A Study of the Gospel of Matthew, Part 2, Including the Beatitudes and the Lord's Prayer
In part 1 of our study of the gospel of Matthew, we were introduced to the kingdom of Heaven with the birth of Jesus, the king of this kingdom.
In the next two chapters Jesus teaches about
- The principles of the kingdom of Heaven, showing us how to live (right attitudes)
- Wrong attitudes
- Introduces the new covenant.
Jesus had just spent time preaching the gospel of the kingdom to the public and healing their sick. After this he spent time teaching about his kingdom to the disciples, those who were called to follow him. Rather than "preaching what he practised" he practised first and then taught. After all, the crowds must have been amazed at what they had seen and some (but not all) wanted to know what it was all about. Acts 10v38 states that Jesus went around doing good. The next stage was to teach them and make disciples.
We see the contrast between
- the spirit of Christ in the nine beatitudes and
- the spirit of Satan in the nine wrong attitudes.
Chapter 5- The Beatitudes
Also known as The Sermon On The Mount
Jesus begins by sitting down to teach his disciples, rather than the whole crowd to whom he had been ministering before. This was going to be some serious teaching, not for the half-hearted and would take them on the narrow way!
Verse 3- the master key to open all doors in the kingdom of Heaven
The poor in spirit are those who are humble enough to be aware of their spiritual need. They are like spiritual beggars, who thus get the best from heaven, "for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." They are not self-sufficient, but totally reliant upon God.
Those who mourn for their sin, take sin seriously, as Jesus himself clearly does from his further teaching.
The meek are blessed and will inherit the earth. In meekness we are willing to take insults and not hit back. It is seen in bearing wounds, forgiving injuries and returning good for evil, as we see clearly in Jesus' life. Never do we see him angry for the insults hurled at him.
Those who hunger and thirst after righteousness shall be filled. They that diligently seek for it with all their heart. Worthless things are easily obtainable on the surface, but precious things have to be dug for. Do we hunger and thirst for money, pleasure, honour and position, as is normal in the kingdom of this earth or do we long for victory over sin? Jesus says in John 7v37 to come if you are thirsty, not to be blessed but for spiritual power over the works of the enemy, for purity and uprightness. Only then will you be filled and satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for then they will obtain mercy from God. This is a high standard, leaving no room for unforgiveness, for so it is with God.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. When there is no place for anyone but God you will see God in everything. Everywhere you look you will see God when your heart is pure from pride, unforgiveness, vengeance etc.
Verse 9- peacemakers
Are you known as a peacemaker, or one who stirs things up with gossip and malice? God wants his children to follow in their father's family tradition by being peaceful and content.
Verse 10- Persuction
Not a favorite word, but something that Jesus says will happen to us if stand up for what is right and live as Jesus did. We will be like the prophets before us, who spoke out the truth of God's kingdom. Not to tickle men's ears to gain worldy honour, but to proclaim the kingdom of heaven on earth. To obey is better than sacrifice. Yet he also says that it will be a real cause to rejoice because of the reward awaiting us and others in heaven, who were persecuted before us.
Jesus gave good cause for us to take heed to his instructions (commandments), which shows that we are children of our father in heaven. See later on what the consequences are when we don't! As verse 45 states, he makes the sun and rain to come on the evil and the good, so miracles are not a mark of God's favor, but obedience.
You Are The Salt Of The Earth
Salt Of The Earth and Light Of The World
About quality not quantity
We don't need much salt or a huge amount of light to make a difference. Just a small amount can dispel darkness. However, we need to watch out that we don't lose our saltiness, or we will be thrown out! In 1Corinthians 13 Paul says that if we have all the spiritual gifts, but no love, we are nothing. So let's check the quality of our lives, that they are still salty and light, rather than how much we do or how many of us there are.
So Jesus is saying that the law that requires us to live holy lives as Jesus did, is still valid, except with the new covenant brought about by Jesus' death and resurrection, we now have grace which gives us the power to not just fulfill the law, but to live as overcomers and in victory consistently. Grace however, is not a license to sin.
God takes sin seriously, because it separates us from him and his purposes in our lives. Do we want to be least in the kingdom of Heaven by breaking one and not mourning/repenting, or will we teach others of the importance and consequences of doing so?
Verse 20- Introduction to the rest of the Sermon On The Mount
If our righteousness is only based upon the law, as with the Pharisees, we won't enter the kingdom of Heaven. The law only enabled them to deal with the outside, the new covenant, that Jesus introduces, frees us from that burden because it cleanses us from the inside, thus enabling our outer lives to naturally be clean. As we have said, if we hunger and thirst after righteousness (on the inside) we will be clean and it will show on the outside.
This is the backdrop to the following verses, where grace is superior to the law as Jesus was superior to Moses, who received it. Where new covenant righteousness causes us to hunger for inner purity.
You Are The Light Of The World
The Wrong Attitudes
So now, as Jesus talks about the nine wrong attitudes, he talks of laying the axe to the root to deal with the root cause. It's now about wrong motives rather than actions. All the good outward things we do will be corrupt if done with the wrong motives. Jesus brought grace, which demands a higher standard. Look at the table below to see how the new covenant demands much higher standards than the old law. Is it no wonder that we tend to want to revert to the law!
