Sermon on the Mount Bible Study

The Sermon on the Mount ~ Lesson 11

Previous Lessons: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10,

Matthew 7:1-14

Questions to Consider

1. Briefly review the “middle parts” (ex: merciful, poor in spirit) of the Beatitudes, the “salt and light” passage, and the “heart of the law” passage in Matthew 5:1-12, 13-16, 14-20. Now read 7:1-14 in light of those passages.

Make a list of the topics Jesus deals with in this passage. Is there an obvious common theme connecting all of them, or is this more like a laundry list of assorted topics? How does one section (1-5, 6, 7-11, 12, 13-14) connect to the next? How does each section fit under the umbrella of the common theme?

2. In the Beatitudes, Jesus lists the traits that define Christian character. In much of the rest of the Sermon on the Mount He fleshes out what many of these character traits look like when walked out in “real life”. Which of the traits (the “middle parts” – there could be several) listed in the Beatitudes is Jesus expanding on in each section (1-5, 6, 7-11, 12, 13-14) of today’s passage?

How does “wide gate behavior” like hypocrisy and failing to treat others as you want them to treat you bland your saltiness? (5:13-16) How can “narrow gate behavior” like being good to others as God has been to you make you saltier and brighter?

3. Review from our previous lessons (links above) the idea that the Sermon on the Mount is to the New Testament / new covenant what the Ten Commandments were to the Old Testament / old covenant.

Though they are not specifically mentioned in the Ten Commandments, which of the Ten Commandments could be connected to hypocritical judgment, God’s goodness and care for His children, treating others the way you want to be treated, and the way to destruction vs. the way to life?

Despite having dropped the “You have heard it said…but I say to you…” framing of His teaching in chapter 6, how is Jesus still shifting the people’s focus from outward obedience to the letter of the law to zeroing in on the attitude of their hearts and the spirit of the law? How should pursuing a “narrow gate” heart and behavior be at the heart of our obedience to God’s laws?

4. Read verses 1-5. What does “Judge not,” mean? (Did you realize that in answering that question you are judging verse 1 to mean one thing and not another?) Does verse 1 mean we are never to make judgments of any sort, or, considering verse 1 in the context of verses 2-5, does it mean we are not to judge in a certain way? Compare 1-5 to these passages for clarity. List all the instances in 1-20 in which judgment is necessary, assumed, or instructed by Jesus. (Ex.: 6 – How do you determine whether someone is a dog/pig or not a dog/pig?) Is Jesus contradicting Himself or being hypocritical by saying “Don’t judge,” and then assuming we will make judgments or instructing us to make judgments? How do you know?

According to verses 1-2, what is the reason we are not to judge improperly or hypocritically? “That you be not judged” by whom? How does judging rightly, according to Scripture, and without hypocrisy reflect God’s attribute of perfect justice? How is judging others in a godly way one way of carrying out the “golden rule” (12)?

Think back to Jesus’ emphasis on hypocrisy in the first part of chapter 6 (lesson 9, link above) and compare it with His emphasis on hypocrisy in 3-5. Why is hypocrisy such a big deal to Jesus? Which attributes of God does hypocrisy contrast with?

5. Examine verses 7-11. What do these verses teach us about God’s goodness toward His children (Believers)? What do these verses teach us about prayer – the way we should ask and the way God answers?

Think about the analogy of God giving good things to His children the way earthly parents give good things to their children (11) as you answer the following questions: Does this passage teach us that God will give us whatever we want whenever we want it? Could discipline and suffering be good gifts from God? What did the son ask for in verses 9 & 10? Were these bad things or good things? Was he being selfish and greedy? Was he asking for luxuries or basic provision? How does the son asking the father for provision demonstrate trust in and dependence on his father?

Meditate on God’s goodness to you in all of these ways as we move into considering verse 12.

6. Summarize verse 12 in your own words. How do you want other people to treat you? Considering God’s goodness to you from the previous section, if you had a choice, wouldn’t you want other people to treat you with the same goodness with which God treats you? Does verse 12 preclude things like justly firing an employee, disciplining your children, or sitting on a jury and rendering a guilty verdict? Why or why not? Compare verse 12 with the second greatest commandment. How are they similar?

