A Survey of the Contrasts Between the Sermon on the Mount and Paul’s Gospel
The Distinctive Hopes of God’s Elects
James Hilston

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§0. Preface

A. Abstract: This study will survey the contrasts between the Sermon on the Mount* and Paul's gospel pertaining to the distinctive Hopes of God's Elects. We will show differences which necessarily indicate that Paul (and his apostles) taught a fundamentally distinct gospel [to the Body of Christ] from that of Christ and His apostles [to the Kingdom of Israel]. The gospel of the Kingdom taught by Jesus during His earthly ministry and Paul's gospel, received by special revelation from the risen Christ, will be contrasted by how they describe the Hopes of the Kingdom of Israel and of the Body of Christ, respectively.

*Please note that, although the Sermon on the Mount comprises chapters 5-7 of Matthew, this study will focus primarily on chapter 5:3-12 (popularly known as "the beatitudes") as points of comparison.

B. Method of interpretation
The conclusions are based on what is taught in the scriptures according to the normative hermeneutic:

1. Normative hermeneutic
Unless the context of the passage or parallel passages requires otherwise, normative (normal) usage of a word, phrase, grammatical construction, figure of speech, etc. should prevail. The burden of proof is on the exceptional usage. The scriptures can be properly read, understood, applied and interpreted only when using the same rules of grammar, syntax, linguistic constructions, figures of speech, etc., that the writers used when writing the original autographs.

2. Laws of precedence

a. Older revelation must be interpreted and understood by the normative hermeneutic before newer revelation is interpreted and understood by the normative hermeneutic.

b. If the result is that both older and newer revelations address the same subject, the interpretation of the newer is tailored, if needed, by the interpretation of the older - never the reverse.

[For a detailed presentation of the normative hermeneutic, see Robert Walsh's "Biblical Creation and the Normative Hermeneutic" from the Trinity Grace Fellowship Bible Conference, Nov. 1996.]

C. Conventions: Remarks about conventions used in this paper:

1. Bible translations quoted: The Authorized (or King James) Version of the Bible is quoted unless indicated otherwise. Wrong or inconsistent translations and textual issues are noted.

2. Bold font: Any occurrences of the bold font are my emphases and not of the author(s) quoted.

I. The significance of Hope
Hope is built upon faith. Faith is that by which we know God exists, that we are Elect, and that we are loved by Him. Faith is also that by which we walk, live righteously, and are sanctified. By faith we are justified before ourselves. But faith also is the substance (hupostasis) of things hoped for (Heb. 11:1). Hope is much more than the modern definition and usage of the word (a wish or desire). Scriptures call Hope the anchor of the soul (Heb 6:18 That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we [that is, the author and Hebrew audience of the epistle] might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us: 19 Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast, and which entereth into that within the veil;). Paul says we are saved by Hope (Ro. 8:24). He also prays that we may given the spirit of the truly revealed wisdom in the detailed knowledge (epiginosko) of him, that the eyes of our understanding would be enlightened, that we may know (eido 1492, know by perception) what is the Hope of His calling (Eph. 1:18). Peter tells his audience to be ready always to give an answer to every man that asks them a reason of the hope that is in them (1Pe. 3:15). John says of his hope that every man that has it in him purifies himself (1Jn. 3:3).

John Gill quotes Philo, the Jew{De Abrahamo, p. 350, 351}:
"... the Chaldeans call a man Enos, as if he only was truly a man that expects good things, and supports himself with good hopes; and adds, hence it is manifest that one without hope is not reckoned a man, but a beast in an human form; since he is destitute of hope, which is the property of the human soul;''

Certainly, Hope, for each household of God's Elect, is an important and significant aspect of one's regeneration.

II. The Hopes described

A. The earthly Gentile Hope

1. God's commission to the Gentiles: Ge 1:28 And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.

2. God's covenant with the Gentiles: Ge 9: 9 And I, behold, I establish my covenant with you, and with your seed after you; 10 And with every living creature that is with you, of the fowl, of the cattle, and of every beast of the earth with you; from all that go out of the ark, to every beast of the earth. 11 And I will establish my covenant with you; neither shall all flesh be cut off any more by the waters of a flood; neither shall there any more be a flood to destroy the earth.