Difference Between Old And New Covenants
Old Testament Law
New Testament Covenant of Grace
Consequences of Obeying
Consequences of disobeying
Do not kill
Do not be angry without cause
Reconciliation and God accepts your gifts
Do not commit adultery
Do not look with lust
Your whole body not thrown into hell
whole body cast into hell
Do not break your oaths
Do not lie at all or deceive
Standing with Jesus as children of your father who is perfect
Anything more than straightforward yes or no will bring trouble and judgement
An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth
Do not take vengeance at all
You will be able to go the extra mile
God will take vengeance for you
Love your neighbour and hate your enemy
Love your enemies as well
You will receive a reward
Will be no better than the ungodly, who do the same
Saved By Grace
Thank you Lord God for saving me from the hopelessness of sin. Your death for me has paid the price so that I am no longer separated from you. Your Holy Spirit gives me the power to overcome temptation, yet even if I stumble, as I repent you forgive me and bring me back into fellowship again. O God, how I love you and want to obey your commandments, which are not burdensome. Oh the wonder of salvation!
Chapter 6- Three Good Things or not?
Why and how we do things
It's not about how long or often, but why and how.
The chapter begins with Jesus talking about what might be deemed as very holy and good things. Certainly the first was very highly esteemed in the Jewish religion:
- Giving (charity)
Surely these were worthy, holy actions, yet God would not always accept them. Why? Because they were so often performed in order to gain praise and honour from men. To be on the platform talking about ourselves and showing how well we preach, pray, sing or perform!
Verse 1 -Giving Charity
We are warned that to do these three things to be seen by men will cause us to lose our reward from our father in heaven. As his children, we have to decide to either enjoy the rewards of the world in this life, or from our loving, heavenly father in heaven.Giving charity should be so in secret that not even our brothers and sisters in Christ know. Yet our father's reward for doing so will be public. Do our hearts demand that we give? Interesting to note that in the first 30 years of Jesus' life we have no record from men of what Jesus gave, sacrificed and suffered.
Verse 4 -What we do in secret God will reward us for
He knows how very hard it would be to resist the temptation for pride and self-acclamation when standing before men, who would also be tempted to idolise the one on the platform instead of Christ alone.
- The old covenant was all about the external- performing religious acts
- The new covenant is all about internal- all is sacred
Pure motives are when righteousness exceeds that of the Pharisees.
All we do must be for God's glory alone!
Verse 5- Prayer
Jesus warns us of being hypocrites by praying to be seen by men and such prayers not reaching heaven. Such public prayer is especially prone to such false motives. When Jesus had sent the multitudes away, he went off into a mountain, alone to pray (Matthew 14v23).
He warns also of using vain repetitions in praying and then goes on to give us a model of how to pray- The Lord's Prayer. Interesting that this is so often exactly what we do with this prayer! Neither is it about how long our prayers are but rather faith and persistence.
We do not pray to inform God of our needs, for he already knows.
Then What Is Prayer?
Which do you think best describes true prayer:
The Lord's Prayer- A Guide
Verse 9- Our father who art in heaven..
Crucially this is a prayer for those who know God and their foundation in him
- as their loving father of the new covenant, because they are children of God.
- he is in heaven and as sovereign, eternal and almighty, inspires us to faith
Verse 10- Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as in heaven..
Prayed from the heart, this shows a true, mature disciple, who is looking not for his own selfish needs, but seeking the kingdom of God first and his honour. Then he is likely to find his needs met. Salvation means being delivered from self-centredness when man believes that he is the centre of everything. Jesus delivered us from the form of christianity that asks, "The world has blessed me, so how can God bless me?" Praying reveals what our hearts desires really are when we pray in secret.
How is God's will carried out by the angels in heaven?
And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them and rose again.— 2 Corinthians 5v15
Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread
After praying "thy will be done" we pray for our needs. This is referring to what we need to live to do God's will, not the luxuries of this world. We pray for OUR needs, and so it's not all about me, but my brothers and sisters in the body of Christ as well. We should ask for one day at a time, just as the manna that God provided for the children of Israel in the wilderness, would only last for one day. (Exodus 16v21)
Verse 12-15- The importance of forgiveness
The prayer guide finishes in verse 13, but Jesus, knowing how we will be tempted by the evil of unforgiveness, clarifies further that if we don't forgive others their sins against us, neither will our father in heaven. We will be in debt to him and be thrown into prison until we repay these debts in full, which of course we never could. How sad, when Christ has forgiven us, but will not tolerate us not returning that forgiveness and mercy to others. (Matthew 18v25-33) We cannot enter God's presence with unforgiveness and so we should take this seriously as God does.
The Amen at the end of verse 13 is an acknowledgement that we are working together to build God's kingdom, where he has the power and glory (not us) for ever. Sadly it has often been reduced to a vain repetition at the end of a formulated set of words that indicates we have finished.
Verse 16-18- Fasting
In order to be rewarded by our father in Heaven, fasting should be done in secret, whenever we need to, not all together at Lent, to make sure that everyone knows!
Treasures in Heaven and Lilies of the Field
No one can serve two masters
In the remainder of this chapter Jesus exhorts his disciples not to serve this world, which demands that we make and spend much money and accumulate riches and worldly power, which are promised to provide us with peace and happiness. Rather, Jesus wants us to live dependent upon him, just as the lilies of the field and birds of the air. Do we truly believe that our father in Heaven knows what we have need of to live for him? Will we let him provide our needs for today and tomorrow, or rely instead upon the pensions and trust funds of this world, that are here today and gone tomorrow! It is actually far less than the world tells us we need. We can earn our living without striving for wealth and human glory and still serve God's kingdom, but we cannot love both! His kingdom is so different from the kingdom of this world, as we have seen, but it is governed by a loving, just and eternal God, rather than the father of lies and deception. Which will we choose?
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you.— Matthew 6v33
How Much Does It Cost To Live In The Kingdom Of God?
The next chapters in Matthew explain more about how to live in the kingdom of God and reap great rewards, but we also see the cost and how narrow the gate is. We have so much more to discover, for those who have the inclination to seek and who don't leave it too late. I hope to share this with you in part 3.
© 2019 Christine Hulme