RPM, Volume 16, Number 32, August 3 to August 9, 2014

Where is Our Lifestyle Kingdom Based?

Matthew 5:13-16

By Rev. Thomas A. Mathisen

We as God's children must know what we believe and why we believe and we need to look at where we live our faith out. We need to see exactly what the Word of God says about our mission as His family representatives. When God calls someone into his family through the wonderful act of adoption, they are not called to a life of futility. They are not called to a life of sitting around, cut off from the world around them so as not to influence it. In fact, their calling is the exact opposite of what was just described. When God chooses someone, saves them, and brings them into His family to have fellowship with Him, He has a purpose for them in mind.

The last words our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ gave to his disciples, and by extension to his church, are found at the end of the gospel of St. Matthew. These words do not call us to passivity, but to action. These words are not ones of hiding but of battle. God brought us from the family of the evil one to His family with the purpose of challenging those people still left in our old family. Jesus' statement is found in Matthew 28:18-20:

Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. 1

This proclamation gives us our marching orders for our time upon earth, until we die or our Savior Jesus comes back to take his bride, the church, to himself. There cannot be any misunderstanding or misguided teaching on what we as the children of God should be spending our time doing. But in order to be most effective at this call, the children of God need to know and understand what this call is based upon. It is based upon the fact that we have been brought into God's family, the kingdom of God. As God's family, the children of God need to know and understand what Jesus was talking about when he referred to the kingdom of God and also how they best represent that calling. To that end there is no better place to look than the fifth chapter of the gospel of Matthew to see what the children of God are really to be about at this time and until we stand face to face with our savior.

Gospel of Matthew: A Biblical History

The Gospel of Matthew is one of four gospels and was written by the tax collector turned apostle. He was with Jesus during his earthly ministry. Matthew was a Jewish tax collector who left his job, his wealth, everything to follow Jesus. He gives first hand accounts to many of the miracles that Jesus performed from the vantage point of a uniquely Jewish perspective.

The consensus among conventional scholars is that Matthew's gospel was written between 50 and 70 A.D. Knox Chamblin, a professor at Reformed Theological Seminary, says the following in his commentary on the gospel of Matthew: "In my view, Mt is written during the 60s of the first century A.D., to a community of Greek-speaking Jewish Christians, located in some such center as Antioch in Syria. The community is surrounded by Jews hostile to Jesus and his followers." 2

The purpose of the gospel is to establish the fact that Jesus is the true Messiah who was prophesied in the Old Testament. The message in Matthew is consistent with the other three gospels found in the New Testament, Mark, Luke and John. Not only is the message consistent, but the historical events that occurred during the life of Jesus on earth agree as well. Dr. Chamblin notes the use of the term euangelion, or good news, is found often in the gospel of Matthew. He says, "Matthew is a principal means by which Jesus' 'gospel of the kingdom' is universally proclaimed." 3

The Gospel of Matthew presents many essential facts and remarkable lessons. First, as already mentioned, it plainly establishes that Jesus Christ is the Messiah who was prophesied throughout the Old Testament. Second, it proves that Jesus was truly the Son of God, whom He claimed to be, and also proved to be, by living a perfect (and sinless) life. Third, Matthew portrays Jesus performing miracles over nature (calming the storm; Mat. 8:23-27), healing people (curing the servant; Mat. 8:5-13) and raising the dead (Jairus's daughter; Mat. 9:18-19). Fourth, Matthew records Jesus' teaching regarding over 200 real and practical lessons on how God desires people should live, respond to challenging circumstances, and make choices regarding their future for eternity. 4

This Gospel of Matthew describes different parts of Jesus' life. It starts out with the genealogy of Jesus to establish and prove that Jesus was an heir of King David. This fact is important because it is consistent with the Old Testament description of the Messiah. Matthew is writing as a Jew for a Jewish audience. He is showing his audience how Jesus is the fulfillment of the Old Testament. From the very beginning of the gospel Matthew is establishing Jesus as Israel's Messiah. He says in Chapter One, verses one and seventeen:

A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham: Thus there were fourteen generations in all from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the exile to Babylon, and fourteen from the exile to the Christ. 5

Throughout his gospel we see Matthew referring back to the Old Testament in order to show us how Jesus fulfills the prophecy. This is seen from early in the book when Matthew records the beginning of Jesus' ministry. He goes into great detail about the baptism of Jesus and His temptation by Satan in the desert. While this is primarily a book written to Jews, we must remember it is also written by a Christian for Christians. Matthew shows these Jewish Christians who Jesus really is. He shows Jesus as the new and improved Moses and the total fulfillment of the law. He shows that the establishment of the church is centered not in the temple but on the Person of Jesus Christ and how he is ushering in the Kingdom. W. R. F. Browning notes that Matthew prefers the term "Kingdom of Heaven." This was due to Matthew's rabbinical background, which reflects the Jewish tradition of not speaking the name of God. 6

Along with establishing Jesus as the Son of God and Messiah who ushers in the kingdom of God, Matthew shows us specifically the salvation of God through Jesus. He clearly shows us that Jesus' main concern was not his environment and the "things" around him, but man's relationship with God; not the fuzzy, "think about what God could be" type of relationship that Brian McLaren espouses, but the specific atonement for God's adopted children. Jesus' main goal was to save people from their sins (Matthew 1:21). His goal was not to help people with their hunger or housing project. The ransom Jesus provides is first for the lost sheep of Israel and then for sheep outside the fold of national Israel. This is to show us the final teaching of Matthew's gospel, and that is who the people of God are. Again Chamblin says:

Jesus has come to reconstitute God's covenant-people around his own Person, and to establish "his church", the redeemed community of the Last Days consisting of both Jews and Gentiles. Jesus concentrates upon "the lost sheep of Israel" during his public ministry. But he "gives his life as a ransom for the many- i.e. not for Jews alone but for Gentiles too. Once this redemption has been accomplished in his death, it is ready to be announced to all the nations of the world. 7

Why all the background? Knowing the backdrop of Matthew will help us understand the specifics in the Sermon on the Mount. Within the Sermon on the Mount, found in Matthew 5, we see clearly the life that the children of God are called to live. Once he has established the understanding that adoption and justification are through Jesus Christ the Messiah, Matthew then records Jesus' message to his followers on how they are to challenge their former family by living within the context of their new family. One sees in the Gospel of Matthew a specific instruction on how to please God. Again, remember this gospel of Matthew is written to Jewish beleivers. The gospel was written to give clear instruction from Jesus on how He wants his followers to conduct their lives, guided by the Holy Spirit.

Any action taken under the banner of God must come from His word. He is specific on how we honor Him, on how we worship Him, on how we serve Him and how we grow in our faith and holiness (by Him). When one confronts any kind of heresy or false teaching, the only weapon the child of God should wield is the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God (Ephesians 6:17).

In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus is teaching lessons that were given to Him to teach. At the end of the passage of scripture, in Matthew 7:28-29 we read, "When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law." 8 These are the words of God being spoken. The words of God the Father coming from God the son are what are recorded. The Sermon on the Mount is the longest section of Jesus' teaching. It comes at the beginning of Jesus' ministry. Jesus is gathering his disciples, and starting to draw attention to His ministry.

And he went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and preaching the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every infirmity among the people. So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, demoniacs, epileptics, and paralytics, and he healed them. And great crowds followed him from Galilee and the Decapolis from Jerusalem and Judea and from beyond the Jordan. 9

Matthew sets up the "the sermon on the mount" for his readers. "Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down his disciples came to him. And he opened his mouth and taught them. . . " The crowds are what caused Jesus to go up the mountain and sit down. Notice that verse one of chapter 5 tells us that Jesus started to teach His disciples. The disciples are the ones who are following him and are learning from him. While everyone is listening, he is teaching his followers.

