Lesson 1 – Introduction to the Sermon on the Mount

Introduction to the Sermon on the Mount


Jesus presented several laws of life in His sermon recorded by Matthew in chapters five through seven.  These are the laws spoken of in God’s new covenant for mankind in these last days of world time (Heb. 8:10; II Tim. 3:1).  They are designed to be written (impressed) on the hearts and minds of people who have repented after hearing and choosing to have faith in the kingdom of God (Matt. 4:17, 23).  Christians have accepted the new covenant in their repentance (Luke 3:8; 13:3).  They were also baptized for the remission of their sins (Acts 22:16).   God’s new covenant in the blood of Jesus states that He will remember repentant believer’s sins no more (Matt. 26:28; Heb. 8:12).  The point we want to make is this:  People in the world realm can read and appreciate Jesus’ sermon; however, the laws of life can only be written on hearts and minds that have been cleansed and kept clean by the blood of Jesus.

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.  Rom. 8:1, 2

There are several reasons why only born again people can apply Jesus’ sermon to their “selves.”  Jesus’ command to “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” is enough said.  Matt. 5:48.  However, three reasons are:

1.  The law of life is completely different in character and purpose from the Law of Moses.  It does not condemn, it describes life – as in eternal life.

2.  In order for the laws of life to be impressed on one’s heart and mind, the heart and mind must be free.  The person must be free from death; that is, they must be in fellowship with God.  They must walk in the light as He is in the light (I John 1:7).  They must be free from sin, even to the point of having freedom from guilt on a daily basis.  The removal of guilt demands justification by faith in the blood of Jesus (Rom. 3:21-26; 10:1-3).

3.  Jesus taught the kingdom of God with the idea that He would be reigning from heaven and the Holy Spirit would be the salient Person of Deity on earth “in Christ.”  The Holy Spirit leads Christians in their sanctification (II Thess. 2:13).  To understand what this means please study Romans chapter eight and other related scriptures.

Jesus preached the laws of life in the context of eternal life in the kingdom of God.   The citizens of all kingdoms have a quality of life.  It is manifested in the culture of a particular kingdom.  The kingdom of Satan has a dark and evil culture (Acts 26:18; Eph. 2:1-3).  Life in the world realm outside the kingdom of God has been referred to as “this present evil age.”  Gal. 1:4.  Jesus taught and lived the laws of life that describe the quality and development of eternal life in a Christian (John 1:4; I John 1:1-4; Gal. 6:2).  The quality of life in the kingdom can be understood by a study of Jesus’ sermon we will study in this series of lessons.  This quality of life reveals itself in Christian personality.  A Christian’s personality and character is God’s “salt and light” for Satan’s dark and decaying world (Matt. 5:13-16).  It is also the goal of every Christian “in Christ.”

The context for the sermon Jesus taught on the mount was the Jewish people who were still living under the old covenant (Heb. 8:7, 13).  Matthew organized this sermon in a continuous form, whereas Luke used portions of it in different applications in his Gospel.  Jesus assured the Jews He did not come to “abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”  Matt. 5:17.  Although, the context for Jesus’ oral teaching was the Israelites, the context of Matthew’s written copy is the hearts and minds of Christians.  In this context, Christians are expected to fulfill the requirements of the Law.  This will be “worked out” in this series of lessons.  We will understand the difference in the Law of Moses and the “law of the Spirit of life.”

Some have referred to the beginning portion of Jesus’ sermon as the beatitudes (Matt. 5:3-10).  They become “do-attitudes” only after they become beatitudes in the hearts and minds of Christians (Matt. 7:24).  Since the context for Jesus’ teachings of several healthy attitudes relate to the Christian personality, we will want to make sure we understand how our personality is developed.  The following are the general processes of the development of personality:

A.  First, we will need to be aware of the influence of what God has designed within the creation of each newborn baby.  The spirit of all human beings comes from God and their body comes from the substance of the earth (Gen. 2:7; Eccl. 12:7; Acts 17:26).  Added to the spirit and the body are inherent features, such as capabilities and needs.  All of these affect the development of various personality and character traits in people.  The following comes with the new born baby:

1.  Varying amounts of intelligence.  We may or may not all be created equal in every aspect.  We understand people do have varying degrees of intelligence.

