A Survey of the Scriptures: Lesson 4 Leviticus

A Survey of the Scriptures: Lesson 4 LEVITICUS

Holiness in Worship and Life

When was the last time you read through the book of Leviticus? Have you ever read it? This book is usually not high on the list of favorite Bible books, yet it contains many timeless principles that are applicable to us today.

Learning Leviticus:

Name: The name of the book comes from a Greek word meaning “that which pertains to the Levites.” The Hebrew name for the book comes from the first word, “and he called.” The Latin Vulgate rendered the Greek heading Liber Leviticus (Book of Leviticus) from which the English is derived.

[Who were the Levites? A descendant of the tribe of Levi, the tribe to which Moses and Aaron belonged; generally used as the title of that portion of the tribe which was set apart for the subordinate offices of the sanctuary service (1Ki 8:4; Ezr 2:70) as assistants to the priests. The Levitical order consisted of all the descendants of Levi’s three sons, Gershon, Kohath, and Merari; whilst Aaron and his descendants constituted the priestly order. They were the special guardians of the tabernacle. It was their duty to move the tent and carry the parts of the sacred structure from place to place. They were given to Aaron and his sons the priests to wait upon them and do work for them at the sanctuary services. As being wholly consecrated to the service of the Lord, they had no territorial possessions.]

Theme: holiness. Because God is holy, God’s people must be holy and their worship of God must be holy. The basic meaning of holiness is to be set apart and/or dedicated to God. The word “holy” or “holiness” is mentioned about 85 times in the book.

Leviticus goes into great detail about how both people and offerings must be perfect, without blemish. Lack of physical perfection somehow was associated with sin. Those who had diseases were banished from the camp, the place of God’s presence. Further, the offerings (sheep, doves, and cattle) had to be perfect. The spiritual significance of all this is that God requires perfection. Since man cannot be perfect, he must sacrifice a perfect substitute.

Content: Most of the book describes the Levitical sacrificial system centered around the Tabernacle. [Describe the tabernacle.] The Mosaic Law governed nearly every aspect of life in the Theocracy. [Define theocracy.] Leviticus includes laws and regulations for worship, ceremonial cleanness, morality, holy days, the Sabbath year, etc. The book contains God’s directions for Israel maintaining a right relationship with Him.

[I’m glad I don’t live under this system. No church, no shrimp, no cotton/poly blends, etc.

While it had its drawbacks, those who trusted God loved the Law and the system. Also remember that this system was the only proper way to approach/worship God. If one wanted to be right with God, he had to convert to Judaism. E.g., Ruth.

Further, as we compare the regulations of Lev. with what is currently required, we should be reminded of dispensational truth, i.e., that God has changed in His dealings with man over time and in accordance with new revelation.

Time, date, author are the same as the other books of the Pentateuch.]

Purposes of Leviticus:

A. Priests: To remind the priests who officiate before God that He must be treated as holy and honored before all the people (Lev 10:3)

B. Individual: To instruct the individual that he must come before God in worship through cleanness, atonement, and holy living

C. Nation: To remind the nation of their covenant obligations which are necessary for continued occupation of and blessing in God’s land

D. Requirements: To present his redeemed, covenanted people with a collection of religious, civil, social, moral, and economic rules in order that the Holy God may continue to dwell amid an unholy people as He continues His work through them in the world.

E. Reveal: To reveal God in His holiness, righteousness, mercy, and sovereignty

F. Model: To demand that the Israelites live in a way that would show to the neighboring nations the true nature of holiness. 1

Significance: Leviticus is referred to about 40 times in the NT. Many NT concepts are based on an understanding of the Levitical system. This is especially seen in the book of Hebrews. Leviticus also reveals important information about God’s holiness that had not been revealed up to this point.

An Outline of Leviticus:

I. The five main offerings (1-7)

II. The ordination and work of Aaron and his sons (8-10)

III. Laws of cleanness (11-15)

IV. The Day of Atonement and tabernacle worship (16-17)

V. Moral laws (18-20)

VI. Regulations for priests, offerings and feasts (21-24)

VII. Crimes and punishments (24)

VIII. The Sabbath year, Jubilee, and slavery (25)

IX. Blessings and cursings (26)

X. Vows (27)

Lofty Lessons from Leviticus:

I. Our Worship must be Holy.

A. God is Holy. 11:44, 45; 19:2

Holy means separate, set apart, sacred.

B. God is to be worshipped in a specific way. The sacrificial system maintained the faithful believer’s fellowship with God (4:20, 26, 31, 35). Forgiveness was granted based on the future work of Christ (Heb 9:26).

Some have taught mistakenly that God “covered” sin but did not really forgive sin under the OT system. This is untrue. If offered in true faith and obedience, sacrifice brought actual forgiveness and removal of guilt and punishment for sin. While forgiveness was ultimately based on Christ’s sacrificial death, the OT sacrifice did remove sin and guilt. Sacrifice in that dispensation was the only appointed means of forgiveness and fellowship with God. One could not ignore the ritual and still have a right relationship with God.

Question: Did merely working the system save anyone?

[No, one had to have a heart attitude of faith in God. Many of the rules had more to do with citizenship in the nation of Israel than with faith in God. So one could be a “good Jew” by working the system, yet not have faith in God.]

C. Incorrect worship is unacceptable to God. 22:25b

Many people have the mistaken notion that they can worship God in any way they see fit, as long as they are sincere. Yet the Bible repeatedly teaches that one must approach God in the way that He has specified. Incorrect worship, though sincere and well-meaning, is simply unacceptable. See 1 Sam 15:22.

Application: God must be revered and worshipped. We cannot approach God in any way we want. Our worship should be reverent and obedient, in keeping with God’s character and with biblical guidelines.

[Hence the character of our worship services: reverent, subdued, more intellectual than emotional, focusing on the character of God.]

II. Our lives must be Holy.

A. God’s holiness is the basis for our holiness. 11:44, 45; 19:2; 20:7-8;

It makes sense that Israel, God’s chosen people, would imitate God’s character. If still makes sense for God’s people to do so. Since God is holy, we should strive to be holy.

B. Holiness is measurable: conformity to the standard. The focus of Leviticus is an external obedience to the regulations. Obedience equals holiness. There is an external dimension to holiness. Notice the regulations in chapters 19?20. See also 1 John 2:3-6.

[There is little mention of being sorrowful for sin, of guilty feelings, of heart attitudes. This obviously doesn’t negate the importance of heart attitude. I point this out because of the modern emphasis on heart/feelings over strict obedience. People think that as long as their motivations are pure, they can do what they want. This is false. God is concerned about heart attitudes, but He is also concerned about external obedience to His commandments.

There is a danger in equating obedience to the letter of the law with salvation or spirituality. But I think the danger of laxity/apathy is equally as great.]

Application: 1 Pet. 1:15?16. There are two aspects of holiness: separation from sin and dedication to God. Both of these should be evident in the Christian’s life.


While the regulations in Leviticus, as part of the Law, no longer apply directly to NT believers, there are important principles that we can learn from the book. God is holy; therefore, believers must be holy. They must worship God in the correct manner and their lives should be holy.


1. Briefly summarize the contents of Leviticus. Laws and regulations for Israel to maintain a positive relationship with God.

2. Why do we insist on a worship style that is reverent and serious? Because our worship should reflect God’s holy character.

3. What are the two aspects of holiness? Separation from sin and dedication to God.

4. Is holiness simply keeping the rules? No, one’s heart attitude needs to be right as well. One must be dedicated to God, i.e., have a desire to maintain a right relationship with God.

What are the primary lessons of Leviticus for Christians? That God is holy, that our worship of God must be holy, and that that we must live holy lives.

  1. Keathley.

A Survey of the Scripture: Lesson 3 Exodus

A Survey of the Scripture: Lesson 3: Exodus



Exodus is the story of the exodus of the nation of Israel from Egypt, and their subsequent reception of the Law in the wilderness. The word “exodus” is from a Greek word meaning “exit.” Exodus picks up the story of God’s providential care of His people after a silent period of 275 years.

At the conclusion of Genesis, Israel’s population was about 75 . During the 275 silent years, Israel grew to about 2.5 million people and became enslaved to the Egyptians. Israel lived in Egypt for about 430 years.

The Law was Israel’s constitution. Prior to this point, Israel was a people, but not an organized nation. With the giving of the Law, the people became a nation, organized with a legal system, rulers, procedures, policies, and a systematized religion.

Exodus is an important book for a number of reasons. It records much of the early days of Israel’s history and the origins of Jewish religious practices. Further, nearly every OT book makes reference to the material contained in Exodus, as do many NT books.

[Again we see the interrelatedness of Scripture–if one part falls, so does all the rest.]

An Outline of Exodus:

I. The Exodus from Egypt and Traveling to Mt. Sinai (ch. 1-18)

A. Israel is enslaved. (1:8-14)

B. Moses is born and called. (ch. 2-4)

C. The nation is delivered from Egypt. (ch. 5-18)

1. God plagues Egypt.

2. God passes over Israel.

3. God leads the nation out of Egypt.

II. The Giving of the Law at Mt. Sinai (ch. 19-24)

A. The 10 Commandments (moral law)

B. Social and civil laws

C. Religious laws

III. The Tabernacle (ch. 25-40)

A. Its design

B. Its delay

C. Its completion

Important Facts about Exodus:

¨ Hebrew title: “These are the names,” which is the first phrase of the book. In the Greek (LXX) the book is named Exodus, emphasizing the departure (or exit) of Israel from Egypt.

¨ Author: Moses. Duet 31:9 “Moses wrote down this Law.” C.f. also 1 Kings 2:3, Neh 8:1. Jesus called Exodus “the book of Moses” (Mark 7:10, 12:26).

¨ Date of the exodus: about 1445 BC. Both biblical and secular evidence support this date.

¨ Date of the writing of Exodus: probably while in the wilderness, around 1425 BC (Moses died in 1406).

¨ Key word: Redeem. God promised to redeem His people from bondage under Egypt (6:6). God also stipulated that every first-born child be redeemed with the sacrifice of an animal (13:13, 15).

¨ Key chapters: 12 – the exodus out of Egypt; 20 – the 10 Commandments

¨ Key characters: Pharaoh, Moses, Aaron, Joshua, Caleb

¨ Interpretive Difficulties: The date and route of the Exodus have been the subject of considerable debate. Sorting out the chronology, the places named, and the characters involved (especially the Egyptian pharaohs) has been very difficult.

Exciting Ideas from Exodus:

1. God is sovereign. God is clearly controlling the events played out in the pages of Exodus. Israel stayed in Egypt for as long as God wanted them there. The plagues of Egypt especially display God’s power over nature and over mankind. Everything is following God’s eternal plan. Read, e.g., Ex 6:6.

Modern Applications: God is still sovereign. He’s in control of all things, and everything is following His divine plan. We may not understand why things happen, but we can trust that God is in control and working all things according to His will (Eph 1:11).

2. God is faithful to His promises. He will redeem His people. God had promised to give Canaan to Abraham. After over 400 years, and when Abraham’s family had become a great nation, Israel was ready to enter the Promised Land. God is fulfilling His promise to Abraham to make his family into a great nation.

Modern Applications: We can trust God to come thru on His promises. E.g., 2nd coming of Christ; rewards for the righteous/judgment for the wicked; trusting God to take care of you; trusting that God knows best and His word is true.