3. Blessing through Israel: Ge 22:18 In Abraham, all nations will be blessed Jer. 3: 17 Gentile nations will gather in Jerusalem. Rev. 21: 23-26 Gentile nations will bring their glory and honor into Jerusalem.

a. Worship of God through Israel: Isa. 2:1-3 Gentiles will flow into Jerusalem to learn God's word. Zech 8:22,23 Gentiles seek out Jews to learn about and follow God. Zech 14:16-19 Gentiles will annually celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles in Israel.

b. Blessed servitude under Israel: Mt 8:8-10 The centurion (a Gentile) is not worthy that a Jew should come under his roof. Mt. 15 Jesus equates the Canaanite woman to a dog. Isa 60:3, 10-12, 16 Gentile kings and people shall serve Israel. Ge 22:17; Amos 9:11,12 Gentiles will be possessed (owned) by Israel. Is 14:1-3 Gentile nations will cleave to and be possessed by Israel.

B. The earthly Jewish Hope

1. God's commission to Israel

a. Rulers of the earth, possessors of the Nations Jer. 23:5,6; Eze. 37:21,22; Dan. 2:44; 7:14 Israel will rule the earth with David as their king. Ps 2:8 Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession (Cf. Mt. 7:7).

b. Tutors of the Nations De 4:6,7, Jos 2:9-13 Gentiles hear of and learn about God through Israel. Ps 98:2,3 God demonstrates His mercy to the Nations through Israel. Is 49:6, 52:10, 66:18,19 Israel is a light to the Gentiles; God's glory is seen through Israel. Zech. 8:22,23 Gentiles will seek out Jews to learn of God. Mt 28:19,20 Jesus commands the apostles to fulfill the commission of teaching the Gentile nations. Acts 8:30-35 The Ethiopian Eunuch (a Gentile) recognizes his need for Jewish tutoring and desires to be taught by the Jew. Notice "Philip opened his mouth"; cf. Mt. 5:2, Acts 10:34. This Hebraism is a figure of speech called Idioma and calls emphasis to what follows.

c. Priests for the Nations Ex. 19:6, 1Pe 2:5,9, Re 1:6, 5:10, 20:6 Israel is a nation of priests. Isa 61:6 But ye shall be named the Priests of the LORD: men shall call you the Ministers of our God: ye shall eat the riches of the Gentiles, and in their glory shall ye boast yourselves.

2. God's covenant with Israel Ge. 17:4-9, 26:4; 2Sa 7:16; Ps. 105:8-10, Ez. 16:60; Luke 1:68-75; Acts 3:25 God's promise to Abraham and Israel's fathers is the blessing of many nations through Israel, their dwelling in the Land, and their governing and possessing of the nations.

3. Israel blessed and administrated by angels Mt 28:7 Lu 24:5 Ac 1:11 5:19,20 8:26 12:7,8 10:3,22 Re 10:9-11:1, 1Jo 4:2 Lu 12:8 Re 3:5 21:9 Heb 12:22 13:2 Da 10:10 Ac 7:53 Ga 3:19, Re 1:1 22:6,16 Heb 2:2 Eze 2:2 Re 8:2 5:8 8:4 These and other passages of scripture demonstrate the authority and communicative roles of the angels over the Jews. Every aspect of the Jewish relationship with God, ritual, devotion, worship, ceremony, feasts, etc. involved angelic mediation.

4. Specific roles of individuals in Israel's future

a. Peter, the chief elder in Israel's kingdom Mt. 16:19

b. The Twelve will sit on thrones governing the Nation Mt. 19:28; Cf. Rev. 21:14 (names of the apostles on the foundations of the city)

c. David, eternal king (prince) over Israel Jer. 29:16, Ez. 37:24-28

d. Ezekiel, eternal chief priest over Israel Eze. 40-48 (43:18-21) The angel gives commands and instructions to Ezekiel on how he should administrate over the Temple activities.

e. Each elect Jew as a tutor to 10 Gentiles, Zech. 8:20-23; Deu. 4:6,7

C. The heavenly Hope of the Body of Christ
Note the distinction between the earthly kingdom Hope and the heavenly Hope of the Body of Christ.

