If you’re ever wondering what in the world Jesus was talking about in the Beatitudes… or you’re simply recovering from a failed senior capstone course in Christian ethics based on the Sermon on the Mount… pick up Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ book of sermons expounding on that Sermon.
Reason #1: The introduction really does introduce the Sermon on the Mount – it gives a general overview of when it was given, by whom and for whom, and why it should be studied (“The Lord Jesus Christ died to enable us to live the Sermon on the Mount” and it leads to sanctification and blessing).
Reason #2: Lloyd-Jones is committed to the proper reverence for the Sermon on the Mount as part of the Word of God, not something that can be reduced to a formula or exists merely to be studied.
Reason #3: He can explain a multileveled, but clear, logical sequence to the Sermon. The. Entire. Sermon. This includes showing how the Beatitudes build upon each other and also reflect a sort of mirror-image quality, considering the first three and second three. It’s quite intriguing and would take too long to explain here (which, of course, is why there’s several chapters on it).
Reason #4: He lays out his “controlling principles” in expounding on the Sermon – treating it as a description of character, rather than a prescriptive set of rules; he points out that he intends to interpret every Scripture passage in such a way as not to contradict any other Scripture passage.
Reason #5: What he preached in the 1950s sounds like it could apply today:
“Much talk which appears to be, and is said to be, Christian, in its denunciation of certain things that are happening in the world, is, I believe, nothing but the expression of political prejudices.”
Or this, talking about “The meek… shall inherit the earth:”
“This particular description of the Christian causes real surprise because it is so completely and entirely opposed to everything which the natural man thinks…. The world thinks in terms of strength and power, of ability, self-assurance and aggressiveness…. The more you assert yourself and express yourself, the more you organize and manifest your powers and ability, the more likely you are to succeed and get on…. Once more, then, we are reminded at the very beginning that the Christian is altogether different from the world.”
This is one book I’m very glad to own, and will probably become a regular part of my devotional books – right up along with A. W. Tozer’s “The Pursuit of God” and “The Knowledge of the Holy” as well as C. S. Lewis’s “Mere Christianity” and a few others to which I return periodically.