The First Narrative and Discourse:
The New Kingdom Introduced
(Matt. 3:1 - 7:29)
Department of Religious Education,
Brigham Young University - Idaho
(Matt. 3:1 - 4:25) The first narrative of the Savior's ministry is divided into the ministry of John the Baptist (3:1-12), the baptism of Christ (3:13-17), the temptations of Jesus (4:1-11), and the early Galilean ministry of Jesus (4:12-25).
The Ministry of John the Baptist
It can be seen in the birth of Christ narrative that Herod's rejection of the Christ child as the legitimate king of Israel was a foreshadowing of the Jewish rejection of the Messiah. One of the reasons for the rejection of Christ was the fact that the Jews, for the most part, had strayed from the intent of the covenant God had made with Israel through the law of Moses. That covenant promised the coming of the Messiah. Before Jesus could come as the promised Messiah and king of Israel, a way was needed to be prepared for him, a people needed to be readied. This, in essence, was the mission of John the Baptist (Matt. 3:1-2). The Baptist's mission was similar to the prophet Elijah. As Elijah's mission was to "turn" Israel's "heart back again" to God and the covenant (1 Kings 18:36-37), so with John the Baptist. John's message was "Repent [Gk., metanoeo] ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matt. 3:2). Metanoeo means in Greek to "note after, later," "to change one's mind," "to adopt another view," or "to change one's feelings" (Kittle, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, 4:976). Hence, John's mission was to help the Jews change their hearts and minds by adopting a new view of the covenant and the coming of the Messiah who had the power to remit their sins. In other words, John's mission was to bring people to Christ and his kingdom.
The very manner of the Baptist's dress would have reminded Israel of the prophet Elijah. As Elijah was "girt with a girdle of leather about his loins" (2 Kings 1:8) so the Baptist was dressed in a "raiment of camel's hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins" (Matt. 3:4).
John ministered to the people under the authority of the Aaronic Priesthood which holds the keys of the preparatory gospel (D&C 84:26-27). The preparatory gospel "is the gospel of repentance and of baptism, and the remission of sins, and the law of carnal commandments" (D&C 84:27). As part of his calling, John baptized the repentant (Matt. 3:6).
Though the preparatory gospel includes the remission of sins, it does not have power to actually remit sins. It only opens the way for man to have their sins remitted. A higher power is necessary for the remission of sins. That power is the Melchizedek Priesthood through which the gift of the Holy Ghost is given. Only through the Holy Ghost can man be cleansed from the effects of sin. Nephi explained, "the gate by which ye should enter is repentance and baptism by water; and then cometh a remission of your sins by fire and by the Holy Ghost" (2 Nephi 31:17). Elder Bruce R. McConkie taught, "Thus the Aaronic Priesthood performs the outward ordinance of baptism, but it takes the Melchizedek priesthood to bring the inward and spiritual change by which sin and evil are burned out of a human soul as though by fire" (A New Witness for the Articles of Faith, p.347).
Therefore, John taught, "I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and [with] fire" (Matt. 3:11). The one coming was Christ. It was his mission to bring the power whereby man may be free from the effects of sin.
The concept of cleansing by fire is brought up four times in Matthew's account of John's teachings. First, speaking to the Pharisees and Sadducees, John questioned: "O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?" (Matt. 3:7) Who warns the snakes and other vermin of the fire used by farmers to clear his field after the harvest? The answer is obvious: no one does! So who warned the Pharisees and Sadducees of the fire that will come in the future that will cleanse the earth? and why are they coming to John's baptism? They have not repented or changed their view of the coming of the Messiah. Therefore, John declared that in order to avoid the future cleansing of this earth, they must "bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance" (Matt. 3:8). Second, the Jews cannot think that because they are descendants of Abraham that their salvation is secure. Those who do not repent and follow God are like a tree that does not produce fruit. John warned: "And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire" (Matt. 3:9-10).
