What is the Sermon on the Mount?

by Matt Slick

The Sermon on the Mount is the name given to the teachings of Jesus that were recorded in Matthew 5:1 through Matthew 7:27.  Matthew 5:1, "When Jesus saw the crowds, He went up on the mountain; and after He sat down, His disciples came to Him."  Some scholars teach that the sermon is a compilation of the sayings of Christ. However, it seems probable that it is a single declaration given by Jesus, the whole of which was recalled by the disciples.

Many interpretations of the sermon on the mount have been offered throughout the church's history.  It has been said to be a pattern for Christian living, general instruction to all mankind, and instructions on proper attitudes.  Whatever the perspective, Jesus taught a high ethical standard that has overarching teachings for both believer and unbeliever.  Its standard of holiness is high enough to reveal to us our own sinfulness.  Thus, it can be a means to drive people to the cross of Christ since the moral level taught in the Sermon on the Mount cannot be perfectly maintained by anyone.

Jesus gave the sermon after spending the night west of the Sea of Galilee (Luke 6:12) and after having called his disciples (Mark 3:14-15).  He taught a mixed crowd and demonstrated great authority in his words (Matthew 7:28-29).  There are elements within the Sermon on the Mount that reflect Old Testament law regarding loving God (Deuteronomy 6:5) and loving your neighbor (Leviticus 19:18).

Following is a brief outline of the Beatitudes:

  • Blessings of those in the kingdom, Matt. 5:3-12
  • Disciples in relation to the world, Matt. 5:13-16
  • Comments on the Law, Matthew 5:17-48
  • Prayer, Matt. 6:1–11
  • Conduct, Matthew 6:1-7:12
  • Challenge to live godly, Matthew 7:13-27

A more detailed analysis is as follows:

Matthew 5:1-2 The setting
Matthew 5:3-12 The Beatitudes
Matthew 5:13-16 The new community
Matthew 5:17-20 The abiding validity of the law
Matthew 5:21-48 On practicing righteousness toward others in matters of:
   Murder (Matt. 5:21-26)
   Adultery (Matt. 5:27-30)
   Divorce (Matt. 5:31-32)
   Oaths (Matt. 5:33-37)
   Retribution (Matt. 5:38-42)
   Love of enemy (Matt. 5:43-48)
Matthew 6:1-7:12 On practicing righteousness toward God:
   Almsgiving (Matt. 6:1-4)
   Prayer (Matt. 6:5-15)
   Fasting (Matt. 6:16-18)
On not setting up false treasures (Matt. 6:19-24)
On not being anxious (Matt. 6:25-34)
On not judging (Matt. 7:1-5)
On not squandering what is precious (Matt. 7:6)
When resting assured that God hears prayer (Matt. 7:7-12)
Matthew 7:13-27 Concluding warnings and exhortations

About The Author

Matt Slick is the President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.