The Interpretation Of The Sermon On The Mount
By Timothy Binion
The Sermon on the Mount over the past century among Baptists has suffered from private interpretation. Some Baptists have filpflopped doctrinally, perhaps trying to remove the teachings of a “Visible” Church or one of the other Landmark doctrines. Recently some Baptists, believe it or not, are teaching that the sermon on the mount does not apply to the church age. From Matthew chapter 5:1 to 7:27 Jesus clearly taught principles that apply to the Kingdom of Heaven. Their position is that the Kingdom of Heaven has not come yet so the sermon and its teaching are on hold till the Kingdom arrives. I believe the principles found in the Sermon on the Mount apply to the Church and introduced the kind of kingdom that he was about to set up.
Historical Baptists and this writer contend that Jesus did set up a kingdom here on the earth and the Sermon on the Mount disclosed its nature which is internal, spiritual and practical. A Kingdom that could be global, crossing land and seas in the world but never to be of the world or like the world. This was the position of the first President and founder of the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth Texas, Dr. B. H. Carroll and many other Baptist.
B. H. Carroll wrote: “These twelve men were to share with him the burden of responsibility and labor, and it was quite important that they should be thoroughly instructed in the first principles of the kingdom which he announced. It was equally necessary that the larger body of his disciples should understand those fundamental principles, and that miscellaneous and ever shifting crowd, drawn together by their expectations of a kind, and looking to the establishment of an earthly monarchy which would overturn Roman supremacy and give to Judea the sovereignty of the universe that this mixed rabble should have their misconceptions concerning the nature of the kingdom of Jesus Christ removed, and forever.”
“The design of it was introductory an opening or rudimental discourse setting forth the foundation principles of the messianic kingdom, showing that these principles are internal, spiritual, practical and not external ritualistic, or theoretic.”
Was Jesus trying to change present day thought or views about the type of Kingdom that he would establish? Carroll says; “All through it, in all of its great divisions and subdivions, is brought out in clearest sight that the principles of the Christian religion are internal, spiritual and practical.”
Does an internal evidence of religion exceed the external evidence of religion? Would a spiritual kingdom exceed a natural kingdom? Do not the spiritual principles produce a visible response?
Dr. J. B. Moody a prominent Southern Baptist in May of 1900 delivered a lecture at the Southwestern University and said: “We know the kingdom was first mentioned, and that the church did not supplant the kingdom. They both must be entered. It is not enough to be in the kingdom. Matthew mentions kingdom nearly as often after the church was mentioned as before; Mark, Luke and John never mentioned church, but kingdom often. The Kingdom was before the church, as the church was composed of citizens of the kingdom, organized for work and worship. The Lord added those in the kingdom to the church.”
He goes on and explains: “There is room and need for both Church and Kingdom; they are not hostile, not in competition, nor is either in the way of the other, but both helpers together. The continuousness of the kingdom is not disputed I mean the kingdom set up by Christ.”
Dr. W. A. Jarrel on the subject wrote:
“The Kingdom in the New Testament, means the aggregate of the churches, just as any kingdom means the aggregate of its provinces or countries of which it is composed. A kingdom includes the unorganized part of its geographical territory. In the New Testament, likewise, the term kingdom may include regenerated persons who have been misled so as to have never united with any of the churches or organized parts of the kingdom.”
A. N. Nunnery the editor of the Baptist Worker wrote at the turn of this century in his book The Kingdom or Church of Jesus Christ:
“The thousand years’ reign of Christ on earth, or the millennium, have nothing to do with the setting up of the Kingdom which we are to study in this volume. If in the second coming of Christ, He shall set up a Kingdom on the earth, at Jerusalem or any other place, that would not disprove our contention that Jesus Christ did while on this earth set up a kingdom over which He, or the God of Heaven, rules as monarch or king, and that this kingdom or government is composed of the churches of Jesus Christ.”
This Baptist at the turn of the century expounds on the Sermon on the Mount in the following way: “The Jews were expecting the Kingdom of God to come in great display subduing all the enemies of the Jews, reestablishing the kingdom of David and making the Jews the possessors or managers of this kingdom. Jesus simply rebuked this vain idea of the kingdom and declared that the kingdom was not to be with show and display, but as he had said in Matthew 5:3 Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of God.”
If Jesus is speaking on the subject of the Kingdom let us listen to what He is saying about it. “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for their’s is the kingdom of heaven.” Where did Jesus declare this happiness? Happiness is found inside a person. The spirit that is in need will find the Kingdom of God. The first thing Jesus did was connect the Kingdom of heaven and the inner man together. Jesus was showing that there could be a Kingdom established in a higher sphere (which is an inner sphere) than what they were looking for. The people were looking for a natural kingdom, so Jesus showed them a new dimension, (the spiritual) and began to equip His disciples with spiritual principles.
Through out the sermon, every verse fits this principle where it does not fit the views of others. It’s vastness of subject matter, persecution, salt of the earth, internal righteousness, internal sin, loveing your enemies, not making a show in the flesh, almsgiving, prayer, fasting, seeking first the kingdom of God, building life on the rock, fits comfortably into a present Kingdom. When Jesus stood before Pilate and made what Paul terms “the good confession,” he said in John 18:36 “My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence.” Dr. J. M. Pendleton wrote on this passage:
“Where was His kingdom? In the worldly sense of the term there was none. He, however, referred to a kingdom not of this world, and claimed it as His own. He said, ‘My kingdom.’ A kingdom implies subjects, and the loyal subjects of Jesus are those who are of the truth.”
The Pharisees asked when the kingdom of God should come, in Luke 17:20, listen very close to His answer: “The kingdom of God does not come with signs to be observed or with visible display. Nor will people say, Look! Here [it is]! or, See, [it is] there! For behold, the kingdom of God is within you (in your hearts) and among you (surrounding you).”
If the kingdom of God was surrounding the Pharisees then it is surrounding us. What Jesus introduced the disciples to on the Sermon on the Mount, He brought to pass The Kingdom of God.