Saturday, September 29, 2012

The Sermon of the Kingdom


Someone asked about the Sermon on the Mount, whether it is for today. I call it “The Sermon of the Kingdom,” because it is the announcement that the kingdom of God has now come into the world. In Matthew 4, “Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people” (v. 23). Then just a few verse later, beginning in Matthew 5 and on through to Matthew 7, we see what that preaching looked like.

It begins with the Beatitudes. This was not a new code of ethics that Jesus was offering. It was an announcement, the declaration of blessing because the kingdom of heaven had now come to earth. The beatitudes begin and end with express reference to the kingdom (Matthew 5:3, 10), and all in between are implicitly about the kingdom. These are not instructions about how one gets “saved” and enters into the kingdom. But they announce that, for all who have been looking and longing for the kingdom of God and the fulfillment of what God promised throughout the Old Testament, that kingdom has now come.

Then in a series of paradigms, Jesus teaches about what the coming of the kingdom means in relation to the Torah. He did not come to destroy the Law or the Prophets but to fulfill them (Matthew 5:17). What God required was not merely the external behavior that the law required, but something much deeper, concerning the heart. That was something the Law could never satisfy. That is why God promised, in Ezekiel 36, that He would come and gather Israel from among the nations and do an internal work in them:
Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them. (Ezekiel 36:25-27)
This was a promise God made about the end time, the age of His kingdom in the earth. A new heart and a new spirit — God’s own Spirit — placed in them, enabling them to keep His laws and statutes from the heart. This is the righteousness that God requires, the righteousness that exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees (Matthew 5:20). It is the righteousness that comes from the heart — the new heart and new spirit that God gives, with the Spirit of God Himself enabling it.

This is why Paul, in Galatians 5:22-23, contrasts the fruit of the Spirit not only with the “works of the flesh” but also with the Law. “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.” The Law could never produce in us the fruit that the Holy Spirit can. The Holy Spirit, who is God at work in us to create the desire for His will and enabling us to do His good will (Philippians 2:13), brings forth in us the kind of fruit, the kind of righteousness God is looking for.

Now, don’t get me wrong here — every believer in the Lord Jesus is accounted as righteous because of what Jesus has done for us on the cross. But the Holy Spirit works in us to manifest or reveal that righteousness in and through us.

So the Sermon on the Mount is very much about the kingdom of God, and the kingdom has now begun and is presently in the earth. We can see this because God has given every believer a new heart and His own Spirit to produce in us what the Law of Moses never could. The kingdom has already begun, though it is not yet complete, and will not be until King Jesus comes again. We live in between the time of the kingdom as it has already come and the kingdom as it has yet to come.



The Kingdom of Heaven on Earth

The Kingdom of Heaven on Earth
Keys to the Kingdom of God
in the Gospel of Matthew

by Jeff Doles

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Available in paperback and Kindle (Amazon), epub (Google and iTunes) and PDF.