Third, has already been discussed. Repentance and baptism does not cleanse the effects of sin. Only through the gift of the Holy Ghost can sin be eradicated. Thus John taught: "I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire" (Matt. 3:11).
Fourth, John taught that in the hand of the Savior is a fan or a winnowing fork. By it "he will thoroughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire" (Matt. 3:12). The imagery behind this statement is that of the farmer who using his winnowing fork throws threshed wheat into the air, allowing the kernels to fall to the ground while the lighter chaff is blown away by the light winds. The wheat is then gathered while the chaff is burned. The mission of Christ was to divide the wheat from the chaff, the repentant from the non-repentant. The repentant will be cleansed by fire while the non-repentant will be destroyed by fire.
The Baptism of Jesus
Matthew's section on the ministry of John the Baptist concludes with the baptism of Jesus. Even Christ needed to submit to the preparatory gospel by being baptized. When the Savior came to John, "John forbade him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me?" To which the Savior replied, "Suffer [it to be so] now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness" (Matt. 3:14-15).
In what way did the baptism of Jesus "fulfil all righteousness"? The Greek word translated "righteousness," is dikaiosunay, a legal term meaning the observance of law or the fulfillment of a duty. In a religious sense it refers to proper conduct before God (Kittle, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, 2:192,198). When the Savior declared that he needed to be baptized because it was a necessary part of being righteous, he was saying that it is part of our legal duty and proper conduct before God. When one is baptized, he covenants with God to be obedient to all God's commandments. With this in mind, Nephi asked, "And now, I would ask of you, my beloved brethren, wherein the Lamb of God did fulfil all righteousness in being baptized by water?" He answered his own question, saying, "Know ye not that he was holy? But notwithstanding he being holy, he showeth unto the children of men that, according to the flesh he humbleth himself before the Father, and witnesseth unto the Father that he would be obedient unto him in keeping his commandments" (2 Nephi 31:7). Thus, the Savior, like all of God's children, had to enter into the strait and narrow path that leads to eternal life by being baptized.
The Savior is Tempted by Satan
After the Savior's baptism, he was led by the Spirit "into the wilderness, to be with God" (JST Matt. 4:1). During this time, the Savior "fasted forty days and forty nights" (Matt. 4:2). The only thing we are told as to what transpired between God and the Savior during the forty days is that the Savior "communed with God" (JST Matt. 4:2). This story is reminiscent of the exodus of ancient Israel. After the plagues forced Pharaoh to allow Israel to leave Egypt, the Israelites passed through the Red Sea (a symbol of baptism) and then were taken to Mt. Sinai to be with God.
Further, the Savior's going into the wilderness to be with God continues the theme established in the birth narrative that Christ is the new Moses. Just as Moses fasted forty days and nights on the mountain while he was with God, so Christ also. Like Moses who, when on a mountain, was tempted by the devil (Moses 1:1,12) so Christ also while on a mountain was tempted by Satan (Matt. 4:1-11).
Matthew records three temptations that the Savior suffered. The temptations were intended to cast doubt within the Savior regarding his own divinity. For example, as the Messiah, the Savior would claim to be the Jehovah of the Old Testament. If he really was Jehovah he should have power to produce bread just as manna was brought forth by Jehovah in the Old Testament. Though the Savior would eventually show to the world that he was the Messiah by multiplying bread (Matt. 14:15-21; 16:32-38), it would not be at the insistence of Satan but according to the will of God.
The last temptation is very reminiscent of the temptation faced by Moses when he was "cuaght up into an exceedingly high mountain." After he talked with God "face to face," Satan appeared to Moses and said: "Moses, son of man [or, mortal man], worship me" (Moses 1:12). Similarly, after Christ had been taken by the Spirit "into an exceeding high mountain" where he was shown "all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them," Satan appeared to Christ and said, "All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me." Christ, however, showed his discipleship by saying, "Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve" (Matt. 4:8-9).
