I started preaching through the Sermon on the Mount (SM) at Calvary on March 23, 2014 and finished on March 1, 2015. In all, the series consisted of 42 sermons (here are the links to the audio). I’ve never been more moved and transformed in studying and preaching through a portion of God’s Word as I have been over the past year of living in this great sermon. It gripped me. I loved it so much that it hurt to stop preaching it.
Over the next few weeks I’ll be offering some reflections on preaching through the SM—resources I found helpful, keys to interpreting it faithfully, some of the main ways it challenged me spiritually, etc.
In the first post, I want to share an annotated list of the commentaries, other books, and sermon series that I found helpful in my own preparation.
These commentaries are listed in the order that I consulted them on a weekly basis. Some were better than others, but all of them were helpful.
John Chrysostom, Homilies on the Gospel of Saint Matthew
John Chrysostom (c. 349-407) was the archbishop of Constantinople and a preacher whose eloquence earned him the epithet “Chrysostom,” which means “golden mouthed.” He has great insights into the text of Scripture. I found that he often made connections and drew out truths that modern commentators did not.
Saint Augustine, Our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount
Augustine (354-430) was the bishop of Hippo. He is viewed by many as one of the greatest theologians of church history. Like Chrysostom, I often found Augustine’s insights refreshing, and sometimes unique when compared to modern commentators. There were places when his allegorical interpretation led to what I would consider to be illegitimate deductions from the text, but the good definitely outweighed the bad.
Charles Quarles, Sermon on the Mount: Restoring Christ’s Message to the Modern Church
Charles Quarles’s commentary was my favorite. Where other commentaries left me wanting more, Quarles’s always seemed to be sufficiently detailed, plumbing the depths of each verse. I read this book all the way through before starting the series and then read it a second time during my weekly preparation. It was worth reading twice.
Dale Allison, The Sermon on the Mount: Inspiring the Moral Imagination
Dale Allison is a recognized authority on the Gospel of Matthew and his focus in this volume on the SM shows why. Allison has a way of saying a lot in a short amount of space. So even though each entry was usually only a few pages, they were jam packed with great insights. His mastery of the early church fathers and of Second Temple Judaism shines through. There are places where what is written here overlaps with what he and W. D. Davies have written in their larger commentary on Matthew (see below), but for the most part the material here is different from the big commentary.
D. A. Carson, Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount: And His Confrontation with the World
Carson’s work is predictably solid. Any time D. A. Carson has written something on the book I’m preaching through I use it.
John Stott, The Message of the Sermon on the Mount: Christian Counter-Culture
Stott is another go-to commentator/author for me. His work on the Sermon on the Mount has been recognized by many as some of his best. This volume has become a classic, and deservedly so. There were many times when, after reading him, I thought, “There’s really no better way to put it than he just did.”
Daniel Doriani, The Sermon on the Mount: The Character of a Disciple
I think this book is a collection of Doriani’s sermons, which added a pastoral element that I appreciated and found helpful in thinking through delivering my own sermons. His redemptive historical approach to Bible interpretation comes through. For example, note the way he frames an understanding of the SM in light of the gospel in chapter 1.
Scott McKnight, Sermon on the Mount
McKnight often provided a unique and provocative perspective on the text. I found him to be similar in his approach to N. T. Wright, to whom he often appeals. His understanding of Second Temple Judaism provides rich historical insights. This book also has an in depth section on application (“Live the Story”) at the end of each entry that helped provide good fodder for my own attempts to connect the text to life.
R. T. France, The Gospel of Matthew
The entries here on Matthew 5-7 are shorter than those in many of the volumes above that are devoted specifically to the SM. By the time I had read the entries in those other volumes I often found that France wasn’t giving me anything I hadn’t already discovered. That’s not the fault of the commentary. It’s just that I read it after the more detailed books. It’s a great commentary, but if you’re going to go through the SM slowly you’re probably going to want the other more detailed works to go along with it.
W. D. Davies and D. C. Allison, Matthew 1-7
Davies and Allison is the gold standard of Matthew commentaries. This commentary was invaluable in my study of the text. Their work is technical, so if you haven’t brushed up on your Greek lately you’ll probably need to do so if you’re going to get the full effect of this one.
D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount
This book is a classic. John Stott (whose book on the SM I would consider a classic) even calls it a classic on the cover. These are Lloyd-Jones’s sermons, and they were always helpful to me. His way of getting at the theology in the text is second to none.
In addition to the commentaries, there were two books on the SM that I read before starting the series that helped me get the big picture.
W. D. Davies, Sermon on the Mount
You’ll have to wade through a lot of the form criticism in this book, but there are some gems here. The last three pages of chapter 5 (right before the conclusion) make the book worth it. Davies’s understanding of how the SM should be interpreted in light of the inaugurated Kingdom of God and in light of the gospel were formative for me. He reminded me that when it comes to the SM, the imperatives of the gospel are never to be isolated from the indicatives of the gospel.
Jeffrey P. Greenmail, Timothy Larsen, and Stephen R. Spencer, eds., The Sermon on the Mount Through the Centuries: From the Early Church to John Paul II
Each chapter of this book explores the way key figures in church history understood the meaning and significance of the SM. There are chapters covering John Chrysostom, Augustine, Hugh of St. Victor, Dante and Chaucer, Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Wesley, Charles Spurgeon, Dietrich Bonhoeffer and John Howard Yoder, Pope John Paul II and Leonardo Boff, and John Stott. It was helpful to get the perspective of these men before launching in to my own study.
Most weeks I listened to sermons that others have preached on the SM as part of my preparation. The ones I kept coming back to were these:
R. Kent Hughes’s series on the Sermon on the Mount (you’ll have to enter “Kent Hughes” and “Sermon on the Mount” into the search boxes)
John MacArthur’s sermons on Matthew 5-7 (part of a larger series through Matthew)
Albert Mohler’s sermons on Matthew 5-7 (part of a larger series through Matthew)