The Gospel of Matthew
"E. Schuyler English: The Gospel According to Matthew"
The Book of MATTHEW
"The Kingdom of the heavens is at hand." So had the herald, John the Baptist, proclaimed, and now the King Himself was preaching, "Repent: for the Kingdom of the heavens is at hand" (Matt. 4:17). The King was upon the earth, His Kingdom was at hand; it would naturally follow that the King should make a manifesto of the constitution of the Kingdom, and it is that which Matthew has recorded in chapters five, six, and seven. This discourse is generally called the Sermon on the Mount and is often misapplied in our churches.
Before we consider the discourse in any detail, let us look for a moment at its setting and its audience that we may have the proper background for complete understanding. As brought out in the foregoing chapters, the Holy Spirit has not given us in the four Gospels any chronological synopsis of the life of the Lord Jesus, but each Gospel presents our Lord in a particular manifestation of Himself. In Matthew He is shown as the King, in Mark as the Servant, in Luke in His Humanity, and in John as the God-Man, the Only-Begotten Son. Now concerning the manifesto of the Kingdom, no report of such a lengthy discourse will be found in Mark, Luke, or John. In fact, Luke alone mentions "The Sermon on the Mount" in Luke 6, while the so-called "Lord's Prayer" is recorded upon a different occasion, in Luke 11. In leading Matthew to present the Lord Jesus as the King of the Jews, the Holy Spirit guided his thoughts and his pen into giving us the complete constitution of the Kingdom at the beginning of the King's ministry, for our better understanding of its full meaning and application.
"The Sermon on the Mount" is not for the unsaved. It does not reveal the way of salvation, but speaks of the characteristics of those who are already saved. Redemption is through the shed blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, and "The Sermon on the Mount," like the law, can only be our "schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith" (Gal. 3:24). Neither is "The Sermon on the Mount" to be considered as exclusively Christian, though the greater part of it, at least, was spoken to the disciples. Had the Holy Spirit meant the application to be for the Church, He would have brought the discourse to our attention after the Lord first mentioned the Church, in Matthew sixteen. Church doctrine is revealed in the Epistles. The Christian has a heavenly calling; "The Sermon on the Mount" is to a great extent earthly in its application. Nor is "The Sermon on the Mount" exclusively Jewish. There are some who say that it has no application whatever to Christian believers and should be ignored by the Church. This is false teaching. "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works" (2 Tim. 3:16, 17).
In our study of this portion of God's Word, let us remember that "The Sermon on the Mount" is the manifesto of the constitution of the Kingdom of the heavens, which is to come upon the earth in the millennial reign of the Lord Jesus, and which shall be delivered up by the Son "to God, even the Father" (1 Cor. 15:24). Yet it behooves us who are Christians, who are to reign with our Lord upon the earth, to meditate upon the picture of the character which is the perfect result of the work of the Lord Jesus Christ for us. "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father Who is in Heaven is perfect" (Matt. 5:48).
"And seeing the multitudes, He went up into a mountain; and when He was set, His disciples came unto Him: And He opened His mouth and taught them, saying, Blessed are ..." We have already pointed out that the manifesto of the Kingdom was proclaimed to the disciples, believers in the Lord Jesus, and consequently heirs of the Kingdom. It is safe to say that even His disciples were astonished at the constitution of the Kingdom which was set before them. Our thoughts of a Kingdom are somehow closely concerned with power, and might, and pomp and armaments. The Old Testament speaks of a visible and powerful Kingdom, but it also states that those who share in it shall be poor in spirit and meek (Isa. 11:4; Psa. 72). It was their failure to recognize this that caused the Jew to reject the King and His Kingdom.
"Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the Kingdom of the heavens." First let us look at this from the believer's view-point. The Lord called him "blessed" who is conscious of utter spiritual poverty. Only he who is willing to take God's grace as a free gift is so blessed. But the Christian, who has admitted that there is nothing of merit in himself, who has received the Lord Jesus as his Saviour by the Holy Spirit, is already, in Christ, blessed. Secondly, the remnant of Israel, waiting through the Great Tribulation in the midst of persecution and sufferings for the Lord Jesus to establish the Kingdom, will be poor in spirit (Isa. 66:2), and they, too, will be blessed.
"Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted." From the believer's standpoint, this mourning is not over personal sin, for that has all been washed away by the blood of the Lamb. It is rather a mourning over the sin that exists in the world, and the results of it. He is blessed to whom sin is not a light matter, and who is concerned about the sins of his fellow man. He is comforted because of the finished work of the Cross. The remnant of Israel will mourn in an evil day (Micah 7:1-6), but will be comforted (Micah 7:7), for the Lord shall come and restore the Kingdom to Israel.
"Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth." We are inclined to think of meekness as timidity, but the original meaning of the word is far from that. It is pictured by a colt, powerful and energetic, which has been bridled for the first time; power and energy under control. The Christian is blessed who is so yielded to God, and he shall rule in the Kingdom on earth. It is Israel's promise that they shall inherit the earth. "For evil doers shall be cut off; but those that wait upon the Lord they shall inherit the earth. The meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace" (Psa. 37:9, 11).
"Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness; for they shall be filled." "This is the way of the heirs of the Kingdom, waiting for the manifestation of it" (Arno C. Gaebelein). These first four blessings show us the characteristics of the believers as heirs of the Kingdom of the heavens waiting for the Kingdom.
The next three blessings are the manifestation of the divine nature in the heirs of the Kingdom, presently in the Christian, and one day in the remnant of Israel that shall inherit the Kingdom of the heavens. "Blessed are the merciful ...; Blessed are the pure in heart ...; Blessed are the peacemakers." "Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as He is pure" (1 John 3:2, 3). The Lord Jesus Himself is the fullest manifestation of these seven "blesseds" of the Kingdom.
The last two blesseds, as relating to the Christian and the remnant of Israel, are further set forth in 1 Peter 2 and Revelation 20, respectively. It is 1 Peter 2:21, 22 that is for the Christian: "For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow His steps: Who did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth;" Revelation 20:4, 6 for the Jewish remnant: "And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the Word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power. But they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years."
"Ye are the salt of the earth. ... Ye are the light of the world" (Matt. 5:13, 14). The Lord was speaking to the disciples, believers on Him. It is to the Christian that this message speaks today. We are the salt of the earth. Salt prevents decay, but if it has lost its savour, it is "good for nothing." We are the light of the world, but if our light is hid, it is of no value. "Ye are the salt ...; ye are the light;" to preserve and to shine; this should be our witness to the Lord. He is the true Light; our light is a reflection of Him. The Word does not say, "Let your good works so shine," but "Let your light (the Lord Jesus Christ) so shine." Are we a living testimony to Him in this age? May the Lord grant it by His Holy Spirit.
"Think not that I am come to destroy the law, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, till Heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled" (Matt. 5:17, 18).
No greater illustration of the fact that the Lord Jesus Christ came to fulfil the law in full could be found than in Matthew five; first, because He said so; and secondly, because in His proclamation concerning the righteousness of the Kingdom age, He showed that the law of Moses shall be exceeded, that it will be a law of love.
Think not that He came to destroy the law. He was made under the law (Gal. 4:4); He lived in obedience to the law (1 Peter 2:21); He fulfilled the types of the law (Heb. 9:11-28); He bore for us the curse of the law (Gal. 3:13); and He redeemed us from the position of servants of the law to that of sons of God (Gal. 4:5). No longer is the believer under the law, for he has a new nature, the indwelling Spirit, by Whom he has the perfect law of liberty. "Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be joined to another, even to Him Who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God" (Rom. 7:4).
"But I say unto you, Love your enemies. ... Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father Who is in Heaven is perfect" (Matt. 5:44, 48). The standard of the heirs of the Kingdom is the perfection of God, the Lord Jesus Christ. "Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; and walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given Himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling savour" (Eph. 5:1, 2).
"The day will come when such righteousness and love and perfection as the King here describes will dwell amidst His earthly people and will be manifested in the earth. It will be in the day when the Kingdom has come and His will be done on earth as it is in Heaven. But every child of God born anew has put before him the highest standard, which includes all that which the King here expounds and that is in possession of Himself, Who is the true God and the eternal Life, 'to walk even as He walked.'" (A.C. Gaebelein)