After the third temptation, Matthew states: "Then the devil leaveth him" (Matt. 4:11). However, the Savior suffered further temptations. Matthew records that while on the cross, the chief priests, scribes, and elders mocked him saying, "He saved others; himself he cannot save. If he be the King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him" (Matt. 27:41-42). Once again, the "if" was used to cast doubt and prove his divinity. Had he given in it would have been at the insistence of Satan and the world instead of by the will of God. The Savior did not succumb.
Though it is obvious that during the forty days and nights, the Savior was instructed by God, it is evident that the instruction of the Savior was not complete at the end of the forty days for even during the period of temptation, the Savior was taken by the Spirit to the temple and to "an exceeding high mountain" (JST Matt. 4:5, 8). The instruction through the entire period must consisted of a variety of things relative to understanding his mission. However, it may also be that during this time, the Savior received the rest of the ordinances necessary for salvation. Joseph Smith taught, "If a man gets a fullness of the priesthood of God he has to get it in the same way that Jesus Christ obtained it, and that was by keeping all the commandments and obeying all the ordinances of the house of the Lord" (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 308). Joseph Smith does not tell us when the Savior received those ordinances. However, in light of the fact that this story continues the theme of Christ as the new Moses, it is interesting to note that on another occasion Joseph Smith taught that Moses received his temple ordinances while on a mountain (see Ehat, The Words of Joseph Smith, 120). Therefore, it seems probable that while in the wilderness, the Savior received his ordinances and thus communed with God.
The Savior Begins His Ministry
After his wilderness experience, the Savior began his public ministry. The Savior established Capernaum, a village on the north end of the Sea of Galilee, as his place of residence during the ministry. Matthew notes that the Savior's ministry bring light to those "which sat in darkness" (Matt. 4:16). Quoting Isaiah, Matthew hints that even the gentiles would be effected (Matt. 4:13-15).
Matthew tells us: "From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matt. 4:17). It is interesting that John and the Savior's message was the same. But John's mission was to bring people to Christ. The Savior's mission is to bring people to the Father. John's mission is the mission of the preparatory gospel. The mission of Christ is the mission of the Melchizedek Priesthood. In both cases, repentance is necessary. But as already been observed, repentance in Greek means to "adopt a new view" or "to change one's mind." John's mission was to help Israel adopt a new view of the kingdom of God through the preparatory gospel. Christ's mission was to help those who have entered into the preparatory gospel adopt a higher view of what is required of the kingdom of God. This will become evident when the 1st discourse is discussed.
To help in this ministry, the Savior called four disciples, Peter, Andrew his brother, James, and John his brother. The calling of these four men begins a theme that will be followed throughout the gospel: the cost of discipleship. When Peter and Andrew were called, "they straightway left [their] nets, and followed him" (Matt. 4:20). Likewise, when James and John were called "they immediately left the ship and their father, and followed him" (Matt. 4:22). For these men, the cost of their discipleship included giving up their occupation and family. The message of the calling of the disciples is that the cost of discipleship is that we give up whatever is required by God and whatever holds us back from full dedication to the kingdom.
The early ministry of the Savior consisted of his going about "all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people which believed on his name" (Matt. 4:23). As he did so, "his fame went throughout all" the land and "there followed him great multitudes of people from Galilee, and from Decapolis, and from Jerusalem, and from Judaea, and from beyond Jordan" (Matt. 4:24-25).
(Matt. 5:1 - 7:29)
As the Savior saw "the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him" (Matt. 5:1). The Savior then delivered a masterful discourse that has become known as the Sermon on the Mount. This is the first of five discourses recorded by Matthew.
