Dr. Couch, I understand that some think that the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7) is not applicable to the church age today.
Is this true, and, what do you think?
ANSWER: In the Bible there are first and secondary applications in various chapters. A question: is the Law in the OT seen with a first application to us today, or a secondary application? Are we under the Law, or was the Law for the Jewish people during their existence in OT times?
All would answer that the Law was for the Jews during the dispensation of the Law. Yet, there are great spiritual principles in the Law for us today, but not with direction application. I can learn many great principles from the Law as I read it but we are not under the Law in a direct way now in this church age.
The same is true with the Sermon on the Mount. For example we read in Matthew 5:3 of the "poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." Do the poor today receive blessings by being under the kingdom of heaven? Of course not, the kingdom of heaven is the messianic kingdom that is yet to come, when Christ returns as Israel's Messiah! This was anticipated by the Jews, but the kingdom of heaven is not the church today.
Do you think that 5:20 is about us today, those now living in the church age? It reads: "Unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven." Do you think that is for the church presently? Of course not!
Are we guilty of fiery hell (5:22) if we say to a brother RACA? This is extremely Jewish and must be understood in regard to the Jews who were then under the Law.
Do we stand and pray in the synagogue as mentioned in 6:5. No, we do not. Do we "seek first His kingdom and His righteousness" as the Jews? To a certain extent yes but in another sense we do not (6:33).
Again, while there are certain spiritual lessons in the Sermon on the Mount for us today, these verses are not first for the church dispensation. They were for the Jews who were looking for the messianic rule of the Messiah over Israel in the Holy Land. First application would be for Israel and the Jews; second application would be for us, but interpreted with caution.
When we read our newspaper we apply the same principles of interpretation. I know that the first page of my newspaper is about "hard" news and is not the advertising section of the paper. I know that it is not the editorial section, nor the want-ad section. When I read my newspaper I read it with sound "hermeneutics." I apply the various sections in the proper way. I don't simply apply every paragraph directly to me, from every sentence, with a broad stroke of the brush! I do the same when reading and applying the Bible to every situation.
Common sense is needed when reading the Scriptures!
I hope this helps. Thanks for asking. --Dr. Mal Couch (9/11)