Why the Sermon on the Mount Matters

By Dr. Darrell Bock- Dallas Theological Seminary

Imagine the pressure of walking into church knowing you must follow hundreds of rules perfectly. During Jesus’ time, God’s people lived according to a collection of 613 mandates extracted from Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. The religious leaders of the time defined their faith by how perfectly they could keep the minute details of each law, even adding stipulations to increase their perceived righteousness. 

Today, we may be free from many of these stipulations. But, just like those religious leaders, we’re often tempted to measure our righteousness by our rule-following.   

For many of us, biblical teachings can represent countless opportunities to fail or fall short. We’re either tempted to ignore God’s standards, knowing we can never measure up, or we cling to them, trying to earn the favor of God and men. 

Jesus, however, challenges both extremes. In the famous Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7, He offers a path forward that holds onto high standards without tying our status to them. 

Rather than a presentation of a new list of rules to follow, the Sermon on the Mount is an invitation into the very heart of God. Jesus gently moves us from a shallow reading of what we should do to the true fulfillment of the law — who we should be. This transforms our understanding of blessing and identity from external indicators to an internal and eternal perspective.  

Blessing Redefined

Merriam Webster’s Dictionary defines “blessing” as “a thing conducive to happiness or welfare.” 

With that definition in mind, we’re tempted to think of relationships, finances, or hobbies, just as the religious leaders were tempted to think of position and influence.  

Jesus presents a radically different definition of blessings. His blessings are not about external comforts. Instead, He promises the kingdom of heaven, mercy, and to call His followers children of God. The one who is blessed is full of internal traits drawn by the grace of God:  

the poor in spirit 

those who mourn,  

the meek,  

those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,  

merciful,  

pure in heart,  

peacemakers,  

persecuted,  

and those insulted because of Jesus.  

These are all characteristics of the heart — internals, not externals. 

Jesus does not promise “theirs is financial security, they will be shown job promotions, or they will be called popular.” His is the promise of being part of the kingdom both now and yet to come. 

In Matthew 6:19-21, Jesus teaches: 

“Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” 

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus forces us to examine our idea of “treasure” and “blessing.” We are challenged to ask, “Where is my heart?”  

When we humbly go before Him, confessing our sin with a hunger and thirst for righteousness, we receive an eternal blessing that is far richer than anything we could possess on earth.  

Identity Established 

In Jesus’ time and in Roman culture, Jewish believers were easy to recognize. Their clothes, their holidays, and their eating habits clearly established their religious identity. Our identity as Christians isn’t always as visible, but in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus clearly tells His followers  we are to be distinct. 

So, what sets us apart from our neighbors? 

In Matthew 5:13-16, Jesus establishes our identity as salt and light. This is the true purpose of our good actions — through our heart for others, we show God’s heart for them. A true fulfillment of the law is not about our own status, but about our purity of heart and our representation of God as His people.  

We are a people who understand that murder comes from anger, adultery from lust, and divorce from a broken commitment. We don’t need to make oaths, because our word is good. We value forgiveness over revenge. 

Jesus calls us to be different because He is different. We are transformed because He transforms us. We ask what the Father desires of us, and we prioritize what is precious to Him. 

When our daily lives reflect the teachings of Jesus, we reflect the light of Christ. We are not defined by the commands we keep, but by a heart that seeks to keep them. 

“In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). 

Want to learn more about Jesus’ teaching in Matthew? Check out our blog archive for more posts like this one.

Dr. Darrell Bock

Dallas Theological Seminary

Dr. Darrell Bock is senior research professor of New Testament and executive director for cultural engagement at Dallas Theological Seminary. He hosts The Table Podcast, leading discussions related to God, Christianity and culture.

What is God teaching you?

Dr. Bock shared his insights from the Sermon the Mount. We want to hear yours! In the form below, share how God has been working through His Word this year.

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249 Comments

  1. I am really enjoying the content of the deep studies BSF is leading. I would like to see the format change a little though, in that the lecture and note-reading come before the questions each week instead of after. Sometimes our discussions are better than the lectures or have covered the same insights.

