The Lord’s Prayer – Its context in Matthew, part 2.
Tuesday November 22, 2022
The Lord’s Prayer: Initial thoughts from the context of Matthew.
Matthew gives the fullest record of the Sermon on the Mount, which includes the Lord’s prayer. It defined Jesus’ position with regard to the Law, He came not to destroy but to fulfill. He demanded a righteousness that was of God Himself, “Be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect.” “You have heard it said… I say to you.”
By understanding the context of this section of Matthew, we are better able to understand the prayer of the disciple of Jesus Christ. In light of this sermon, we would not find ourselves praying for selfish and silly things, which, by the way, we have to determine for ourselves.
You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.
When Jesus’ ministry officially begins, after His temptation in the wilderness, Matthew calls our attention to two things. First, the foundation of Jesus’ message:
From that time Jesus began to preach and say, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."
Stop following the wrong kingdom and follow the only kingdom.
Jesus Christ has just begun to show this kingdom, His kingdom. Even if a Israelite at that time had interpreted the Old Testament properly and humbly subjected himself of herself and waited for the Messiah, the Lord Jesus and His teaching would still have been somewhat of a shock. In fact, all the disciples, after three years of Jesus’ teaching, were shocked by His death. The Old Testament provided shadows of what was to come, but Jesus took it out of the shadows and revealed it by revealing Himself. Now, in our age, we can see it clearly and as Spirit filled believers who are the new humanity.
Second, His call of His first disciples to follow Him.
And He said to them, "Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men."
The first human response to Jesus’ ministry that Matthew gives us is that of full obedience.
And they immediately left the nets, and followed Him. 21 And going on from there He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and He called them. 22 And they immediately left the boat and their father, and followed Him.
Obviously there were many people who had less desirable responses to Jesus Christ, but Matthew, by putting it first in his gospel, is conveying a truth by the inspiration of God the Holy Spirit. The only correct response to the Lord’s calling is complete obedience to Him. This is not for salvation, but after salvation by faith, the saved have one truly legitimate response to their election.
The gospels are all literary. They are not simply a historical account of setting down the facts of the life of Jesus. Therefore, the way, manner, order, imagery, OT quotes, etc., in which Matthew presents things is meant to be significant to the reader.
We saw last time that the epistle to the Colossians, all three of these, 1) the presented supremacy of Christ, 2) the call to seek our new life with Christ and not the things of the earth (stop following the wrong kingdom and follow the only kingdom), 3) and the way of the believer in full obedience. We would find these three foundational truths in every epistle.
Directly after the preaching of repentance and the call of the disciples who followed, Matthew will then give us the Sermon on the Mount. This account in Matthew is the longest discourse in all the Gospels. It contains the spiritual principles of the kingdom of heaven. It is the ethics of the Mosaic Law the way they should be kept; the way they should have always been kept.
Sermon on the Mount – God’s will for ethics in man.
The Law revealed them, but no one attained them.
“Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. 18 For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19 Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”
We will treat this passage again, as we did last time, because the whole of the great sermon is built upon it.
The impact of the truth of this statement is not known enough, or well enough (as goes for me). What could only be a list of commandments that signaled death to the sinner, now becomes a way of life to the sinner justified in Christ, who is in Christ, and who is forgiven of all sin.
Confusion arises because we who are in Christ do not keep the ethical laws perfect either. So, adding to that idea that we are forgiven, Christ fulfilled the Law, and that we are no longer under the Law – we conclude that grace gives us the right of lawlessness. But knowing that just doesn’t sound right, we allow lawlessness of more respectable kind and call it grace and rejection of legalism. This is the wrong conclusion. We keep all of the law, minus the rituals and ceremonial things, but we do so as Christ.
Perhaps we could think of it this way. The Lord Jesus willfully obeyed the Law, but as the Creator of it, it was not His master. The ethics of the Law are the way of God. He’s not under it; He is it. We are to be the same. This life is so different from anything we’ve ever known and anything that had ever existed that it takes a very consistent prayer life, along with study and application life, to stay centered on it.
Notice that the Law is not abolished but fulfilled. The blood of Christ fulfills it for all believers, and our position in Christ as a new creation allows us to accomplish what the precepts of the Law were always meant to be – a good summary of which would be to love one another as Christ loved us.
Rom 13:8, 9
Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; … if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."
We lay aside all the ceremonial commands, all of which pointed to the Messiah to come, which are no longer necessary (ceremonial washings, animal sacrifice, temple worship, circumcision). There were commandments about food, which God showed were no longer in effect; Act 10.
However, the commandments concerning how one should treat others and God are timeless. These are the ones that Jesus showed the real depth of. He didn’t change them. He showed what they were always meant to be. When we learn of them, we can begin to understand that they are summed up by love.