The setting for the sermon is interesting for a couple of reasons. Catherine Thomas has noted one: "The Greek text of Matthew describes Jesus ascending the mountain, where he delivered the Sermon on the Mount. This mountain evokes another ancient mountain from the Old Testament: Mount Sinai, where Jehovah delivered the great law of Moses. The allusion is no accident. Jehovah had again ascended a mount from which he would deliver another law. Allusions from the Old Testament permeate his address and illuminate his message" (Thomas, The Gospels, p. 236).
A second reason the setting is interesting that after the Savior had seen such a diverse multitude following him, he left them and ascended a mountain leaving the ease of the valley behind. This forced only the true disciples to follow him. This is another portrayal of the cost of discipleship. By following the Savior, the disciples would leave the world behind and be taken to a higher level. At this higher level, the disciples would learn things that could not be learned in no other setting.
Matthew tells us that when the Savior arrived at the top of the mountain, he first sat down and then taught. Of the five discourses given by the Savior that Matthew records, we are specifically told that at the beginning of three of them the Savior sat down before teaching (see Matt. 5:1; 13:1; 24:3). This may reflect synagogue worship as it was practiced at that time. As part of synagogue worship, a qualified participant would read from the scriptures while standing and then he would sit down before expounding upon what he had read. In the case of these three discourses, the Savior did not read scripture and then make a commentary on it. He expounded upon things that men at that time would have not known. In essence, he was giving new scripture! This is especially true of the Sermon on the Mount.
The message delivered by the Savior on this occasion was not meant merely to produce some greater ethical living in his disciples. Elder Bruce R. McConkie has said: "Salvation comes by living the doctrines proclaimed in the Sermon on the Mount! That sermon -- properly understood -- is far more than a recitation of ethical principles; rather, it summarizes the Christian way of life, and it charts the course true saints must pursue to become even as He is" (The Mortal Messiah, Vol. 4, p. 308). Again, Elder McConkie has stated: "This sermon is a recapitulation, a summary, and a digest of what men must do to gain salvation; and the eternal concepts in it are so stated that hearers (and readers) will get out of it as much as their personal spiritual capacity permits. To some it will point the way to further investigation; to others it will confirm and reconfirm eternal truths already learned from the scriptures and from the preachers of righteousness of their day; and to those few whose souls burn with the fires of testimony, devotion, and valiance, it will be as the rending of the heavens: light and knowledge beyond carnal comprehension will flow into their souls in quantities that cannot be measured. Every man must judge and determine for himself the effect the Sermon on the Mount will have upon him.
"As the words of the sermon are spoken, anew, as it were, in our ears, there are some basic and simple realities of which we must be aware. The Sermon on the Mount has never been recorded in its entirety as far as we know; at least no such scriptural account is available to us. What has come to us is a digest; the words in each account that are attributed to Jesus are, in fact, verbatim recordings of what he said, but they are not all that he said by any means. He may have expounded on each point at extended length, with the Gospel historians who preserved his sayings being guided by the Spirit to write only those words which, in the infinite wisdom of Him who knoweth all things, should have been incorporated into their scriptural accounts. It may well be that the most perfect and elaborate sermon was delivered to the Nephites, for their congregation was composed only of spiritually attuned souls. Without question, when Matthew records a thought in one set of words and Luke does so in different language, both are preserving the verbatim utterances of the Lord. He said what both of them attribute to him as part of the whole sermon. The recording witnesses of his words simply chose to preserve different spoken sentences to present the eternal concepts involved.
"And, finally, in this connection: The Sermon on the Mount is not an assemblage of disjointed sayings, spoken on diverse occasions, that have been combined in one place for convenience in presentation, as some uninspired commentators have speculated. It is rather selected sayings, all spoken by Jesus on one day, following the ordination of the Twelve; it is that portion of his words, spoken on that occasion, which the Spirit knew should be preserved for us and for all men who seek truth. It may well be that the sealed portion of the Book of Mormon contains more of the sermon than is now found in Third Nephi, and it may well be that future revelations -- accounts of others of the apostles, for instance -- will bring to light more that was said on the mountainous plain near Capernaum where Jesus spoke the Spirit-guided words to his Jewish friends.