Interesting note: 4x in Exodus 7-8 we see the phrase “as the LORD had said.”

Also, God’s redemption of Israel from Egypt is an illustration of the believer’s redemption from sin. God will redeem those who trust in Him.

3. God has given us a standard to live by. The standard that controlled nearly every aspect of Jewish life was the Law of Moses. The 10 Commandments (Ex 20) summarize God’s requirements for man.

Modern Applications: While we are not under the Mosaic Law, we still have a standard to follow–the Bible. There are many principles from the OT that still apply to us.

4. God has a particular place and plan for His people to worship Him. God designed the temple and gave detailed directions for the correct way to approach and worship Him. Read Ex 25:8-9.

Modern Applications: We must be very careful how we worship God. We must make sure our worship practices are biblical and appropriate. Some of the ways that people try to worship God today are inappropriate. Many think that as long as you are sincere, you can approach God any way you want. Not true.

The Westminster Confession (Chapter XXI) says: The acceptable way of worshiping the true God is instituted by himself, and so limited by his own revealed will, that he may not be worshiped according to the imaginations and devices of men, or the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representation, or any other way not prescribed in the Holy Scripture.

5. God hates complaining. The Israelites were repeatedly guilty of murmuring against the Lord (15:24; 16:2, 7, 8). They complained about the quality of food, the lack of water, and about Moses’ leadership.

Modern Application: Don’t complain or whine. These people were impatient and dissatisfied with God’s treatment of them (read 16:8). Don’t be guilty of the same offense.


At the beginning of Exodus, we find the Jews oppressed under their Egyptian taskmasters. By the end of the book, Israel has left Egypt, is heading toward the Promised Land under the leadership of Moses, and is organized as a nation with a governing constitution. Throughout the book we clearly see God’s sovereign hand of guidance and protection for His chosen people. Thus God fulfills his promises to Abraham.


1. Summarize the contents of Exodus. Moses and the exodus from Egypt, the giving of the Law at Sinai, the pattern for the Tabernacle and for worship.

2. In what chapter of Exodus do we find the 10 Commandment? Chapter 20.

3. What does the detailed description of the Tabernacle tell us about how we are to worship God? It shows that God desires for us to worship Him in a certain way. We must insure that we follow the Bible in or worship practices.

4. How do we know that we no longer have to follow the directions for worship as given in Exodus? NT tells us so. Christ came to redeem us from the curse of the Law (Gal 3:13). Paul states plainly that we are no longer under the Law (Rom 6:14; Gal 5:18).

A Survey of the Scriptures: Lesson 2 Genesis

A Survey of the Scriptures: Lesson 2 Genesis

Genesis is a book about origins. It gives the account of the origins of mankind and his world, of the origin of sin and its curse, and the beginnings of God’s plan to redeem man through His chosen people, Israel.

Genesis is not merely history. It is not intended to be a chronicle of events, a history for history’s sake, or even a complete biography of the nation. It is a theological interpretation of selected records of the ancestors of Israel. Genesis explains the causes behind the results. The book records God-planned and God-directed history. 1

Genesis describes FOUR MAJOR EVENTS:

1. creation 2. The fall of man

3. the flood 4. The Tower of Babel

Genesis describes FOUR IMPORTANT PEOPLE:

1. Abraham 2. Isaac

3. Jacob 4. Joseph

Note: Genesis records the history of actual people. It is not religious myth or legend.

[Why would some people suppose/believe that Genesis is a myth or legend? Because much modern science/philosophy disagree with it. We have to determine if we are going to believe what people say or what God says.]

Why is the book of Genesis so important?

1. It describes the origin of man. Cf. Gen 1:27

The fact that God created man gives him a purpose and meaning for life. Man’s ultimate purpose is to honor and obey God. Evolution is random and meaningless. Attempts to integrate the biblical record with evolution are bound to fail because the two systems are basically contradictory.

[What are some ways that the Genesis account and evolutionary theory are contradictory? The existence of God; the age of the earth; the origin of species; the purpose/meaning of life. These are basic, essential contradictions.]

It’s important that we retain a commitment to Genesis as an accurate account of what really happened. Genesis doesn’t record events in scientific terms, but it is an accurate account. If it’s not true, the Bible is not trustworthy.

2. Jesus believed that Genesis was true. Cf. Matt 24:37; John 8:58

[What if Jesus was wrong? He’s no savior. Maybe he was just accommodating the ignorance of the people who surrounded him. Again, this calls into question his claim to be the savior and the Son of God.]

3. Other books draw on the contents of Genesis. Cf. Matt 1:2f

Genesis is quoted about 60 times in the NT in 17 different books. The other biblical writers act as if Genesis was actually, literally true. If Genesis is wrong, then the other writers were either ignorant or wrong, and in any case not to be trusted. The whole Bible stands or falls with Genesis. The book is foundational to all that follows it.

The Theme of Genesis

Genesis gives Israel the theological and historical basis for her existence as God’s Chosen People. 2 The theme of Genesis is God’s providential care for His people. He created and sustained Adam, chose Abraham to be the patriarch of His people, and cared for this family from one generation to the next.

Genesis not only means ‘be­ginning’, but it is the book of beginnings. The book of Genesis gives us our historical point of reference, from which all subsequent revela­tion proceeds. In the book of Genesis all the major themes of the Bible have their origin. It is a book of many beginnings: in it we see the beginning of the universe, of man and woman, of human sin and the fall of the race, the begin­ning of God’s promises of salvation, and the beginning of the nation Israel as the chosen people of God because of God’s special purpose for them as the channel for the Messiah. In Genesis we learn about Adam and Eve, about Satan the tempter, about Noah, the flood, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph and his brothers. But here we also have the beginning of marriage, family, work, sin, murder, capitol punishment, sacrifice, races, languages, civilization and the Sabbath. The Bible is, through and through, a historical revelation. It is the account of God’s activity in history. 3

An Outline of Genesis:

1. God’s providential care of mankind in general (1-11)

a. The Creation (1-2)

b. The Fall of Man (3-5)

c. The Flood (6-9)

d. The Nations (10-11)

2. God’s providential care for the Nation of Israel (15-50)

a. Abraham (12-23)

b. Isaac (24-26)

c. Jacob (27-36)

d. Joseph (37-50)

Other Important Facts from Genesis:

1. The name Genesis is taken from the Septuagint (LXX), the Greek translation of the Old Testament. “Genesis” is from a Greek word meaning “beginning” or “origin.”

2. Key words:

ü Beginning. The Hebrew title is “in the beginning.”

ü Generations or account. A key word or phrase is “these are the generations of” or “this is the account of.” It is used some eleven times to introduce the reader to the next section which gives the narrative about what happened in connection with the key events and persons of the book from the creation of the heavens and the earth to all the patriarchs of Israel.

3. Key chapter: 12 – the Abrahamic covenant. God’s agreement with Abraham and God’s dealings with Abraham’s family are the central emphasis of the book.

[By way of contrast, creation takes up only 2 chapters, and man’s early history prior to Abe takes up only 9 more chapters. The other 39 chapters deal with Abe and his family.]

4. Key passage: 12:1-3, the Abrahamic Covenant.

Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will show thee: And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.

God promised to bless Abraham personally, to bless his descendants, and to bless the entire world through Abraham’s family. This covenant was eternal and unconditional. The rest of Genesis (and the rest of the Bible) shows how God did exactly what He promised to do.

5. Author: Moses. Both Scripture and tradition attribute the Pentateuch to Moses.

[Briefly explain the documentary hypothesis–JEDP]

6. Time of writing: most likely after the Exodus and before Israel entered the promised land, probably during the forty years in the wilderness, around 1425 BC

Genesis is a highly organized, structured book. After the prologues, Genesis is divided into ten parts marked out by the formula: “This is the genealogy [or history] of ….” This heading is followed by a genealogy of the person named or by stories involving his notable descendants. 4

Genuine Gems from Genesis

1. There is only one God, the creator and sustainer of all things.

  • Beginning with the opening lines of the book, the reader is faced with the Creator God, the One who made all things from nothing with the power of His will. This is the only one and true God. The first line of the book overturns all false views of God (e.g., atheism, polytheism, pantheism).
  • The world and the universe are dependent upon God. He created them and sustains them. They exist for God’s pleasure and are under His control. God rules over all creation.
  • God has revealed Himself in word and deed to man. His particular dealings are with the Jews. Genesis gives Israel the theological and historical basis for her existence as God’s chosen people.

2. God desires to enter into a relationship of loving sovereignty with people.

  • The majority of Genesis deals with a single family, that of Abraham and Sarah. The book records how God chose Abram and cared from his family. It is through Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob that the nation of Israel comes into existence.
  • God promised Abraham’s family an eternal seed, land and a kingdom. Genesis gives the background for the fulfillment of these promises.
  • God requires that men trust and obey Him. Like Abraham, those who trust God are counted as righteous. God blesses those who follow him and curses those who don’t.
  • Part of God’s requirement for maintaining a positive relationship with Him is substitutionary sacrifice for sin. From the very beginning, God required the shedding of blood to pay for sin. This foreshadows the final and ultimate sacrifice for sin when Jesus died on the cross.

3. God sovereignly controls all things, including the affairs of men.

  • God displays His sovereignty throughout the entire book. He wills the universe into existence, creates the first people, destroys the earth with a flood, confuses the languages, and chooses Abram’s family to be His people. God’s hand of guidance is clearly seen again and again. Nothing happens randomly. God is firmly in control of all things. What God promises He is able to fulfill.
  • A very prominent theme in Genesis is God’s unconditional choice of the Israelite nation through Abraham, which is described in the Abrahamic covenant (12:1-3; 15:1-21).


Much of what is begun in Genesis is fulfilled in Christ. He is the seed who will destroy Satan. He is the ultimate offspring promised to Abraham. Because of their union with Christ, believers participate in many of the blessings God promised to Abraham. The paradise lost by the first Adam is restored by the last Adam, Jesus Christ. Genesis explains the origins of God’s dealings with man and sets the stage for the rest of the Bible. If you don’t understand this book, the remaining 65 books will be closed to you.


1. Summarize the book of Genesis. Creation, fall, flood, Babel, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph.

2. What is the major theme of Genesis? God’s providential care for His people.

3. Who is the main character in the book? Other than God, Abraham.

4. Why is Genesis such an important book? Because it gives the origins of everything and sets the stage for the rest of the Bible. All the other biblical books are based on Genesis.

  1. Allen P. Ross, Genesis, in the Bible Knowledge Commentary, p. 21.
  2. Ross, p. 26.
  3. Keathley.
  4. New Geneva Study Bible, Intro to Genesis

A Survey of the Scriptures: Intro (Genesis-Esther)

A Survey of the Scriptures: Introduction (Genesis-Esther)

INTRODUCTION: It is very important for Christians to get a general overview of the Bible because it is their source of faith and practice. This series is designed to examine the backgrounds and themes of Genesis through Esther.

