This review from the LDS – Come Follow Me manuals for Sunday School, Families, and Individuals covers the lesson plan for Matthew 5, and Luke 6.
People assume that Jesus’ words and phrases were completely original. The text of the Sermon on the Mount is steeped in phraseology from the Old Testament. Jesus’ words were not completely new. These expressions would have had a familiar ring to his disciples in Galilee. Jesus is teaching His disciples, His inner-group of apostles, up in a mountain, away from the masses.
The substance of this teaching in Matthew 5 is also recorded in the 6th chapter of Luke, but it is different. I would suggest that this teaching was repeated possibly many times to many different groups over the course of Jesus’ three-year ministry.
The word “blessed” means “happy” “fortunate”. Jesus is teaching the way to Christian blessedness or happiness, not the happiness the world provides. It’s important to distinguish between Jesus’ prescription for happiness and the worlds definition of happiness.
Actually throughout Matthew 5, 6, and 7 Jesus proclaims the need for righteousness, and He warns of the penalty of sin. However, Jesus always presents God as the standard of righteousness and Himself as the means of righteousness. Without Christ, righteousness is unattainable. The Sermon on the Mount is a case in point.
Jesus begins the Sermon with a description of the blessed life in Matthew 5:1-12. The Beatitudes are not telling us “how to” be righteous but are simply describing what righteousness looks like.
Jesus presents himself in Matthew 5:17-18 as the fulfillment of the Old Testament. These are key verses because, to earn our own righteousness, we must fulfill the law which is impossible. But Jesus says that He will do it for us.
He says in Matthew 5:20 no amount of our good works will gain us entrance to heaven. Jesus uses the Pharisees as an example of unsuccessfully trying to do good works to attain heaven. Jesus will go on to say that it’s not a religious system that saves, but He Himself that saves.
In Matthew 5:21-48 He “raises the bar” for righteousness according to God’s standard, instead of man’s interpretation of the law. He explains God’s intent behind Old Testament laws. The bar is raised so high as to make everyone, even the most dedicated religious practitioner, guilty before God.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus meticulously deconstructs the pharisaical religion of good works, points to a holiness greater than our own, and offers Himself as the sole basis of religion. Accepting what Jesus says in the Sermon requires faith in who He is.
Jesus deliberately contrasts his approach with that of the scribes and Pharisees, drawing the contrast in this way: Matthew 5:21-22 “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time…But I say unto you…” You have heard – but I say!
At the beginning of the Sermon, Jesus declares in Matthew 5:17 “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.” He fulfills the moral law by keeping it perfectly. He says here, that what He came to do was not to destroy what foundation had been laid, but to fulfill it – this meant completing all that was laid for 1500 years before Him by the Law (the first five books of Moses) and the Prophets (those books thereafter). All that the Jews did under the Law and described by the Prophets was to point and bring all to Him. His ministry finished the foundation upon which His church would stand. And once He finished His work here on earth, His apostles finished their work with their lives. Then believers began to build upon what has been laid (Ephesians 2:19-21). So, Jesus did not come to destroy but to complete.
In this Sermon, Jesus is going to accomplish two things: First, He is going to convict them of sin, and therefore of needing a savior, a Messiah, Himself. Secondly, he is going to teach them the level of righteousness a person needs to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. The problem is nobody can attain such levels, which again brings all who seriously consider His words to Him. Because perfection is not accessible to Man (and He is teaching perfection here) does not mean we give up living well. It just means we learn to thrive and grow and overcome through a different source than our own abilities – we learn to thrive and overcome the world through Him.
The moral law was confirmed and unchanged – However it was enhanced. So, while nobody ought to ever kill, or steal, or commit adultery, Jesus coming fulfilled the moral law by expanding upon it and taking it up to the point upon which man may stand before God. Where the law said, “don’t kill your neighbor” Jesus said, “Don’t even get angry with them.” Standing on His completion of the moral Law believers in Him are, able to love not only those who are our friends, but those who despitefully use us, hate us, and persecute us for His sake. This is how Jesus came and did not destroy the Law in any way, but fulfilled it.
Matthew 5:20 “For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.” He’s saying to his disciples, “unless your holiness, your conduct and your lives are more holy than the religiously pious, you cannot be saved.” In a sense, what Jesus was commanding of these disciples was entirely impossible of these fishermen and tax collectors. How on earth would these men’s righteousness ever exceed the righteousness of men who had dedicated their every minute to obeying the Law? In, order for the disciples to become more righteous than the Pharisees they had to be righteous from the heart.