"No doubt what we receive in the future -- as to this and all other scriptural expansions -- will depend upon our spiritual maturity. When we exercise faith like unto the brother of Jared, we will learn by revelation what he knew, and feel by the power of the Spirit what he felt. Until then let us start with what we have, the glorious truths recorded in Matthew 5, 6, and 7; in Luke 6; and in 3 Nephi 12, 13, and 14; and let us lay the foundation for that knowledge and that perfection of life which it is ours to receive because we have what we have -- the glorious Sermon on the Mount as now constituted" (The Mortal Messiah, vol. 2, pp. 116-118).
The Sermon on the Mount begins with an overview of man's progress to exaltation given through what has become known as the beatitudes (5:3-12). Each beatitude states a condition of gospel living that man must achieve in order to receive celestial glory. As each condition is achieved, man progresses towards the goal of exaltation in the celestial kingdom.
The first condition stated is: "Blessed are the poor in spirit," i.e., those who recognize their spiritual need, and, as the Book of Mormon adds (3 Nephi 12:3), demonstrate their faith by coming unto Christ. Those who achieve this condition will inherit "the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 5:3). The next condition: "Blessed are they that mourn," i.e., they mourn their spiritual poorness and sins as part of the process of repentance. They are promised that "they shall be comforted" or forgiven (Matt. 5:4). Moving forward, the Lord stated the next condition: "Blessed are the meek," i.e., those who submit to the higher power of God "as a child doth submit to his father" (Mosiah 3:19) through the covenant made at baptism. Their blessing is that "they shall inherit the earth" in its celestial state (Matt. 5:5). Once this is done, the next condition must be achieved: "Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness," i.e., the desire to remain on the strait and narrow path and learn of the things of God and eternal life. They are promised that "they shall be filled" (Matt. 5:6) "with the Holy Ghost" (3 Nephi 12:6).
As can be seen, the first four beatitudes correspond well with the first four principles and ordinances of the gospel. These principles and ordinances are part of the preparatory gospel (D&C 84:26-27) and serve to initiate one onto the "strait and narrow path which leads to eternal life" (2 Nephi 31:16-17). But this is only the beginning. When one has gained entrance onto the path they must develop an attitude of helping others obtain the same. Hence, the next beatitude the Savior taught was: "Blessed are the merciful" - those who from their hearts seek to help others in their quest for God's mercy. The merciful will themselves "obtain mercy" from God (Matt. 5:7).
Receiving God's mercy or grace is essential in order to advance in righteousness in the kingdom of God. Grace has been defined as an "enabling power" (LDS Bible Dictionary, p. 697). There are times when God's grace or enabling power is given to men when they do not merit it, as in the case that all men will be resurrected even though they may be unworthy. But God's saving grace that enables man to save their souls in the celestial kingdom and achieve exaltation within that kingdom is granted only when it is merited by doing the will of the Father (see, Joseph Fielding Smith Jr., Doctrines of Salvation, 1:155; Spencer W. Kimball, The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, p.71; James E. Talmage, Jesus the Christ, pp. 245-246; James E. Talmage, The Vitality of Mormonism, p.257). Further, the initiation of his saving grace is granted only after one enters into the saving ordinances of the gospel wherein sacred covenants between God and man are made. Elder Harold B. Lee, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, taught, "The saving 'grace' of the Lord's atoning power" extends "to those who would receive the saving ordinances of the gospel" (Conference Report, April 1961, p. 34-35). When one enters into an ordinance in which a covenant is made between God and one of his children, the child is empowered by God's grace to progress towards godhood. But as the beatitude states, our receiving divine grace and mercy is dependant upon are giving mercy. We are told in D&C 93 that we receive "grace for grace" (vss. 12-20).