7. Christianity is both inclusive (ex: “whosoever will may come” – people from any walk of life, ethnicity, background, etc.) and exclusive. What do verses 13-14 teach us about the exclusivity of the gospel? Can you believe or behave any way you like and still be saved? According to this passage, are genuinely regenerated Christians the majority or the minority of the world’s population? How might this passage speak to the number of false converts (people who think they’re saved but have never been truly born again) in the church?


Homework

Many people think that making biblical judgments, such as…

  • saying a certain behavior is a sin
  • sharing the gospel with someone and calling her to repent for her sin
  • warning against false teachers
  • exercising church discipline
  • distancing oneself from professing Christians living in unrepentant sin

…is failing to “be like Jesus.” Make the argument -from rightly handled Scripture- that exercising biblical judgment is a) Christlike, and b) obedient to God’s commands.

Carefully examine verse 6. What does it mean for someone to be a pig or dog? Is it possible to argue someone into embracing biblical truth without God supernaturally opening her eyes to see it? How do you know a) when you’re dealing with a dog/pig, and b) when it’s time to gather up your pearls and get out of the pig pen? Pray that, this week, when an unbeliever is arguing against biblical truth – in real life or online – God will help you discern whether or not to engage that person in the first place, and, if you do engage, when is the appropriate time to apply Matthew 7:6.


Suggested Memory Verse

Sermon on the Mount Bible Study

The Sermon on the Mount ~ Lesson 10

Previous Lessons: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9

Matthew 6:19-34

Questions to Consider

1. Briefly review the “middle parts” (ex: merciful, poor in spirit) of the Beatitudes, the “salt and light” passage, and the “heart of the law” passage in Matthew 5:1-12, 13-16, 14-20. Now read 6:19-34 in light of those passages.

What is the main theme of both 19-24 and 25-34? Is there one verse that could serve as a theme verse for the entire passage? Which one, and why?

2. In the Beatitudes, Jesus lists the traits that define Christian character. In much of the rest of the Sermon on the Mount He fleshes out what many of these character traits look like when walked out in “real life”. Which of the traits (the “middle parts” – there could be several) listed in the Beatitudes is Jesus expanding on in 19-34? How does 6:33 echo 5:6?

How could anxiety-driven greed bland your saltiness? (5:13-16) How can contentment and trusting in God to provide make you saltier and brighter?

3. Review from our previous lessons (links above) the idea that the Sermon on the Mount is to the New Testament / new covenant what the Ten Commandments were to the Old Testament / old covenant.

Though they are not specifically mentioned in the Ten Commandments, which of the Ten Commandments could be connected to worry, anxiety, and storing up earthly treasures?

Despite having dropped the “You have heard it said…but I say to you…” framing of His teaching in chapter 6, how is Jesus still shifting the people’s focus from outward obedience to the letter of the law to zeroing in on the attitude of their hearts and the spirit of the law? How should treasuring Christ above all else and trusting His care for us be at the heart of our obedience to God’s laws?

4. Are verses 19-24 specifically and/or exclusively talking about money? How does this passage apply to treasuring riches? What are some ways it could apply to treasuring things other than money?

Think back to the spring of 2020 and the beginning of COVID when everyone was stockpiling and hoarding toilet paper. What does this passage have to say to that situation (or others you can think of) about treasuring our own strength and provision over God’s? How can worry and anxiety (25-34) drive us to trust in our own provision over trusting God to provide?

What is the connection between your treasure and your heart? (21) Why do our hearts follow our treasure?

5. Verses 19-21 and 24 focus on not loving money and not putting your heart into your treasure. How do verses 22–23 connect those two passages? What would a healthy eye and a bad eye be in this context? Is this a form of “lusting” after treasure? Pessimism versus optimism? Connect 22–23 to 5:29. Where is your focus?

6. Think about verse 24 in literal terms of serving God in a position of church ministry or in a business that deals in Christian products. Can you think of a real life example in which an individual, a ministry, or a Christian business attempted to serve God and money at the same time? Which one won out, God or money? If God, what hard decisions or sacrifices had to be made in order to keep Him first and rightly handle and obey His Word? How did God bless that obedience to Him? If money won out, how did the person, ministry, or business eventually succumb to false doctrine or sin?