    Reply
  2. What a wonderful reminder that God wants Our Hearts and not our acts. Our lives lived out will reflect our love for Him and make His Fruits evident not for His approval but for His honor and His Glory. Hard to imagine thanking Him for COVID or other challenges in our lives but He continues to teach me that all of these things are for my good and His glory. He always provides the Grace we need as He forms me to be more like Jesus every day. Wow do we have an Amazing , Loving Father!!! Thanks to all in BSF for the challenge to grow, the encouragement and for sharing their lives with us.

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  3. God has used this study to help me completely surrender to Him again. I was dealing with fears and as soon as I surrendered, God showed me how I had allowed a lie to keep me in bondage.

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  4. I attend a women’s class online. I had been in this study of The beatitudes. The day before her class I had been in prayer asking the Lord to set me free from insecurity which I know is really pride. That I wanted more of him and less of me. As we as a group listened to the lecture spoke about blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. As she spoke the words that we are bankrupt, we have nothing to offer before God, what I had read and acknowledged in my heart the Holy Spirit supernaturally sanctified my mind and attitude. All I can say is what I knew in my head now I knew in my heart. Thankfully I was muted on the computer because I said “I’m free!” His word is living and active. And I’m so thankful for my advocate, a helper, the Holy Spirit that is completing the good work in me. I am very sure that many prayers are offered over the lecture and over us, that we would be changed for his glory. Well he answers! His word did not return void but answered my hearts cry. To be changed and to be able to receive more of him. To become more like him. Praise honor and glory to the unexpected king!

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    • Margo, this is so beautiful. Thank you for sharing!

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    • Praise the Lord for His answer to your prayer and for changing your heart and mind.

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  5. Gods Word changed me. I do not worry about every little thing cause God’s got me.

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    • As we’ve studied the Sermon on the Mount these last few weeks, God has pointed to a heart issue that I have been fearful of facing, but I know He is faithful and cleanses me as I confess and face this sin.

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  6. I am been in BSF for 6 or 7 years, I have enjoyed every one of them. The last year and this is through Zoom, The men are wonderful and true and new. I have experienced new insights into God’s love that goes way beyond me. I teach myself many times and always learn from everything I hear and read. Thank you for your part and our part is to reach others for Christ. Thanks

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  7. This study has been so great! I thought I understood what I have read so many times before in Matthew but feel like God has really taken the scales from my eyes. I see on a deeper level my motivation for some of the things I do and have done and have realized I have been self deceived at times! I realize how far I have to go and that it is a daily choice and walk to be more Christ like to others in my life. I have felt very convicted about holding on to anger- even though it would be justified by the worlds standards. I know my standards are Gods and no one else’s.

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  8. My teaching leader said that the room Jesus told us to go into, close the door, and pray, is translated treasure room. It has transformed my prayers into treasures of blessings from God.

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    • Connie, Pray and never give up!~

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  9. The lessons have definitely challenged and brought me to recognize the need for a standard I hadn’t considered before. Simple tolerance for folks isn’t enough, I must show mercy and non-judgement that’s born out of true humility knowing that I, myself, can fall just like my fellow believers, at any time. Other’s simply aren’t gonna receive or feel God’s heart through us if we don’t genuinely model it.

    Also, a heart that’s right before the father and strives to perform (for lack of a better 🙂 for His eyes only is the singular thing I need to concern myself with…

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  10. I want to be a member of Bible Study Fellowship

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  11. Jesus spoke to his people on the mount about their faith and values. He reminded them of of a humble mind and soul and to always look towards God, he also let them know about the Beatitudes, of which we need to apply to our lives today. To be as salt and season wherever you go with the word of God and to be as a light or your action be humble and not for righteousness for we are being judged each day, be humble and pray to God daily for support and forgiveness, we will never know our treasures, and should not worry about that, just know that we will someday be with the trinity!

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  12. How is God working in my life?

