“And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him: And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying, . . . 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” (Matt. 5:1-2, 20).
The sermon recorded in Matthew chapters five through seven is one of the most challenging of the preaching work that Jesus did among followers. This material was the defining declaration of who really are those on the way to the kingdom of heaven. Jesus declared plainly that the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees was not the path to heaven. One must get serious about discipleship in order to enter into heaven. Consider some serious points made by Jesus concerning the life of a true disciple of Jesus.
Spiritually-minded. One cannot read the material in chapter five without seeing the seriousness of the inner man being right with God. Jesus addressed being “poor in spirit” (Matt. 5:3), “pure in heart” (Matt. 5:8) along with the other spiritual qualities of the beatitudes. He addressed being salt of the earth (cf. Matt. 5:13) and the light of the world (cf. Matt. 5:14-15) in order that one’s influence might bring glory to the Father. Thus, the goal of discipleship is to have God receive the credit, not the disciple. Jesus addressed several misconceptions taught about the law with the correct interpretation centered on the spiritual side of man being right to avoid mistreatment of others, destroying homes, creating a lack of trust among people and hating those whom God loves. It is from the heart that all evil comes (cf. Matt. 15:18-19). If one is to be serious about being a disciple, then he will be serious about his inner man.
Self-denying. One cannot read chapter six without seeing the seriousness of the danger of doing things simply to be seen of men and living a materialistic lifestyle. Jesus gave three illustrations of the self-righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees in their alms giving, prayer and fasting. Their religious practices were for show, not for serious spiritual sacrifices. Their real God was Mammon (cf. Matt. 6:24) as covetousness was a hallmark of their being (cf. Luke 16:14). The message that Jesus gave to his disciples found in the words “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Matt. 16:24) would have been nonsense to these religious elite. Serious discipleship is God centered (cf. Matt. 6:33).
Steadfastly Following to the End. Chapter seven gives a mix of dangerous influences and actions that sidetrack a disciple. Jesus was the only perfect example of how distractions would not be an issue. Judging motives (cf. Matt. 7:1-5), living by the rule of treating others as you would desire to be treated (cf. Matt. 7:12), knowing that the way to heaven is difficult and sparsely traveled, while troubled that some would start the road only to be found lacking in the end (cf. Matt. 7:21-27) demands the seriousness of mind and will to finish what one started in his walk with the Lord. Jesus would finish his work and so must all who will run the race (cf. Heb. 12:1-2). Jesus would live to see some quit before his death (cf. John 6:66) and see Judas betray the Lord (cf. Matt. 26:47ff). Serious discipleship finishes the course (cf. 2 Tim. 4:7).
“And he arose and went: and, behold, a man of Ethiopia, an eunuch of great authority under Candace queen of the Ethiopians, who had the charge of all her treasure, and had come to Jerusalem for to worship, Was returning, and sitting in his chariot read Esaias the prophet” (Acts 8:27-28).
The world today has much more access to the word of God than the eunuch did on that day recorded in Acts 8. However, the eunuch had an attitude about studying the Bible that all in the world today need. Look at three lessons from this account to help all see how important serious Bible study is.
Personal Reading. It is worthy of note that the eunuch had a copy of the book of Isaiah in which he was reading. How much of the rest of the Bible he had is not stated. However, he saw that material as being very important to his life. Today, copies of the Bible are accessible to anyone today with the presence of printed books, and even the Internet. Owning one’s own personal copy of the Bible in one’s language is so commonplace in America that it is often taken for granted. The eunuch had already been exposed to a reading of the Bible back in Jerusalem where he had gone to worship but that time was not enough for him. He wanted to personally look into the word and seek the truths that were there. How wonderful a practice it is to seek diligently for more knowledge from the word of God. Ignorance of God’s word is to put oneself into a very dangerous state (cf. Hosea 4:6). The eunuch’s personal reading demonstrated that his priorities were right.
Pertinent Questioning. After Philip asked the eunuch if he understood what he was reading, the eunuch said, “How can I, except some man should guide me?” (Acts 8:31). Later, the eunuch will ask Philip concerning the reading, “I pray thee, of whom speaketh the prophet this? of himself, or of some other man?” (Acts 8:34). After learning that the reading was about Jesus (cf. Acts 8:35), he asked the most pertinent question of all, by saying, “See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?” (Acts 8:36). While there are some questions that are “foolish and unlearned questions” (2 Tim. 2:23), the eunuch’s questions did not fall into that category. He knew he was ignorant. He sincerely wanted to know the truth about the meaning of the text. He wanted to know what might hinder him from applying what he learned. All of these show his seriousness about Bible study.
Practical Application. Luke records of the eunuch’s response to the Bible study when Philip told him what he needed to do, “And he commanded the chariot to stand still; and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch: and he baptized him. And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing” (Acts 8:38-39). The eunuch knew that knowing the truth demanded applying it. James wrote of hearing, “Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls. But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves” (James 1:21-22). Serious Bible students know that the Bible must be more than just knowledge in the head. It must be applied to life (cf. 1 John 2:3-5). The eunuch could look back on his conversion and know that serious Bible study has profit.