7. Where is the line between being prepared and trusting God in today’s passage? Is verse 34 saying we shouldn’t plan ahead or work diligently? Compare 19-34 to these passages. How should we balance hard work with trusting God to provide, and how does the posture of our heart figure in to that equation?

8. How many times does Jesus say, “Do not be anxious,“ in 25-34? Can we consider this a command? Is there a difference between terms “anxious,” or “worry,” in this passage and “fret,” or having a fearful / troubled heart in other passages? Think of all the biblical passages you know of that deal with fear, worry, anxiety, or fretting. Why does God have to deal with us about this so often in Scripture?

Which two items does Jesus tell His hearers not to worry about in 25-34? How would you classify these items (ex: needs vs. wants, luxuries vs. basic necessities, etc.)? How would you classify the things you most often worry about, compared to the basic necessities of food and clothing? If God promises to take care of our most fundamental needs, what does that tell us about His ability to take care of other, less “life or death” matters?

How are worry and anxiety indicators of “little faith“? (30) How does worrying fundamentally state, “God, I don’t trust you to do what you’ve promised. I’ve got to handle this myself.“? What might the consequences be when we fail to trust God and worry about a situation so much that we take matters into our own hands? In several places, the Bible speaks of “waiting patiently on the Lord”. How can waiting on the Lord tempt us to be anxious but also build our trust in Him?

9. How does trusting God to provide for us separate us from pagans? (32) How does today’s passage speak to hoarding – both hoarding out of greed, and hoarding out of fear?


Homework

  • Compare Philippians 4:4-7 to today’s passage. If you struggle with anxiety, try memorizing this passage and praying through it every time you feel anxious this week.


Suggested Memory Verse

Sermon on the Mount Bible Study

The Sermon on the Mount ~ Lesson 9

Previous Lessons: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8,

Matthew 6:1-18

Questions to Consider

1. Briefly review the “middle parts” (ex: merciful, poor in spirit) of the Beatitudes, the “salt and light” passage, and the “heart of the law” passage in Matthew 5:1-12, 13-16, 14-20. Now read 6:1-18 in light of those passages.

What is the main theme of 1-4, 5-15, and 16-18? Explain how verse 1 serves as the theme verse for all three sections. Consider what might motivate someone to show off her deeds of righteousness. Would this be someone who genuinely considers herself to be “holier than thou”? Or would it be someone who just wants to fool everyone into thinking she’s holier than they are? Maybe both?

2. In the Beatitudes, Jesus lists the traits that define Christian character. In much of the rest of the Sermon on the Mount He fleshes out what many of these character traits look like when walked out in “real life”. Which of the traits (the “middle parts” – there could be several) listed in the Beatitudes is Jesus expanding on in 1-18?

How does being a prideful show off, especially showing off your righteousness / holiness, bland your saltiness? (5:13-16) How can forsaking self-righteousness and walking in humility make you saltier and brighter?

3. Review from our previous lessons (links above) the idea that the Sermon on the Mount is to the New Testament / new covenant what the Ten Commandments were to the Old Testament / old covenant.

Though pride, self-righteousness, and showing off are not specifically mentioned in the Ten Commandments, which of the Ten Commandments could be connected to showing off your deeds of righteousness? For example: What are you coveting if you’re showing off your righteous deeds to others? How could the praise of man become an idol?

Notice that, for the remainder of the Sermon on the Mount (through the end of chapter 7), Jesus drops the “You have heard it said…but I say to you…” framing of His teaching. Why do you think that is?

Despite dropping this framing, in 1-18 is Jesus still shifting the people’s focus from outward obedience to the letter of the law to zeroing in on the attitude of their hearts and the spirit of the law? Explain how humility and poverty of spirit should be the heart of our obedience to God’s laws.

4. Jesus could have admonished people not to show off their intellect, their wealth, their athleticism, or any number of other things in this passage. Instead, He chooses three practices of holiness: charity, prayer, and fasting. Why? Why is it especially important to God that His people not show off their righteous actions? Read the parable of the Pharisee and the publican. Explain how this story connects to 1-18 and demonstrates the value God places on humility / poverty of spirit.

What does Jesus call show offs throughout this passage? Which words and phrases in this passage describe the earthly reward someone showing off her righteousness is working for? Why should God give someone a heavenly reward if she is working for an earthly reward? If you are working for a heavenly reward, will you get an earthly reward?