[This is called a survey because we will hit just the highlights of the books we study, not much in depth. We’ll talk about authorship, dates, some history, etc., and the main themes or messages of the books, but that’s about it. So it will be a kind of “hit and run” series. ]

The Bible is God’s written revelation of Himself to mankind. It was written by men who were “carried along” (2 Pet 1:21) by the Holy Spirit so that the autographs (i.e., the original documents) were verbally and plenarily inspired and thus without error. Verbal inspiration means that every word of Scripture is inspired (Matt 5:18; 1 Cor 2:13), not just its thoughts or ideas. The Bible does not merely contain or reflect God’s Word; it is God’s Word in its entirety.


1. The Bible is one book composed of 66 books. It was written over a period of about 1,500 years by some 40 different authors.

2. Each book has a definite purpose or theme. Each writer had a specific message for a certain audience. Our task is to find the theme and then apply the principles of each book to our lives.

[The theme is usually the author’s purpose. I.e., why did he write? E.g., John 20:31]

3. The OT is composed of 39 books. They fit into the following categories:

* Law (Genesis – Deuteronomy; also called the Pentateuch or Torah)

* History (Joshua ? Esther)

* Poetry (Job ? Song of Solomon)

* Major Prophets (Isaiah ? Daniel)

* Minor Prophets (Hosea ? Malachi)

[What’s the difference between major and minor prophets? They are not called the “minor” prophets because they are any less important; they are simply shorter books.]

The Old Testament lays the foundation for the coming of the Messiah anticipating Him as Prophet, Priest, and King and as the suffering Savior who must die for man’s sin before He reigns.

The first five books of the OT are sometimes called the Pentateuch, which means “five books.” They are also known as the books of the Law because they contain the laws and instruction given by the Lord through Moses to the peo­ple of Israel. Moses wrote these books, except for the last portion of Deuteronomy (which tells of Moses’ death). These five books lay the foundation for the coming of Christ. As God’s chosen people, Israel became the custodians of the Old Testament, the recipients of the covenants of promise, and the channel of Messiah (Rom. 3:2; 9:1-5). 1

4. The NT is composed of 27 books.

· Gospels (Matthew ? John): Tell the story of the coming of the long-anticipated Savior and His person and work

· History (Acts): Through the work of the Holy Spirit, Acts proclaims the message of the Savior who has come.

· Paul’s Letters (Romans ? Philemon) and General Epistles (Hebrews ? Jude): Develop the full significance of the person and work of Christ and how this should impact the walk of the Christian as Christ’s ambassador in the world



Prophecy (Revelation, also called the Apocalypse): Anticipates the end time events and the return of the Lord, His end time reign, and the eternal state


Inspiration: that supernatural influence whereby the Holy Spirit caused men to compose and record without error the very words of God’s choosing as found in the original manuscripts (2 Tim 3:16; 2 Pet 1:21). God did this without overriding the individual personalities of the writers in the process. Inspiration technically applies only to the originals (1 Cor 14:37). Copies and translations are inspired to the degree that they accurately reflect the originals. Versions such as the KJV, NKJV, NASB, and NIV are accurate, reliable and suitable for personal reading and study.

[Remember that translations and versions are not the product of inspiration per se. The miracle of inspiration occurred only once–when God originally gave the material to the writers. Modern versions are inspired in a derivative sense, i.e., in that they accurately reflect the originals, they are inspired.

Preservation is providential, not miraculous.]

Revelation: the content of God’s communication to man; the facts and ideas that God wanted recorded in Scripture.

General revelation: information that comes to all men generally. General revelation is a universal witness to God’s existence, power and deity (Rom 1:20). All men know God because of creation (Ps 8:1?3, 19:1?6; Rom 1:18?20) and conscience (Rom 1:18?21, 2:14?15). General revelation is not sufficient for salvation. Man is condemned because he perverts and rejects what knowledge of God he has.

Special revelation: information disclosed to a specific individual or group. The Bible is special revelation. Scripture is sufficient for man’s condemnation, salvation, and sanctification (John 17:17, 20:31; Rom 10:14?17; Heb 1:1?2).

Canonicity: the historical process whereby God, through the Holy Spirit, directed His people to recognize and collect the inspired writings. The word “canon” means “standard” or “rule.” A book that is canonical is part of the standard or canon. Only those books which bore the marks of canonicity were included in the canon. Man did not determine which books were canonical (they were canonical the moment they were penned); he simply recognized which ones were. The canon is comprised of the sixty-six books of the Old and New Testaments (1 Pet 3:16; 1 John 4:6; Rev 22:18?19). The canon was permanently closed with the writing of the book of Revelation at the end of the first century AD (Rev 22:18-19). Because the canon is closed, we don’t believe that God is currently issuing direct revelation to anyone.

Tests of Canonicity

Have you ever wondered why certain books were included in the canon? How could the early believers tell that the works of Isaiah, Paul or Peter were inspired and authoritative? They employed several tests of authenticity:

OT: Because of the old age of the OT, what tests believers used to recognize the inspired writings from all others is hard to determine. For all Scripture, the ultimate proof is the testimony of the Holy Spirit to the authority of His own Word in the heart of the community of believers. The OT authors were “holy men of God” who spoke (or wrote) as the Holy Spirit carried them along (2 Pet 1:21). God insured that His people would recognize and receive His inspired Word. God’s people recognize God’s writing. Although we know that it occurred, we may never understand the exact mechanism of this process.

NT: The early church apparently employed the following tests to help them recognize the inspired books from those not inspired:

1. Apostolicity—written by an apostle or the close associate of an apostle. For example, Luke, the author of Luke and Acts, was a close associate of the apostles.

2. Catholicity—universal (the word “catholic” means “universal”) recognition by believers. The book was relevant to all and accepted by all.

3. Orthodoxy—agreement with the faith of the church. “Orthodox” means “straight” or “right.” A book had to conform to the faith that the church had already received.

4. Traditional Usage—customary employment by the church in worship and teaching. Believers found the book to be edifying and used it in their services.

What About Other Books?

Along with both the inspired OT and NT books were written other religious books that most believers did not think were inspired. These books are usually called the Apocrypha. Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox traditions include several apocryphal books in their Bibles that Protestants do not recognize as canonical. Protestants reject the Apocrypha because they do not pass the tests of canonicity listed above, although it may be profitable to read them. 2

Where Is God’s Word Today?

If God’s Word is true and if He has preserved it, it stands to reason that we should be able to obtain a perfectly accurate copy of it. So where is it? In what text is God’s Word perfectly preserved?

Unfortunately, the autographs (i.e., the original documents) no longer exist. Further, because imperfect people have been responsible to copy and care for the text, small errors or inaccuracies have been introduced into it. So it’s impossible to point to one version or one text as the absolutely perfect copy of the preserved Word of God. 3 Where is God’s Word perfectly recorded? In the many existing Hebrew and Greek manuscripts. It’s the job of textual scholars and translators to compare all the textual evidence and put together the best possible version. For common use, versions such as the KJV, NKJ, NASB, or NIV are accurate and dependable. 4

Interpretation: the process of arriving at the correct understanding of Scripture. One should interpret each passage according to its grammatical, historical, literary, and theological context. The central message of the Bible is essentially clear (Ps 119:105, 130). 5 Anyone can determine the basic meaning of Scripture through proper methods of interpretation. However, only saved individuals can grasp the significance of Scripture (1 Cor 2:14). Theologians sometimes use the word hermeneutics to describe the art and science of interpretation.


It’s essential for us to learn the central truths of the Bible. But the goal is neither mere academic knowledge nor the accumulation of facts. The goal is to get to know God better, to know ourselves better, and to better be able to serve God. Had God not preserved His Word, it would have disintegrated into the dust of the Middle East long before now. But because God promised that His Word “shall stand forever” (Isa 40.8), we can be confident that we have it in an accurate and dependable form today.


1. How do you find the theme of a book? [Try to figure out the author’s purpose for writing. Sometimes this is stated outright, but normally you have to make an educated guess at why the author wrote. Study Bibles and commentaries usually have such info.

2. What are three names for the first 5 books of the Bible? [Pentateuch, Torah, the Law]

3. Define the process of inspiration. [Inspiration is that supernatural influence whereby the Holy Spirit caused men to compose and record without error the very words of God’s choosing as found in the original manuscripts.]

4. What’s the difference between general revelation and special revelation? [General extends to all people, while special was given to a select group.]

5. What is the canon? [That group of books recognized as God’s word. “Canon” means “rule” or “standard.”]

6. What do we call the other books that are included in some Bibles but that most Protestants do not recognize? [the Apocrypha]

  1. J. Hampton Keathley III, hamptonk3@bible.org, Biblical Studies Press, www.bible.org, 1998.
  2. Interesting note: the 1611 King James Version of the Bible contained the Apocrypha.
  3. There are no two ancient copies of the text that are absolutely identical. Before the introduction of the printing press, creating an absolutely perfect copy was virtually impossible. Small, minor variations always creep in to hand made copies.
  4. While some insist that God has miraculously preserved His word in a particular English version, we believe that preservation is providential and applies to texts in the original languages.
  5. The theological word for this truth is “perspicuity,” which means “essentially clear.”

Salt and Light: The Sermon on the Mount

Lesson 3: Salt and Light (Mt 5:13-16)

The Sermon on the Mount

Part 1: The Subjects of the Kingdom (Mt 5:3-16)

The Distinctiveness of the Disciples:

Citizens of the Kingdom Have a Positive Influence

Jesus’ focus in the Beatitudes was primarily on interior, personal characteristics such as dependency, meekness, yearning for righteousness, mercifulness, authenticity, and purity. These personal traits are private, yet have public implications. Those displaying such characteristics will be noticeable. Thus, Jesus now shifts the emphasis to the external, public characteristics of citizens of His kingdom.

The poetic nature of Jesus’ sermon is clearly evident here. His statements “Ye are the salt of the earth” and “Ye are the light of the world” are obviously metaphorical expressions designed to highlight a comparison. Subjects of the kingdom are in some ways like salt and like light. Those who are not “salty” and those whose lights do not shine forth in the world are failing to live up to divine expectations. Thus, the passage serves as a warning to flavorless and unnoticeable believers.

  1. “Ye are the salt of the earth.”

    1. The significance of salt:

      1. Preservative—salt delays decay and retards deterioration; it’s an antiseptic. Without refrigeration, salting down food products was the best way to preserve them.1 The preservative quality of salt is likely Jesus’ primary idea here.

      2. Flavor enhancer—salt adds flavor.

      3. Other ideas associated with salt: the rabbis apparently used salt as a symbol of wisdom; whiteness; pungency; thirst-producing. OT meat offerings were always to be seasoned with the “salt of the covenant” (Lev 2:13).

    2. The comparison: citizens of the kingdom should have an influence in their world. They should suppress or halt moral decay and they should enhance the “flavor” of the culture. The presence of believers should restrain evil in the world.

“The world tends toward decomposition and is actually rotting away. When the world is left to itself, it festers and putrefies, for the germs of evil are everywhere present and active. … We live in a world that constantly tends toward decay. Some of the Christless structures of the world may look okay, but inside they are rotting away, and it is just a matter of time before they fall. … This suggests to us the function of the church: The church, as salt, functions as a retardant to decay and a preservative in a disintegrating world.”2

    1. A potential condition: the salt “have lost its savor.” The Greek word literally means “to become foolish,” but in this case means “to lose taste, to become inert.” I.e., the salt loses its capacity to do its job. Jesus seems to be talking about believers who lose their influence in the world. They become inert, “tasteless,” and inoffensive. Salt-less Christians are bland and tasteless, adding nothing to the community and doing nothing to stop moral decay. They may be practically indistinguishable from the surrounding culture. The secular world has a bigger affect on Christians than Christians have on the world. Examples: how are we different from the world when it comes to materialism? morality? honesty? compassion? entertainment?