Jesus was to fulfill the Law by showing that obedience to it was not the complete application of it. Jesus shows that God’s righteousness was far more than just the physical, but it was spiritual, and designed to extend to the thoughts and feelings of a man or woman, as well as to their external actions. In other, words He takes the Laws written in stone and AMPLIFIES them. He says, “It was said by them of ancient times” and then adds, “But I say…” That is powerful and it shows just who Jesus is – God. So, while we might be able to pride ourselves in keeping the Ten Commandments, because we have never murdered anyone etc., Jesus is essentially asking every reader to examine their heart and see if they are guilty of murdering in their heart through expressing – anger, contempt, and mean words.
God’s level of righteousness and distain for evil is extremely high. So much so that Jesus, who teaches all truth exactly how it is, is proving to us that even just getting a bit angry and saying a mean word is worthy of burning in hell. I mean, we cannot kid ourselves – God’s demands are extremely high for human perfection. And to attain them is ONLY going to come through absolute perfection…Or, by His grace. Jesus came to bring all people to see Him as the only solution to the consequences waiting natural Man. We cannot use law to do it – We are to die to the Law written in stone. We need to die to ourselves and live in Christ, buried with Christ and risen to new life in Him, become a new creature in Christ, born again, and spiritually regenerated.
In, The Way to Perfection, Joseph Fielding Smith said, “The words of the Savior in his Sermon on the Mount, ‘Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect,’ have served as a text for many a sermon. We have been told that this meaning is that we, in this life, should try to perform every duty and keep every law and thus endeavor to be perfect in our sphere as the Father is in his.” Elsewhere Smith wrote that “it is our duty to be better today than we were yesterday, and better tomorrow than we are today. Why? Because we are on the road to perfection, and that can only come through obedience and the desire in our heart to overcome the world.” And for the Mormon, this road ultimately leads to godhood which to them is an attainable goal.
Matthew 5:48 “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” The manual asks the Sunday School teacher “How can you help class members see that the Savior’s command to be ‘perfect’ means, as President Russell M. Nelson explained, to be ‘complete’ or ‘finished’? (Ensign, November 1995, p. 86-88) Realize that Christ sets up an unattainable standard, which sums up what the law itself demands. There is no room for error. James 2:10 “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, He is guilty of all.” If we managed to keep 99% of the whole law but failed in 1%, we failed 100%. Though the standard is impossible to meet, God could not lower it without compromising His own perfection. He who is perfect could not set an imperfect standard of righteousness. The marvelous truth of the gospel is that Christ has met this standard on our behalf. 2 Corinthians 5:21 “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.”
To a Christian, Matthew 5:48 is not communicating the idea that human beings can become perfect or attain sinless perfection in this life. Throughout His ministry and that of the apostles was taught the fact that human beings have a serious sin problem that is beyond their means to solve. We are sinful and lost and are in, need of repentance before a holy God, and we need to be born again. Moreover, God is fully aware of every person’s sins, both external acts and internal thoughts; nothing escapes His notice. There is no way that we can interpret Matthew 5:48 to mean that human beings can attain perfection in this life.
How do we make sense of this verse, then? Context is everything. And this verse is found in a section of Scripture dealing with the law of love. Jesus has instructed us to love even our enemies. After all, God’s love extends to all people. And since God is our righteous standard, we should seek to imitate His example. We are to be “perfect” in showing love just as He is perfect in showing love. In Matthew 22:37-40, Jesus summarizes the Law of God with two commandments: “Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind and love thy neighbor as yourself.” If we are honest with, ourselves we have never achieved this level of spirituality. The truth of the matter is that, on our own and by our own efforts, we can’t possibly be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect. Isaiah 64:6 says, “all our righteousness are as filthy rags.” We simply will never be good enough no matter how hard we try. That’s why Jesus lived a perfect life in full obedience to the law of God and died for our sins on the cross. Through our faith in Christ, the righteousness of God is given to us. This is called “imputed” righteousness. It means we exchange our sins for his righteousness. By having the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, we can be as sinless, as Jesus is sinless. It is not, therefore, our perfection, but His that will be accounted to us.
Of course, Mormons know they are not perfect now. That’s why they read a “future perfection” into Matthew 5:48. That is, even though they are not perfect now, they are progressively moving forward toward perfection and will eventually attain godhood. The problem is that Matthew 5:48 is in the present tense – “Be ye perfect” – that is Be that now, not after we die.
Love, not Law makes a person complete. Love, which Jesus has been teaching here, is the ONLY means by which anyone can be deemed perfect or complete. And the Law of Love – which makes a man or woman complete is accessible to us only by and through God – because God is Love. So, to be perfect, as our Father in Heaven is perfect, is accomplished only by dropping all aspects of living by what has been written in stone – the Law – and coming to Christ, who has been teaching love in action by saying over and over here in chapter 5, “But I say.” Remember what Paul taught in Galatians 3:24-26 “Wherefore, the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster. For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.” We become perfect by and through Jesus Christ, the author, and finisher of our faith, who did all things by and through perfect love.
This concludes our review of Matthew 5 and Luke 6.