What Are The 2 Ways To Live?

Toward the end of the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5-7), Jesus alludes to 2 ways of living by offering:

  • 2 gates: the narrow and wide gates (Matt 7:13,14)
  • 2 trees: good trees bearing good fruit and bad trees bearing bad fruit (Matt 7:17,18)
  • 2 foundations on which to build one's house: foundation of rock and foundation of sand (Matt 7:24-27)
We Christians (and perhaps non-Christians too) often think of the 2 ways as:
  • obeying God and disobeying God; or
  • living God's way by obeying God's word and living our own way by disobeying God's word.
But what are the 2 ways within the Sermon of the Mount itself?

I didn't realize this before, but the 2 ways are not between obeying God's word, and disobeying God's word. Rather, the contrast is between Jesus' way and the Pharisees' way:

  • The Pharisees' way is to not murder (external compliance), while Jesus' way is to not even have inner anger toward others who upset us (Matt 5:21,22).
  • The Pharisees' way is to not commit adultery, while Jesus' way is to not even have lust in one's heart (Matt 5:27,28).
  • The Pharisees' way of giving to the needy, fasting and prayer (Matt 6:1,5,16) was different from Jesus' way of giving, fasting and prayer.
Thus, the 2 ways was not Jesus contrasting people who obey the Bible and those who don't, or those who don't commit adultery and those who do. Rather both groups of people obey the Bible, as well as give to the poor, fast, pray, and also both groups do not murder nor commit adultery---but for profoundly different reasons.

The Pharisees way is the religious way of "work righteousness." They obey God to put God and others in their debt. Like the Pharisees, they incline toward pride, superiority, self-righteousness, inability to take criticism, and external compliance while the heart is hard.

Finally, in Matt 5:20, Jesus said, "unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven." This shows that Jesus was not contrasting the moral and the immoral in the Sermon of the Mount, but Jesus was contrasting the religious Pharisees and those who believe the gospel. (This was adapted from a sermon by Tim Keller on Gospel Renewal.)

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