    2. What kind of a world would we live in without Christian influence? Imagine how much worse condition the world would be in without the positive contributions and the restraining influence of Christianity.

    3. Salt has little or no effect if it is not applied to some other material. Salty believers must exert their influence throughout society in order for them to do any good. They must get “out of the salt shaker.” Christian isolationism is not biblical.

    4. A potential problem: Salt generally does not lose its saltiness; it does not become inert. Chemically speaking, salt is salt. It doesn’t break down unless it is impure or chemically changed.3 So it seems that Jesus is setting forth an impossible condition. Yet this sort of language is not foreign to Jesus’ teachings (e.g., a camel cannot go through the eye of a needle [Mt 19:24]). The statement is ironic or paradoxical—it doesn’t make sense on the face of it, which makes it memorable and causes the hearer or reader to pause and consider the statement more closely. “How absurd—salt losing its saltiness!” Thus, the hearers or readers should realize that, as salt, citizens of the kingdom should not lose their “savor,” that is, their influence in the world. Like salt, they cannot become un-salty. Such a notion is absurd.

    5. A potential result:

      1. Good for nothing—failing to fulfill their purpose, failing to live up to their responsibilities.

      2. To be cast out and trodden under foot—unwanted salt would commonly be thrown on to paths or roadways.

    6. The application:

      1. Beware lest you lose the distinctive Christian “flavor” and become just like the unsaved crowd. Christians who are the same as everyone else are in a sense “good for nothing” and worthy of chastisement. They are not distinctive and have little positive influence. They go along with the crowd and never restrain sin.

      2. Israel was the perfect example of salt that had lost its savor and was good for nothing, being cast out and trodden under foot (cf. Mt 8:12).

      3. The Christian church today, generally speaking, has lost much of its saltiness. Many segments of Christianity, especially in free and prosperous countries, believers are so worldly that they have few distinguishing marks separating them from non-Christians. The influence of the church on the western world is slowly fading. Thankfully, in many parts of the world, Christianity is having a remarkable impact.

Rev 3:16 So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.

    1. Jesus is not implying that an un-salty believer may lose his salvation. This is a warning, not a threat. Further, remember that in wisdom literature you can’t press the literal meaning of the words too far. Focus on the main point of the comparison, not on every little detail and nuance.

    2. The main point of the comparison: retain your gospel witness and testimony in the world; be a good example to others; have an impact on society; be different (in a good sense); seek to retard moral decay; seek to be a positive influence.

  1. “Ye are the light of the world.”

    1. Significance of light: illumination, dispels the darkness, show the way, reveal the truth, etc. While salt has a negative function (preventing decay), light has a positive function (showing the way).

    2. God is light (1 Jn 1:5) and Jesus is “the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.”(John 1:9). Jesus called himself “the light of the world” (John 8:12, 9:5), so it’s remarkable that he says of his disciples, “You are the light of the world.” In contrast, the world is a dark place. The people of the world “sit in darkness” (Luke 1:79), and “men love darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil” (John 3:19).

Light is a common symbol in the Bible. It represents purity, truth, knowledge, divine revelation, and God’s presence all in contrast to their opposites. The Israelites thought of themselves as lights in a dark world (Isa. 42:6; Rom. 2:19). However the Old Testament spoke of Messiah as the true light of the world (Isa. 42:6; 49:6). Jesus’ disciples are lights in the derived sense, as the moon is a light but only because it reflects the light of the sun.4

    1. Point of comparison: a light is visible, obvious, and noticeable; it shines forth. Citizens of the kingdom are “the light of the world.” They must be obvious, visible, and noticeable. There can be no such thing as a secret or invisible Christian.

    2. Positive examples

      1. A city situated on a hilltop cannot be hid; it is visible, obvious, clearly seen from a long distance, especially at night.

      1. A lamp5 on a lampstand gives light to all in the house.

    1. A negative example: a lamp put under a “bushel” (a clay container for dry foods, usually a bowl or vase, holding about two gallons). This is patently obvious—so absurd that it never happens. A lamp is to be displayed on a lampstand6 so that it may shine forth its light.

    2. The command: “let your light so shine before men.” Those who possess the light must transmit or shine the light. What a lamp is in a room, disciples of Christ are to be in the world. Followers of Christ are both visible and radiant.

[Believers] are the light lighted. He is the sun. They resemble the moon, reflecting the sun’s light. Apart from Christ they cannot shine. The electric bulb does not emit light all by itself. It imparts light only when connected and turned on, so that the electric current generated in the power-house is transmitted to it. So also as long as Christ’s followers remain in living contact with the original light they are a light to others (cf. John 15:4, 5).7

    1. The results:

      1. People see your good works.

        1. The assumption is that citizens of Jesus’ kingdom are doing good works. He doesn’t specify what kind of good works, other than the kind that others might observe.

        2. Jesus later tells us not do religious works (charity, prayer, fasting) before men, to be seen of them (see Mt 6:1, 5, 16). One should not do good works to gain personal prestige or status but to be a good testimony. So one’s Christian testimony should be plainly visible, but one’s private religious duties should be done very quietly.

      2. People glorify God. This is no guarantee that unbelievers will turn to God based on your good works, but it does suggest that the believer’s good works may be helpful in leading others to Christ. Read Ephesians 5:8-9 and Philippians 2:15.

Tertullian (c. a.d. 200) wrote: “But it is mainly the deeds of a love so noble that lead many to put a brand upon us. ‘See,’ they say, ‘how they [the Christians] love one another,’ for they themselves [the non-Christians] are animated by mutual hatred; ‘see how they are ready even to die for one another’” (Apology XXXIX).8

“Brighten the corner where you are.”

Conclusion: Let’s commit ourselves to being salt and light in our community. As salt, we want to be a force against moral decay and a source of “flavor” to our world. As light, we must shine forth brightly in a dark world with the gospel message and with a positive Christian testimony.

1 Interesting note: the body of the great missionary David Livingstone was shipped from Africa back to England after his death packed in salt.

2R. Kent Hughes, The Sermon on the Mount, 78.

3 Some have suggested that the salt of that time was often impure, and in certain conditions the salt itself would leach away, leaving a worthless residue. This may be true, but seems overly complicated for the analogy.

4Tom Constable, Tom Constable’s Expository Notes on the Bible (Galaxie Software, 2003; 2003), Mt 5:14.

5 The word “candle” (KJV) refers to the small, portable lamp, a clay vessel burning olive oil, not a wax candle.

6 A lampstand might be a shelf extending from the pillar in the center of the room (the pillar that supported the large crossbeam of the flat roof), or a single stone projecting inward from the wall, or a piece of metal conspicuously placed and used similarly. Many houses of this time were usually rather simple, having only one or two rooms, so one lamp could illuminate the whole building. William Hendriksen and Simon J. Kistemaker, vol. 9, New Testament Commentary.

7William Hendriksen and Simon J. Kistemaker, vol. 9, New Testament Commentary.

8Quoted in William Hendriksen and Simon J. Kistemaker, vol. 9, New Testament Commentary.

The Beatitudes: The Sermon on the Mount

Lesson 2: The Beatitudes (Mt 5:1-12)

The Sermon on the Mount

Part 1: The Subjects of the Kingdom (Mt 5:3-16)

The Character and Blessedness of Citizens of Christ’s Kingdom

The Sermon on the Mount begins with the Beatitudes, statements Jesus made regarding the blessedness of the inhabitants of the kingdom.

  1. The Setting (Mt 5:1-2; Luke 6:17-19)

    1. The contents of Matthew’s record of the Sermon and Luke’s record of it are very similar.1 There is little doubt that the two writers are recording the same sermon. We can’t totally rule out the idea that Jesus preached the same sermon twice, but it seems unlikely.

    2. One problem in reconciling the two accounts is that Matthew says the Sermon occurred when Jesus went “up into a mountain” (5:1), while Luke says Jesus “came down with them, and stood in the plain” (6:17). Possible solutions:

      1. Jesus went into a mountain but found a level spot to speak from. The word “plain” literally means “level place,” which can be found even on mountains. And the mountains in that region are more like hills. However, this does not explain how Jesus “came down.”

      2. Perhaps Luke does not mention that Jesus went up into a mountain before giving the Sermon. Jesus “came down” (Luke) then “went up” (Mt) sometime later. The text doesn’t say that this occurred, but it could have.

  2. Theme and Background

    1. The Beatitudes are the collection of blessings Jesus spoke at the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount. There are other Beatitudes (“blessed be …”) but this is the most elaborate list in the Bible.

    2. These statements are called Beatitudes based on the Latin translation of the word “blessed” – be?tit?d?, meaning “perfect happiness.”2 However, the word “blessed” is not exactly synonymous with “happy.” Happiness is a feeling that comes and goes depending on one’s circumstances. The term “blessed” is a term of congratulation and recommendation. The blessing here is based on God’s approval, not on a temporary happy feeling. The word “refers overwhelmingly to the distinctive religious joy which accrues to man from his share in the salvation of the kingdom of God.”3 (Compare Ps 32:1.) MacArthur describes the blessed condition as “the divinely-bestowed well-being that belongs only to the faithful.”4

    3. These qualities are to be envied and emulated; they make up “the good life.” Each is followed by a reason, pointing out that no one will be the loser by following this way of life, however unpromising it may appear in the short term. The rewards are at the level of spiritual experience and relationship with God rather than of material recompense. The key phrase, which opens and concludes the series, is theirs is the kingdom of heaven. This refers to the people who acknowledge God as their King and who may, therefore, confidently look forward to the fulfillment of his purpose in their lives.5

    4. Note the paradoxical (seemingly illogical) nature of these statements, and how they contrast with the world’s view of happiness. In Jesus’ kingdom, it’s not the wealthy, powerful, and selfish who enjoy God’s approval, but the downcast, the meek, and the merciful. One’s inner attitude is much more important than his outer condition.

    5. The Beatitudes are more than just descriptive. They should motivate us to pursue the blessings associated with each statement. Also, the statements are more like exclamations than simple declarations of fact. “How blessed…!” is the idea.

    6. What kind of people enjoy God’s approval? What does God value in a person? What type of person pleases God? What characteristics describe those who inhabit Christ’s kingdom? What does God’s value in His people? The Beatitudes answer these questions.

  3. The Beatitudes—Characteristics and Blessedness of Citizens of Christ’s Kingdom (Mt 5:1-12)

Mt 5:1-2 Jesus sat down to teach. Rabbis in that age typically sat to teach while the audience stood to listen. There is no consensus regarding where this took place. It could be a mountain or just a small hill. There is a place on the northeast side of the Sea of Galilee where tradition suggests the Sermon occurred, but this is uncertain.

The values reflected in the Beatitudes stand in stark contrast to those taught by the Jewish leaders of the day (scribes, Pharisees). They often focused on external standards and rule keeping, while Jesus here focuses on inner attitudes and commitments. The qualities that Jesus taught are not the product of external, formal religion, but of a genuine relationship with God.

