Title: The Sermon on the Mount part 6
Scriptures to Read: Read Matthew 6:1-18
Whereas in the previous section He repudiated the Pharisaic interpretation of the Law, here He repudiated the Pharisaic practices concerning the Law. Again He first stated the principle, and then gave three specific examples.
Earlier in his sermon Jesus said: “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 5:16). Now He says: “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 6:1). Here He points out that the practice of righteousness should not be done for the sake of merely being seen by men and to be approved by men, but rather it should be done for the sake of the Lord. Therefore, these actions often need to be done in secret. If anyone does good things to be honoured by men, then that itself is the ultimate reward they will receive. Our purpose in doing good things is to meet the needs of others or for the good of others. Our motivation should be to do this for love of God and not for the honour we may receive from it.
Examples of Conduct of True Righteousness
1. In Alms Giving (Matt. 6:2-4)
Are you giving to impress an audience? Then that is all the reward you will receive. When the Pharisees gave, they gave with trumpet blasts. One should give in secret.
2. In Prayer – Three Lessons (Matthew 6:5-15)
a. Pray in Secret (6:5-6)
Do not use public prayer as an opportunity to show off oratory skills. One should pray in secret. In areas of Pharisaic Judaism prayer tended to be public with Pharisees congregating together in public to pray three times a day. Frequently the purpose of meeting three times a day was only to show how holy they were. Those who pray publicly to show off their spirituality and their oratory skills have already received their reward. But the purpose of prayer is to communicate with God.
b. Do not use Vain Repetition (6:7-8)
We should not use prescribed prayers. None of the Gentile religions had extemporaneous prayer; all prayer was prescribed through prayer books. And by this point in time Judaism had deteriorated to the point of becoming like a Gentile religion because all prayers were prescribed through a prayer book – daily prayer books, Sabbath prayer books. To this day the synagogue uses prayer books. The problem with prayer books is that you are merely mouthing words that somebody else wrote. And the uniqueness of our biblical faith is extemporaneous prayer, we speak our own words, we speak to our God and spell out our needs.
c. Use the Model Prayer Outline (6:9-15)
While prayer should not be prescribed, it should also not be haphazard. So Jesus gives us a specific outline of a model prayer to follow. He does not say pray this prayer. He gives us a six-part outline of how to organise our prayer life. This does not rule out other prayers during the day, but in our quiet time this is a good outline to follow.
1. Our Father who is in heaven– Address God the Father, not the Son or the Holy Spirit. We don’t have any examples in Scripture of prayers addressed to the Son or to the Holy Spirit. All prayers which are truly prayers are addressed to God the Father.
2. Hallowed be Your Name– Set God apart in such a way that we are focused on Him. Reflect upon the various attributes of God, how each attribute shows the uniqueness of God, and what practical ramifications it has for believers living today. Focus on who and what God is.
3. Your Kingdom Come, Your Will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven– Pray for the Kingdom Program with all its facets including His return, evangelism, salvation of family members or other unbelievers, work of pastors, missionaries, maturing believers … All these things are part of God’s Kingdom Program. This is also the time to pray for the Lord’s soon return; this is the time to pray, Maranatha (I Cor. 16:22), even so come Lord Jesus (Rev. 22:20), “come quickly, Lord Jesus.” This is the time to pray for the peace of Jerusalem (Psalm 122:6) and for the salvation of the Jewish people.
4. Give us this day our daily bread– Pray for your own daily needs: finances, personal crisis, etc. Pray for both personal needs and the needs of the ministry with which you are associated.
5. Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us– Pray for forgiveness of our sins and forgive others. This is the time to confess our sins. The tendency is to think that confession of sins should come first so the slate can be wiped clean before one makes any requests known unto God. However, that is not the order given in this outline. After having addressed prayer to God the Father, after God has been sanctified, after praying for the Kingdom Program, and after praying for our own daily needs, it is time to wipe the slate clean. It is at this point that one can see that in order to have these requests answered, one needs to confess every sin of which one is aware since the previous confession. This is the time to ask the Lord’s forgiveness for even unknown sins and for the sin-nature with which believers have to contend. This is the time to apply I John 1:9: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
6. Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil– Spiritual warfare concerning spiritual conflicts of the world, the flesh and the devil. The prayer ends with spiritual warfare because when the prayer is concluded the spiritual warfare begins in earnest.
3. Forgiveness (6:14-15)
At the end of this section about prayer Jesus pointed out something else. In order for the one praying to be heard by God, he should have a forgiving spirit toward fellow saints. If he is not willing to forgive those who have offended him then he should not expect to receive family forgiveness from the Lord. In this context the issue is not salvation but fellowship; not salvation forgiveness but family forgiveness. Salvation forgiveness is the means by which one enters into God’s family, and the only way of receiving salvation forgiveness is by grace through faith apart from works. But once one is in the family, sin in the believer’s life can cause a breakup in the relationship within the family of God. And it can break one’s fellowship with God the Father. The way a believer receives family forgiveness of sins is by means of confession according to 1 John 1:9. The point Jesus is making here is that asking for forgiveness will not restore fellowship with God unless we are also forgiving towards others.
4. Fasting: Matthew 6:16-18
In the Pharisaic practice of fasting, whenever one went through a period of fasting, he made sure everyone knew about it. He would continually refer to his extreme hunger. If someone offered him food, he would say, “Oh no, I can’t eat now; I am separated to the Lord by means of fasting.” It became evident that the fasting was not to receive honour from the Lord; the fasting was to receive honour from men. Again, this illustrates the principle difference between doing it for the public and doing it in secret for the Lord. Believers are never commanded to fast. Fasting is purely an option, but if a believer chooses to fast, he must do so to honour the Lord and not to receive honour from men. So if a believer chooses to go through a period of fasting, he should not go around bragging about it. As soon as it begins to show that he is fasting, it is time to eat again.