5. What is the difference between not showing off in 6:1-18 and letting your light shine before others in 5:14-16? Think about what you post on social media, as well as your conversations with others in light of these passages. How do these passages apply to humblebrags and virtue signaling? “Humblebrag” and “virtue signaling” are worldly terms. What would be the biblical terminology for these unbiblical behaviors?

6. Some people think verses 5-6 mean that no one should ever pray in public or anywhere your prayers might be observed by others. For example: no one should lead a congregational prayer in church, you should not pray before a meal at a restaurant, no prayers before ball games, etc. Are these verses prohibiting that? Why or why not? Was Daniel violating verses five through six when he prayed with his windows open? Could verses 7-8 apply to praying in “tongues” as it is commonly practiced today? What about repetitive formulaic prayers like the Catholic rosary?

7. Do 14-15 mean you will lose your salvation if you refuse to forgive? How do these verses show us how important forgiveness is to God?


Homework

  • Did Jesus intend for The Lord’s Prayer to be recited or to be an example of how we should pray? Is there a difference between reciting the Lords prayer and praying the Lord‘s Prayer? Could reciting the Lords prayer repetitively turn into “heaping up empty phrases“? Write out the Lord’s Prayer using your own words, and check out my article After this Manner, Therefore Pray.
  • Want to learn more about fasting? I found this article – Is Fasting a Command? – very helpful and thorough. Grace to You has several good articles and sermons on fasting. Just go to GTY.org and put “fasting” in the search bar.

Suggested Memory Verse

Sermon on the Mount Bible Study

The Sermon on the Mount ~ Lesson 8

Previous Lessons: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7,

Matthew 5:38-48

Questions to Consider

1. Briefly review the “middle parts” (ex: merciful, poor in spirit) of the Beatitudes, the “salt and light” passage, and the “heart of the law” passage in Matthew 5:1-12, 13-16, 14-20. Now read 38-48 in light of those passages.

Summarize 38-48 in your own words. Is Jesus talking about personal offenses in this passage or crimes which require the governing authorities to mete out justice? In other words, if someone commits a murder, are the police to “turn the other cheek”? Is that what Jesus is saying here?

2. In the Beatitudes, Jesus lists the traits that define Christian character. In much of the rest of the Sermon on the Mount He fleshes out what many of these character traits look like when walked out in “real life”. Which of the traits (the “middle parts” – there could be several) listed in the Beatitudes is Jesus expanding on in 38-48? Especially note verse 45.

(Helpful hint: If you want to get those “middle parts” into your brain so you don’t have to keep flipping back to verses 1-12, here’s a helpful memory aid I discovered last week as I was preparing this lesson – there are 4 “P’s”: poor in spirit, pure in heart, peacemaker, persecuted, 3 “M’s”: mourn, meek, merciful, and 2 “R’s”: (hunger and thirst for) righteousness, reviled. You won’t have them all in order, and you won’t have the entirety of each verse, but those middle parts will stick.)

How does retaliation bland your saltiness? (13-16) How can acting in a loving way toward those who mistreat you make you saltier and brighter?

3. Review from our previous lessons (links above) the idea that the Sermon on the Mount is to the New Testament / new covenant what the Ten Commandments were to the Old Testament / old covenant.

Though retaliation and loving our enemies is not specifically mentioned in the Ten Commandments (it is dealt with elsewhere in the law), which of the Ten Commandments could be connected to instances of retaliating, or refusing to retaliate, against someone who has hurt you? For example: How could murdering or bearing false witness against someone be forms of retaliation? How could refusing to retaliate against a parent who has hurt you be a form of honoring your parent?

Are the Old Testament eye for an eye passages advocating taking personal vengeance on someone who has wronged you, or are they describing the just legal punishment for a criminal offense to be meted out by the governing authorities?

How do Jesus’ phrases “You have heard it said…but I say to you…” verbally transition the people from their focus on outward obedience to the letter of the law to zeroing in on the attitude of their hearts and the spirit of the law? Explain how loving your enemies is the heart of the law behind the Commandments you cited as answers in the paragraph above.