    1. Blessed are the poor6 in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

      1. In the OT, the “poor” or “meek” are the oppressed people of God who, nonetheless, trust in him for deliverance.7 Thus, the poor in spirit are those who recognize that they have no innate ability to please God. The poor in spirit admit that they must depend fully on God, not on themselves. They see themselves as spiritually bankrupt, weak, and broken before God, having nothing to offer, claiming no merit.

      2. The poor in spirit have become convinced of their spiritual poverty. They have been made conscious of their misery and want. Their old pride has been broken. They have begun to cry out, “O God, be thou merciful to me, the sinner” (Luke 18:13). They are of a contrite spirit and tremble at God’s word (Isa. 66:2; cf. 57:15).?? They realize their own utter helplessness (Rom. 7:24), expect nothing from self, everything from God.8

      3. Those who fit this description have (present tense) a place the kingdom of heaven. In order to be saved, one must recognize his own spiritual bankruptcy and failure.

      4. This statement prohibits that kind of self-confident pride that is so common in our culture. It runs contrary to what people today value—self-esteem, assertive self-promotion, and positive self-image.

    2. Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.

      1. The context here suggests that the mourning occurs as one acknowledges his poorness of spirit, i.e., his spiritual poverty and utter dependence upon God. The mourner is broken, downcast, and burdened. Any distressing situation in life may cause mourning, but the poor in spirit recognize that sin is the cause of most grief.

      2. Although Jesus doesn’t specify who is doing the comforting, it seems reasonable that God is the one bringing comfort to the mourner. God draws nigh to those who seek Him in their times of grief (read Ps 34:18; James 4:8-10).

      3. Jesus is the great high priest who is able to sympathize with our weakness, having experienced human sorrow himself (Heb 4:14-16).

    3. Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.

      1. This is perhaps the most quoted of the Beatitudes. It’s also an ironic statement—it doesn’t seem reasonable, strikes us as odd. Jesus seems to delight in turning the tables and upsetting the conventional wisdom of the time. This is an approximate quotation of Psalm 37:11.

      2. Meekness is humility or gentleness, the opposite of self-reliant pride. It is nearly synonymous with being poor in spirit.

      3. Meekness doesn’t imply that one never stands up for himself or that one allows others to abuse him. Meekness is the result of placing one’s confidence in God rather than in oneself.

      4. Meekness is not spinelessness, the characteristics of the person who is ready to bow before every breeze. It is submissiveness under provocation, the willingness rather to suffer than to inflict injury. The meek person leaves everything in the hand of him who loves and cares.9

      5. Jesus described himself as “meek and lowly in heart” (Mt 11:29). Followers of Christ will also exhibit this characteristic.

      6. When will the meek inherit the earth? In a sense, they have it now (Mt 6:33; 1 Cor 3:21). But the full expression of this promise awaits the millennial reign of Christ and then the eternal state.

      7. Meekness is a very rare characteristic in our culture. We often value those who put themselves forward, who assert themselves. The world seems to belong to the proud, the ambitious. But in Christ’s kingdom, the meek inherit the earth.

    4. Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.

      1. God approves of those who have a deep spiritual appetite, who desire to live a righteous life. Life is full of injustice and unfairness, but God blesses those who have a strong personal desire for righteousness.

      2. The contrast with our world could hardly be more striking. Most people have little regard for personal righteousness, allowing themselves much moral flexibility. But God gives us an objective standard of righteousness—God himself and his word.

      3. Those who yearn for righteousness will be filled. That is, they will experience what they seek—true righteousness. This is the result of justification; God declares the guilty sinner to be righteous. Salvation yields full spiritual satisfaction.

      4. Righteous living is the natural and necessary result of a righteous standing before God. The two are inseparable.

    5. Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.

      1. Mercy is withholding deserved punishment (cf. Ps 103:10). Mercy is love for those in misery and a forgiving spirit toward the sinner. It embraces both the kindly feeling and the kindly act. We see it exemplified in the parable of The Good Samaritan (Luke 10), and especially in Christ, the merciful High priest (Heb. 2:17).10 Every person has experienced God’s mercy.

      2. Merciful people extend mercy to others (cf. Mt 18:23-35). Anyone who has experienced God’s mercy must be merciful. Merciful people sympathize with those who fail and fall.

      3. It’s interesting that Jesus places mercy next to righteousness. Those who demand adherence to a righteous standard may become hard-nosed, inflexible, and demanding. But our desire for righteousness must be combined with merciful love and understanding.

    6. Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.

      1. Read Psalm 24:3-4. Pure in heart suggests authenticity, not putting on a show, not living a lie, not hypocritical, but genuine and sincere. It also implies a single-minded devotion to God. One’s motives are pure and genuine, not put-on.

      2. Further, pure in heart suggests inward cleansing from sin through faith in God’s provision and a continual desire to keep one’s “account” clean.

      3. One’s heart must be clean in order to “see God.” Cleansing from sin comes only through the application of the blood of Christ. Only those who experience Christ’s cleansing power will be welcomed into God’s presence.

      4. Again we see the importance of a true, inner, personal relationship with God. We should regularly be asking God to search our hearts and cleanse us from sin (Ps 139:23-24; 1 John 1:9). Also, when the inside is clean, outer purity will not be far behind (Mt 23:26). It’s a mistake to expect external purity from those whose hearts have not been cleansed from sin.

    7. Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.

      1. Peacemakers attempt to bring calm and order to a chaotic situation. Peacemakers have an inner peace with God and desire to be instruments of God’s peace. Having experienced the peace of God through faith in Christ (Rom 5:1), peacemakers seek to help others know God’s peace.

      2. Such people reflect the characteristics of the Father. God made peace with us through Christ. God is the ultimate peace maker. In this way we resemble God, showing our relationship to him (Gal 3:26, 4:6-7).

      3. Some initiate trouble and conflict—we call them troublemakers. Peacemakers do just the opposite—they initiate peace and order.

      4. Jesus is not advocating a peace-at-any-price attitude. Jesus said that following him may result in conflict and persecution (Mt 10:34-36).

    8. Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

      1. Jesus is the ultimate example of one who was persecuted for righteousness sake. Those who follow the core values that Jesus advocated can expect persecution.

      2. People displaying these qualities will naturally stand out in a wicked culture and would become the targets of criticism and abuse.

    9. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.

      1. Note the change from “they” to “you.” This becomes more personal. One is persecuted “for righteousness sake” and “for my sake,” not for political or social reasons (Mt 10:22).

      2. It was a rather common idea among the Jews that all suffering, including persecution (see Luke 13:1–5), was an indication of God’s displeasure and of the special wickedness of the one thus afflicted. Christ here reverses this view, but only with respect to those who endured persecution for the sake of righteousness and for the cause of Christ.11

      3. The proper response to persecution—rejoice and be glad because your reward is great in heaven. You’re in good company—that’s how they treated the prophets (e.g., Jeremiah, Daniel and friends, Amos, etc.). Read Acts 5:41.

      4. When you live the way Jesus describes here, the unsaved world will not appreciate it. But God does appreciate it, and those who suffer in this way can be confident of a great reward.

We must value what God values. If you want to enjoy God’s blessing, these attitudes and behaviors must exist in our lives. All citizens of Jesus’ kingdom should be striving to apply this teaching.

Note well Jesus’ emphasis on the inner qualities of the heart—dependency, meekness, yearning for righteousness, mercifulness, authenticity, and purity. These are not things that can be merely put-on. They are inner qualities, not external traditions. Jesus no doubt is taking aim at the externalism and ritualism so common among the Pharisees, which is also very common among religious people today.

1 Luke omits various matters of special interest to Matthew’s Jewish readers (e.g. Matt. 5:17-42), and other matters that he himself will give elsewhere (e.g. Luke 11:1-4; 12:22-31); while Luke has a few sentences (as ver. 24-26, 38-40), which are not given by Matthew. Robertson, Harmony of the Gospels.

2 Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2006. Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1).

3Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Vols. 5-9 edited by Gerhard Friedrich. Vol. 10 compiled by Ronald Pitkin.; ed. Gerhard Kittel et al.;, electronic ed.; Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1964-c1976), 4:367.

4John MacArthur, The MacArthur Study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2006), Mt 5:3.

5D. A. Carson, New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition (Rev. ed. of: The new Bible commentary. 3rd ed. / edited by D. Guthrie, J.A. Motyer. 1970, 4th ed.; Leicester, England; Downers Grove, Ill., USA: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994), Mt 5:3.

6 The primary sense of the word “poor” (??????) implies one who is completely destitute, deprived of every means of self-support, one reduced to begging; helpless and powerless.

7D. A. Carson, New Bible Commentary.

8William Hendriksen and Simon J. Kistemaker, vol. 9, New Testament Commentary.

9William Hendriksen and Simon J. Kistemaker, vol. 9, New Testament Commentary.

10William Hendriksen and Simon J. Kistemaker, vol. 9, New Testament Commentary.

11William Hendriksen and Simon J. Kistemaker, vol. 9, New Testament Commentary.

Introduction to the Sermon on the Mount

Lesson 1: Introduction to the Sermon on the Mount

The Sermon on the Mount is recorded in Matthew 5-7 and Luke 6. It is one of the most beloved, well known, and frequently quoted portions of the Bible. It’s also the longest single unit of Jesus’ personal teaching recorded in Scripture, “the most concentrated yet comprehensive portion of His ethical teaching.”1 Some think of it as “the most profound section of the entire New Testament and the whole Bible, … the most penetrating section of God’s Word.”2 Unfortunately, it’s also a very misunderstood passage. Thus, it is beneficial for believers to carefully and thoughtfully study the Sermon. Our goal should be not only to learn what Jesus said and meant, but also to apply the lessons from the Sermon on the Mount to our own lives personally.

We’ll be studying the Sermon from Matthew’s account (mostly). Before launching out into a detailed study of the Sermon itself, it may be beneficial to consider some introductory matters.

  1. Definition: What is the Sermon on the Mount? The Sermon as recorded likely does not contain everything that Jesus said on that occasion. It’s probably a condensation or summary of a teaching session that perhaps lasted an hour or longer (as recorded in the NT, the Sermon takes only a few minutes to read). It was common at that point in history for a teacher (rabbi) to sit in a prominent place, gather his disciples around him, and teach. This is the setting of the Sermon.

  2. Literary style: The Sermon on the Mount has much in common with OT wisdom literature, reading much like the Book of Proverbs especially. This is important in that, like OT wisdom literature, the Sermon on the Mount contains poetic material that must be carefully and thoughtfully interpreted. If we seek to apply a strictly literal interpretive approach, we’ll end up cutting off our hands, plucking out our eyes, and giving away all our possessions, among other things. The Sermon contains poetic imagery that the Jews of the time were familiar with, and modern interpreters should keep this in mind as they seek to interpret Jesus’ words.

  3. Theme: The unifying theme of the Sermon is the kingdom of heaven. Matthew places the sermon immediately after two verses insisting that the primary content of Jesus’ preaching was the gospel of the kingdom (4:17, 23). This theme brackets the Beatitudes (5:3, 10) and appears in 5:17-20, which details the relation between the OT and the kingdom. It returns at the heart of the Lord’s Prayer (6:10), climaxes the section on kingdom perspectives (6:33).3 While some of his listeners recognized Jesus as the King, others must be exhorted to enter the kingdom (7:13-14) and to evaluate whether they are genuine citizens of Jesus’ kingdom (7:21-29). As a summary, we can suggest that the Sermon describes the character, requirements, and conditions of entering and living in the kingdom.

