The Sermon on the Mount
by E.H. Jack Sequeira
This, then, is how you should pray: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen. For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
[Note: Some texts read, ...but deliver us from the evil one and omit for yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.]
Matthew is speaking in the Sermon on the Mount in the context of what true Christianity, true piety is all about. There are three areas that Christ is dealing with: almsgiving, praying, and fasting. We have already dealt with almsgiving in Matthew 6:2-4 and the verses 5-15 are dealing with prayer. We covered the first half of it (verses 5-8) last week and we discovered that true Christian prayer is to be sincere. It involves the heart or the mind as opposed to the hypocritical praying of the Pharisees and the mechanical praying of the heathen.
Now I would like for us to turn to the Lords Prayer in Matthew 6:9-15. I believe there are some very important lessons that Christ is trying to get across. And as we look for what true Christianity is, may we receive a blessing.
The first thing I would like to ask is, Did Jesus give the Lords Prayer as a model, as a pattern, or did He give it as a form? When we read Matthew 6:9 we see it is presented as a model:
This, then, is how you should pray....
But if you turn to Luke 11:2, there it is presented as a form:
He said to them, When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come.
So you have both a form and a model presented in the New Testament. Which means that we cannot be dogmatic. It doesnt matter whether it is a form or a model as long as we dont make it vain repetition like the heathens.
What we need to look at is: what was unique, what was special, what was Christ trying to get across when He taught His disciples the Lords Prayer? The first thing that is unique about the Lords Prayer is the way we address God, the kind of God to whom we pray. No heathen, no Pharisee, ever prayed Our Father. But Jesus told His disciples that, when they prayed, they were to call God their Father, which means that He presented to the disciples a personal God. Also he presented a God Who is like a loving father who cares about his children.
But Christ did more than that. He actually gave us the right to call God our Father. I want to spend a few moments to discover this wonderful truth. Turn to 1 John 3:1. I want you to see that God is not just like a loving Father but that He is actually our Father in a unique sense.
How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.
How did this unique experience come about? Please turn to Galatians 4:4-6:
But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, Abba, Father [Dear Father].
Now I want to spend a few moments further on this truth. It is important that we know that God is our Father in a unique way. When God created Adam and Eve, they were the son and daughter of God by creation. There are two genealogies of Christ, one in Matthew and one Luke. The one in Luke takes us to Adam, who is the son of God. But when Adam sinned, he sold himself and his posterity (us) to Satan, so he came under the evil one. When Christ came to this world, He came to buy us back and to adopt us in a unique way to be Gods children. The life we inherited from Adam has to die and, on the cross, that life actually died. In exchange, God gave us the life of His Son. So just like the human race is the multiplication of Adams life, the Church is really the multiplication of the life of His Son.
Turn to John 20 and I want to show you something that took place at the resurrection. Notice what Jesus said to Mary. After the resurrection, one of the first to persons to see Jesus was Mary. Jesus said to her in verse 13, Why are you weeping?:
They asked her, Woman, why are you crying?
Of course, she was weeping because she thought somebody had taken away the body of Christ. Verses 16-17:
Jesus said to her, Mary. She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, Rabboni! (which means Teacher).
Jesus said, Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. [Apparently she said more than Master; maybe she grabbed Him in her excitement.] Go instead to my brothers and tell them, I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.
Jesus, in the resurrection, totally became one with us in the sense that we share the same life. The gift of God is the life of His Son. 1 John 5:11:
And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.
Since Christ is Gods Beloved Son, then we become Gods beloved sons and daughters. So we can call God Dear Father. Before the cross, Jesus is always called the Only Begotten. The word begotten in English implies someone who is produced. That is not the meaning of the Greek word. There are two words in the Greek: monogamy and monogamytos. This last means to produce. But monogamy means somebody very special. So God says, This is my beloved Son, my very special Son, in Whom I am well pleased. That is before the cross. But after the cross, Jesus is never called the Only Begotten; He is called the first begotten. Before the cross, God had only one special Son but, because Jesus shared His life with the human race, now God has many special sons and daughters, of whom Jesus was first. And that is why John says, Beloved, what manner of love God has bestowed upon us that we miserable human beings should be called the children of God. 1 John 3:1a:
How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!