The Sermon on the Mount begins with Jesus talking about the kingdom of heaven. Jesus is not just supporting certain guidelines or giving advice. He is talking about a specific dwelling or dominion where God is and where God rules. He is discussing life in this community of the Kingdom. Just like Moses gave instruction to the children of Israel on how to live in the land, Jesus is giving instruction on how to live in the Kingdom. Jesus makes statements, not commands. Jesus is telling his disciples (and those listening) something about how things work in God's kingdom. He is not commanding those around Him to "be poor in spirit." Jesus is seeing the crowds that were there and wants His disciples to get together so He help them understand more about His kingdom and what a real blessing His kingdom is. He is letting them know that the blessings of the kingdom are very different from the blessings of the world. To comprehend the kingdom, they must comprehend who God is and what His blessings look like.

However, one must also see the Beatitudes as an invitation. Chamblin says:

Beatitudes are to be viewed, not simply as an answer to the people of God, those who worship him and long for him to invade their history and their lives with saving power, but also as invitation to those not yet God-centered. God offers salvation to those who are indifferent to him, or who misunderstand his character, or who are even hostile to him. 10

And what is life like in God's kingdom? First, those who are part of the kingdom look much different than those who are not: they are poor in spirit, they are okay with mourning, and they are meek. Second, Jesus paints a beautiful picture of a benevolent king. God the king gives the kingdom, comforts and gives the earth as an inheritance. Jesus is talking about the incredible and awesome life under the reign of God.

Jesus begins His Sermon on the Mount with a sequence known as the Beatitudes. Each of the beginning nine lines begins with the word "blessed" which is almost always followed up by "for they shall." Basically he is saying, if you do this, you will be blessed. The beginning verse of the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3) ends by saying "for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." The last verse of the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:10) ends the same way. It is in the present tense, so those who are poor in spirit and are persecuted because of righteousness have the kingdom of heaven right now! All the other verses end with "for they shall." These are in the future tense, so they will be fulfilled in the future. This means that Jesus is speaking about the kingdom as a present and future certainty. We can enjoy the kingdom of heaven here now, at least to some extent, while the greatest fulfillment of having the kingdom will come in the future.

The people of the kingdom are blessed. This word "blessed" always entails that God is doing the blessing, rather than the actions themselves generating the blessing. It means to be favored or honored by God. The word is in a passive term, so we see the one who is blessed receiving from God His notice and favor. Observe that Jesus starts out this teaching and in reality his ministry, with the gospel (i.e. the good news). He is pronouncing blessings, not giving orders. Also notice that Jesus doesn't encourage people to become blessed; He speaks of those who are blessed. Herman Ridderbos says in his book Matthew's Witness to Jesus Christ, "This provides a vital foundation for the subsequent teaching (5:17-48) about law keeping. The gifts of love come before the demands of love." 11

In the Beatitudes Jesus is saying the astonishing. The blessings that Jesus talks about are not what most people think of when they contemplate blessings. Usually people think that to be blessed is to be healthy, wealthy and wise. Or maybe to be secure and protected; having huge success in one's occupation is the blessing. Perhaps they think of physical attributes such as being good-looking, athletic, or having a "magnetic" personality. Usually we associate those types of gifts with being blessed.

The qualities Jesus lists are what most people would consider qualities of "not being blessed." Each of these areas that Jesus speaks about concerns a lacking or a longing. Blessing usually means full or complete, but Jesus says that those who are blessed are empty and incomplete. They are lacking in something. However, the one who is blessed is favored to have the kingdom of heaven now and at a future time. Within the context of the kingdom they have the comfort, the inheritance, etc. The blessings they have are not to be poor in spirit, mourning, or meek; rather, the existence of these assets is a mark that they are actually blessed. They can be called blessed when they are poor in spirit because being poor in spirit is a mark that they are part of the kingdom. There is a link in all the beatitudes between the person who is blessed and why they are blessed. And it seems that the connection is that when someone is lacking in or longing for these things, they are blessed because these are the very things God, the ruler of this kingdom, is looking to give. 12 God gives these blessings, so it makes some sense that the person who is blessed is the one who is wanting for these things.

