Beatitudes: A Life Hidden in Christ

Beatitudes: A Life Hidden in Christ

Background and Introductory Remarks

The Sermon on the Mount is most likely a collection of Jesus’ sermons and not a single sermon. (Word Biblical Commentary). I want to say that I disagree with the commentator; I think the Sermon on the Mount is more of a Matthean example of the most common sermon/type of sermon that Jesus preached. 

The righteousness of the kingdom of God (Matthew 6:33) expounded in the sermon is presented as being in continuity with the righteousness of the ot law (5:17–19), yet also as surpassing it. In the Beatitudes, we see Jesus lead off with what a life that pleases God looks like; I call it a life hidden in Christ.

5:1–7:28 (NISB) These chapters comprise the Sermon on the Mount, the first of five collections (chaps. 10; 13; 18; 24–25) of Jesus’ teaching or revelation of God’s will. These thematic discourses instruct disciples, shaping their identity and lifestyle. The Sermon begins with blessings and sayings (5:3-16). Its middle section comprises six interpretations of scripture (5:17-48), instruction on three distinctive discipleship practices (6:1-18), and teaching on social and economic practices (6:19–7:12). The sermon closes with scenes of eschatological destiny (7:13-27). More than providing information about God’s will and motivating disciples to do it, the sermon offers visions of God’s empire. It sketches life in an alternative community marked by justice, transformed social relationships, practices of piety, and shared and accessible resources.

Main Sermon:

Word Wealth: makarios (Matt. 5:3; Luke 10:23; Acts 26:2; 1 Tim. 1:11) G3107. Strong tells us that it means to be blessed/happy/large/filled-up and/or content. Thayer points out that makarios is frequently paired with God’s name. Makarios, then, is most commonly used for blessedness or the enjoyment of favor from God.

I want you to understand that makarios can mean happy, and that is often the case, but it does not always guarantee your happiness. You may be in the midst of persecution but God is shepherding you through it, in which case, you are still blessed even if you are not, in the moment, happy.

Here, in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus both reinterprets the old law and offers a new law, recalling the revelation of the law to Moses on Mount Sinai (see Ex 19–24).

Since Matthew introduces the Sermon on the Mount by highlighting the connection between Jesus and Moses, the Beatitudes (Mt 5:3-12) should probably be read against the backdrop of Moses’ teachings. The only time the adjective “Blessed” was used by Moses was in his blessing on Israel (Deuteronomy 33:29): “How happy you are, Israel! Who is like you, a people saved by the Lord? He is the shield that protects you, the sword you boast in. Your enemies will cringe before you, and you will tread on their backs.” Israel’s blessing had both a historical and future focus. “Saved by the Lord” referred to Israel’s exodus from Egypt. The remainder of the blessing assured the Israelites of success in their conquest of the promised land. Against this backdrop, the blessings of the new Moses (Jesus, the one Moses prophesied as being greater than him {see Deuteronomy 18:15}) identify Jesus’ disciples as the new Israel who will enjoy a new exodus and conquest. The new Moses is a spiritual deliverer rather than a political one, and His promises must be understood in that light. In the Beatitudes, the new Moses pronounces spiritual salvation (exodus from slavery to sin) and promises spiritual victory (conquest and inheritance of a new promised land) to the new Israel. This background is confirmed by the allusion to Israel’s exodus and conquest in the promise that the meek will “inherit the earth” (5:5).

In the OT, the poor were those who cried out for God’s help, depended entirely on Him for their needs, had a humble and contrite spirit, experienced His deliverance, and enjoyed His undeserved favor (Psalm 86:1-5). In light of this background, Jesus was describing His disciples as unworthy sinners who depend on God’s grace for salvation. Although the promises in Matthew 5:4-9 are expressed in the future tense, the affirmation the kingdom of heaven is theirs is in the present tense (5:3,10). This suggests that the kingdom had already arrived through the coming of Jesus but that the fulfillment of many kingdom promises will occur only in the future. This future fulfillment awaits Christ’s second coming. The statement “the kingdom of heaven is theirs” appears at the beginning and end of the main body of the Beatitudes (5:3,10). This bracketing device suggests that the Beatitudes constitute promises only to those who belong to the kingdom. Isaiah 61:1 promised that Messiah would bring good news to the poor. This beatitude serves as a fulfillment of that prophecy (Luke 4:16-21).