So Jesus, trying to get this idea across in the introduction to the Lords Prayer says, Our Father. He says, When you pray, you have the privilege of calling God your Father. Now go back to verse 9 of Matthew 6 and notice the next statement, because there is a little bit of correction here. Our Father which art in heaven is a misinterpretation because, as you read it in English, it gives the impression that He is saying, Our Father Who is dwelling in heaven. But this is not what Christ said. What Christ said was:
Our Father in the heavens....
That phrase in the heavens means that He is the One that rules heaven. So not only do we have a loving Father to whom we can pray, but we have a Father Who is the Ruler of the universe. Can you imagine having a loving Father Who is the Ruler of the universe? That is what it means in the heavens. So Our Father, Who is the Ruler of heaven is what Jesus meant.
...Hallowed be your name....
Hallowed is an old English word meaning holy. This is important for us because the word Abba means Dear, as in Dear Father. But there are some who (I have heard it before) prefer to call God Dear Daddy. I want to explain something that you may not be familiar with. In the western culture, the relationship between child and Daddy is not the same as in the Middle East. In America a child can say, Hi, Daddy. You dare not do that in the Middle East. You can say hi to your friend but, when you refer to Daddy, you use a different term. In fact, even in Africa the word hi is njambo, so when I met my friends, I said hi, but if I meet somebody who is older than me or if I meet my Daddy, I dare not say njambo --that is an insult.
Even though God is our Father, we must have reverence. We must remember that, even though God is our Father and the ruler of the universe, He is also a HOLY GOD. Jesus said,
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,...
And then comes verse 10:
...your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
What did Jesus mean, Your kingdom come? If you read in the New Testament, you will notice that when Jesus came to this world and began His ministry, one of the phrases that used to introduce Himself was, The kingdom of God is at hand. If you read your New Testament, you will discover that God divides this human race into two kingdoms: the kingdom of this world and the kingdom of God. The kingdom of this world is under Satan and when Christ came here, He introduced the kingdom of God on earth. A new kingdom with a new foundation, with a new philosophy; everything new. Turn to John 15:16-19 and you will see what Jesus is saying to His disciples about His kingdom:
You did not choose me [Jesus says to His disciples], but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. This is my command: Love each other. If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.
This is one of the principles of Gods kingdom: those who belong to Gods kingdom should love one another.
There you see that when Christ came, He came to establish a new kingdom. And His call is to the people of the world: Come out of her my people and join my kingdom. The prayer is Your kingdom come.
Let me give you another text: 1 John 5:18-19. This is a text that has brought some confusion, especially verse 18:
We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin; the one who was born of God keeps him safe, and the evil one cannot harm him. We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one.
Do you commit sin? A lot of Adventists have fallen into that trap, so, first of all, I would like to remind you of the context. The context begins with verses 13 through 17, especially the last two:
I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us whatever we ask we know that we have what we asked of him. [And here is verse 16:] If anyone sees his brother [his fellow Christian] commit a sin that does not lead to death, he should pray and God will give him life. I refer to those whose sin does not lead to death. There is a sin that leads to death. I am not saying that he should pray about that. All wrongdoing is sin, and there is sin that does not lead to death.
Here John is introducing us to two kinds of sin; one is a sin that does not lead to death and one is a sin that leads to death. All unrighteousness is sin but there is a sin that does not lead to death. Can you tell me what the sin is that is not unto death? Remember, the sin that does not lead to death is the sin that God can forgive. What is the sin that leads to death? It is a sin that God cannot forgive. Is there any sin that God cannot forgive? Unbelief. That is called the sin against the Holy Spirit. A Christian cannot commit that sin. Why? Because He is a believer. 1 John 5:18-19
We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin; the one who was born of God keeps him safe, and the evil one cannot harm him. [The wicked one cannot deprive you of heaven.] We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one.
In other words, there is forgiveness for sin, but there is a sin that God cannot forgive and that is the sin of unbelief. In other words, the day you say good-bye to Christ, the day you say I dont want your gift in Jesus Christ, then you are doing two things: You are crucifying Christ afresh and you are saying good-bye to the only Savior Who can save you. But, thank God, whoever is born of God does not sin because he cannot commit the sin of unbelief as long as he is a believer. You cant be born again if you dont believe and the new birth is a by-product of faith. Verse 19 again:
We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one.
