The Sermon On The Mount In The First Use

So it is with the whole of the discourse. The new law of the Sermon on the Mount, in itself, can only produce despair. Strange indeed is the complacency with which modern men can say that the Golden Rule and the high ethical principles of Jesus are all that they need. In reality, if the requirements for entrance into the Kingdom of God are what Jesus declares them to be, we are all undone; we have not even attained to the external righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, and how shall we attain to that righteousness of the heart which Jesus demands ? The Sermon on the Mount, rightly interpreted, then, makes man a seeker after some divine means of salvation by which entrance into the Kingdom can be obtained. Even Moses was too high for us; but before this higher law of Jesus who shall stand without being condemned? The Sermon on the Mount, like all the rest of the New Testament, really leads a man straight to the foot of the Cross.

—J. Gresham Machen, Christianity and Liberalism (1923) (HT: Covenant Nurture)

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  1. Machen’s comments sound like blasphemy to me. Taken at face value, he’s saying the teachings of the Sermon on the Mount are simply too hard for us to obey in any sense pleasing to God, and instead all it’s meant to do is drive us to the feet of Jesus to plead our incompetence. What that would end up meaning is that even though Jesus taught X, we don’t really have to obey X because it’s (allegedly) too hard to obey X

  2. Nick, it depends on who “us” is. If he were talking about Christians, what you say might have some truth. But he’s talking about modernists, who “say that the Golden Rule and the high ethical principles of Jesus are all that they need.” IOW, those who think they can circumvent the cross and just go straight to the ethics of the kingdom are seriously deluded. One doesn’t get to the third use until the first use has done it’s work.

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