1. God's commission to the Body of Christ

a. Extension of Christ's authority as administrators over the elect angels 1Co. 6:1-3 The Body of Christ is the full expression of Christ's authority over the princes and powers.

b. Tutors of the elect angels Eph. 3:10-12 The angelic host learn of the manifold wisdom of God through the Body of Christ.

c. Extension of Christ's humanity Eph 1:22,23 4:14-16 Col 1:18 2:18,19 (It is very important to note that Col. 2:19 warns against the practice of religious ceremony for the Body saint, the result being a dishonoring and sort of severance from Christ, the Head, forgoing the spiritual sustenance that comes only from Him. See below C.3).

2. God's covenant with the Body of Christ Gal. 3:14,29 The Body of Christ partakes of the covenant and promise of God only through Abraham, our PRE-father (see the Greek text) through whom we receive regeneration, the forgiveness of sins, and the gift of faith. There is no covenant relationship described in connection to an earthly Hope or the Land of Israel as with the Gentiles and Israelites above.

3. Direct relationship to Christ 1Tim. 2:5 There are no mediators between God and the Body-of-Christ member other than Christ. Between the Gentiles and God is Jewish mediation. Between Israel and God is angelic mediation. Besides Christ, there is no mediation - no priests, no angelic ministry, no Pope, no pastors. Further, as mentioned above, participation in religious ceremonies dishonors Christ as our Head and denies our un-mediated relationship to God. The reason for this is found in Col. 2:13-23, especially verse 18, which explains that practicing religious ceremony places one under angelic mediation, in effect, a worshipping of angels.

4. Specific roles of individuals in the Body of Christ 1Co 12:12-18 Eph 4:11,12.

III. The Sermon on the Mount and Paul's gospel: Two distinct Hopes

A. Blessedness: Mt. 5:3 "Blessed are ..." How would a member of the original audience understand the word "blessed?"

1. Israel Deut. 28:1-14 Isa 61 (whole chapter) Blessing for Israel is the fulfillment of their Hope in their exaltation as a Nation in their own Land.

2. Body of Christ Eph. 1 (whole chapter) 2:4-7 Php 3:20,21 For our seat of government (Greek text) is in heaven. Titus 2:13 Blessing for the Body of Christ is the fulfillment of our Hope in our glorification in the heavenlies with Christ.

3. Summary
From the very start, considering the Jewish audience of the Sermon on the Mount and their understanding of OT scriptures, we see a concept very alien to the Body of Christ with regard to "blessing" - namely that such blessing would have anything to do with an "earthly exaltation," for the Body's Hope is heavenly - to be seated with and govern with Christ (Php. 3:20,21)

B. Poor in spirit: Mt. 5:3 "Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."

1. Israel

a. Condition: Poor in spirit, humility, lowliness 2Chr 7:14 (11-18), Ps. 51:17-19, Isa. 66:2, Jas. 2:5, 4:6-10 The concept of being poor in spirit for the Jewish audience is in the context of keeping God's [Mosaic] Law, offering right sacrifices, and inheriting the Kingdom promised to them.

b. Corollary: Attaining their Hope - inheriting the kingdom of (not IN) heaven (Jas. 2:5).

2. The Body of Christ

a. Condition: Poor in spirit, humility, lowliness of mind Php. 2:3 (1-8), Col. 3:12 (8-17)

b. Corollary: Christ-honoring relationships and spiritual growth/maturity. No relationship to Israel's kingdom. Contrast "false humility' in the Colossians passage (Col. 2:18-23). Note that false humility and "will worship" are in the context of religious ceremony, which precludes appropriate Body behavior and dishonors Christ as Head of the Body.

3. Summary
For both Israel and the Body of Christ, poor in spirit describes humility and lowliness of mind. However, the impetus and results are distinct. For Israel, poverty of spirit brings participation in and possession of the Kingdom. For the Body of Christ, poverty of spirit results in Christ-honoring relationships amid the assembly and spiritual maturity.