    God has brought out some very serious issues that I thought were not even issues. Like our scripture offers we think ourselves to be relatively good people because we do not have a criminal record, have not engaged in any illegal activities, and are kind to people. The sermon on the mount exposed the motives of some things that I had done taking granted that I presumed myself good. In fact, the more I understood these scriptures it brought me under conviction to the point that I thought back over certain situations in my life recently and in my past.

    The truth convicted me. I could not stop crying as my soul had to own that I had many wrong motives regarding things that I had done. For example, I convinced myself that I shared the good things that I had done with other people to encourage them to do like I was. I was ashamed from my conviction that I did not give the glory to my Father God. For I began recanting exactly what I had done that I thought was a good deed. In telling it to others I now was convicted that it made people think good of me but not think good of the God in me. I knew and said that God inspired me to do my good deed, but it drew people to seek me out to help them in their time of need. It did not draw them any closer to God and in some cases, it made some people resentful of me. They saw me as a bragging person “goodie too shoes”. My heart hurt when I realized that my Father God was denied the joy and delight of the glory He deserved. After my soul had mourned for my shame, it made me understand that even though it caused me pain on the next day I was released from the conviction of that same sin. I knew that the light of my Father God was molding and shaping me to become something better than I was. I felt His work within me

    I prayed for God to transform my heart and my motives for I truly love Him. I can not see myself living one second without Him. I welcome more changes and transformations within me. Just like a butterfly has a transformation to endure to become the best it will be when it comes forth as a fully beautiful butterfly in all of it splendor of colors bringing smile and joy to those who benefit from seeing the change within. Praise the Lord God as we grow in His knowledge and change.

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  13. I had a revelation of the debt I owe. I saw myself as the servant who was forgiven much. ( a great debt) Then he met up with a man who owed him a small sum. Angrily he demanded to be given the small sum. I see myself when I judge, unwilling to submit and surrender my demands to The Holy Spirit and take my reward on earth (allowing anger rise up and retelling how wrong I was treated). But I believe the sanctification is the process of my gift of Righteousness and the Righteousness of Justification which is the gift unearned, complete never to be taken from me. Jesus forgave me AND gave me the gift of RIGHTEOUSNESS in Christ Jesus.

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  14. I love the verse, “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” I have learned this week that Jesus calls us to act in compassion for others who are experiencing sin’s misery. My cousin’s granddaughter who is only a teenager has become pregnant out of wedlock. Last night, my cousin confessed her situation and asked for prayer for her granddaughter who had gone into early contractions. It took me awhile to adjust to hearing her news, but then, God convicted me to reach out in love and prayer.

    Reply
  15. Matthew 6 has been such a convicting chapter for me. I seem to worry too much and God shares why not to. It’s been great reading through this chapter.

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    • Melissa, I can definitely relate! Praying for you and so grateful that God meets us through His Word.

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  16. It brings the Old & New Testament together for your discernment & digests the where, why, & how from the Book of Matthew. Jesus’ sermon brings a better & new understandings of what has been taught by the Jewish leaders. He tells you what God the Father expects & wants. Clarity of these scriptures leaves no doubt. Jesus as the Son of God is the truth. You are reading about his life. Jesus is righteousness & in order to attain righteousness we come by it through faith in Jesus Christ our Lord. Each chapter makes me know how little I understood in my youth, when decisions would most probably have had different outcomes in the choices made in my life, with this knowledge. However, I believe that God, our creator, has orchestrated my life from before I was born. The free will given us by Him led me back to Him as my choice. Joy & thanksgiving is my testimony from a grateful heart that holds the love of Jesus within. All honor is due the trinity.

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  17. I was sharing my new thoughts on being reconciled from Matthew with my husband about how I need to go to a friend and try once more. He said I too have withheld reconciliation in pridefulness over three issues, for over 30 years with you that I now want to confess and be done with. I cried because I knew how deeply it was rooted down. We had glorious talks, and forgiveness. I told my group, if you pray for an issue for 29 years and don’t have resolve, go ahead and pray 30 years. Its all in gods time he blesses us.

