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LESSON 1 - THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN
(INTRODUCTION TO STUDY OF THE BEATITUDES)

Copr. 1998, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.  All Scripture references are to
the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984
International Bible Society,  unless otherwise noted. Quotations
from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes
the teacher uses a blackboard. This lesson can be found at:
<URL:http://www.cameronlaw.com>
 

INTRODUCTION: This quarter our study is the first part of Matthew
5. Matthew 5 records part of what is traditionally called Jesus'
Sermon on the Mount. We will spend our time during the next twelve
weeks exploring that portion of the Sermon on the Mount referred to
as "The Beatitudes."
 

I. THE SETTING

     A. Open your Bibles and we will review a few sections to give
     us the background for the Sermon on the Mount. Look at the
     last three verses of Matthew 3. What do you find there? (We
     find Jesus being baptized by John the Baptist.)

          1. What do you find in the first verses of Matthew 4?
          (Jesus being tempted in the wilderness by Satan.)

          2. Read Matthew 4:12 and 17. Why did Jesus begin to
          preach at this time? Was John the Baptist preaching at
          this time too? (It was the right time for Jesus to begin
          His ministry. In Matthew 3:1-3 we are told that John was
          preparing the way for Jesus. Just about the time John is
          put in prison and thus removed from his work, Jesus
          begins His work.)

          3. What happens next (after v.17) in Matthew 4? (Jesus
          picks His disciples.)

          4. Read Matthew 4:23-25. Why did Jesus heal these people?
          (No doubt the immediate reason was that He has sympathy
          for them. (See Matthew 9:35-36). If you look at the
          bigger picture, you can see a plan.  Jesus begins His
          ministry, picks His helpers, gets the attention of the
          masses so that they will be open to His great Sermon on
          the Mount.)
 
II. THE APPROACH

     A. Read Matthew 5:1-2.  "When He saw the crowds..."  Was Jesus
     trying to escape the crowds?

          1. Did Jesus go up "the mountainside" to hide or so the
          crowds could hear?
          2. Why do you think Matthew so prominently mentions the
          crowds?

     B. When v.2 says "He began to teach them,..." who is "them?"
     The disciples or the crowds? (Both. These two verses of the
     Bible are not clear on this.  However, when you consider the
     context: the beginning of His teaching ministry, His
     cultivation of the crowds through His healings, it is a build
     up to these important teachings for the masses.  Even if you
     are convinced that Jesus was only teaching His disciples, why
     was He teaching them?  I think the mention of the crowds makes
     clear that, at a minimum, Jesus seeing the crowds inspired Him
     to teach those lessons His disciples would teach them to a
     perishing people.)

     C. Do you remember God ever giving His teaching from a
     mountainside before? (Sinai)

          1. Turn with me to Exodus 19:16-20; 20:18-19. Read. Why
          did God approach His people that way? (Ex.20:20: "The
          fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.")

          2. Do you see any significance in the fact that in the
          "second mountain experience" Jesus "sat down" to teach as
          opposed to appearing in thunder and lightening and earth
          tremors?

          3. Why would the same God take such radically different
          approaches? (Read Colossians 1:21-22. We were God's
          enemies in the way we thought. God could reasonably use
          fear to impress His enemies at Sinai. Jesus reconciled us
          to God and changed us from slaves to sons! Galatians 4:6-
          8. A Father sits down to talk with His sons and daughters
          on the Matthew mountainside! See also Romans 5.)

III. OUR ATTITUDE

     A. Read Matthew 5:17-20.  What part of the Ten Commandments
     was abolished? (Verse 18: none. See v. 19. This is a "no
     brainer" for a teacher.  Do I want to be the "least" or do I
     want to be "great" in heaven? Of course I will teach you to
     keep the Ten Commandments!)

     B. Did anyone actually keep the Ten Commandments? (2
     Corinthians 3:4-9 (law kills and condemns us); Isaiah 64:6
     (all our works are like filthy rags); Romans 7:9 (when the
     commandments came I died); Galatians 2:21 (righteousness is
     not possible through the law).  But see, Romans 5:14 (suggests
     that some did not break the commandments--however, even those
     came under the reign of death).

