Many Christians have been confused and perplexed as to whether or not the Lord’s instructions in Matthew, chapters 5 to 8, are for the obedience and practice of members of the Body of Christ, whether or not the spiritual program outlined in these chapters will fit into “the dispensation of the grace of God for you Gentiles?” Ephesians 3:1 and 2.
Let us first note this important and significant fact: that the Apostle Paul wrote about one half of the Books of the so-called New Testament Scriptures. In all of his messages there is a pronounced silence concerning the earthly ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ. There must be a meaning to the truth of II Corinthians 5:16 that none of us has fully comprehended: “Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh; yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we Him no more.”
Whatever the meaning of this verse, it is a fact that in his oral and written ministry the Apostle Paul said little or nothing in detail about what Christ did on earth during the years He was under the law, a Minister of the circumcision, sent only to the house of Israel. Galatians 4:4—Romans 15:8—Matthew 15:24.
Paul was the only servant of the Lord who wrote of “the Church which is Christ’s Body,” concerning “the dispensation of the grace of God for Gentiles,” who gave specific instructions as to the heavenly position, hope and calling of members of Christ’s Body. Paul never once referred to the Sermon on the Mount, the Golden Rule, The “Our Father” prayer, or to any of the kingdom parables spoken by the Lord Jesus in Matthew, Mark and Luke, the Synoptic Gospels.
However, the Holy Spirit by the mouth and pen of the Apostle Paul, presented to the members of the Body of Christ a spiritual standard as high as that presented by the Lord Jesus to His disciples on earth. The difference between the two programs is the fact that the program which Jesus of Nazareth presented on earth had a “kingdom on earth” legalistic setting, while the program which the Lord Jesus gave to the members of the Body of Christ, through the Apostle Paul, was distinctly a “grace” program for saints in the heavenlies.
By way of contrast, let us note that the word “grace” is not found once in the twentyeight chapters of the Gospel of Matthew. The Lord Jesus displayed much grace in Matthew but His message was concerning “the kingdom of heaven”, an expression found more than thirty times in Matthew. The Epistle to the Ephesians is concerning the Body of Christ, and the fact that believing Gentiles and believing Jews constitute a Joint-Body. (Ephesians 3:6) They are united to the risen Christ by an inseparable and eternal union, seated with Him in the heavenlies, saved by grace through faith, without religious practices, ceremonies, or deeds. Ephesians 2:6 to 16. In Ephesians “grace” is found twelve times.
Let us compare Ephesians 4:32 with Matthew 6:12, 14 and 15:
“And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you,” Ephesians 4:32.
“And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.” “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses:” Matthew 6:12, 14 and 15.
What a difference! By grace believers have been forgiven, for Christ’s sake, in Ephesians 4:32 and they therefore should be gracious and forgive their fellowmen. This is all grace.
But note the contrast: “if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses”. What did the Lord say in giving the ten commandments to Israel? “If you do, I will do.” This is the “law” of Divine forgiveness in the “Our Father” prayer.
Now let us compare “thy kingdom come,” in Matthew 6:10, with the believer’s position in Colossians 1:13:
“Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.” Matthew 6:10. “Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of His dear Son.”
Members of Christ’s Body are already in the spiritual kingdom of Colossians 1:13. Note “And Jesus which is called Justus, who are of the circumcision. These only are my fellowworkers unto the kingdom of God, which have been a comfort unto me.” Colossians 4:11.
Note how believers get into this spiritual kingdom:
“For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one Body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.” I Corinthians 12:13.
“And that He might reconcile both unto God in one Body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby.” Ephesians 2:16.
“That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same Body, and partakers of His promise in Christ by the gospel.” Ephesians 3:6.
The Body of Christ is a part of the kingdom of God. But the kingdom of God, in the Bible, is not always the Body of Christ. Note in Matthew 8:12 that the Lord Jesus referred to Jews, saved and unsaved, as “the children of the kingdom.”
In the petition, “thy kingdom come”, the Lord Jesus was not referring to the kingdom to which members of Christ’s Body belong. “The kingdom of heaven,” to which the Lord Jesus referred in His “Our Father” prayer, will be established at the close of the great tribulation, when the Son of man shall come to deliver Israel, in accordance with Luke 21:24 to 33. Should we pray “Thy kingdom come” while we remain on earth; which means, let us go through the great tribulation?
The hope of believers is expressed in Titus 2:13: “Looking for that blessed hope and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ.” This blessed hope will be realized by members of the Body of Christ before the great tribulation comes, before the petition is answered, “Thy kingdom come.”
Now let us compare Matthew 5:5 and 9 with Ephesians 2:6 and Colossians 1:20:
“Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth.” “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God.” Matthew 5:5 and 9.
“And hath raised us up together and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” Ephesians 2:6.
“And having made peace through the blood of His cross, by Him to reconcile all things unto Himself; by Him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.” Colossians 1:20.