  4. The Audience: Whom did Jesus intend as the audience of the Sermon?

    1. The disciples. This would include the twelve as well as a good number of others.

Mt 5:1 And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him.

    1. The multitude. Jesus often taught his disciples while others listened (Luk 20:45). Perhaps only a small group of disciples gathered to listen when Jesus began speaking, but by the time He finished, many people had joined them.

Mt 7:28 And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine:

    1. Thus we find some of the material directly applicable only to believers and some directed to unbelievers.

  1. Interpretation: One can find at least a dozen different schemes various groups have used throughout the history of the church to interpret and apply the Sermon on the Mount. This reveals that it is not an easy passage to understand. Jesus’ words may seem straight-forward and clear, but thoughtful consideration of the Sermon will reveal the depths of its teaching and the difficulty of understanding some of the statements.

    1. Some have taken the Sermon in a woodenly literal way without allowing for metaphorical expression or poetic imagery. If you eye causes you to lust, you really should pluck it out. Pacifists (e.g., Amish) take Jesus’ command to “resist not evil” to prohibit any form of self-defense and/or military engagement.

    2. Roman Catholics have historically applied the Sermon as standards for the clergy (not the laity). This set up a double-standard.

    3. Lutherans have suggested that the Sermon is Jesus’ exposition of the OT law, and His intent was to drive men to repent of sin and cry for grace.4 While the Sermon certainly may have this impact, the overall theme of the Sermon goes beyond this.

    4. Some have argued that the ethic of the Sermon on the Mount is a sort of moral road map toward social progress. This is the view of classic liberalism. But the Sermon is far more than a list of rules and regulations. And we cannot apply Jesus’ teaching to society without the citizens of society being members of Jesus’ kingdom.

    5. Some see the Sermon as a description of how to enter the kingdom. They suggest that those who obey Jesus’ teaching will be saved. Such an approach amounts to salvation by works, which obviously contradicts the rest of the NT. “It is evident from the clear teaching of the rest of the New Testament that the Lord’s purpose was not to address the unbelieving world in this discourse to show them the way of life, either individual or social.”5

    6. Some see the Sermon as a description of how church life ought to be. However, the church is never mentioned here—no clear gospel presentation, no baptism, no indwelling or baptism of the Holy Spirit, no prayer in Christ’s name—no mention of the church at all. Further, Jesus taught these principles well before the church existed. No one in the original audience would have been thinking about life in the church while they listened to Jesus’ address.

    7. Similarly, a common approach is to think of the Sermon as a description of essential Christian discipleship. One could look at it as “the outward manifestations of character and conduct of the true believer and genuine disciple,….the greatest statement of true Christian living”6 St. Augustine, for example, described it as “a perfect standard of the Christian life.”7 This comes close, but seems to neglect the kingdom implications of the Sermon. Further, if the Sermon is meant to describe the normal Christian life, most Christians come far short.

    8. Dispensationalists have held various positions on the Sermon.

      1. Some dispensationalists hold that the Sermon applied specifically only to the original audience when Jesus was offering the kingdom to Israel.8

      2. Some hold that the Sermon applies until the beginning of the millennial kingdom, during the interim period between the first and second advents.9

      3. Some hold that the standards of the Sermon applied only to the future millennial reign of Christ, not to the church age. Many dispensationalists today would affirm that the Sermon’s primary application awaits the millennial reign of Christ, but they would also assert that the Sermon applies to believers today.10

It seems obvious that some aspects of the Sermon do not fit a millennial kingdom context. Pentecost notes that “the presence of evil and evil men, the existence of poverty, famine, hunger, and need, are all contrary to the predictions made in the Old Testament concerning the character of the kingdom. … We thus conclude that the Sermon on the Mount cannot be made to apply to conditions on the earth after the establishment of the [millennial] kingdom.”11

    1. Perhaps the best way to approach the Sermon is to see it as Jesus’ description of life in the kingdom (see definition of this concept below). It’s not a description of how to enter into Christ’s kingdom, but an invitation for unbelievers to enter (cf. Mt 7:13-14) and a guide for those who are already a part of His kingdom. Further, as noted above, the Sermon contains poetic material that must be carefully and thoughtfully interpreted. It seems unlikely that a strictly literal application of the Sermon is what Jesus had in mind. The Sermon has more in common with OT wisdom literature than with a modern newspaper report.

If we view Matthew 4:17 as an introduction to the Sermon, then perhaps the message of the Sermon on the Mount can be captured by the phrase, “What it means to repent and belong to the kingdom of heaven.”12

Mt 4:17 From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

Note several reasons the Sermon applies to believers today:13

  1. Jesus expected his listeners to obey what He’s teaching (see 7:24-28).

  2. Nothing in the passage or anywhere else suggests that what Jesus said was not applicable to the original audience or to succeeding generations.

  3. Jesus commissioned his disciples to go into all the world and preach the gospel and to teach converts to observe whatever Jesus had commanded (Mt 28:18-20). Part of what Jesus commanded is found in the Sermon.

  4. The rest of the NT repeats many of the themes from the Sermon, which suggests that the material applies to church-age believers.

  1. The Kingdom: In order to make sense of the Sermon, we must determine what Jesus meant by “the kingdom.”

    1. As noted above, references to the kingdom abound in the Sermon: Matt 5:3, 10, 19, 20, 6:10, 13, 33, 7:21. Thus, we must seek to understand what Jesus had in mind. What is Christ’s “kingdom”?

      1. God is a universal king over all creation (Acts 17:24). This is not the kingdom Christ has in mind here.

      2. The kingdom Jesus has in mind is the earthly, physical, literal kingdom of God mediated by the Messiah—the Messianic kingdom, the rule of Christ on the throne of David. This is the kingdom the Jews of Jesus’ day were expecting. This is the kingdom Jesus announced was “at hand” (Mt 3:2, 4:17). Jesus Himself is the king in God’s kingdom, and where He reigns, there the kingdom of God is already present. So it seems that the first coming of Christ initiated the kingdom.

      3. The earthly, millennial kingdom is obviously not currently in operation, or at least not fully operational. Jesus is not reigning over the earth from the throne of David in Jerusalem. The promises from the OT have not yet been fulfilled. The Jews rejected Jesus as their king and Messiah. The kingdom, in its fullest sense, has not come yet. This facet of the kingdom is still future.

      4. While the full expression of the kingdom awaits Jesus’ return, the kingdom has been initiated or inaugurated by Jesus. There seems to be more than one phase or expression of Christ’s kingdom. Between the first and second comings of Christ, the “mystery” form of the kingdom prevails (see Mt 13). This phase of the kingdom may be thought of as Jesus’ spiritual reign over His people. Today, one enters the kingdom by being born again (John 3:3-7; Col 1:13). Believers are citizens of Christ’s kingdom, but not in a physical, earthly sense, but in the sense of Christ’s spiritual reign or rule over his people. Christ is king, and believers enter his kingdom when they get saved.14

Note on the kingdom: It’s important for us to recognize that certain elements of kingdom life await the millennial reign of Christ. The physical aspects of kingdom life—reigning with power, overthrowing enemies, ruling over a land and a people, etc.—awaits a future time. Some Christians seek to apply the promises from the earthly, physical, Messianic kingdom (the millennium) to the church age. This is a mistake. The mystery form of the kingdom overlaps with the church age, but the church and the kingdom are not identical.

    1. Thus, the Sermon pertains to Christ’s kingdom, whether the present mystery form of it or the future millennial form. Certain elements of the Sermon seem to apply more directly to the present and other parts to the future. In any case, Christians of any age should thoughtfully seek to apply the principles from the Sermon.

Note the Quote: [T]he Sermon on the Mount … is intended for the guidance of regenerate persons in an unregenerate world. And because the gifts and empowerment of the Gospel are his who trusts and serves His Lord, these words of Christ stand. Their revelation has never been withdrawn: they set forth the true standard of Christian morality. They describe the conduct produced by the life of Christ in His believing people: they abide in full moral applicability to us: they are [timeless] and reveal the moral laws upon which the judgments of the Day of Christ are founded. Thus they should be studied and taken to heart by the follower of Christ who would learn of Him who is meek and lowly in heart.15

  1. Overview of the Sermon on the Mount — see the title page16

Conclusion: Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount calls all His followers to a very high level of discipleship. Anyone claiming to be a follower of Christ must seriously consider how well he is obeying Jesus’ words here. Living the Sermon on the Mount means, fundamentally, submitting to the authority of Jesus. It means coming to Him, taking His yoke, and learning from Him (Mt 11:28-30).17

The Sermon on the Mount is a profound and rich passage, the “greatest of all sermons having to do with human conduct.”18 In the following weeks, we’ll be looking in depth at this Sermon and seeking to understand what Jesus said, what He meant, and how we should respond. Every student would benefit from reading through the Sermon (Matthew 5-7) as we progress.

1Harry A. Sturz, “The Sermon on the Mount and Its Application to the Present Age,” Grace Journal Volume 4 (Grace Seminary, 1963; 2002), 4:3.

2R. Kent Hughes, The Sermon on the Mount: The Message of the Kingdom (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 2001), 16.

3 Expositor’s Bible Commentary.

4 MacArthur asserts that the Sermon is “a masterful exposition of the law and a potent assault on Pharisaic legalism.” The MacArthur Study Bible (Dallas: Word Publishing), 1997.

5J. Dwight Pentecost, “The Purpose of the Sermon on the Mount,” Dallas Theological Seminary, Bibliotheca Sacra Volume 115 (Dallas Theological Seminary, 1958; 2002), 115:130.

6 Liberty University Bible Commentary

7 Hughes, The Sermon on the Mount, 15. Augustine likely coined the title “Sermon on the Mount” for this passage.

8 J. Dwight Pentecost reflects this position. “[T]he Sermon on the Mount is to be connected with the offer of the kingdom to Israel at the first advent of Christ, so that its primary application is to that day and time, and must be so interpreted.” Bibliotheca Sacra Volume 115 (Dallas Theological Seminary, 1958; 2002), 115:212.

9 Tom Constable, Expository Notes on the Bible, reflects this position.

10 Ryrie asserts that the “primary fulfillment of the Sermon and the full following of its laws” relates to “either the offering or the establishment of the Millennial kingdom.” Dispensationalism (Chicago: Moody, 1995), 100. He affirms that the Sermon is applicable and profitable for believers of this age.

11Sturz , Grace Journal Volume 4 (Grace Seminary, 1963; 2002), quoting Dwight Pentecost, “The Purpose of the Sermon on the Mount,” Bibliotheca Sacra (April, 1958), p. 135. Sturz gives a long list of conditions mentioned in the Sermon that do not seem to fit with a millennial context. Both Sturz and Pentecost are dispensationalists.

12 Following Deffinbaugh/Ellis. www.bible.net

13 From Sturz, Grace Journal 4:3.

14 The spiritual kingdom “refers to the kingdom into which all believers have been placed (Col. 1:13), and it is entered by the new birth. The Ruler is Christ; in this concept of the kingdom He rules over believers only; and the relationship exists now.” Ryrie, Basic Theology, 398.

