Horton vs. the Sermon on the Mount (take 2!)

In a previous post, we saw how Horton exegetically blundered in asserting that “In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus clearly abrogated the ceremonial and civil law that God had given uniquely to the nation of Israel.”

Horton is at again. This time he writes:

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus announces a “regime change” from the civil laws of the theocracy.

This kind of interpretation of the text (I hate to call it exegesis) demonstrates that Horton still does not understand the Sermon on the Mount. The Sermon on the Mount was not about regime change. The Sermon on the Mount did not discuss the civil law. It did not suggest that the civil law is obsolete, abrogated, or irrelevant. Nor did the Sermon on the Mount foretell such an event. Even if the civil law is obsolete, abrogated, or irrelevant now, that’s not what the Sermon on the Mount was about.

Moreover, Jesus’ teachings at the Sermon on the Mount were – at least in general – continuous with the Old Testament teachings. They express a continuity and explication, not a discontinuity.

For example, Jesus said:

Matthew 5:21-22
Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: 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.

Notice the old time vs. Jesus is one in which Jesus enhances and clarifies the law. He is not providing a regime change, but greater light.

Matthew 5:27-28
Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: but I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.

Again, there is more light and clarification. Jesus’ rule is even stricter than the Mosaic civil law. He’s explaining the moral law – personal morality.

Matthew 5:33-37
Again, ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths: but I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God’s throne: nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King. Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black. But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.

Again, more light and clarification is provided. Moreover, here there is warning of danger on a practical level of personal morality.

Matthew 5:38-42
Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: but I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.

This example one might think is contradictory, but Jesus is actually shedding more light. “Eye for an eye” is a principle of legal justice, not a norm of personal morality. We are not required to demand an eye from someone who blinds us, though a judge is required to enforce the law.

Matthew 5:43-47
Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?

Here Jesus is correcting a misinterpretation of the requirement that we love our neighbor. Recall Jesus’ explanation from the case of the good Samaritan.

The theme of all this discussion can be summed up by what comes before and after:

Matthew 5:19-20 Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.

And

Matthew 5:48 Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

Within these bookends, we see that the theme is not “regime change” but greater revelation of the revealed will of God. Moreover this entire passage from one bookend to the other is the explanation following Jesus’ comment:

Matthew 5:17-18 Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.

One could hardly imagine a less “regime change” comment than that, particularly in light of what follows. There is a heightening of our understanding of the moral law thanks to Jesus’ self-revelation.

Horton continued:

Instead of driving out the enemies of God, the True Israel—those united to Christ—are to endure suffering for the gospel and to pray for their persecutors.

Jesus did not make that distinction. Moreover, driving out of the Canaanites was a one-time requirement of the Israelites within more or less specific geographic boundaries. They were given Caanan, not the world. They were called to execute God’s judgment on the specific nations that lived in that specific region, not all nations everywhere who refused to obey God.

Horton appears to make a false dichotomy based perhaps on the comment about “eye for eye” (quoted above). Yet Horton’s false dichotomy is seen to be false when one considers:

Matthew 7:1 Judge not, that ye be not judged.

The point in Matthew 7:1 cannot reasonably be thought to be a prohibition on Christians serving as judicial judges, just as the the exhortations to meekness and mercy in chapter 5 are not commands to the civil magistrate, but rather they explain proper adherence to the second table of the law (love thy neighbor as thyself).

Indeed, Jesus himself explains:

Matthew 7:12 Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.

Notice that Jesus does not say “for this replaces the law and prophets” or “this is a regime change from the law and the prophets,” but “this is the law and the prophets.” Jesus is teaching more clearly what the law and the prophets already taught.

Horton continued:

God’s common grace is shed on the just and the unjust alike in this age.

God’s common grace is shed on the just and the unjust alike by definition. Moreover, the classical example of common grace is this:

Matthew 5:45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.

Considering that is part of the Sermon on the Mount, one assumes that Horton has that in mind. But the rain has been falling that way at least since the days of Noah. There’s nothing regime-change-ish about common grace. It’s not something new to the new covenant administration of the covenant of grace.

– TurretinFan

One Response to “Horton vs. the Sermon on the Mount (take 2!)”

  1. Godith Says:

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