The grace that comes from honoring covenants made with God enables one to become pure in heart. Thus, the next beatitude states: "Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God" (Matt. 5:8). They shall see him because of honoring their temple covenants. The Lord has said: "And inasmuch as my people build a house unto me in the name of the Lord, and do not suffer any unclean thing to come into it, that it be not defiled, my glory shall rest upon it; Yea, and my presence shall be there, for I will come into it, and all the pure in heart that shall come into it shall see God" (D&C 97:15-16).
Beyond becoming pure in heart, the next condition man must arrive at is stated this way: "Blessed are the peacemakers" - those who like Melchizedek, the Prince of Peace, help others to "enter into the rest of God" through baptism and temple ordinances (JST Genesis 14:25-40 and Alma 13:13-19) - "shall be called the children of God" (Matt. 5:9). The children of God are those who are rightful heirs of all that God has (Romans 8:14-18; Galatians 4:1-8).
Finally, having arrived in such a state, the recipient of the conditions stated in the previous beatitudes has become different than those who live the ways of the world. The world does not like those who are different and often persecutes them. Being persecuted however is not to be viewed as a negative thing. The last beatitude states: "Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you" (Matt. 5:10-12). Those who are persecuted have, like those in Lehi's dream, arrived at the tree of life and are persecuted by those in the "great and spacious building" (1 Nephi 8:27). They have "escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust" (2 Peter 1:4) which dominates those in the "great and spacious building." They are in the world but are "not of the world" (John 17:14-16).
The Salt of the Earth
Upon the conclusion of the beatitudes, the Savior declared "Ye are the salt of the earth (Matt. 5:13). In the Book of Mormon version, the Lord declared, "I give unto you to be the salt of the earth" (3 Nephi 12:13). This implies a challenge or an invitation. But what was the invitation? An Old Testament understanding of how salt was ritually used will aid our understanding of the invitation. Salt was used in a variety of sacrifices of the Mosaic law as a symbol of indestructablity (e.g. Lev. 2:13). On one occasion, the Lord referred to a series of obligations as a "covenant of salt" to demonstrate the eternal nature of the covenant that he and the people had just made (Numbers 18:19; see also 2 Chron.13:5).
With this understanding in mind, we see that the invitation to become the salt of the earth was a challenge to enter into the higher law of the gospel with an everlasting covenant. This is stated clearly in a modern revelation: "When men are called unto mine everlasting gospel, and covenant with an everlasting covenant, they are accounted as the salt of the earth and the savor of men" (D&C 101:39). Elder Delbert L. Stapley, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, taught: "When an individual truly repents and is baptized by an authorized servant of God into the true Church of Christ and receives the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands by those possessing the Holy Melchizedek Priesthood, he has entered into the everlasting gospel and becomes a member of God's Church and kingdom. By accepting the covenant of baptism, each convert obligates himself or herself to serve the Lord, to do his will, and to keep his commandments. This is the first qualifying step for the application of 'the salt of the earth' status."
He then stated, "The second step is to '. . . covenant with an everlasting covenant . . .' (D&C 101:39.) As we gain knowledge of the revelations, we learn that the gospel contains many covenants vital to the eternal welfare of man. This statement, therefore, has a plural connotation . . ."
Then Elder Stapley discussed the other covenants in these words: "There are other important covenants of an everlasting nature included in the fullness of the gospel of Christ which vitally concern man's future well-being and happiness. These covenants are eternal in nature. However, they are to be received and accepted in mortal life by all mankind possessing such knowledge and desiring eternal glory. It is also necessary for them to meet all the conditions and requirements and to fulfil every obligation appertaining to each gospel covenant to find joy and happiness both here and hereafter.
"The Lord, through Moses, admonished the children of Israel ". . . to observe the Sabbath throughout their generations, for a perpetual covenant" with their Israel. (See Exodus 31:16.)
The Ten Commandments given to Moses on Mt. Sinai are referred to in scripture as a covenant with the house of Israel. (See ibid., 34:28.)