The “meek” of Matthew 5:5 are to inherit the earth. The meek of Ephesians 2:6 are seated in the heavenlies in Christ. In Matthew 5:9 men are peacemakers, and therefore the children of God. In Colossians 1:20 Jesus Christ is the Peacemaker. And note Galatians 3:26:
“For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.” Note what believing Gentiles, are by grace; “the children of God.” Note what unbelieving Gentiles are without Christ, “by nature the children of wrath.” Ephesians 2:2 and 3. And yet Christian preachers ask a mixed audience of believers and unbelievers to pray the “Our Father” prayer. These preachers are responsible for the lie of the unbelievers. God is not the Father of those who reject Jesus Christ as Saviour.
If we study the spiritual walk and conversation presented to members of the Body of Christ, in Romans 12, 13, 14 and 15, in Galatians, Corinthians, Ephesians, Colossians and in Paul’s other Epistles, we shall learn of God’s very high standard for Christians under the dispensation of grace.
We quote several verses from the different Epistles
“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.” Romans 12:1 and 2.
“Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink; for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head.” Romans 12: 20.
“Love worketh no ill to his neighbor: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.” Romans 13: 10.
“Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumbling block, or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way.” Romans 14: 13. “We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves.” Romans 15: 1.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance; against such there is no law. And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another.” Galatians 5:22 to 26.
“I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one Body and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling: One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, Who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” Ephesians 4: 1 to 6.
“See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is. And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess, but be filled with the Spirit.” Ephesians 5:15 to 18.
“That ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ.” Philippians 1:10.
“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” Philippians 4:8.
“That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God. Strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness.” Colossians 1:10 and 11.
“If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.” Colossians 3:1 and 2.
“And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one Body; and be ye thankful. Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by Him.” Colossians 3:15 to 17.
“Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ. Who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.” Titus 2:13 and 14.
Every member of the Body knows or should know, that in these Pauline messages are given the Lord’s spiritual instructions for the obedience and practice of such members.
Then the Scriptural and intelligent principle is to interpret, appropriate and apply the kingdom teachings of Jesus of Nazareth in the light of the revelations which He later gave from heaven to the Apostle Paul. Note carefully.
“For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to youward: How that by revelation He made known unto me the Mystery; as I wrote afore in few words.” Ephesians 3:1 to 3.
“Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfil the Word of God.” Colossians 1:25.
We have seen the dispensational setting of Paul’s instructions to members of the Body of Christ, for what we call, “practical Christianity.”
Now let us see the dispensational setting of the Sermon on the Mount and the kingdom teachings of Jesus of Nazareth in Matthew 5 to 8.
Note the statement in Matthew 4:17 and 23:
“From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent; for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” “And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people.” Matthew 4:17 and 23.
Now again Matthew 10:7 and 8:
“And as ye go preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give.”
What is the setting? “The kingdom of heaven” at hand and a program of physical healing and miracles. It is in such a setting that we find the Sermon on the Mount. For instance, note Matthew 8:3 and 4:
“And Jesus put forth His hand, and touched him, saying, I will; be thou clean. And immediately his leprosy was cleansed. And Jesus saith unto him, See thou tell no man; but go thy way, shew thyself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them.”
How can this be applied or appropriated under the present reign of grace? It can not. Must we eliminate it without apology or explanation? No. God has a Divine principle: “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of Truth.” II Timothy 2:15.
Study Matthew and all other messages in the Bible in the light of Pauline truth, that is. Divine Truth, which Christ gave to Paul. Note Paul’s words in II Corinthians 13:3 and If Corinthians 12:4.
“Since ye seek a proof of Christ speaking in me. which to you-ward is not weak, but is mighty in you.” II Corinthians 13:3.
“How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.” II Corinthians 12:4.
It is so important to compare the truth of Romans 15:8 and Matthew 15:24 with the truth of Romans 11:13, and know that Jesus Christ was the Apostle of Israel and that Paul was the apostle to the Gentiles.
Read carefully Matthew 6:17, and ask yourselves if we obey this by anointing our heads with oil when we fast. If not, why not? Why select a few of the Lord’s instructions and wholly ignore. the others? This hit-and-miss, snatch-grab method must be very displeasing to the Lord. Note the instructions in II Timothy 1:7: “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”
Note again Matthew 5:23 to 25:
“Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift. Agree with thine adversary quickly.”
“And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee.” “And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee.” Matthew 5:29 and 30.
Note again: “And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also.” “Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.” Matthew 5:40 and 42.
“Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” Matthew 5:48.
Now again we ask this question: “By whose authority do Christians today select a few instructions that may be included in their church creed and reject others that they may not consider important?”
Moreover, let us never forget that no man can practice the ethics of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount until he goes first to Calvary to get the nature of Christ.
Let us, as members of the Body of Christ, hold fast to every spiritual truth that we can be sure is for the obedience and practice of members of Christ’s Body, because that truth fits into God’s “grace” program.
For more articles by Pastor J. C. O'Hair, visit the J. C. O'Hair Online Library.