C. Mourning: Mt. 5:4 "Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted."

1. Israel

a. Condition: Mourning Ezr 10:6 (over the People), Ps 38:6 (over personal sin), Pr. 59:2 (over wicked rulers), Isa 59:11 (over delayed vindication)

b: Corollary: Future comfort for the Nation, namely, the fulfillment of their Hope. Isa 51:11, 60:20, 61:2,3; 66:10 (whole chapter), Jer. 31:31 (whole chapter), Rev. 21:4, Zec 1:17

2. Body of Christ

a. Condition not applicable: "Mourning" only pertains to grief over sin in the midst of the assembly 1Co 5:2; 2Co 12:21

b. Corollary not applicable: Comfort for the Body of Christ is always presently attainable and not a future fulfillment. Pauline usage is primarily in the context of comforting one another in our mutual faith (Ro. 1:12), of daily encouragements and brotherly support (2Co 1:4, 13:11, Eph 6:22), and through the mastering of the scriptures and understanding of the Mystery (Ro 15:4, Col 2:2).

3. Summary
Mourning over the continued sins of the People, wicked rulers and delayed vindication is appropriate for the regenerated of Israel's kingdom for their Hope is that each of these would cease and that the Nation would become all that was promised (see Deut. 28:1-14). Pauline expression of mourning pertains only to presence of sinful behavior in the assembly and is never in the context of attaining to one's Hope. Israel's comfort primarily refers to the glory of the Nation and the fulfillment of God's promises, whereas comfort in the context of the Body of Christ mainly concerns daily living and fellowship among the saints.

D. Meekness: Mt. 5:5 "Blessed are meek: for they shall inherit the earth."

1. Israel

a. Condition: Meekness Ps. 22:26, Ps. 37:1-11, Zeph. 2:1-3 As with mourning and poverty of spirit, meekness has an eschatological consequence - future participation in the exaltation of the Nation.

b. Corollary: Attaining their Hope

2. Body of Christ

a. Condition: Meekness toward others 2Co 10:1, Ga 5:23, 6:1, Eph 4:2, Col 3:12, 2Ti 2:25, Tit 3:2

b. Corollary: Christ-honoring relationships, loving others, instructing others.

3. Summary
As with the previous verses, the Jewish would have understood the concept of meekness and inheritance of the Land as pertaining to their Hope as a Nation. For the Body of Christ, the subject of meekness has no direct eschatological consequence and the prospect of inheritance of the Land is entirely alien.

E. Hunger & thirst for righteousness: Mt. 5:6 "Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst for righteousness: for they shall be filled."

1. Israel

a. Condition: Hunger and thirst for righteousness Ps 42:1,2; 63:1,2 (for God Himself); 84:2; 107:9; 119:103 (God's words) Isa 66:11 (for the glory of Israel).

b. Corollary: Shall be filled (attain their Hope) Ps. 22:26 (note overlap of "meekness"), Ps. 6:4 (dwelling in the courts of the Temple), Jer. 31:14 (future state of the Nation).

2. Body of Christ

a. Condition: Longing (used instead, because of Pauline usage of hunger, thirst is always in the physical context) 2Co 5:2-4, Ro. 7:4, 8:23 (future redemption of our body), Ro. 1:11, Php 1:8, 2:26, 2Ti 1:4 (emotional longing for the saints).

b. Corollary: Promised eternity, seated with Christ in glorified bodies.

3. Summary
Clear distinction between Jewish Hope and that of the Body of Christ as it pertains to the details of what is long for and future expectations.

F. Merciful: Mt. 5:7 "Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy"

1. Israel

a. Condition: Being merciful Sa 22:26 Ps 18:25

b. Corollary: Obtaining mercy , Hos 2:23, 4:1, 10:12 Mercy upon the Nation/people, Mt. 9:27, 15:22, 20:30, etc.Appeals to "The Son of David" for mercy, 1Pe 2:10, People of God who were *not* a people, but now have obtained mercy.

2. Body of Christ

a. Condition: Being merciful Ro 12:8; Php 2:1; Col. 3:12

b. Corollary: Christ-honoring relationships

3. Summary
In the mind of the Israelite, mercy had a national, future-tense, application. The Pauline context of "mercy" is usually in discussing the Nation of Israel, and not the Body of Christ (Ro. 9:15,16, 11:30-32, etc), with the exception of how saints are to behave toward others, and in their having received (past tense) mercy from God (1Co 7 25; 2Co 4:1; Php 2:27, 1Ti 1:13, 16).