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    • Cathy, thank you for sharing this! Such amazing encouragement

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  18. A friend invited me and other friends to their home for coffee and cake after a Christmas performance at church. BSF was mentioned and I joined in the
    study of John in January of the next year {1985}. The discussion at the time was on Christ’s death on the cross. I was overwhelmed by God’s Spirit
    and have been serving Him ever since. I currently serve as a group leader
    in WA.

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    • Roger, that’s amazing!!

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  19. I am grateful for BSF for the gift that it is to study God’s Word as a family. My husband and I enjoy the study together at home with our three children, who participate in the School Program. And we also get to bring my 86-year-old mom along with us this year. So three generations are studying and learning God’s Word together. Praise the Lord!

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    • Stefanie, so thankful God is working in your entire family! That generational connection in Christ is really beautiful

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  20. It was pointed out that Jesus said “Blessed are” not “Blessed will be”. The happiness that is experienced by God’s children who are meek, poor in spirit, peacemakers, etc., is for this earthly lifetime, not just in our final reward. I’ve always looked to it as future blessings, and this newfound realization brings me great comfort. The happiness is ours, here on earth, when we have a submissive posture toward Christ.

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    • Rebecca, wonderful insight. Thank you for sharing. This is something I’m excited to unpack in my study!

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  21. Mathew 6 . The birds in the air do not sow or reap yet they wait to be fed by God. I have learnt never yo worry, of important os who i am in christ , a forgiven child of God., all I need is this truth, yo believe in this truth and to act on this truth. This revelation has put more trust in God for me and am a more confident believer.

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  22. Thanks and Praise always to you LORD🙏🏽👏🏼
    It feels so good knowing GOD is in my corner and will always be there❣️🙏🏽 🙏🏽
    I always pray, and really mean it when I say, “Let your WILL be done” ❣️ I know HIS WILL will always be what HE knows is best for me💞❣️

    My study through BSF has enhanced and solidified this feeling and belief!

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  23. God gave me a great lesson in “pride” this year. I have shared it with my BSF family. I am very happy that the Father wants me to be more like Christ.

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  24. I feel very close to Jesus. He is teaching us that we don’t have to worry about anything, that He will take care of us in all things.

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  25. When I first started BSF I expected it to be a simple Bible study similar to Sunday school classes. I was overwhelmed with the wonderful depth of the detailed notes, commentaries, from the writers in BSF San Antonio. The BSF Notes are very important in that they explain so many things in the History of Jesus Christ and the history of creation. I also noted that the Board of Directors is made of a large variety of Bible educated people including PhD’s. It is wonderful to see all the lessons are available on the web so that the world can learn from the dark locations of Africa, South America, China, Russia, N. Korea, etc. I pray that BSF continues to teach everyone; note that the world has a population of about 8 billion people and only 31% claim to be Christians and in the USA only 65% claim to be Christian. Matthew is a great study of God’s Word. I pray that God blesses BSF and they doubles in size.

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  26. This enlightened me in the fact that we already have the ability to have these attributes as Christians.

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  27. Oh my goodness! This walk through the Book of Matthew! I find myself saying “ouch” constantly as it is reminding me that I’m not as holy as I think. Praise God for showing me “me” but loving me nonetheless.

    Reply
  28. I was greatly blessed by the promise in Matthew 6:33. But seek first the Kingdom of heaven and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you, When I put The Kingdom of God ahead of everything and everyone else, I can focus on him will, his purpose and his plan for my life.
    I can rest in his love for me and he works every thing out, for my good and for him glory!!

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  29. Oh, to be more like Jesus! The Sermon on the Mount calls to me to become a more simpler, kinder person and draws me away from the cares of this world. I am so convicted of my sin nature and yet through these scriptures I see that I am a precious child of God. How wonderful that the Lord took human form in order that he may better understand our daily dilemmas! Only through the study of His Word may I become more like Christ. Only through prayer and petition to the Most Holy Lord may I mimic the virtues outlined in these passages. In my self I can do nothing, but through faith and trust I ask that the Lord mold me to be more like Him.

