Now at this point many very good studies would stop. For this is the Christian Gospel, and it lies at the heart of all Scripture. It is a good place to end. However, I believe that if I were to end here, I would be untrue to this text before me. For the Sermon on the Mount was given, as we saw in one of our earlier studies, not merely to drive a man to Christ (although that is the first thing necessary), but also to set forth that standard of morality to which God is constantly leading the Christian.
Referring to the Golden Rule, William Barclay says, “To obey this commandment a man must become a new man with a new center to his life.”1 But when we understand the Gospel in its fullness, we realize that it is precisely to make us new men that God has redeemed us. He did not save us to remain in our sin. He saved us to make us like Jesus, and that means to live out this standard. Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones observes correctly, “After all, the law was not meant to be praised, it was meant to be practiced. Our Lord did not preach the Sermon on the Mount in order that you and I might comment upon it, but in order that we might carry it out.”2
Someone will say, “But how can I carry it out? Didn’t you just say that the Golden Rule is impossible, in fact, that it condemns me?” Yes, I did. “Then how can I do it?” The answer is that you cannot do it; but when God enters your life at the moment of your conversion because of His Holy Spirit, a new life is created by which the new you, fed and nourished by the Spirit of God, is made capable of attaining increasingly to all that God requires. That is why there are so many commandments for the Christian in the Bible. Take Romans 12:1-2 as an example: “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” If we are to approach this commandment as natural men, we find it impossible. But when we come as Christians, with the life of God Himself within, we find it attainable. And we find that the Spirit of God constantly urges us to do it.
1William Barclay, The Gospel of Matthew (Philadelphia, PA: Westminster, 1958), vol. 1, 281.
2D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1967), vol. 2, 211.