Questions to Consider
1. Briefly review the Beatitudes in Lesson 3 (link above).
2. Read verses 13-16. Remember that when the Bible was written, there were no chapter and verse markings and no separation between sections. The passage we know as verses 1-12 flowed directly into verses 13-16.
Make the connection between the Beatitudes and 13-16. In what ways could 13-16 be considered the culmination of the Beatitudes? How does God shaping you into all the character qualities in the Beatitudes make you into, or equip you to be, the salt of the earth and the light of the world?
Do verse 13 and verses 14-15 describe the state of saltiness and light in the positive (“Be like this.”) or in the negative (“Do not be like this.”)? List the negative and/or positive statements about each. How could someone who claims to be a Christian lose her saltiness or her light? Is Jesus talking about false converts or genuine Believers who stray into a season of sin, or both? Why?
Carefully examine verse 16. Could this apply to saltiness as well as light? If a friend asked you what this verse meant, how would you explain it to her? What if your friend then directed your attention to 6:1-4, and said, “Aha! The Bible contradicts itself! 5:16 says to let others see your good works and 6:1-4 says not to practice your good works before others.”? How would you explain to her what these two passages mean and why they are different?
3. Read 17-20 in light of 1-16, and in light of the concept from our last lesson that Jesus preaching Sermon on the Mount and the Beatitudes probably evoked comparisons to Moses coming down from the mountain and giving the Ten Commandments.
What three word phrase do most of the Ten Commandments start with? How many of the Ten Commandments end with a blessing? Compare this with the Beatitudes. Which two word phrase does each Beatitude begin with? How many of the Beatitudes end with a blessing? Compare the hard edge specificity of the Commandments (lying, murdering, idolatry, etc.) with the more open ended, less specific Beatitudes (poor in spirit, merciful, etc.) Are the Ten Commandments stated in the negative or the positive? The Beatitudes?
Imagine you’re a law and order Pharisee with all of the above on your mind. You’ve been a “no no” guy all your life. You’re worried Israel might fall back into the sins that sent them into exile in the Old Testament. And now you’re listening to this new guy on the scene preach what sounds like it might be a softer and gentler, love and peace, “hippie” version of the Ten Commandments. You have questions for Jesus. What are those questions?
How does Jesus answer your questions in 17-20? Is He preaching license or that obedience to God does’t matter? Using your cross-references in this passage, what is Jesus trying to convey to the people and to the Pharisees about righteousness and obedience? What is the heart of the Law?
Some people incorrectly think 17-20 mean that New Testament Christians must keep the Old Testament civil laws (no shellfish or mixed fabrics, put a parapet around your roof, etc.) and ceremonial laws (feasts, festivals/holidays, etc.). How would you refute that idea? What are some other passages of Scripture you might bring to bear on this question? When Jesus originally spoke these words, was He talking to Christians under the new covenant or Jews under the old covenant?
How was Jesus the fulfillment of the Law and Prophets? How had legalism so corrupted Judaism that many of the Jews, scribes, and Pharisees were unable or unwilling to accept Jesus as the Messiah – the fulfillment and culmination of the old covenant?
Consider this thought:
The prevalent false teaching of Jesus’ day was legalism, and the false teachers (Pharisees) accused Jesus and His followers of antinomianism when they taught obedience to God and His Word. The prevalent false teaching today is antinomianism, and today’s false teachers accuse Jesus’ followers of legalism when they teach obedience to God and His Word.
Do you agree or disagree? Why? How can Christians avoid both legalism and antinomianism and follow Christ obediently from a heart of love?
Suggested Memory Verse
Each week, I’ll provide a suggested memory verse from that week’s study passage. I encourage you to copy, save, or screenshot it. Use it for your screensaver or wallpaper, your social media cover photo, or print it out and stick it somewhere you’ll see it often.
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