15 C. F. Hogg and J. B. Watson, On the Sermon on the Mount (London: Pickering & Inglis Ltd., 3rd printing, 1947), pp. 18,19. Quoted in Struz.

16 This scheme follows the breakdown from the NIV Study Bible notes with the main sections coming from Deffinbaugh/Ellis. Some modifications by the author.

17 Deffinbaugh/Ellis.

18 H. A. Ironside, Expository Notes on the Gospel of Matthew (New York: Loizeaux Bros., Inc., Bible Truth Depot, 1943), p. 44. Quoted in Sturz, Grace Journal 4:3.

The Sermon on the Mount: Introduction

The Sermon on the Mount

Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Mt 4:17)


  1. Introduction: Background and Interpretation

Part 1: The Subjects of the Kingdom (5:3-16)

  1. The Beatitudes (5:1-12)

  2. Salt and Light (5:13-16)

Part 2: The Precepts of the Kingdom (5:17–5:48)

  1. The Fulfillment of the Law (5:17-20)

  2. Murder (5:21-26)

  3. Adultery and Divorce (5:27-32)

  4. Oaths (5:33-36)

  5. Retribution (5:37-42)

  6. Love for Enemies (5:43-48)

Part 3: The Righteousness of the Kingdom (6:1-7:12)

  1. Giving to the Needy (6:1-4)

  2. Prayer and Fasting (6:5-18)

  3. Treasure in Heaven (6:19-24)

  4. Worry (6:25-34)

  5. Judging Others (7:1-6)

  6. Ask, Seek, Knock (7:7-12)

Part 4: The Tests of the Kingdom (7:13-29)

  1. Straight Gates and False Prophets (7:13-20)

  2. A Warning about False Profession, the Blessedness of Obedience, and Epilogue (7:21-29)


Robert Deffinbaugh, “The Sermon on the Mount,” Biblical Studies Press, 2006. www.bible.org.

William Hendriksen and Simon J. Kistemaker, New Testament Commentary, vol. 9. (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1973).

R. Kent Hughes, The Sermon on the Mount: The Message of the Kingdom (Wheaton: Crossway, 2001)

Jeff Miller, “The Sermon on the Mount” sermon series. http://www.bible.org

Others as noted

This material produced in 2008 by Brad Anderson, Liberty Baptist Church, Antigo, WI.

Matthew 23:24: "Straining at Gnats"

Matthew 23:24: “Straining at Gnats”

The KJV states “Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel.” (Matthew 23:24) What does this passage mean? One little preposition, “at,” causes some confusion and has led to some inaccurate interpretations.

Various Interpretations Based on “Strain At.”

The following interpretations are not comprehensive.

Interpretation 1: A common interpretation. Seeking to preserve the term “at,” those who interpret this add the phrase “the discovery of” to make sense of the translation. The Pharisees would “strain (the wine) at (the discovery of) a gnat.”

Interpretation 2:  Matthew Henry’s Commentary: Suggesting that the phrase means to look intensely at, says: “In their practice they strained at gnats, heaved at them, with a seeming dread, as if they had a great abhorrence of sin, and were afraid of it in the least instance…”

Interpretation 3: “Strain at a gnat” is the wrong reading. It should have been translated “strain out” to mean that the blind guides strain gnats out of their wine. They major on the minors by avoiding drinking something unclean, but at the same time, they drink down an unclean camel.

Meaning of “Straining”

The crux of the matter lies in what the verb means. Does the verb mean to “strain at” as if intently looking at something. Or, does it mean something entirely different?

Why the KJV translators translated the Greek Word, diulitzo, as “strain at” is not clear at all. This word has nothing to do with looking at a gnat. The Greek word means to “strain out, filter.” It is used in this passage as “straining out” or “filtering” gnats out of wine. This word never has the idea of “looking at” as the second interpretation suggests.

While one can make a case for the first interpretation, it is a forced interpretation that requires the addition of “the discovery of” to make sense of the passage. Readers of the KJV would not come to that conclusion unless this was explained to them. So, we prefer to let the Greek word to stand on its own. It is a more clear and precise translation to say: “You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.” (NIV)

The History of “Strain At.”

There is no explanation why the KJV translators chose “strain at” instead of the easier, normal reading “strain out.” Is this the way people spoke in 1611? Some suggest that is the case. However, no other contemporary English translation supports the 1611 KJV translation. Note the following:

1525-6 AD: Tyndale, “Ye blinde gydes which strayne out a gnat and swalowe a cammyll.”

1599 AD: Geneva, “Ye blind guides, which strain out a gnat, and swallow a camel.”

Even the Oxford English Dictionary states that “strain at” was misunderstood by Shakespeare himself. It would certainly be a “violent effort” on the part of a blind man to look intensely at a gnat. However, the idea of “straining to see a gnat” is not involved at all. It simply means to strain gnats out of wine.

What then does the passage mean and how does it apply?

It is human nature to focus on the technical aspects of a verse and miss the overall point. We should not simply leave this passage with a discussion of “It doesn’t mean this, it means that.” There is a great truth here that must not be missed. Even though a clarification must be made, the ultimate importance is what does the passage mean and what significance is there for me?

In probably the harshest series of denouncements, Jesus “blasts” the Pharisees worship at the temple. From an Old Testament legal perspective, the Pharisees brought all of the right things and the right amount for their tithe. In all, their gifts were perfectly acceptable. Any grain, fruit, or vegetable was appropriate for temple tithes (Lev 27:30). The Pharisees, given to extremism, collected offerings of mint (leaves), dill and cummin (seeds). The more common grains, fruits and vegetables would have satisfied the tithe, but the Pharisees were given to the minutest detail. The problem is that while they were given to counting seeds and leaves, they lacked the most obvious–justice, mercy and faithfulness (v 23) What is easier? Is it easier to focus on details that require only accounting skills, or giving oneself to the more difficult, germane matters–extending justice, mercy and faithfulness? Clearly, satisfying the rituals of worship are easier dealing with issues of the heart. Jesus pronounces judgment on the Pharisees for counting seeds rather than dealing with matters of the heart.

Verse 24 introduces another parallel illustration. Using hyperbole, Jesus pronounces judgment on the Pharisees for their meticulous care with gnats when they were actually swallowing a camel. As mentioned above, the verb “strain out” indicates that the Pharisees were straining gnats out of wine. Wine was also an acceptable tithe (Numbers 15:5ff). Gnats were drawn to alcoholic beverages like wine. In those days, wine was strained through cloths to remove the gnats. Apart from being a  distasteful item, gnats were considered unclean (Lev 11:20; Dt 14:129). It was their practice to filter the unclean gnats out of the wine before presenting it as an offering.

Using a deliberate exaggeration, Jesus pronounces judgment on the Pharisees for taking care that they do not defile themselves by drinking down a very small insect while they were willing to “drink down” another unclean animal, the camel.

The point is, the Pharisees prided themselves on following the Law to its most minute details while overlooking the evil intentions of their heart. Jesus, exercised His omniscience and saw that their perfectly, painstaking details to present acceptable offerings did not match their hearts. These Pharisees were evil men content with external ritualism. As one commentator notes, this is a “man who has lost all sense of moral proportion.” (Arthur Robertson, Matthew)


We all know at least one person who “has lost all sense of moral proportion.” How many have we seen make a profession of Christ then leave over some minor issue. It is very possible that person’s profession was false. Did that person leave a church simply because the carpet was changed? Did that person abandon regular assembly with others simply because another version was being used? Did that person leave his brothers and sisters in Christ because he found a hypocrite? That person needs the application of this verse!

Another error that we should reject is the lack of diligent study of the Word of God. God’s Word is wholly and completely important, even down to the very prepositions. Some believers say “I have a simple faith. This kind of discussion is ‘straining at a gnat.'” As seen above, this is not what the verse means. To suggest that we ought not get the prepositions right, undermines the importance of studying God’s Word. Genuine Bible expositors are not interested in a Pharisaical approach to the Scriptures. They want people to understand exactly what God intended. Do not reject exegetical preaching/teaching as if it is some kind of Pharisaical approach.

Some simply point out errors in the King James Bible. However, for us to simply state that the preposition “at” is wrong and not explore the context of this passage is Pharisaical. This passage is a warning to us all. God knows our hearts. Our religious exercises, no matter how meticulously performed, are worthless if our motives, intents and actions are evil.

The Use of the OT Law for NT Believers

The Use of the OT Law for NT Believers1

Many Christians are confused about the use of the OT Law. Do we follow it or not? Is it still in force or not? What parts of it should we follow? If we are not following it, of what value is it?

This lesson is designed to explore what the OT Law is and how it currently applies to NT believers.

Meaning of the word “law”

Part of the confusion on this issue stems from the multiple uses of the word “law” in the NT. Some of the uses of the term:

    1. God’s general moral will expressed throughout the Bible (OT and NT); divine commands in the widest sense (Rom 7:25). The moral principles of the Ten Commandments did not begin with Sinai; they are as eternal and immutable as the very holy character of God Himself (1 Pet 1:16).2

    1. The OT Mosaic code (including or especially the 10 Commandments): the set of rules and regulations that God gave Moses for Israel. (Rom 2:14a; 2:17; 3:21, 28; 7:12; Gal 4:21, 5:3)

    2. The “law of Christ” (1 Cor 9:21; Gal 6:2) refers to Jesus’ teaching or NT truth in general.

    3. Scripture in general (especially the OT). Thus: “the law” (Matt 5:18; 12:5; Lk 2:27; 10:26; 16:17; Rom 3:19); “the law and the prophets” (Matt 5:17); “the law of the Lord” (Lk 2:23, 24, 39); “the law of Moses” (Lk 2:22; cf. also Acts 28:23); “Moses and the prophets” (Lk 24:27). The threefold formula “Moses and the prophets and the psalms” also occurs (Lk 24:44).

    4. A rule, principle, or force (Rom 2:14b, 7:2, 21, 23, 8:2)

    5. Various forms of human laws, those prescribed by man through human government or custom (Luke 20:22; Acts 19:38).

    6. Law in general (Rom 3:27 and possibly Rom 5:13b).

NT teaching about the OT Law

  1. The Law extended “until John” the Baptist (Mt 11:13); after that comes the gospel of Christ.

  2. Christ did not come to abolish the Law but to fulfill it (Mt 5:17). It is impossible that any part of the Law would disappear (Mt 5:18-19). Jesus expected his audience to keep the Law.

It’s important to remember that Jesus lived and ministered under the Law. The end of the Law came with the death of Christ, the torn veil symbolizing the ending of the Levitical system (Mk 15:38; Heb 6:19, 9:3, 10:20). Jesus’ fulfillment of the Law set the stage for the church age.

    1. The Law can be summarized by these two commands: Love God and love your neighbor (Mt 22:34-40). Paul states that love fulfills the Law (Rom 13:10).

    2. Christians are not under the OT Law. NT authors, especially Paul, states this truth in no uncertain terms and in various ways:

Ac 15:10, 19 Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? … Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God…

Ro 6:14 For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.

Ro 10:4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.

Ro 7:1-6 Or do you not know, brethren (for I speak to those who know the law), that the law has dominion over a man as long as he lives? For the woman who has a husband is bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives. But if the husband dies, she is released from the law of her husband. Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another—to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God.But now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter.

(Note: the entire book of Galatians is a response to the idea that we are saved through the keeping of the Law.)