Now notice what it said in verse 19 that the whole world is under the control of the evil one. But we Christians arent under the control of the evil one. We are under God, so Christians belong to the kingdom of God. Gods kingdom has been established by Jesus Christ.
What did Jesus mean when He said, Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven? Lets go back to Matthew 6. First of all, Your kingdom come definitely refers to the Second Coming of Christ. That is when the kingdom of men will become the kingdom of God. Remember in Daniel 2 when the stone comes and destroys all the kingdoms that are under Satan and God establishes His own kingdom? But there is another definition of Your kingdom come that we must keep in mind. How many people does God want to join His kingdom? All. And that is the prayer. What was Gods will in heaven? He sent His Son to save the whole world. I read in John 3:17:
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.
And in Jesus prayer to God in John 17:4, He says,
I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do.
Christ is saying, When you pray, ask God that His will on earth be done as it is in heaven. What is His will on earth? That every human being accept the gift of salvation. You cannot pray that prayer and then simply sit down because most people will not come into the church unless you are witnessing to them.
Turn to Matthew 28. Jesus had fulfilled His mission, He had gone to heaven, He had received the green light from His Father, He comes back to His disciples before His ascension and listen to what He says in Matthew 28:18:
Then Jesus came to them and said, All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
What did Jesus mean by all authority being given to Him? When Christ went back to the Father, after He left Mary, the Father gave Him the legal authority to take us sinners to heaven. The Father said, Son, your sacrifice, your life has been perfect. I give you full authority to bring these people to heaven. And Jesus tells the disciples that He has that authority but He wants them to go into all the world and make disciples of all nations. Look at verses 19 and 20 of Matthew 28:
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.
I want you to tell the world the good news.
Christ is with us today. Dont be afraid to witness. But please dont pray Your kingdom come if you are not prepared to witness. Then you are praying like a hypocrite. Do you really want His kingdom to come on this earth?
Now lets go back to Matthew 6 and look at something that you may not have noticed. You will see that the Lords Prayer is divided into two parts. The first part verses 8, 9, and 10 have to do with our relationship to God. Part two has to do with our relationships between ourselves. You will notice that it is the same with the Ten Commandments. The first four are about our relationship to God and the last six are about our relationships to our neighbors. Remember in Luke 2:14 where the angels sang at the first coming of Christ? They sang
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.
In Matthew 6:9 and 10, the personal pronoun for God is Your Your name be hallowed, Your kingdom come, Your will be done. The Lords Prayer says that you begin with God. Why? Because a Christian is totally dependent on God, but Christ now turns to our own needs. In verses 11, 12, and 13 you will notice that the pronoun is us.
Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.
Please notice that God is not only interested in our worshiping Him but He is concerned about us and our every need. The phrase Give us today our daily bread was very hard for the early Church fathers to accept. They couldnt see how God could be interested in their eating bread and so they allegorized it. But I think Jesus is concerned about our eating bread.
Bread is the staple food of the Middle East. In fact, today in the Middle East the government actually subsidizes the bread; it only costs two cents. What Jesus is saying is that God is concerned about our material needs, our bodily needs.
But, then, He is also concerned about our spiritual needs:
Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
If you take this phrase at its face value, you have a problem. It sounds as if Gods forgiveness is conditional: If you forgive somebody else first, then Ill forgive you. It is not quite like that. You will notice in the New Testament that it teaches is that our forgiving others is a genuine evidence that we appreciate Gods forgiveness.
Do you remember the parable of the man that was forgiven of a large debt? He went out and found someone who owed him a small amount and he would not forgive him. I want to give you two texts. Turn to Ephesians 4:32. Paul puts it very clearly:
Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
Notice that we forgive others because we have appreciated Gods forgiveness to us. One more text in Colossians 3:13. Here is the same idea; it is found over and over in the New Testament:
Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
Why should this be so? Go back to Matthew 6 and look at verses 14 and 15:
For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
What is Jesus saying here? Jesus is saying that if you really appreciate Gods forgiveness, then you will forgive others. We must make a distinction between forgiving and excusing. Human beings very often excuse when they forgive. When a policeman catches me speeding and forgives me, how much did it cost him to forgive me? Nothing. He really hasnt forgiven me, because he is doing something which is contrary to the law of this country. There is no provision in the law for the policeman to forgive. The law demands payment. Now if he paid my ticket and said, I am paying your ticket, therefore I have a right to forgive you. Every time I would see that cop I would slow down.
