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Climbing The Mountain

Matt Brownell, Tim Adams, and Van Owens

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Climbing the Mountain is a weekly podcast devoted to the Word of God and its application in the lives of believers today. Grounded in the Sermon of the Mount, we dive into connecting scriptures to explore themes and implications.

Episode 1 - Laying Down the Law - Part 1

October 7, 2022

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The title of this inaugural podcast on the Sermon on the Mount is “Laying Down the Law.” It’s intended as a sort of a provocative double entendre. Is Jesus’s sermon the Law of the New Covenant? Does it supersede the old contract with God? Is it just a new set of amendments? Alternatively, should we view it entirely different? In many ways, it seems a lot tougher than the first contract. If Israel failed with the first one, how can we follow a tougher one? Does God expect perfection?

Hey, I'm Matt Brownell.
And I'm Van Owens.
And I'm Tim Adams.
Welcome to Climbing the Mountain, where we dive into the scriptures and discuss themes, connections, and real life application.
We're kicking off a series here where we're going to examine the Sermon on the Mount and discuss implications for this teaching for Christians today. This is our inaugural podcast for the Sermon on the Mount.

We're titling this one, Laying Down the Law. It's intended as a sort of provocative double entendre.
In Jesus's sermon, the law, is it the new covenant? Does it supersede the old covenant with God?
Is it just a new set of amendments? Alternatively, should we view it entirely different?
Is it something else? In many ways, this law, if it is our law of the new covenant, seems a whole lot tougher
than the first one. And if Israel failed with the first one, what hope do we have of following a tougher one?
What does God expect? Perfection?
So before we get into it, I want to set the table here with Romans 14. There's room for debate on how we view this sermon. And we all might not agree on everything all the time, but we totally welcome each other
and that the dialogue that we will have with each other, I'm excited about it. And I believe we are fully convinced of each of our points of view, which we will reason from Scripture. I assume we will be doing a lot of reasoning because the Bible is reasonable. And that said, we totally love and honor each other.
Why am I starting this podcast off with a warning? I think it's because the sermon on the Mount elicits pretty strong and diverging reactions from believers. And at the heart of what we're kind of getting at tonight, I think is something from Hebrews 12:14, which says, without holiness, no one will see the Lord. So before we get into anything else with this sermon, I think we need to understand how we actually view it.

