the weblog of Alan Knox

The Audience for the Sermon on the Mount

Posted by on Feb 26, 2008 in scripture | 10 comments

In our study of the Gospel of Matthew on Sunday mornings, we’ve come to Matthew 5, the beginning of what we typically call “The Sermon on the Mount”. Since Matthew presents this as a single discourse – one sermon – I asked if I could teach an overview of the entire sermon. So, last Sunday, I taught from Matthew chapters 5-7 – the whole Sermon on the Mount. Beginning next week, we will look at each part of the sermon, but I think it was beneficial to look at the sermon as a whole first.

It was very interesting studying the entire sermon. I think I learned some things that will help me as I study each passage within the sermon. But, as I started studying and reading what other people had written, I realized that there was a question that had to be answered before I could understand the purpose and message of the sermon itself.

That question is this: Did Matthew write the Sermon on the Mount (and his Gospel) for unbelievers, or did he write for believers? A similar question could be asked in this way: Did Matthew write for people who did not know anything about Jesus, or did he write for people who already knew about Jesus, and were perhaps even following Jesus already?

I will probably write about the Sermon on the Mount in the days to come. But I think it is important to begin with this question. So, do you believe that Matthew’s Gospel (and the Sermon on the Mount) is intended primarily for believers or unbelievers? (I recognize that the answer could be both, but who is the primary audience?) How does our interpretation of the Gospel and the Sermon change if the audience is believers or unbelievers?


10 Comments

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  1. 2-26-2008

    Looking forward to the series.

    Juan

  2. 2-26-2008

    Alan,

    If I have a question about the church how do I get it to you?

    Thanks
    Juan

  3. 2-27-2008

    Juan,

    I don’t know if this will be a series. Instead, I’ll probably publish a few random thoughts about the Sermon on the Mount – like this one. My email address is in the side bar of this blog: aknox@sebts.edu.

    -Alan

  4. 2-27-2008

    Alan. The sermon is definitely for believers. Jesus turns to the disciples etc. This is the way in the world for those following Jesus, for those who are a light for the world. I think the last part of the sermon (in chapter seven)also makes this clear. We are called to baptize people, making disciples and teaching them all that Jesus have commanded, which includes the sermon on the mount. (And actually, the vast part of christianity has thought that this teachings doesn´t even refer to all believers, but to special ones (monks and nuns) or only to the inner man or the private sphere.)
    /Jonas Lundström

  5. 2-27-2008

    Alan,

    I think that the SOM was written for believers, however, the actual audience consisted of disciples
    (4:18-22) and large crowds that were perhaps merely interested in this miracle worker (4:23-25).

  6. 2-27-2008

    Jonas,

    Thanks for the comment. I’ve seen the view that reads the Sermon as applying only to clergy. I agree that the Gospel should apply to believers.

    Chris,

    It seems unanimous among commenters – Matthew (and the Sermon) was written to believers. Thanks for answering the question.

    -Alan

  7. 2-28-2008

    The content of the Sermon on the Mount seems to indicate the disciples were Jesus’ audience. In other words, in Matthew 5-7, the author wrote to the people of God, followers of Jesus the Messiah. However, it does not mean the words of the Sermon on the Mount are limited to Christians only.

  8. 2-29-2008

    Celucien,

    Welcome to my blog! Yes, I agree that the sermon was intended for believers, but can certainly be beneficial for others as well.

    -Alan

  9. 3-1-2008

    I have a study bible that has the gospels in chronological order, and it makes some interesting observations. MT 5:1 says that He saw the multitude and went up on a mountain to teach and His disciples followed. At first glance, it would seem it is talking about the apostles, but they had not been ordained yet (Lk 6:13). It goes on to point out that the greek word for disciple means “learner” and implies a learner by training or on the job training, and that while the term “disciples” included those to be appointed apostles, it was not limited to them.

    Having said that, I’ve always heard that Matthew’s gospel was directed more towards the Jews.

  10. 1-10-2010

    I believe Sermon on the Mount to believers…that they should check if they are true believers. 1) Jesus said…I never knew you…so check Does we know and follow Him as he know us. 2) interesting that Matthew 5 people went up hill (Matthew 5:1) to listen Jesus taught, then when finish they went down (Matthew 8:1) I am sure that they are ready to do what Jesus taught.