2.  The physical attributes are basically inherited: color, form, hair texture, and etc.

3.  Our needs, or urges, for food, security, sex, sociability, achievement and glory are all “built in.”  We do not need to learn or adopt these urges.

4.  A baby is born with certain capacities.  They have the capacity and freedom to choose, to imagine and the will to act.  As they mature there is evidence of the function of their conscience.  They have the God-given capacity to examine themselves.  Since all people in all places and at all times have these characteristics, we can say they are inherent – they are God installed by the act of His design of mankind.

B.  All of the foregoing inherited features give expression of themselves as a person encounters his or her environment.  The world in which people live offers stimuli that enlist a response.  It stimulates man’s inherited capacities and may or may not satisfy his or her urges.  Our various capacities have a tendency to express themselves.  Our urges, or needs demand satisfaction.  This is a function in the process of developing one’s unique personality.

The use of a person’s inherent intelligence and certain other endowments, such as physical capacities, along with the needs that are stimulated by a person’s unique environment is their instinctive equipment.  It will certainly vary from person to person because of the variance in their abilities and because of the differences in the environment into which they are thrust.  The family into which some children are born may not serve their needs; therefore, personality traits of fear and anger may develop.  Those who perceive their world as friendly develop emotions of love and faith.  Those who do not receive help from their environment may learn to adjust their behavior in order to attain satisfaction in spite of an unfriendly situation.  Thus they use appropriate behavior according to the stimuli in their environment and thereby maintain traits of a happy personality.  Their decisions for their behavior are based on principles rather than consequences.  See Psa. 37:23, 24.

C.  One’s behavior is an issue of great importance in the developmental stages of personality.   Behavior is an effort to attain satisfaction for appetites and urges.  Pleasure is the result of getting satisfaction.  Thus a person’s view of the world will be measured by the satisfaction they believe it will offer or fail to offer.  Jesus knows about our needs.  His Father is making provisions for the needs of those who give priority to seeking His kingdom (Matt. 6:25-34).  Christians learn to love God because He has a program “in Christ” for all our inherent needs; albeit, some needs may only be served by our hope in Jesus’ return.

D.  A person’s emotions may remain in a dormant stage until, in their activity to satisfy an urge, no satisfaction is apparent.  It is then an emotion arises.  If they are hungry and no food is available they may experience the emotion of fear.  If someone prevents them from having food it may arouse the emotion of anger.  People will surely learn to love the one who provides satisfaction for their needs.  These reactions are called emotional attitudes.  Emotional attitudes are functional units of personality.  The result of a person having a healthy personality is happiness; therefore, it is of utmost importance for people to have healthy emotions.

We have learned how the development of human personality has its roots in the way God created mankind.  Several variables have affected the development of a person’s present personality.  One variable is the measure of certain capabilities with which the Lord has endowed us.  The environment in which a person is born and lives in the early days of her or his life will have a great impact on the present condition of their “selves.”  The behavior he or she learned to use in order to attain satisfaction for the urge “of the moment” is a controlling factor.

Please take note; we cannot change the way God put us together.  We may not be able to alter the environment we find ourselves in at the moment; however, we can change our response to the people and other factors that produce the environment.  The way we respond to the environment is our field of learning.  We try to learn the correct behavior that will give us satisfaction for the need we are seeking to satisfy.  Sometimes we may need to wait in hope.  At other times we may need to change our behavior.  When satisfaction is achieved on a continuum basis we will want to make this particular behavior our habit.  Jesus, in part, presented us with “the way and the truth and the life” in the Sermon on the Mount (John 14:6; Matt. 7:24).