"Every son of God who receives by ordination the Holy Melchizedek Priesthood is bound by an oath and covenant to keep faithfully all the commandments of God and to magnify his calling in the priesthood, which calling is a personal gift of God's power to him to officiate according to the spirit of his office and calling.
"Every worthy church member privileged to enter the temples of the Lord for his or her endowment blessings accepts covenants and obligations of the most sacred nature, revealed of God for the glory of his children.
"Every couple kneeling across the altar from each other in the temples of God for holy marriage enters into a covenant of the highest order, which is God's order, and which sealing and covenant is for time and for all eternity.
"There are other covenants and obligations growing out of the endowment as well as the marriage contract which are binding upon the individuals concerned, and their obedience thereto assures the sanctifying influence and power of the Spirit and the spiritual renewing of their bodies in preparation for the blessings and glories which are to come." (Conference Report, Oct. 1964, pp. 61-65).
By living up to their covenants, the Savior taught his disciples that they would be "the light of the world" and that they should share that light with others (Matt. 5:14-16).
The Command to Live the Higher Law is Given
Following the invitation to come to the higher law and covenant, the Savior stated: "Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil" (Matt. 5:17). The Greek word translated "fulfill" means to bring to a completion. The law of Moses was given with the intent of bringing Israel to Christ and the higher law, a law that they were not ready to understand at the time of Moses (see 2 Nephi 11:4; Jacob 4:5; Mosiah 3:14-15; Mosiah 16:14; Alma 25:15-16; Ether 12:11). Christ had come to fulfil the intent of the law of Moses.
He then taught that the disciples righteousness must "exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees." The Greek word translated "righteousness" is the same word discussed earlier, dikaiosunay, a legal term meaning observance of the law or right conduct. Therefore, the Lord was stating that their observance and attitude towards the law should exceed that of the Scribes and Pharisees who observed the letter of the law but not the intent.
Following this the Savior compared the law of Moses (the old covenant) with the new and everlasting covenant or the law of Christ through six antitheses (5:17-47). For example, the law of Moses states: "Thou shalt not kill." However the higher law requires a greater control of the inner man. The Savior said: "But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother [without a cause] shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire" (Matt. 5:22). [The phrase, "without a cause" does not appear in the Greek text nor in the Joseph Smith Translation but was added by the King James translators. It should not be there!] Again, the law of Moses states, "Thou shalt not commit adultery." The higher law states, "That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart" (Matt. 5:27-28). Four more antithesis were given beyond these two.
After the sixth antithesis, the Savior commanded, "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect" (Matt. 5:48). The Greek word translated perfect is teleios which means complete, brought to an end, finished, full grown, or mature. The Savior's command to become perfect means that each commandment or law should become fully complete in our lives. The six antithesis illustrate the perfecting or completion or maturing process well. For example, the law of chastity is not complete until the mind is in full control, not just the body. Further, the command to be perfect is a plea to endure to the end of the strait and narrow path.
The Kingdom of God First
As part of the six antithesis, the law of sacrifice was discussed in these terms: "And if thy right eye offend [Gk., skandalizo, meaning "cause to stumble"] thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell" (Matt. 5:29-30). That is, if there are things of this world that cause us to stumble or sin, then we should remove ourselves from their destructive influence. Sacrificing the things of this world for a higher glory is essential. But it is not enough. We should also consecrate all we have to the building of the kingdom of God.
In the second portion of the sermon, the law of consecration is illustrated using three examples. In the first illustration, we are taught that our alms are to given to help others and not to build up our own honor and glory (Matt. 6: 1-4). In the second illustration, we are taught that our prayers should be consecrated to the building of God's kingdom. The Savior taught the disciples not to pray as the heathens who only pray to their gods to secure their help in their everyday problems and nothing more. He said, "your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him." Instead, the Savior taught, we should pray that God's "will be done in earth, as it is in heaven." That is, we should pray to understand God's will in building the kingdom of God and not just for help on our own personal problems (Matt. 6:5-15). In a third example, the Savior taught that fasting should be done with a proper motive (i.e., coming to understand God's will) and not to be seen of men (or just to do it because it is a command of God).
