by Ian Coker
The doctrine of Christ is outstanding in a world that is not short on religious and philosophical dogmas. What compares with the Sermon on the Mount? Two things evident from Matt. 7: 28-29 are:
A. The first thing mentioned is that the people were astonished at His
doctrine. And well they might. What an amazing three chapters they are! Ask
yourself this_s: could I have come up with such a sermon - or anybody else I
know for that matter? A Christian was once given some infidel literature
deriding the Bible and he replied;
This Sermon on the Mount stands as one of the great evidences for not only the existence but also for the Deity of Jesus Christ. I ask again; could you come up with this sermon? Theodore Parker said, "Suppose that Plato and Newton never lived - that their story is a lie - but who did their works and who thought their thoughts? It takes a Newton to forge a Newton. What man could have fabricated a Jesus? None but a Jesus."
It's not just men disposed toward Christ that make such observations. The famous atheist J.S.Mill said, "It is no use to say that Christ, as exhibited in the gospels, is not historical. Who amongst his disciples...was capable of inventing the sayings attributed to Jesus, or of imagining the life and character revealed in the gospels? Certainly not the fishermen of Galilee; and certainly not Paul, whose idiosyncrasies were of a totally different sort."
The great historian, Will Durant, certainly no Christian, wrote in his work 'Caesar and Christ', "That a few simple men should in one generation have invented so powerful and appealing a personality, so lofty an ethic and so inspiring a vision of brotherhood, would be a miracle far more incredible than any recorded in the Gospels."
Then, of course, there is the problem of having a life of such magnitude and purity that you could preach the Sermon on the Mount with authority. Atticus Haygood said: "If Jesus never lived then the four evangelists, or men like them, thought out his wonderful doctrines. It is unthinkable. But theirs was a far harder task than thinking out the truths attributed to Jesus in the gospels; they had also to think out a man who lived up to them. It is easier to write a great speech than to set before the reader a man he knows to be capable of making it; but this is easier than to proclaim a lofty doctrine of morals and show a man as living up to it. Their problem, if they thought it all out, was immeasurably more than the invention of the Sermon on the Mount and of the other discourses that move so easily on the same high plane of thought and spiritual life; it was to invent a life and reveal a life in absolute harmony with these matchless discourses (in the very time and place it was supposed to have happened - I.H.C.). But Jesus lived the Sermon on the Mount and all else that he ever taught. Not once, in word or deed, does he fail; always he lives up to his teachings; He incarnated his doctrine. No other human being, before or since Jesus, ever lived up to the Sermon on the Mount; the best men and women have only approximated it; and it is the best who have most realized their failure. But Jesus lived his teaching so perfectly that it is only in his life that we truly read their meaning."
And so it was that Jesus could stand before His enemies with the challenge "who of you convicts me of sin?" (John 8: 46) and men would stand there like the man without__the wedding garment. And when they heard Him speak they could only say "no man ever spake like this man" (John 7: 46).
Just as the teaching of Jesus stands out, so gospel preaching should stand out in the world. The false teachers, they are of the world and so they speak of the world and the world hears them (1 John 4: 5). Gospel preaching needs to have that 'ring of truth'. I am not speaking of something ethereal and fanciful - rather gospel preaching ought to be felt as it goes down into the consciousness and conscience, the inner recesses of man - dividing the very body, soul, spirit, joints and marrow. Having the 'ring of truth' means it does not pander to self-interest - it shows no favouritism, and yet there abides the recognition that though this may hurt, like the surgeon's scalpel, it will do me no damage but only good. Worldly preaching causes no pain but does a lot of damage.
Some have attempted to evade the force of the teaching of the Sermon on the Mount by relegating it to the Old Testament. Sure it was spoken before the cross, but you write your will before you die don't you? It's true that the apostles revealed truths not recorded in the gospels (John 16: 12) but the bulk of their teaching was consistent with that taught by Jesus in His ministry (John 14: 26). So when the Hebrew writer wanted to speak of the superiority of the New Covenant he said it was spoken to us by God's Son (1: 1). Whilst it must be said that the apostles had a pivotal role in the revelation of the New Testament, their primary role was to confirm the things the Lord first spoke (Heb. 2: 3). Surely we must make distinctions between which specific applications related to the context of the times in a unique way, but nevertheless the principles are timeless and authoritative.
Christianity is not philosophy (although it has some things in common with philosophy). Christianity is not personal ideas - 'your idea is as good as mine'; 'one church is as good as another'; - its not 'my faith, your faith, or one faith is as good as another' or 'join the church of your choice'. For every fact and concept there are only two possibilities. As to nature they can only be true or false, and as to origin they can only be from heaven or from men. If Christianity was just a hodge-podge melting pot of human ideas and opinions then reason would that a man ought not to speak with authority. But this (i.e. the Bible) is different.
You can hold this book up anywhere in the sphere of human experience and speak its truths with conviction because it is the mind of God. As we sing, we can even 'hold up its splendour beside the open grave' and speak with authority about those things which no living man has seen - because this is the doctrine of Christ who is the grave-conqueror! There lies the authority - we are not sufficient of ourselves (2 Cor. 3: 5), but God can make us able ministers of the New Covenant.
When the authoritative doctrine of Christ is not preached with authority it says and does certain things:
B. Matt. 7: 28-29 declares they noted He preached with authority and not as the scribes. Do you preach like Christ or like a scribe? Scribes touted opinions, traditions, and viewpoints about the law. How many Bible classes have you been in, and how many sermons have you heard where the watchword has been, 'some say this' and 'some say that'? Or maybe it has been something like "there are many divergent views in the brotherhood on this subject..." (the implication being we cannot really know the truth nor stand for it. It is an amazing thing to see a man claiming to stand ON the truth and yet not stand FOR the truth.)
But when the astonishing doctrine of Christ is preached with authority;