Ga 3:10-13 For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them.” But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for “the just shall live by faith.” Yet the law is not of faith, but “the man who does them shall live by them.” Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”)…

Ga 3:24-25 Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.

Ga 5:1 Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.

Eph 2:15 having abolished [to destroy, do away with; to render idle, inactivate, inoperative: to deprive of force, influence, power; to cause to cease, put an end to, do away with, annul; to pass away, be done away] in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace.

Col 2:14 having wiped out [to eliminate, cancel, erase, blot out3] the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.

      1. What does it mean to be “under” the Law? It means to be subject to its rules and regulations, to be accountable to it, to be liable to its penalties, and to be bound to obey it.

      2. The Israelites were “under” the Law in the sense that it applied directly to them; God expected them to apply it and obey it. He blessed obedience and punished disobedience.

      3. At the Jerusalem council (read Acts 15:5-11, 19-21, 29), the disciples specifically rejected the idea that Gentile believers need to observe the OT Law.

      4. Some Jews, like Paul (1 Cor 9:19-23) determined to observe the rituals of the OT Law, at least occasionally, simply to be non-offensive to those they were trying to reach. At other times, Paul exercised his freedom from those same rituals and restrictions (see Gal 2:11-21).

      5. The Law of Moses is a unit, an indivisible, all-or-nothing proposition. The Bible never makes a distinction between parts of the Law. People typically recognize the different civil, ceremonial and moral aspects of the Law, but these categories do not stand individually; they are parts of the whole. You can’t just pick and choose the parts that you like and ignore the rest. This is precisely Paul’s point in Galatians 5:3-4—if you agree to be circumcised, you are agreeing to obey the whole Law, which means that you are rejecting salvation by faith in Christ.

Breakdown of the OT Law:

Ceremonial: deals with sacrifices, rituals, purifications, and other religious things fulfilled in Christ.

Civil: rules dealing with the government regulations, the Theocracy; governed national Israel.

Moral: deals with timeless moral principles like the 10 Commandments.

Quote: “God did away with the Mosaic Law completely, both the [civil,] ceremonial and the moral parts. He terminated it as a code and has replaced it with a new code, “the Law of Christ” (Gal 6:2). Some commandments in the Law of Christ are the same as those in the Law of Moses (e.g., nine of the Ten Commandments, excluding the command to observe the Sabbath day).”4

Christians are under the law of Christ

Ro 8:2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.

1Co 9:21 to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law;

Ga 6:2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

What is the law of Christ? It’s the set of regulations and commitments taught by Jesus and expanded by the NT authors. It’s the Christian rule of life. In contrast to the Mosaic code, which emphasized rituals and works, the law of Christ emphasizes grace and love (cf. John 1:17, 13:34; 1 Jn 2:3-6). We serve “in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter” (Rom 7:6). The law of Christ covers all areas of the believer’s life just as the Mosaic code did for the OT believer.

Interpreting the OT Law

While we should not import NT ideas into the OT in our interpretation, we do consider NT teaching when considering application of OT principles. Our application of the OT should be read thru NT lenses. What principles still apply in NT times? What parts has Christ fulfilled or accomplished? What parts are mere shadows and symbols?

Values of the OT Law

  1. The Law is “holy and good” (Rom 7:12), one of God’s gifts to Israel (Rom 9:4).

  2. The Law provided a standard of righteousness (Deut 4:8; Psalm 19:7-9). The Law revealed the righteousness, holiness, and goodness of God (Deut 4:8; Lev 11:44-45; 19:2; 20:7; Rom 7:12-14).

  3. The Law entered “that the offense might abound” (Rom 5:20; cf. 7:8-13; 1 Cor 15:56b), and in order to “confine” men under Law and sin, with no prospect of escape until Christ should come (Gal 3:22f.). The Law produces the startling realization of sin which does not save (Rom 3:20; 7:7); but it calls forth a cry for help in one’s lost condition (Rom 7:24), a cry which can be answered effectively only by Jesus Christ (Rom 7:25).5

Ro 3:19 Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.

Ro 7:13 Has then what is good become death to me? Certainly not! But sin, that it might appear sin, was producing death in me through what is good, so that sin through the commandment might become exceedingly sinful.

1Ti 1:9 knowing this: that the law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate, for the ungodly and for sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers,…

Note: In an evangelistic appeal, one must emphasize the sinner’s sinfulness. A comparison of the person’s lifestyle to the requirements of the 10 Commandments and to Jesus’ teaching on the Sermon on the Mount is often helpful in revealing the sinner’s total depravity.

Luther: The Law must be laid upon those that are to be justified, that they may be shut up in the prison thereof, until the righteousness of faith comes—that, when they are cast down and humbled by the Law, they should fly to Christ. The Law humbles them, not to their destruction, but to their salvation. For God woundeth that He may heal again. He killeth that he may quicken again.?6

    1. Perhaps the most significant purpose of the Law is to lead men to Christ. The Law is a ???????????, “schoolmaster, tutor, custodian” (Gal 3:24-25). The ??????????? was usually a slave whose duty it was to take the pupil to school and supervise his conduct generally. The OT Law served this purpose—it held authority until the coming of Christ. Paul states clearly that after faith comes, “we are no longer under a schoolmaster” (Gal 3:25).

    2. 2 Tim 3:16 All of the OT is still revelation, still profitable material, still contains doctrine and instruction in righteousness.

    3. 1Co 10:11 Now all these things happened unto them for examples: and they are written for our admonition.

Good quote: It is possible to conclude that since it is unnecessary to keep the Law to be saved, it is unnecessary to pay attention to the Law for any reason. However, Paul was not urging his converts to burn their Old Testaments. The Law has values, as he previously pointed out, … Under grace we are free to fulfill the Law by loving one another. [Cf. Ro 13:10.] For the Christian the Mosaic Law has revelatory value (2 Tim 3:16–17) even though it does not have regulatory value, controlling our behavior.7

Weaknesses of the Law

  1. The Law cannot save. Salvation was never based on obedience to the Law, but on God’s grace and man’s faith in God’s promises (Rom 4:1-3). There is no truth to the assertion that under the OT system, people were saved by works (Gal 2:16).

  2. The fundamental weakness of the Law is that its only answer to sin is to forbid it and condemn it. Law cannot overcome sin, because it depends on the cooperation of the flesh (i.e., autonomous human nature), which is weak (Rom 8:3), incapable of obedience.

  3. What the Law demands can be gained only by the Spirit on the basis of the work of Christ (Rom 8:4). The Law is essentially a letter that kills; the life of the new covenant is the Spirit who makes alive (Rom 7:6; 2 Cor 3:6).

  4. The book of Hebrews demonstrates that the old covenant of the Mosaic Law was only temporary and has been replaced by the coming of Christ whose ministry is based on (1) a better priesthood, one after the order of Melchizedek which is superior to Aaron’s, and (2) a better covenant with better promises (see Heb 7-10). The old covenant was only a shadow of heavenly things, and if it had been able to make men perfect before God there would have been no occasion for a second or new covenant (see Heb 7:11-12; 8:1-13).8

Heb 7:19 For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw nigh unto God.

Why not place yourself under the Law?

Many today advocate observing some of the rules and regulations from the OT. They assert that Christians should observe OT moral stipulations whenever possible. Examples: dietary regulations, clothing guidelines, infant circumcision, observation of the Saturday Sabbath, various sexual restrictions.

What is true of those seeking to place themselves under the OT Law?

    1. They are violating the proper use of the Law (read 1 Tim 1:9).

    2. They ignore the fact that the Law demands entire obedience (Gal 3:10, quoting Deut 27:26). It’s illegitimate to pick and choose those aspects of it that seem “applicable.”

    3. Paul says that if one has been delivered from the Law through faith in Christ, to deliberately place oneself under its control results in “falling from grace” (Gal 5:4). In other words, to go back to the Law amounts to a rejection of Christ.

    4. To go back to the Law as a way of life puts one under the control of the flesh; it nullifies true spirituality by faith in the Holy Spirit and defeats the believer. It results domination by the sin nature or the flesh (Gal 5:1-5; Col 2:14f).9

Is the Christian without law (i.e., lawless, antinomian)? No.

Gal 6:2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

Heb 1:9 [Christ] loved righteousness and hated lawlessness…

1Jo 3:4 Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness.

Discussion questions:

  1. Some people preach that the keeping of the OT Law is a moral and spiritual obligation for the Christian. They say that keeping the Law of Moses is necessary for sanctification, i.e., for living a holy life that is pleasing to the Lord. Although we are not saved by the Law, once we have been justified by faith, then the Mosaic Law becomes our rule of life. In other words, the OT moral Law still applies. Is this what the Bible teaches? No, we are not under any part of the OT Law—civil, ceremonial or moral. The OT Law is an all-or-nothing deal. Read Acts 15:10 and Gal. 5:1. Warning about Bill Gothard—major proponent of this error.

  2. Jesus said (Mt 5:18f) that not even the smallest part of the Law would pass away until all is fulfilled. Doesn’t that mean that the Law must still be in force? No, because Jesus fulfilled the Law. Mt 5:17 Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. Ro 10:4 For Christ is the end (telov) of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.

  3. Why not just cut the OT out of our Bibles if we are not under the Law? The OT still has revelatory value, just not regulatory value. It’s profitable (2 Tim 3:16) and gives us many examples to follow or to shun (1 Cor 10:11).

  4. How do we know what parts or principles from the OT we can apply? Generally, by how they correspond to NT principles.

  5. If the OT is not the Christian’s rule of life, what is? The NT, the Law of Christ, grace. “The believer is now to live in the liberty and power of God’s grace by the Spirit, not the rule of Law. This new liberty must never be used as an occasion to indulge the flesh or sinful appetites (Gal 5:13) nor does it mean the Christian has no moral Law or imperatives on his life, but simply that he or she is to live righteously by a new source of life.”10

  6. Why don’t we keep the Saturday Sabbath? 1) We are not under the OT Law; 2) There is no particular virtue in recognizing one day over another (Col 2:16); 3) Saturday Sabbath keeping is a command not repeated in the NT. However, observing a day of rest is biblical. Observing the Lord’s Day (Sunday) as a day dedicated to worship is proper. A “soft” or “modified” form of Sabbath observance allows other activities on the Lord’s Day that focus one’s attention on God or on the good things God provides. Various forms of recreation, if pursued with a thoughtful attitude, need not be prohibited on Sunday afternoons.

  7. Does the Bible teach the necessity of circumcision? 1Co 7:19 “Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing, but keeping the commandments of God [is what matters].” Galatians 5:6 “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love.” Circumcision is no longer binding on Christians today. It may or may not be a good idea for health reasons, but the practice has no spiritual value.

1For a very good discussion of this issue, consult Alva McClain’s brief volume Law and Grace (BMH Books). This lesson updated April 08.

2J. Hampton Keathley III , “The Mosaic Law: Its Function and Purpose in the New Testament” www.Bible.net

3Swanson, J. (1997). Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains : Greek (New Testament) (electronic ed.) (GGK1981). Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

4Tom Constable. (2003; 2003). Tom Constable’s Expository Notes on the Bible (Ga 5:1). Galaxie Software.


6Quoted in R. Kent Hughes, The Sermon on the Mount: The Message of the Kingdom (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 2001), 95.