So first question.
Matthew and the Holy Spirit are writing to a very interesting audience, right? On the one hand, you have a very clear Jewish audience, given the consistent refrain of Matthew, which is this happened to fulfill, and then you find a quote or illusion to prophecy concerning the Messiah. And the intended audience is probably first Jews. But Matthew is an interesting character. Not only does he quote and elude a lot of the Old Testament more than any other gospel, he's also an outcast among his fellow Jews. He was a tax collector. No one liked tax collectors back then. So and today, frankly, sorry, if you are a tax collector.
So the good news often relates to other outcasts as well. And you see in Matthew, especially when we get to chapters 18 and 15, and then culminating with the Great Commission of Go Into All Nations. So this gospel, you could view it as one long narrative of what John writes in chapter 1:11, where he says that Jesus came to those who should have known him and received him, but they didn't. But anyone who does receive him, who believes in him, can be called sons of God. And so when we get to the sermon of the mount, we have, I think, both audiences in mind, but the weight of it really comes from viewing it through a Jewish lens.
And the whole scene, if you look at Matthew, it's kind of amazing. He organizes his gospel into five sections of teaching connected by narrative. It's almost like he's doing a new five books of Moses, a new Torah. And with that in mind, it's fascinating, the organization. But with that in mind, that picture of Jesus when he goes up on that mount is hard to miss the allusions to Mount Sinai and Moses giving the people the law of the covenant. So I think we should start there with all these weighty considerations, these allusions. How are we to view Jesus's words?
Are we getting a new law of the kingdom of heaven?
Why yes or no?
Yeah, it's a really good question. And when you talk about, when you say law now, there's such a strong reaction that we have in our culture. We don't like laws that are restricting our behavior. And there is a rhetoric too that we see in the New Testament and talk about the law is gone, the law is gone.
And so it's like, oh, a new law. What could that even mean?
I thought that Paul said there's no law at all.
I think that's the backdrop in my mind of this discussion when we're talking about what actually what do new law even look like? I think that's an important distinction.
When you say law, what do you mean?
There's lots of ways of looking at that.
Yeah, and I think that there is a part of us. And it's interesting with our group because the three of us represent three different generations. And I think that the sort of American perspective a lot is we like to think of things in terms of our rights and not in terms of the law. But that is sometimes a generational bias. Sometimes you want, there's a part of me as being the oldest person in the room. You know, I'm the, I'm the baby boomer here. There's a part of me that wants to know what the rules are so that number one, I can follow them. But and number two, sometimes and number two, sometimes over weighs number one, I want to make sure that they're followed.
And so there's a, there's an aspect of this that is both of saying it's a new law that is attractive to me because then I know everything's delineated. I know what's expected, but there's a part of it that is also kind of repulsive to me because I don't want to think about what laws I have to obey.
I want to think about what rights I have.
Don't tell me what to do.
When I, when I think about this, I think the first thing we have to be thinking about
is who's talking. The sermon on the mouth is, is Jesus speaking to his disciples? He went up on a mountainside and he sat down and began to teach them. And we know from Matthew seven that when he finished, the people were amazed because he's teaching with authority.
And there's a line in, in Matthew 23 where Jesus is saying, you should not be called rabbi or you should not be called teacher because you have one rabbi. You have one teacher and one instructor and that's the Messiah. So whatever we call this sermon on the mouth, we have to know that it's our one instructor,
Jesus, teaching with us with authority. And that has to, that has to be the foundation regardless of maybe what theological distinction we may or may not put.
Is this a new law of a new covenant?
Is this some amendment?
Whatever it is, there is strong authority from the person who has the ultimate authority
of our lives.
The church is built on the apostles teaching with Jesus being the chief cornerstone. So what we have here recorded is really special. And I do think when you look at the way this is sandwiched between, I think it's Matthew 4:23 maybe and Matthew 9:35, they're almost identical. They say something like, you know, he goes around teaching in all the synagogues in Galilee and I think later all the other towns, but that might be the only difference. But he's teaching in all their synagogues about the kingdom of heaven and then he's
healing all these diseases. And then what does he do? Matthew writes and starts right away in chapter five and Jesus on the mouth teaching about the kingdom of heaven. And then, you know, in chapters eight and nine, healing a bunch of people and then he bookends it. It's like a whole section.
And so what he's saying here, yeah, I think is really important for us to listen to and
to understand what does it mean?
When I go back to the first question, what is the sermon on the Mount? Is it a new law? My one sentence answer is yes. The sermon on the Mount is a new law for a new covenant. And I mean, we have to first, if that's the claim, then you have to first say, Oh, is there a new covenant? And I think that's pretty easy to establish from scripture in Luke 22. Jesus is at the Last Supper and he takes the cup and he says, this cup that has poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. And he's hearkening back to Moses who sprinkles blood on the people to ratify the old covenant. And that that parallel of Moses and Jesus that you had talked about, Matt at the beginning, and that's all over the place.
Yeah, Matthew.
I mean, you've got both of them coming out out of Egypt. You have them both turning water into red stuff, wine or blood. You have both of them. If you think about the miracles, I mean, Jesus himself is just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert so the Son of Man will be lifted up. So all over the Gospels, there's this picture of Jesus as the new Moses.