Jesus has given us a list of eight healthy emotions.  Happiness and other good things are for those who accept them in faith and then become obedient to their faith.  We do not seek happiness.  If we obey the teachings of Jesus then happiness will surely follow.  Jesus also taught the proper response behavior to people and other scenarios in His Sermon on the Mount.  We will study all of His teachings in detail in this series of lessons.  We want to be happy and have strong character.  Jesus wants us to be strong and happy.  The environment “in Christ” is conducive for satisfying the needs God created within us.  By the grace of the cross we can occupy this sphere called “in Christ.”  It has been prepared for Christians so we can develop a happy Christian personality like Jesus Christ.


Because of the importance of understanding the foregoing points in this lesson this summary has been added.  There are many things we need to think about as we study Jesus’ great sermon He presented on a mountain in Galilee.  One thing is the kingdom of God because all the teachings of Jesus are good news about God’s kingdom with Christians in it as His children (Matt. 4:17).   This is the kingdom over which Jesus reigns in order to bring these children to God for His eternal kingdom in heaven (Acts 2:36; I Cor. 15:24; Heb. 2:10).

Another thing we need to think about is how we come to be the person we are at this point in our lives.  The first part of Jesus’ sermon lists eight healthy emotional attitudes.  An emotional attitude is a functional unit of personality.  The type of personality, the kind of character and the health of mind of an individual will depend upon the emotional attitudes a person develops.  For this reason we can understand why He started with eight healthy emotional attitudes of children of God.  Recorded in Jesus’ sermon Matthew included in his gospel are laws of life for mankind.  These laws are being impressed on the children Jesus plans to bring to His Father on His return trip (Heb. 2:10, 11).   This type of law describes the phenomenon of the development of a son of God (Rom. 8:16).

One thing we need to understand before we start our study of this sermon is to make sure we understand how the emotional attitudes we possess were developed.  We were not born with the emotional attitudes that now make up our personality.  So the question is how did we get them?  How did we become who we are?  An attempt has been made to answer this question in the foregoing part of this lesson.  The information presented, for the most part, has been selected from different scholar’s study of mankind.

It is of the utmost importance for us to understand how our emotional attitudes are developed. We need to know this before we enter into the relearning process of the ones we have that do not match the healthy attitudes Jesus taught.  What He teaches in this sermon, for the most part, are the laws of life spoken of in the new covenant (Heb. 8:10-12).   They describe a Christian’s growth process.  Therefore, we can see how vital it is that we start our study with the proper understanding of the laws of life.  They describe how we are to develop as sons of God.

Our present emotional attitudes that make up our personality have been learned as we sought to find satisfaction for the needs, or urges, God created within us.  Along with this came certain capacities, or capabilities, we desire to exercise.  In fact, all our instinctual equipment has sought satisfaction from the environment we have lived in from our birth.  We react to and behave in our environment.  We seek satisfaction for our needs.  It is in this scenario we have developed into the person we are today.

We cannot change the way God made us.  We cannot keep ourselves from developing emotions.  We may or may not change our environment.  At any rate we must live in the world.  What we can change is our reaction, or behavior, to the stimuli we encounter in the world we live in.

Please note how at the end of Jesus’ sermon He said, “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts then into practice is like a wise man who built his house on a rock.”  Matt. 7:24.  The word practice refers to our behavior, our reactions, the habits we perform as we seek satisfaction for our inherited needs from our environment.

Jesus taught us the proper emotions at the beginning of His sermon.  He also taught the proper response (practice, behavior) to our environment throughout the sermon.

Questions for Discussion

  1. Why does the application of the Sermon on the Mount require that a person be a Christian?
  2. List two items of interest in God’s new covenant for mankind that will help Christians in our development of healthy traits of personality.
  3. Why might there be some differences in the paths people pursue to develop healthy emotions?
  4. How does one’s behavior factor into the development of personality?
  5. When does an emotion arise?
  6. When may a person experience the feeling of pleasure?
  7. How does Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount contribute to our hope for our personal happiness?
  8. List the inherited and the learned factors in the process of the development of personality.
  9. Can a person change their personality?  If yes, how?
  10. Why is happiness not sought as a goal for one’s life?

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