more and more over time as you walk with Him, you can experience this transformation!
What good news it is that Jesus came to fulfill God’s law on our behalf! This is bad news only for “rich in spirit” people who think they can fulfill God’s law on their own. That’s why Jesus goes on to crush the hopes of such people (read 5:20,22,28,48). Ironically, it’s not the people who know they’re law-breakers who need to repent, but those who think they are law-keepers! Ironically, God never gave the law for you to keep, but to show you that you can’t keep it – so you will come to Jesus poor in spirit and let Him fulfill God’s law for you!
If you come to Jesus poor in spirit and let Him fulfill God’s law for you, He has another piece of good news for you . . .
“I can give you a love-relationship with My Father.”
The Jews understood that as the chosen nation, God was their Father nationally (read Deut. 1:31 NLT). But Jesus refers to God as “My Father” or “your Father” 17 times in this teaching (12 times in chapter 6). This was shocking to His audience – the idea that individuals could relate to God as “Abba” was considered impossible and/or irreverent. Because of this, their religious system degenerated into a focus on externals and impressing other people with your religiosity. Jesus came to change this, and to make it possible for us to know His Father as our Father.
“To those who are Christ’s, the holy God is a loving Father; they belong to His family; they may approach Him without fear and always be sure of His fatherly concern and care. This is the heart of the New Testament message.”
Coming to know God as your Father (the way fathers should be, not how they often are) and relating to Him as your Father will revolutionize your life! Consider what Jesus says about this:
We can cultivate a rewarding “secret” life with God (read 6:6). One of the wonderful things about a close personal relationship is that there are secret parts – just between you and the other person. It can be this way between you and God if you spend regular time alone with Him. This “secret” relationship is the great reward, and it leads to other rewards, including deliverance from the bondage of impressing/fearing other people (6:1). Is your relationship with your Father like an iceberg (SLIDE) – in which your public Christian life is rooted in your private relationship with God – or like a sinkhole (SLIDE), in which your public life is collapsing because of inadequate private substance?
We can experience increasing freedom from material anxiety. Material anxiety is sometimes the direct result of material greed (consumer debt), but even wealthy people are often crippled by material anxiety. But if God is my Father, I can learn to trust Him to provide for my material needs (read 6:31,32). If God is my Father, knowing Him can be my great treasure regardless of my financial status – and I can begin to be generous (quote 6:20). If God is my Father, serving in His kingdom can lead to greater confidence in His provision (quote 6:33).
We can experience increasing freedom from relational failure. One common reason for destructive relational conflict is not what we do to one another, but our refusal to humbly admit what we have done. At the root of this is the insecurity of self-righteousness – I can’t afford to look at my own part; I have to justify myself and focus on their part. Another common reason for relational breakdown is that we look to other people to provide what only God can give us (e.g., security; acceptance; significance). But if God is my Father, I can begin to trust that He will meet all of my relational needs (read 7:11,12). Then I can become secure enough in His love that it is isn’t devastating to focus on my log instead of the other person’s speck (quote 7:3-5). If God is my Father, I can learn to love others without expectation of return – the way I’d like to be treated (7:12).
What good news this is! How important it is to allow God to become our Father through faith in Jesus! How important it is to trust what Jesus says about God as our Father, and to “repent” from trusting our feelings, our past experience with parental figures, etc.!
TRANSITION: Summarize the above 3 pieces of good news. Now we come to the sobering conclusion of Jesus’ teaching . . .
“Your response to My teaching will decide your destiny.”
Read 7:24-27. No religious founder or prophet ever spoke like this! Imagine if I made this claim today! What does it mean to act on Jesus’ words? The preceding context answers this question and corrects wrong answers people commonly give about this crucial point.
Read 7:13,14. Don’t follow the crowd on this because the crowd is usually wrong; make your own decision, even if it is unpopular and counter-cultural. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that others can make this decision for you; you have to make it yourself (TURNSTILE).
Read 7:15,16. Don’t take the word of clergy, seminary graduates, etc. (including me). Compare their teaching to Jesus’ words, and evaluate their lifestyles before you entrust your soul to what they say.
Read 7:22,23. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that “Christian” activity is sufficient (e.g., BAPTISM; COMMUNION; CHURCH MEMBERSHIP; TITHING; etc.). This issue is having a personal relationship with Jesus – which He wants, but which you must embrace!
 Martin Luther, Preface to the New Testament.
 J. I. Packer, Knowing God (InterVarsity Press, 1973, p. 203).