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    • Thank you, Fran! I feel exactly the same way! I appreciate you putting out your words so eloquently!

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  30. As a School’s Program leader in Liverpool Uk I’m enjoying teaching the children from Matthew this year. so as I teach it I am greatly challenged by the Sermon on the Mount to live as a child of the Kingdom.
    This week teaching the memory verse from Matthew7 :12 is a great lesson to do things God’s way and treat others as Jesus treats us.
    Thank you to the Schools program staff who have put so much work into the lessons.

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  31. Our identity in Christ should show up in how we live. As we trust Jesus and surrender our will to His, He will give us the power to reflect Jesus.

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  32. Eight virtues (loyalty, filial piety, benevolence, love, honesty, justice, harmony , and peace) are common ethical principles for most Asian people. In order to become a woman with noble character, I tried my best to achieve these moral principles since I was young. But when I read Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5, I felt spiritual bankruptcy. Because the standard of holy God is so much highet than human moral standards. The bealtitude is not achievable by human efforts, instead, it is a work of Holy Spirit of our inmost beings.We don’t need to tried harder to become like a virtuous man. We simply need to turn to God humbly and trust and obey His words.The bealtitude shows me how broken I am, that is why I need Jesus Christ desperately. Self-effort won’t lead me to a man with noble character. This is the work of God, the work of Holy Spirit. We should give glory to the Lord He deserves.

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  33. God is continuing to teach me of me being His dependant in applying the standards of being a Christian as shown in the Beatitudes and this week in Matthew 7.
    I cannot do anything withiut Him and Praise Him since He neither sleeps nor slumber over my life and family. Trusting in Him helped me and my family rely on His healing power for my son who in January 2021 had an over the knee amputation . But he never spent time in the ICU and spent only 7 days in hospital after such major surgery. And by Sept 2021 he was back in his family in the USA walking with an artificial limb but confident in God . That’s my testimony among many.
    Thank you BSF family

    Reply
  34. I appreciated Dr. Bock’s message, thank you for your insights.
    After this week’s study discussion, our group had a fellowship regarding the usage of the word ‘Fool’ and the passage in Mt.5 that states anyone who says ‘You fool’ will be in danger of the fire of hell. I questioned several passages that quote Christ as referencing someone as a fool, i.e. Lk. 12:20. The discussion led to the parable of the rich fool and the discussion morphed into the topic of self-preservation, hoarding. Well, every Fall I feel this urge to prepare for winter, a throwback from the Pioneer era I guess. I feel compelled to store food for the winter. After our fellowship discussion, I felt ashamed for storing a winter’s larder, greedy. Then I prayed and reread the passage about the rich man and his abundance and realized that the shame I felt was unwarranted as I read Lk. 12:21. It was not about preparing and storing, but about the rich man who stored up things for himself but is not rich towards God. The rich man’s treasures were worldly and not focused on God. Greed is defined as a desire to acquire and keep more than one needs, avarice, covetousness. In essence, greed defines a person’s character. The person motivated by love for God will sacrifice possessions to serve others. The person motivated by love for self will sacrifice others ~ and God ~ to possess things. As for my ‘Pioneer’ urge…
    let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.

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  35. In our study this week, our group realized each phrase within the Lord’s prayer presented a theological truth about God:
    Our Father who are in heaven: Sovereign Father
    Hallowed be Thy Name: Holy, deserving or worship
    Thy Kingdom come: King
    Thy will be done: Almighty to execute and accomplish
    on earth as it is in heaven: Restorer, Healer, Redeemer
    Give us today our daily bread: Provider
    And forgive us our debts: Just and loving
    as we also have forgiven our debtors : Our Example, Model
    Lead us not into temptation: Deliver, merciful
    But deliver us from evil: Savior, Deliverer

    Reply

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