And that's very deliberate because in Deuteronomy 18, Moses himself says there's going to be
a prophet like me who comes from the Israelites and you need to listen to him.
So I think we have very clear grounds to say Moses established the old covenant, but Jesus
is establishing the new covenant from his own mouth in Luke 22.
And if there's a new covenant, then there are going to be new terms of that relationship
between God and his people.
And I think the Sermon on the Mount is one part of that new relationship.
Let's take a minute to think about that for a sec because I agree, it is one part.
But I'm wondering, it feels incomplete, right?
Just to say that Matthew 5 through 7 is the covenant.
Like you'd say, I mean, there are obvious allusions to the eight Beatitudes and the
Ten Commandments and then you get the teaching off of that.
But that seems very short.
And it reminds me, getting back to, I guess, did the old one fail?
I think no.
It was gospel still.
It was good news when God is on Mount Sinai with Moses.
He's describing himself as a forgiving God, a loving God, and that's really good.
That's great news.
But the failure was really with us, not keeping it.
And so that's why I think in Galatians 3, Paul talks about the law being a guardian
or a schoolmaster.
It was the person who would oversee the moral development of a child until he became a man.
They would never leave the house without this guardian.
But once we, and Paul's using it, I think in the allusion of, like now with Christ though,
the law was there to just bring you to Christ so that you could be justified by faith.
And so I think maybe the difference for me is that it's not just what he's saying, but
it's who he is too, part of that.
Yeah, I think that, and I agree with all of what you guys have said.
And when I contemplate that question, is this a new law?
My first answer is no, it's not because in my mind, there's a dichotomy between law and
You know, the law came through Moses, grace and truth comes through Jesus Christ.
And I want to delineate that in my mind and say those are two different things.
But the answer is in some ways, as I contemplated this, getting ready for this, I thought, but
that's the answer.
The answer is yes and no.
No and yes.
And I think that part of the beauty of the Bible in general, and I think of the Sermon
of the Mount in particular, you've got that first part where Jesus goes up on the mountain
and he sits down and he begins to teach them.
And so there's a part of that that's just very practical, Western stuff.
He went up on the mountain because there was a big crowd of people and if he stayed down
there among them, they wouldn't all be able to hear him.
So he went up on the mountain just so that they could hear him.
And he sat down because he was going to be there for a while and he wanted to both sit
down so he could be there for a while, but also indicate to the people, I'm sitting down,
maybe you should sit down, we're going to be here for a little while.
So there's a very practical Western part of that.
But then anybody who is versed at all in the Old Testament law recognizes that immediately
as an echoing back to Moses, to Mount Sinai.
And I think that, so part of what's going on here is that it's not, it is a new law
in that it is replacing the old law, yes, but it's also fulfilling that old law.
It's the next part.
It's the ongoing revelation of what Jesus is, of what God is revealing to us.
And there's that thread that you follow all the way from the very beginning of the Scriptures
through the Gospels and through the letters is, it is a new thing, but it's also an old
It is a new law, but it's also the old law.
And the old law isn't applicable anymore, not because it was wrong, but because we're
moving along because the story is still being told.
Yeah, I like that.
There's this quote from Hebrews.
I kept on going back to Hebrews when I was trying to understand Matthew.
That was really interesting to me.
But in Hebrews 8, it talks about Jesus has obtained a superior ministry since the covenant
that He mediates is also better and is enacted on better promises.
You just referenced maybe the heart of Hebrews.
That's the pivot point of that whole book, chapter 8.
And the whole chaistic structure of that book, it is really, and it's got the longest quote
of all of the New Testament, of an Old Testament passage from Jeremiah.
And I want to just read a little bit of it because I think it applies to what we're kind
of talking about right now.
So he's saying, and this is quoting Jeremiah 31, of course, the covenant that I, okay,
for this is Hebrews 8:10, for this is the covenant that I will make with the house of
Israel after those days declares the Lord, I will put my laws into their minds and write
them on their hearts.
I will be their God and they will be my people and they shall not teach each other saying,
know the Lord, for they shall all know me from the least of them to the greatest, for
I'll be merciful to their iniquities and I'll remember their sins no more.
And it's this, I think, wow, we're going, I'm pretty sure we're going to come back to
this because this knowing the Lord bit, I think is pretty, pretty important here.
But there's a difference here of writing the law onto our hearts, which I think, and this
to me is the difference between the old and new covenants.
Both of them were gospel, but for whatever reason, well, I think I could guess one reason,
one main reason.
The old covenant was gospel, the new covenant was gospel plus enablement through the Holy
Spirit, where the Holy Spirit takes those words and writes them onto our hearts and
And I think that shows to the world once and for all, we can't do it on our own.
We need God.
And this Holy Spirit, gift of the Holy Spirit is this incredible difference between the
And that gets at what you were saying in the beginning about if this is law, it's so much
harder than it was before.
It's so much more difficult.
It's, you know, Jesus will say, you know, you've heard it said, and then he announces
what the Old Testament law, then he says, but I say to you, and what he says is almost
every time, I think every time, much more difficult.
And I think that that's the piece that is important is that it's much more difficult,
but it's not us alone in our flesh having to do it.
It's the Holy Spirit acting in us as well.
