Where do we find the Biblical foundation for developing our strategy of cultural engagement? Well – there are numerous passages in the Bible that guide us at this point and inform our decision-making process.
For our study today – the Sermon on the Mount is our basis for this conversation. It is found in Matthew 5-7.
Interpretations of the Sermon on the Mount – Surprisingly, this sermon from Jesus has been a bit controversial in the history of the Church. Theologians and Bible scholars have disagreed about its audience, its nature and its application. For example, some have argued that it is principally about how to “get into” the Kingdom of God (notice Matthew always uses “Heaven” instead of “God” – this is due to his primary audience being Jewish and he did not want to offend their sensibilities by using the name “God”).
Others have argued that this sermon is outlining how Christians will behave in the “Kingdom Age” that is still to come. Others have argued that the sermon from Jesus is really only for a select few of Jesus’ followers because the ideals are just beyond “normal” Christians!
However, I agree with Michael Wilkins when he writes that the Sermon on the Mount is “Jesus’ declaration of the essence of life in the kingdom that he has announced” (Michael J. Wilkins, The NIV Application Commentary: Matthew, Zondervan, 2004, p. 197).
In other words, this sermon is actually given to the followers of Jesus in every age.
Overview of the Sermon on the Mount – This is the most comprehensive message from Jesus in one sitting. Certainly it was a powerful proclamation from Jesus about His Kingdom. You might consider this sermon as Jesus offering His expectations and demands for those who follow Him.
It is a holistic statement from Jesus, to be sure. He addresses God’s blessing of His followers, the challenge to be “salt and light”, the Law, murder, adultery, divorce, oaths, revenge, enemies, benevolence, prayer, fasting, treasures, trust, discernment, seeking God’s direction, entrance into the Kingdom itself, prophets, disciples and the application of His truths to our lives! So much for the three-point sermon!
This sermon is somewhat overwhelming on its face. It sets forth the kinds of behaviors and attitudes that followers of Jesus must exhibit if they are going to be pleasing to God and embrace the reality of His new Kingdom.