     C. If no one could keep the Ten Commandments, and they just
     brought death, for what practical reason should I (or anyone
     else) be teaching you to keep them? (Other than looking ahead
     to my "status" in heaven!)

          1. Just briefly let your eyes skim through the Beatitudes
          (Matthew 5:3-12) and then let's read Matthew 5:21-22.
          Does it seem to you that Jesus is teaching us something
          that is more difficult than the Ten Commandments to keep?

          2. Would it be fair to call the Beatitudes "The Ten
          Commandments, Plus?"  "The Ten Heavy?" (The "high fat"
          content commands as opposed to the "Ten Lite?"

          3. Are the Ten Commandments just rules ("Ten Lite"), but
          the addition of the Beatitudes shows that we have to keep
          not just the rules, but the spirit of the rules as well
          ("Ten Heavy")!

     D. Did you notice the author's introduction, in our printed
     lesson, to the entire quarter has this quote, "Enoch's life
     and character, which were so holy that he was translated to
     heaven without seeing death, represent what the lives and
     characters of all must be, if like Enoch, they are to be
     translated when Christ shall come."

          1. How do you understand this? Must you have a "life and
          character" like Enoch if you are to be saved at the
          second coming?

               a. Are there two standards for salvation?  One for
               those who are alive at the Second Coming and
               another for those who are resurrected at the Second
               Coming?

               b. If there is only one standard, then must all
               possess the "life and character" of Enoch to be
               saved?

               c. If this is so, how do you understand Jesus'
               statement (Matthew 5:19) that there is room in
               heaven for those who  break the Ten Commandments
               and teach others to break them?

          2. Do you hear the "hoofbeat" of perfectionism
          galloping in the introduction to our lesson?

          3. If the people could not keep the Ten Commandments, how
          can they ever be expected to keep the "Ten Heavy?"

     E. Friends, we have entered a critical juncture in our
     discussion.  If we enter our study of the Beatitudes with the
     attitude that if we do not keep the "Ten Heavy" we will be
     lost, then this will be a very discouraging, faith-killing
     quarter.  But if we study the "Ten Heavy" with the idea that
     Jesus has already reconciled us to God, that this is a little
     talk between Father and child about how we should aspire to
     live, then we can enter this study with confidence and joy
     about what we can be!  If you have claimed your Substitute,
     you have more than "Enoch's character," you have the character
     of Christ! Praise God, He has reconciled us to His Father.
     (Romans 5:10; 2 Corinthians 5:17-18; Colossians 1:22.)  Let's
     find out what living like Christ means as a practical matter.

IV. KINGDOM TRAITS

     A. Let's write on the blackboard what is being "blessed" in
     the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:2-11). (Those who are: Poor in
     spirit, Mourning, Meek, Hunger and Thirst for Righteousness,
     Merciful, Peacemakers, Persecuted for Righteousness,
     Insulted.)

          1. If I said to you, I will give you any character trait
          you would like, would it occur to you to ask for one of
          these?

          2. Why does Jesus say that these traits are "blessed?"

               a. Does this (statement about being "blessed") give
               hope to the downtrodden?  Or are these attitudes
               towards which we should aspire?

          3. Do you see a difference between the first four (poor
          in spirit, mourning, meek, hunger and thirst for
          righteousness) and the next four (merciful, peacemakers,
          persecuted for righteousness, insulted for
          righteousness)?

               a. Is there a pattern here that you can see? (We
               will discuss this in much greater detail as the
               quarter progresses, but the first four seem to be
               how we were when we first came to God.  The last
               four seem to picture us after we have made great
               progress towards becoming the person God wants us
               to be.)

     B. Leaving aside the issue of salvation, should it be our goal
     to become "perfect?" (Matthew 5:48 suggests that we should be
     on the road to becoming more like God all the time.  I do not
     think the "level" of perfection is a matter of salvation, but
     being "on the road" is a matter of our love for God and our
     desire to reach the goal of "Kingdom" living.)

     C. Let's look forward to our trip this quarter to find
     out about becoming more like God!  To find out what it means
     to live the Beatitudes.

V. NEXT WEEK: "THE POOR IN SPIRIT." Study!