4. Review: Examine again the “You have heard it said…but I say to you…” proclamation. Who had the people heard it (the law) said by? Who taught them the law? How does Jesus saying, “But I say to you…” establish Jesus’ supremacy over the Pharisees, scribes, priests, etc. Imagine you’re one of these Jewish leaders and you’re hearing Jesus say this. What might your initial reaction be?

Recalling our Sermon on the Mount / Ten Commandments motif, how might Jesus’ “You have heard it said…but I say to you…” proclamation have evoked images of Moses as lawgiver, and signaled to the Jewish leaders and people that the better Moses was here?

5. When it comes to responding to someone who has wronged you, is restraining yourself from retaliating enough – a complete response – according to 38-42? How is controlling yourself and restraining yourself from retaliating, but instead doing good (38-42) demonstrating love for that person (43-48)? Compare Jesus’ “preaching” in this passage about retaliation and loving our enemies to His “practice” in these passages. How did he set the perfect example for us of loving our enemies? How does God demonstrate “common grace” love to His enemies in 45b? Why does Jesus instruct us to love our enemies? How does going above and beyond the attitudes and actions of the tax collectors and Gentiles (46,47) demonstrate that we are Christians or “sons of our Father who is in Heaven” (45)?

6. Think of the times when you’ve shared the gospel with someone. Have you ever tried to explain to someone that she is a sinner only to hear her say, “Well nobody’s perfect, but I’m better that that guy over there!” or “Maybe I’m not perfect, but I’ve never murdered anybody.”? How does verse 48 (and 46-47) help us understand that God – not other fallen, sinful people – is the perfect standard we should measure ourselves against? Will we ever measure up to His perfection? How does this help us see why we need Jesus – the perfect sacrifice for our sin – who made us perfect?


Homework

A woman who is reading this passage through the lens of an abusive marriage may wonder, “Does this passage mean I have to allow myself to be abused?”. No, it doesn’t mean that at all. This is an occasion when it’s really helpful to understand the context and culture behind the passage.

If you did the homework in lesson 6 (link above) and read my article The Mailbag: Is Lust a Sin for Women, Too?, you’ll recall the unspoken understanding of the people hearing Jesus preach the Sermon on the Mount that He was addressing the men, and any women and children who were there were basically just along for the ride. Jesus isn’t talking in this passage about a woman being abused by a man. Because He’s understood to be addressing the men, He’s also understood to be talking about an altercation between two men – equals, more or less. No one would have understood Jesus to mean (nor did He mean) that He was endorsing abuse or saying women had to be punching bags for abusers.

Think about how God designed and built men differently from the way He designed and built women. If Joe slaps both Tom and Mary in the face, who is going to be more likely to turn around and beat Joe to a pulp? Tom is – especially if he’s the same size or bigger than Joe is. Men are much more prone to, “You hit me, I kill you back.” (Any mom of two or more boys can vouch for the truth of this statement!) How does Jesus’ instruction to Tom to turn the other cheek to Joe flesh out “blessed are the meek,” “the merciful,” and “the peacemakers”? How does it tie in to the earlier passage on anger?

All of that being said, that doesn’t mean this passage only applies to men, and that if Mary slaps you in the face you can scratch her eyes out because you’re both women. Loving our enemies and treating them in a loving way might look a little different for women, but the principle is still the same. Think about an incident in which someone treated you poorly. How did you respond? What role did pride, selfishness, or anger play in your response? Did you refrain from retaliating and do good to that person? Make a plan for how you will respond the next time someone mistreats you. How can you be meek, merciful, and a peacemaker in that situation?


Suggested Memory Verse

Sermon on the Mount Bible Study

The Sermon on the Mount ~ Lesson 7

Previous Lessons: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

Matthew 5:33-37

Questions to Consider

1. Briefly review the “middle parts” (ex: merciful, poor in spirit) of the Beatitudes, the “salt and light” passage, and the “heart of the law” passage in Matthew 5:1-12, 13-16, 14-20. Now read 33-37 in light of those passages.

2. Summarize, in your own words, the main idea of 33-37. Are all oaths inherently sinful? How do you know? Is this passage mainly dealing with swearing oaths to God or to people? Does this passage forbid all oaths, such as a politician’s oath of office, the oath of enlistment for the military, being sworn in as a witness in court, etc.? How do you know this?