Did it cost God anything to forgive us? Hebrews 9:22 tells me that without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness:
In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.
And when Jesus instituted the Lords Supper, He raised the cup and said, This is my blood shed for the remission of sin. Matthew 26:28:
This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.
If you really appreciate Gods forgiveness (remember, He forgives you unconditionally), then the true appreciation for this will be that you will forgive others. Ill tell you why. Has God forgiven you? Yes. Has God forgiven your enemies? Yes. If God has forgiven your enemy, then you have to forgive him, too. Otherwise you are disagreeing with God.
How do I know that God has forgiven my enemies? I will give you a text: 2 Corinthians 5. God has forgiven not only the Christians, but on the cross he forgave all men. I read in verse 19:
...That God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting mens sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.
God did not condemn them; He condemned His Son for us. And He is telling us to please go tell the world that they have been reconciled to Christ. That is our mission. But if God has forgiven them, then we should also forgive them.
Is it easy to forgive? It may be costly, but whatever it costs you to forgive your enemies, it is nothing compared to what it cost Christ to forgive you. And that is what Jesus was trying to get across in the parable. The king forgave the man who owed a large amount of money. It cost the king. He wasnt accusing the man who owed him the money; he was suffering because he was deprived of the money which was his. Remember that Jesus suffered. And we need to forgive others because we have been touched by the forgiveness of God.
Lets go on to verse 13 of Matthew 6:
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.
It does sound here that God leads us into temptation and we are begging, Please, God, dont lead us into temptation. That is not what Jesus was saying. James 1:13 tells me that God never tempts anyone to do evil:
When tempted, no one should say, God is tempting me. For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone;....
What then is Christ implying? A person who prays like this is admitting one thing. He is admitting that Satan is more powerful than you; your flesh is more powerful than you. James 1:14 tells us that every man is tempted when he is drawn after his own flesh. Can your willpower conquer the flesh? No. Why not? Paul tells us in Romans 7 that the flesh is a law; that in the flesh is the law of sin. Romans 7:20-23:
Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in Gods law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members.
So then, I, myself, in my mind, am a slave to Gods law, but, in the sinful nature, a slave to the law of sin. The word law means constant and unending. Whereas the willpower is not a law, it is a force. The willpower is strong sometimes and it is weak sometimes. It is possible for the will to defy the flesh but never to conquer it.
But there is One Who has conquered the flesh completely. There is One Who is greater than the flesh and that is the Spirit of life: the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus. And that Spirit is available to you. And what this prayer is saying is, God, I recognize that I am no match for Satan. Please deliver me from his hand. Not that I may be saved, but that I can glorify you.
I want to give you a text 1 John 4:4 and I hope you will never forget this text as you face Satan:
You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them [i.e., the world; John has already said that the world refers to the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life], because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.
Then go to 1 John 5:4 and listen to what John says here:
...For everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.
Not our willpower, our faith.
Christ is saying, Let us pray and ask God to manifest His power to deliver us from evil.
...For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.
The kingdom that we belong to is an everlasting kingdom. That is what Nebuchadnezzar was shown. That Stone which will crush all the other kingdoms will become an everlasting kingdom. And the power and the glory will be given to the saints.
These three petitions that we have just looked at meet all human needs: our material needs (our daily bread); our spiritual needs (forgive us our debts); and our moral needs (deliver us from all evil). God is concerned with all three areas.
You will see that, when you say this prayer, you will notice that it is a complete prayer. But we must pray with meaning. Dont simply utter the Lords Prayer. Whenever you pray this is a model. You can use it as a form. But, please remember, it is the words that matter.
Isnt it wonderful that we can call the Ruler of the universe Our Father! When you just think on that, it is mind-boggling. It is a privilege. And we can never be the same.