The Sermon on the Mount and Its Application to the Present Age -- By: Harry A. Sturz

Journal: Grace Journal
Volume: GJ 04:3 (Fall 1963)
Article: The Sermon on the Mount and Its Application to the Present Age
Author: Harry A. Sturz

The Sermon on the Mount and Its Application to the Present Age

Harry A. Sturz

Assistant Professor of Language
Biola College

In the extant writings of the Ante Nicene Fathers, there are quotations from all of the books of the New Testament. Of the twenty-six books, Matthew is by far the most frequently cited. Furthermore, the most frequently used portion of Matthew is that portion (chapters 5–7) now called “The Sermon on the Mount.” Today, people who have little or no knowledge of the Bible or the contents of the Sermon on the Mount associate it with Jesus and seem to feel that its teaching is the guide for their lives. Most of us have probably had the experience of hearing an unregenerate person say something like the following: “Oh, I don’t need to go to church, I believe in living by the Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount.” Someone has said that if the

proverbial visitor from Mars were to arrive in a characteristic Christian community, having read the Sermon on the Mount en route, he would be bewildered. The gulf between the pattern of the Sermon and the pattern of conventional Christian life is so great that the visitor would suspect he had read the wrong Sermon or visited the wrong community. Yet if he were to express this confusion to the members of the community he would find them bewildered at his bewilderment!1

While the ethics of Jesus are not exhausted within the confines of the Sermon on the Mount (for example, it does not include His law of Love), nevertheless it is the most concentrated yet comprehensive portion of His ethical teaching. Because of this and because discussion of our Lord’s ethics generally converges on the Sermon, this paper will also seek its material at this point. It is not so much the purpose of this paper to analyze the Sermon on the Mount itself as it is to survey the problem of the practical application of its precepts. There seems to be no questioning the fact that the ethics of our Lord as presented in the Sermon on the Mount have wielded a tremendous influence both within and without Christendom.

But how its moral content is to be integrated with the whole of biblical theology and ethics, on the one hand, and correlated with contemporary life, on the other, is a central problem.2

There are some who take the attitude of the famous archbishop of York, Dr. Magee, who once remarked that “a Christian State carrying out in all its relations literally the precepts of the Sermon on the Mount could not exist for a week,” to which a Gifford lecturer appended the

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