G. Pure in heart: Mt. 5:8 "Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God."

1. Israel

a. Condition: Pure/clean heart Ps 51:10 (David, king of Israel), 73:1 Pr 22:11 (National context) Eze 36:26 (future context)

b. Corollary: Shall see God Ps 17:15 (preservation from enemies); De 5:26 (Israel's particular favour); Isa 6:5 (a people of unclean lips); 1Jo 3:2 ("we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.")

2. Body of Christ

a. Condition: Pure heart 1Ti 1:5; 3:9 (context Mystery) 2Ti 1:3, 2:22; Tit 1:15

b. Corollary: Honorable behavior, honoring the Mystery, pure thinking/conscience. "Seeing God" is not a Body concern Ro 8:24, 25; 2Co 4:18; Contrast this to "see what is the fellowship of the Mystery" Eph 3:9

3. Summary
There continues throughout the context of the Sermon, using a normative approach to understanding the text, certain distinctives that set National Israel apart from the Body of Christ. Here, although there are similarities in the concept of purity of heart, the goals and outcomes are different in context and scope.

H. Peacemakers: Mt. 5:9 "Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called children of God."

1. Israel

a. Condition: Peacemakers Mr 9:50, Lu 10:5, Ac 10:36, Jas 3:18, 1Pe 3:11

b. Corollary: Called children of God

2. Body of Christ

a. Condition: Peacemakers Ro 12:18, 2Co 13:11, 1Th 5:13

b. Corollary: Christ-honoring relationships

3. Summary
The peacemaker in Israel was called a child of God. In the Body, there is no direct connection between these concepts. Indeed, being a child of God in the Body is apart from any national, ethnic, or behavioral context.

I. Persecution for righteousness: Mt. 5:10-12

1. Israel

a. Condition: Persecution for righteousness Mr 10:30 Lu 6:22; 21:12; Jn 15:20; 1Pe 3:14-17 (persecution and the Hope) 4:12-5:11

b. Corollary: Reward

2. Body of Christ

a. Condition: Persecution for the Mystery 2Ti 3:12 2Th 1:4-12 (Note context of following verses)

b. Corollary: Reward, being counted worthy

3. Summary
Righteousness defined for the Jew is distinct from that of the Body saint. Although the persecution exists, it is for different reasons and in different settings. The resulting rewards are distinct as well, in that Israel's are earthly and the Body's are heavenly.

IV. Conclusion
By interpreting the scriptures according to the normative hermeneutic, we see the glaring contrast in content and purpose between of the Sermon on the Mount and Paul's writings regarding the respective Hopes of God's elect peoples. Jesus' discourse mirrored the law and the prophets regarding the hope and calling of the Nation of Israel. He was specific and made repeated references to Moses' law and the Hope of Israel. Though Paul discusses similar subjects, the aim and scope of their contexts are markedly different. By contrasting the Hope of Israel with that of the Body of Christ, we are confronted with the inescapable distinction between the two gospel messages that precludes the application of the Sermon on the Mount to the Body of Christ.


Rodabaugh, S.E. A Survey of Scripture Centered Around the Seven Unities (Ones) of Ephesians 4. Pittsburgh: Trinity Grace Fellowship, 1983.

Walsh, Robert. "Biblical Creation and the Normative Hermeneutic." Trinity Grace Fellowship Bible Conference at Franklin PA, 1996.

Companion Bible, King James Version, Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1990.

Walsh, Robert. "The Land: A Preliminary Study." Trinity Grace Fellowship, Pittsburgh. Apr 93.

Robertson's Word Pictures (from Online Bible CDROM).

John Gill's Expositor, John Gill (from Online Bible CDROM).

*This study was originally presented on 28 November, 1998, at the 1998 TGF Bible Conference, Session III, "Paul's Distinctive Gospel: Applications of the Biblical Hermeneutic." An audio cassette is available by e-mailing James Hilston at Hilston1@aol.com

© 1998 Trinity Grace Fellowship

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