And it's getting to our core or inner being and who we are, which was also a difference,
I think, you know, from the stone tablets to the creating hearts of flesh.
I think this is what you just said, referencing like the all of these examples that Jesus
gives in Matthew five, they're all harder.
They're all harder than here's the letter of the law, getting down to your heart.
And it ties in, I think, one of the pivot points here in Matthew 5:19, where Jesus
is pretty serious about his words, right?
Therefore, anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others
accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches
these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers
of the law, you know, the pinnacle, right?
You know, unless your righteousness surpasses theirs, you will certainly not enter the kingdom
of heaven.
And that's where he then he goes on to give examples of and he uses several where you've
heard it said, but I say, you know, speaking like you said with him with authority, but
I say do this and it goes right to the heart.
No, don't don't don't murder someone.
But don't even have hate in your heart.
Getting to the root cause of things at our core.
And and when we think about that, so there's a idea out there that I don't know if it's
Western or not, but I've definitely been exposed to it a lot in my own life where we just need
to teach people something and then they'll be convinced of that thing and then they'll
do it.
That's kind of how our educational system is laid out.
That's there's so much persuasion out there.
Oh, I just need to give you the right information and then you're going to change the way that
you're acting.
And it, I think what we're when we're talking with the Holy Spirit and how the Holy Spirit
is coming into play here, it's not just the information, although the information is important.
I mean, Paul talks about how can they believe if they have not heard, right?
So there's an important part of information, but there's also this very real part of we
need help.
We need a heart change in order to be the kingdom of priests that God calls us to be.
And he's been calling us forever, right?
I mean, he called, he said in Exodus, you'll be a kingdom of priests to the people.
And then in 1 Peter, we're called a kingdom of priests now.
So he's always wanted us to be this people that are bringing in the new creation that
are restoring the world that are mediating between the world and God.
But we needed several things for that to happen, for that to even be a possibility.
And one of the things I think we need is Jesus' teaching.
We need to understand the fullness of what God intends for his people.
I think that's what we see not just in the Sermon on the Mount, but the Sermon on the
Mount is a one place where a lot of those threads come together.
But we also need the work of the Holy Spirit, right?
We need the Holy Spirit helping us and guiding us.
And actually it was cool to look in John 14 where he literally says, Jesus asked the Father
and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever, the spirit of
I didn't actually know until I came back here today and reread this as the spirit's going
to help you.
That was so encouraging for me.
I really like what you're saying there, Tim.
And I like what you're saying about the difference between just having the information because
we are a society that really values the information and we think that information is what we need.
And it branches back to, I think, what you were saying earlier, Tim, about we in some
ways, whether you consider this law or not, the main consideration is who is it coming
from and what authority he has, who he is.
It reminded me of this passage in Luke where just thinking about information and where
it's coming from, where Jesus is with us, when he's calling the first disciples.
In Luke chapter five, he tells them in verse four, it says, when he finished speaking,
he said to Simon, put out into deep water and let down your nets for a catch.
Simon answered, Master, we've worked hard all night and haven't caught anything.
That's the information.
I'm a fisherman.
We worked all night when you're supposed to fish and we haven't caught anything.
But he says, but because you say so, I will let down the nets.
And I think that we have to think about the fact that it's not just information.
There's a part of me that says, if I could just memorize, there was a point in my Christian
life where I thought, if I could just memorize the Sermon on the Mount, I would have it.
I'd be there.
I will have arrived because that is all the information you need to be a Christian, to
be right with God.
It's all right there.
And I don't know if I've made that up myself in my own mind or I heard somebody say that
or whatever conclusion.
That's the conclusion that I came to.
And so I dedicated myself to trying to do that.
And I memorized good portions of it, but it didn't do anything for me because I was thinking
I just need the information.
What I needed was, yes, the information I needed the message, but I also needed the Holy Spirit
helping me.
And I needed to understand that this was not just a group of a bunch of rules that were
set down randomly.
These came from the mouth of Jesus.
This was him giving us that word.
The word that he gives is more than just information.
It's life.
And I love that passage you quoted to from John 14 because I think it gets at the heart
of this process of sanctification, right?
What the Holy Spirit does with this.
After we've been born by the word of truth, we've been given life.
And then he comes in and he reminds us of those things.
And he's our helper because he's with us and dwelling us.
And I think the point that Jesus starts off with is if you love me, then you'll keep my
commandments, right?
You'll obey me.
Yes, that was right before that part about the Holy Spirit.
And I think it's important to know that love does not equal obedience.
Love precedes obedience.
But the obedience is the fruit of you loving.
If you've got a disobedient life, you've got to wonder how much you actually love Jesus
versus how much you love yourself.
And the Holy Spirit will be there to convict you of these kind of things if he needs to.
But I do think it's serious.
I'm realizing we've talked already quite a bit.
Maybe we should do a part two here.
And this has really been fascinating.
I think there's a lot more to cover here.
Yeah, let's pick it back up another time.
For sure.
I'm excited.

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