Book Reviews

The Sermon on the Mount

R.T. Kendall Minneapolis 2011-10-01

Kendall is a graduate of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and holds a doctorate from Oxford University. A protégé of Martin Lloyd-Jones, Kendall was senior minister of Westminster Chapel in London for twenty-five years. He was influenced by Lloyd-Jones’s two-volume work, Sermon on the Mount, based on a series of sermons preached at Westminster Chapel in the 1950s. Kendall’s book is a cross between a theological presentation of Jesus’ sermon and a meaningful devotional. The chapters are a verse-by-verse study of Matthew 5–7.

Quoting Lloyd-Jones, Kendall writes, “Our Lord taught these things and He expects us to live them. . . . and if you take the trouble to read the lives of the saints down the centuries, and the men who have been most greatly used of God, you will find that, every time, they have been men who have taken the Sermon on the Mount not only seriously but literally” (p. 17). Kendall adds, “A number of interpreters, however, have come up with a theological rationale that lets people off the hook by ignoring the teaching as relevant for us today. There are two extremes. At one end you have the liberal view, espoused by Albert Schweitzer, that this sermon was an ‘interim ethic.’. . . At the other extreme, [there are] those who reject the Sermon on the Mount as relevant teaching for our daily personal character and conduct” (p. 17). In keeping with his Reformed theological background, Kendall holds that the kingdom is spiritual and he rejects the notion of a millennial kingdom (pp. 20–23). Regardless of one’s theological approach, there is significant practical value in the Sermon for application to the Christian life. “In my opinion,” Kendall writes, “Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount, . . . is . . . the rule of the un-grieved Spirit in the believer” (p. 20).

Significant chapters include his discussion on “Brokenness” (chap. 3 on Matt. 5:3). Kendall states that “brokenness is evident when you realize you have no bargaining power with God. You can only do one thing: ask for mercy” (p. 27). Chapter 4 discusses “Suffering” (Matt. 5:4) and offers two kinds of suffering: “a suffering that is not effectual—that is, the suffering did the person no good” (p. 29), and “a suffering that is effectual. . . .This means you see the trial as being from God Himself” (p. 30). Regarding meekness (Matt. 5:5), Kendall writes in chapter 5, “The moment you become conscious of a virtue—or are looking over your shoulder to see what people think of you—any meekness that may have been present evaporates at once. Meekness is entirely an unconscious sense of God” (p. 37). Other meaningful and helpful chapters include chapter 27 on “Marriage and Divorce,” chapter 34 on “Christian Perfection,” and chapters 39—52 on the Lord’s Prayer. Especially helpful is Kendall’s discussion of the request “and lead us not into temptation.”

The Sermon on the Mount is recommended highly for devotional reading, with the realization that the reader will find some beneficial theological clarification along the way. It would be useful as supplemental reading during one’s devotional quiet time each day for ninety-one days (the number of chapters).

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