The Lord taught that the law of consecration involved the putting of the kingdom of God first in several ways. "Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon the earth . . . but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven" (Matt. 6:19-20). "The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single [to God's work and glory], thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!" (Matt. 6:22-23). And finally, "Wherefore, seek not the things of this world but seek ye first to build up the kingdom of God, and to establish his righteousness" (JST Matt. 6:38).
In this second portion of the discourse, the Savior gave special instructions the disciples in which they are told not to worry about the things of the world but only of the things of God (Matt. 6:25-34).
The last portion of the sermon deals with the final judgment and how the disciples can get ready to enter into the presence of God. First, their judgement of others needs to be in righteousness and mercy for they will be judged by the same standard that they judge others: "Judge not unrighteously, that ye be not judged; but judge righteous judgment. For with what judgment ye shall judge, ye shall be judged; and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again" (JST Matt. 7:2-3).
The Savior then cautioned his listeners that sacred things are to be kept holy by keeping them secret: "Go ye into the world, saying unto all, Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come nigh unto you. And the mysteries of the kingdom [temple ordinances] ye shall keep within yourselves; for it is not meet to give that which is holy unto the dogs; neither cast ye your pearls unto swine, lest they trample them under their feet. For the world cannot receive that which ye, yourselves, are not able to bear; wherefore ye shall not give your pearls unto them, lest they turn again and rend you" (JST Matt. 7:9-11).
The Savior told his disciples: "Say unto them [i.e., the non-members], Ask of God; ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asketh, receiveth; and he that seeketh, findeth; and unto him that knocketh, it shall be opened." To this, the disciples responded, "They will say unto us, We ourselves are righteous, and need not that any man should teach us. God, we know, heard Moses and some of the prophets; but us he will not hear." The Savior told them to tell the people, "Repent, therefore, and enter ye in at the strait gate; for wide is the gate, and broad is the way that leadeth to death, and many there be who go in thereat. Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way that leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it" (JST Matt. 7:12-23).
Of the strait and narrow way, Elder Delbert L. Stapley taught, "All who have repented and then been baptized and received the Holy Ghost by authorized servants of God have entered in by the straight gate. The narrow way can only be followed by obedience and faithfulness to all the sacred ordinances and requirements of the higher gospel plan, obtained in the holy temples of God" (Conference Report, April 1955, p.68).
The disciples were warned that the strait and narrow path leading to eternal life (the tree of life is suggested in these verses) is fraught with peril. There will be many who will try to lead them astray with false truths and teachings of the world mixed with scripture. The Savior counseled: "Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them" (Matt. 7:15-20).
Finally, entrance into the presence of God was reviewed. The Savior warned: "Verily I say unto you, It is not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, that shall enter into the kingdom of heaven." He declared what the criteria of judgment would be: only those who "doeth the will of my Father who is in heaven." He then said: "For the day soon cometh, that men shall come before me to judgment, to be judged according to their works. And many will say unto me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name; and in thy name cast out devils; and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I say, Ye never knew me; depart from me ye that work iniquity" (JST Matt. 7:30-33). Only by coming to know God's will and doing it will man come to "know God" and coming to know God is eternal life (see John 17:3). Essential to acquiring the knowledge of God and his will is entering into the sacred covenants found within the ordinances of the temple. To the modern church, the Lord stated: "And this greater priesthood administereth the gospel and holdeth the key of the mysteries of the kingdom, even the key of the knowledge of God. Therefore, in the ordinances thereof, the power of godliness is manifest" (D&C 84:19-20).
The sermon closes with a warning that only those who follow these teachings will survive the trials of this world without falling (Matt. 7:24-27).