Explain the difference between the formal oath of a covenant (such as the oaths God made as part of His covenant with His people) and the casual, reckless oath of someone in a trivial situation who invokes something higher than himself as a guarantee: ex: “I swear by Heaven I’ll be there at 6:00 tomorrow,” or “I swear to Jerusalem, that pig really did fly!”. Would the oath of office / military / court / etc. fall under the category of a formal, covenant-type oath, or a casual, reckless type of oath? Which type of oath does this passage prohibit?

Think about the character of a person who goes around tossing out casual oaths all the time. If you had to swear to something higher than yourself that you really would be there at 6:00, that the story you were telling really was true, that you really would do what you said you were going to do, and so on, in order to convince people to believe you, what would that indicate about your trustworthiness, reliability, honesty, and integrity?

3. In the Beatitudes, Jesus lists the traits that define Christian character. In much of the rest of the Sermon on the Mount He fleshes out what many of these character traits look like when walked out in “real life”. Which of the traits (the “middle parts” – there could be several) listed in the Beatitudes is Jesus expanding on in 33-37 as we think about being trustworthy, reliable, honest, and a person of integrity? How?

How do dishonesty and failing to be a woman of your word bland your saltiness? (13-16) How can being honest, reliable, trustworthy, and a person of integrity make you saltier and brighter?

4. Review from our previous lessons (links above) the idea that the Sermon on the Mount is to the New Testament / new covenant what the Ten Commandments were to the Old Testament / old covenant.

Though taking oaths is not mentioned in the Ten Commandments (it is dealt with elsewhere in the law), which of the Ten Commandments does Jesus touch back to and expand on in verses 33-37? Explain how swearing by God and could end up as taking His name in vain. How is lying connected to the instruction not to take casual oaths in order to convince or deceive people?

How do Jesus’ phrases “You have heard it said…but I say to you…” verbally transition the people from their focus on outward obedience to the letter of the law to zeroing in on the attitude of their hearts and the spirit of the law? Explain how being honest, reliable, trustworthy, and a person of integrity are the heart of the law behind the ninth Commandment. Explain how reverencing God and His name by not invoking Him in a casual or deceptive oath are the heart of the law behind the third Commandment.

5. Review: Examine again the “You have heard it said…but I say to you…” proclamation. Who had the people heard it (the law) said by? Who taught them the law? How does Jesus saying, “But I say to you…” establish Jesus’ supremacy over the Pharisees, scribes, priests, etc. Imagine you’re one of these Jewish leaders and you’re hearing Jesus say this. What might your initial reaction be?

Recalling our Sermon on the Mount / Ten Commandments motif, how might Jesus’ “You have heard it said…but I say to you…” proclamation have evoked images of Moses as lawgiver, and signaled to the Jewish leaders and people that the better Moses was here?

6. Carefully examine verse 33. Is breaking your oaths to people OK as long as you’re keeping your oaths to the Lord?

How would swearing to the things in verses 34-35 be similar to our modern day phrase, “I swear to God,” (when making an oath to a person, not to God)? How would taking an oath “by your head” in verse 36 be similar to our modern day phrase, “I swear on my mother’s grave / life,”. Who or what is being invoked in each oath? Why is it sinful to invoke God or His name in a deceptive or casual oath? Why is it pointless to swear by anything earthly or lesser than God? How do such oaths trivialize God or whatever you’re swearing by? Compare these thoughts and conclusions to what Jesus said to the Pharisees in Matthew 23:16-22.

Why does making the types of oaths forbidden in this passage instead of just saying “yes” or “no” come from evil (37)?

7. How does James emphasize this passage in his epistle?

How should Herod have applied this passage on oaths? What can we learn from his story about the consequences of making rash or casual oaths?


Homework

Oaths and vows are closely related in Scripture. Look up and read all of the passages in Scripture regarding oaths and vows. What are the differences between oaths and vows? What are the similarities? Look at where the passage on oaths falls in Matthew 5. What topics does Jesus deal with immediately before and after the passage on oaths? How does being honest, reliable, trustworthy, and a person of integrity lend itself to keeping your marriage vows? How does refraining from deceptive oaths and being honest, reliable, trustworthy, and a person of integrity connect to retaliation (38-42) and loving your enemies (43-48)?


Suggested Memory Verse