These beatitudes are meant to encourage His disciples. They have begun to follow Jesus but probably did not understand the blessing they were receiving. Jesus is giving them good news. Being poor in spirit or meek are not marks of God being distant, but these longings they were having were precisely what God wanted and was causing to grow. This makes it easier for one to receive the wonderful blessings He is offering, even though they make one uncomfortable because they are about lacks, not fillings, in their lives. If someone is mourning they don't like it and want it to go away. They are tempted to feel that the mourning is not a blessing. But Jesus is encouraging us to see that He is making our desires like His own.

God wants to bless His children, to comfort them, to make everything right, to give them the entire earth, and to be their ruler and sovereign. That's the way of His kingdom. So the longings are a sign of God's work and presence in one's life.

In Matthew 5:1 Jesus speaks of the poor in spirit. We see the passage starting out with the gospel. Jesus does not have poverty in a physical sense in mind when making this statement, but rather he is referring to those who are essentially aware of the nature and effects of sin. This drives them to be completely dependent on God.

Chamblin points out the NEB has a proper translation of Matthew 5:3 saying, "How blest are those who know their need of God." 13Verse 3 expands the concept of being poor in spirit by showing that they mourn, or are grieved by the sin found in both them and in others. In light of this, they hunger and thirst for righteousness (5:6) hoping to see right prevail. Chamblin says:

Even as they seek "to act justly and to love mercy" (Micah 6:8), vv. 7-10, they remain in conscious need of the divine mercy and righteousness. As the "meek" (v. 5), they patiently wait upon God to defeat the forces of evil, vindicate his faithful, and establish righteousness in the land. 14

The perspective that the blessed must keep in mind is that their present conditions are not reflective of their eternal standings in God's kingdom. Once the kingdom is fully established these needs and longings will be met by God Himself. Each instance of a need being met in these verses is in the passive tense, showing us that it is the ruler of the Kingdom, God Himself, who gives these blessings and privileges.

There is a future note given regarding the blessings concerning which Jesus is speaking in these verses, but one must also realize the present blessings as well. Jesus states that the person receiving the blessing is receiving it now. Again Chamblin says, "As the Kingdom of Heaven is now being inaugurated, and its powers exercised, in the ministry of Jesus, so the blessings of the kingdom can now, to some degree at least, be experienced by his people (who are already, by virtue of their association with him, 'sons of God," 15

Jesus then goes on to talk about kingdom life. He is explaining the nature of the kingdom of God. Jesus has been talking about those who are blessed or favored by God. As seen already, to be blessed in God's kingdom now means to be looking forward to what is not really obvious now. The blessed person is looking beyond the present circumstances.

So where do we apply all this in our daily lives? Understanding that our Kingdom call is based upon what we and why we it is crucial to knowing what God has called us to be about. We can only serve God as we are guided by His Spirit for His purposes.


  1. The Holy Bible, New International Version (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1984), 832.
  2. Knox Chamblin, A Commentary on the Gospel According to Matthew (Virtual Campus: Reformed Theological Seminary, 1993), 3.
  3. Ibid, 3.
  4. All About Jesus; http://www.allaboutJesuschrist.org/Gospel-Of-Matthew.html (Accessed December 2010).
  5. The Holy Bible New International Version, 805.
  6. W. R. F. Browning, Gospel of Matthew, A dictionary of the Bible (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001), 245-246.
  7. Chamblin, A Commentary on the Gospel According to Matthew, 6.
  8. The Holy Bible New International Version, 809.
  9. Ibid, 805.
  10. Chamblin, A Commentary on the Gospel According to Matthew, 44.
  11. Herman Ridderbos, Matthew's Witness to Jesus Christ. (New York: Association Press, 1958), 31.
  12. Trinity Study Center; http://www.trinitystudycenter.com/mount/matthew_5-1-12.php (accessed December 2010).
  13. Chamblin, A Commentary on the Gospel According to Matthew, 43.
  14. Ibid, 43.
  15. Ibid, 44.
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