By Jacob Burlaga : Posted with full permission of the author.
Originally written for a class at Boyce college (PH311)
Scripture and discipleship: a brief look at the sermon on the mount
In this paper, the attempt will be to evaluate what a disciple looks like in regards to what the famous Sermon on The Mount teaches. This paper will evaluate 3 biblical texts and some comparative and contrasting on some genuine characteristics of a disciple.
Scripture and Discipleship
To begin with, Christians under persecution is a genuine reality. This is what Mathew 5:10 has to say in the context of the beatitudes, “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for the kingdom of heaven is theirs.” It is important to know that Christian suffering is inevitable, and as Dietrich Bonhoeffer says: “Not recognition, but rejection, will be their reward from the world for their word and deed.”1 The Sermon on the mount teaches that those who identify with Christ are indeed those who are persecuted in this world. And, those who are not in identification with Christ are excused from persecution. But what does persecution look like? Persecution can be active as in someone slandering you or various trials through life and too an extreme it would perhaps result in something treacherous such as murder. But what is imperative to know is that persecution contextualizes with the given context of a situation. The persecution Christians had under Nero is probably a lot less than it is now in 21st century America. But the underlying factor that is present, is that there is a persecution that a believer undergoes, however big as in genocide, or as small as name calling— it is something the Lord of Glory assures for us to be jubilant in (5:12). It is also assured that the one who is not a disciple cannot have jubilancy in persecution, nor, do they endure persecution for the sake of righteousness. The text emphasizes a reality that the persecution comes by a means of righteousness; that righteousness is the faith of the saints. The dividing line is this: there is persecution endured for the sake of righteousness, and that is what separates the disciple from the one lacking true discipleship.
The second text to be brought about is Mathew 5:13 which reads, “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt should lose its taste, how can it be made salty? It’s no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.” Salt is a preservative, it preserves things such as food, and its use is for that. It is also used as well for taste; salt is used to make something more flavorful. Christians are thus that but in a spiritual sense. To elaborate more, they are in essence preservatives, and the flavor to the world of the gospel message that they proclaim. That is, calling people to repentance and preaching the life, death and resurrection of the Lord Christ. The true disciple is one distinct from the world; one with wholesome intentions, one that portrays an obvious distinction from the things of the world. As J.C Ryle says: “Then there must be a difference of habits, tastes and turn of mind, between us and those who think only of the world.”2 The salt as previously stated, is a preservative. The unbeliever does not provide salt, or so to speak, sustaining ability towards the world with the only thing that can sustain: the power of the gospel. The unbeliever cannot provide what needs to be provided for in a lost world; but contrarily, the disciple can. Though it is a truism that unbelievers can do very cordial acts— it is the job of the disciple to lead people to an eternal hope through the Gospel.
The final text to be examined is Mathew 6:1, the text reads: “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. Otherwise, you have no reward with your Father in heaven.” True disciples are quick to run from pride. Contrarily, the one who is not a disciple is very quick to give heed to attention given to him. Morally speaking, the ethical dilemma is brought about when someone attempts to appear righteous; but contrarily, the disciple does not have to make his character known— his righteousness is innate, and his ability to follow His Lord is given by His Lord, for the sole purpose of glorifying his Lord. The context of the aforementioned verse, in its transparency, is in regards to helping the poor. The Pharisees appear to be the godly men who are most important in the synagogues; those who are seen as the ones who give to the poor, but sadly, this is a mere cover up. It is a false scheme that they harbor, appearing godly, but denying their master, living in conscience rebellion yet claiming the faith. What is cardinal to know about these faulty disciples is that they do believe that they have a reward, and the text does teach that a reward is coming for those are in Christ. But, as for those who are not true disciples, their reward is not the kingdom of heaven, it is the applause of ignorant people and hypocrites.3
In conclusion, the Sermon on the Mount teaches one how to love people, and it provides a standard to live by. It is using the text as a guideline, for those disciples of Jesus who want to mirror their God. These texts are just the brink of all that the Sermon on the Mount entails and, its costly call to a world of discipleship.
(1) Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Discipleship. Fortress Press. 2003. 109.
(2) J.C Ryle, Mathew. Expository Thoughts on The Gospels. Chicago: Crossway Books. 1993. 28.
(3)John MacArthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Mathew 1-7. Chicago: Moody Press.
Bonhoeffer. Dietrich. Discipleship. Eds. Eberhard Bethget, Ernst Feil. Fortress Press, 2003,
MacArthur. John, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Mathew 1-7. Chicago: Moody Press. 1985.
Ryle. JC, Mathew. Expository Thoughts on The Gospels. Chicago: Crossway Books. 1993.