• What makes the Christian faith unique? C.S. Lewis: ‘O, that’s easy; we are saved by grace, not works!’ It is this truth that makes the Gospel such good news. So the unworthy are not disqualified. According to the first Beatitude, it is the ‘poor in spirit’ who belong to God’s Kingdom (cf. Matthew 5:3).
  • Indeed, the fact that the Sermon on the Mount begins with the blessings of the Beatitudes is significant. According to Davies and Allison, “… (the Beatitudes) function to put grace before imperative, (encouragement) before confrontation, blessing before demand …”. Only after the comforting words of the Beatitudes, lacking in any commands, are the hearers confronted with the ethical demands of the Kingdom.
  • And these ethical demands are addressed to Jesus’ disciples (Matthew 5:1), to those who are ‘salt and light’ (cf. Matthew 5:13-16), to those who know God as ‘Father’ (cf. Matthew 6:9). So, the sermon focuses on how to live a life that is pleasing to God, your Father.
  • If I were to summarize the soteriology of the sermon it would be as follows: We are not saved because of our works, but we are not saved without works! To quote James, faith without works is a dead faith that cannot save you (cf. James 2:14.).
  • If I were to summarize the ethics of the Sermon on the Mt, or rather the ethics of God’s Kingdom, it would be, ‘Do not be like them...’ (cf. Matthew 6:8a). In a nutshell, like the blessings of the Beatitudes, the ethics of the Kingdom are counter-cultural.

The Pattern of the Kingdom

  • Jesus draws a contrast between two kinds of righteousness throughout the Sermon on the Mount: in chapter 5: ‘You have heard it said, but I say unto you...’; in chapter 6: Jesus contrasts religious hypocrisy with true piety; and in chapter 7, a contrast is drawn between the wide and narrow ways, the good and bad trees and the wise and foolish builders!
  • Jesus’ critique has the religious leaders in view, those who, in that historical context, were considered models of law-keeping: Matthew 5:20 “For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never (= a double negative) enter the kingdom of heaven.”
  • One commentator (TK) has characterised their righteousness as follows: it was not deep enough, wide enough or high enough to enter God’s Kingdom. This is evident from the examples that follow:
  • Their obedience to the Law was not ‘deep enough’: The obedience of the religious leaders was superficial. They sought to obey only the letter of the Law:

Matthew 5:21–22 NIV

21 “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister, will be subject to judgment....

Unlike the religious leaders who condemned just the act of murder, Jesus condemns even anger!

  • Their love was not ‘wide enough’: The religious leaders loved only those who loved them. In this regard, Jesus stated that they were no better than the tax-collectors! But Jesus calls believers to love even their enemies because God’s children emulate the character of their Father in heaven who does good to both the righteous and unrighteous:

Matthew 5:43–48 NIV

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

  • Their motivations were not ‘high enough’: The religious leaders were concerned about their own glory, not God’s glory and so received no reward from God:

Matthew 6:1–4 NIV

1 “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. 2 “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

  • So, what kind of righteousness does Jesus commend? Jesus prioritises good relationships characterised by peace, sexual purity, faithfulness in marriage, integrity of speech, non-retaliation when wronged, and avoiding judgmentalism and hypocrisy when confronting sin in others: ‘...first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye’ (cf. Matthew 7:5).
  • According to Jesus, instead of parading your religious devotion or piety, like praying and giving, before men, believers must give and pray with self-forgetfulness! They have a Father in heaven who knows their needs and will supply them. If He takes care of the birds of the air, He will take care of His children, so they don’t need to be like the pagans who anxiously pursue these things. Instead, they should seek first God’s Kingdom, and store up treasures in heaven (cf. Matthew 6:25-34).
  • There is much to remember here, but Jesus fortunately summarises Kingdom righteousness with a simple ethic that can be easily applied in any and every situation: “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (cf. Matthew 7:12).
  • So, when problems arise with another person - a husband who has failed his wife; a child who has failed his parents; a student who has failed his teacher; an employee who has failed his or her boss - put yourself in the shoes of the other party. How would you like to be treated if you were in the firing-line? Treat the other person on the same way!
  • This is a righteousness that surpasses that of the Pharisees and scribes, and it is a deeper, wider and higher righteousness because it goes beyond the letter of the Law by requiring believers to ‘go the extra mile’, ‘turn the other cheek’, love even their enemies, all the while seeking the praises of God, and not the praises of men.
  • Jesus ends this sermon with a series of three brief parables - contrasting true and false ways/true and false prophets/true and false disciples - to warn his hearers, who include the crowds (cf. Matthew 7:28-29), that this sermon deals with matters of life and death, judgment and eternity (cf. Matthew 7:13.)!
  • In essence, Jesus warns them not to be deceived by false teachers who ‘sell tickets’, so to speak, to the broad road that leads to destruction. They are described as ‘wolves in sheep’s clothing’ because they are in their midst. Their message denies the Gospel and the need for godliness and the reality of judgment. But Jesus points out that, ‘Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire’ (Matthew 7:19), and it is God who does the cutting down and the throwing into the fire!
  • Therefore, says Jesus, be wise, not foolish (Greek= a moron!). It is not the hearers, but the doers of Jesus’ teaching who alone will stand on the day of judgment (cf. Matthew 7:24-27)!


  • It is important to note that these concluding parables are directed to Jesus’ followers. The broad and narrow ways do not contrast the world and the church, as some assume, but rather the hearers and doers of Jesus’ teaching. Some among Jesus’ audience are hearers only, not doers, hence the warnings.
  • The same may be said today of every church, even this one! That’s why Jesus commands his hearers to ‘Enter through the narrow gate’ which leads to life because many, we are told, are on the broad road that leads to destruction because it is an easier road than the narrow way that leads to life (cf. Matthew 7:13-14). You enter by means of the Gospel, by turning from your sin and trusting in Jesus for your salvation (cf. Matthew 4:17).
  • Today God has graciously given you another opportunity to take that step of faith if you haven’t already done so. Failure to do so means your house will fall with a ‘great crash’ on Judgment Day (cf. Matthew 7:27), and you will find yourself among those who say, ‘Lord, Lord...’ but Jesus will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ (cf. Matthew 7:21-23).
  • But what of those who have already taken this step? Remember that you are, according to Jesus, the ‘salt and light of the world’ (cf. Matthew 5:13-16). Therefore, you are called to be a visible witness to the world through word and deed.
  • You are called to love both God and neighbour (cf. Matthew 22:37-40)! Both your vertical and horizontal relationships are important to God. You can still ‘socially-distance’ from your neighbours without isolating yourself so that ‘others … may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven!’ (cf. Matthew 5:16). In a nutshell, that is your calling. So don’t hide your light; don’t withdraw from the world, but in the process, don’t compromise your witness to the world!