In the case of the Beatitudes, blessed (Psalm 1:1) are…

  • poor in spirit
  • those who mourn
  • those who are humble (meek/gentle)
  • those who hunger and thirst for justice/righteousness
  • those who are merciful
  • those whose hearts are pure
  • those who work for peace
  • those who are persecuted
  • when people mock, persecute and lie about you because of Jesus

 

If you look, closely, you will see that they build upon one another. We will circle back in a minute to look at each one after we talk a little about their progression…The poor in spirit recognize their total dependence upon God for any hope of Heaven and because of that, they mourn over sin, not just their own but the fact that all sin separates from the goodness of God and richness of fellowship with him. They are not consumed with pride because they have recognized their dependence upon God. In longing for more fellowship with Him, they hunger and thirst (a picture of total desire) for God’s justice and righteousness to fill the earth. A life hidden in Christ leads to mercy, we do not give others what they deserve just as we are not given our just desserts. We become pure of heart in not having any guile but a sincere desire for more of God and in that desire we work toward peace with God. As a consequence, the unsaved world will persecute us; such persecution will result, among other things, in being mocked and lied about because of Christ.

So why bother? At the risk of sounding cliché, we bother because we will spend eternity in Heaven with the One in whom our souls delight. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves though. Shall we circle back and look at those beatitudes?

poor in spirit This first beatitude recalls Isaiah 66:2, “For all those things My hand has made, and all those things exist,” Says the Lord. “But on this one will I look: On him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and who trembles at My word. (NKJV)”

The poor in spirit recognize that they have no spiritual “assets.” They know they are spiritually bankrupt. We might say that the ancient Greek had a word for the “working poor” and a word for the “truly poor.” Jesus used the word for the truly poor here. It indicates someone who must beg for whatever they have or get. (Guzik)

We learn from Calvin: “Many are pressed down by distresses, and yet continue to swell inwardly with pride and cruelty. But Christ pronounces those to be happy who, chastened and subdued by afflictions, submit themselves wholly to God, and, with inward humility, betake themselves to him for protection. Others explain the poor in spirit to be those who claim nothing for themselves, and are even so completely emptied of confidence in the flesh, that they acknowledge their poverty. But as the words of Luke and those of Matthew must have the same meaning, there can be no doubt that the appellation poor is here given to those who are pressed and afflicted by adversity. The only difference is, that Matthew, by adding an epithet, confines the happiness to those only who, under the discipline of the cross, have learned to be humble.”

We further learn, from Chuck Smith: “First of all, he’s not talking about physical poverty, poor in spirit. This is in opposition to being proud, and this is always the inevitable consequence of a man coming into a personal, real confrontation with God. If you have come into a true confirmation of God in your own life, the result immediately always is that of poverty of spirit. You see a person who is proud and haughty, he is a man who has not had a true encounter with God.

In Isaiah chapter six, upon the death of the popular king Uzziah, when the throne of Israel has been emptied of this great popular monarch, Isaiah writes, “And in the year that king Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting on the throne, high and lifted up, and his train did fill the temple…Then said I, woe is me! For I am undone; and I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell amongst a people of unclean lips:” (Isaiah 6:1, Isaiah 6:5). That’s always the result of a man seeing God in truth. “Woe is me! I am undone”.

Daniel, when he saw the Lord said, “My beauty was turned into corruption” (Daniel 10:8). When Peter had his confrontation he said, “Depart from me; for Lo, I am a sinful man” (Luke 5:8). The man who truly sees God sees himself in truth.”

Of all the traits a Christian should have, it is poverty of spirit that is the most difficult for us. Why? Because we wish to aggrandize self, to be more than what we are, and to think that we bring something to the table for our salvation. Friend, Jonathan Edwards said it best, you contribute nothing to your salvation except the sin that made it necessary. All the self esteem and self worth you could ever need is found at the cross where God, Himself, took away your filthiness and gave you Christ’s righteousness so you can have a relationship with Him

Exactly what is being poor in spirit? I heard an excellent sermon from John Piper on this concept and in my notes I have:

  • It is a sense of powerlessness in ourselves.
  • It is a sense of spiritual bankruptcy and helplessness before God.
  • It is a sense of moral uncleanness before God.
  • It is a sense of personal unworthiness before God.
  • It is a sense that if there is to be any life or joy or usefulness, it will have to be all of God and all of grace.

In short, poverty of spirit says, “God I know I do not deserve anything from your hand but I come to you ready to accept anything you choose to give and I come ready to do anything I can to please you.”

In the hymn Rock of Ages, we find the perfect embodiment of being poor in spirit. The hymn says, “In my hand no price I bring, simply to Thy cross I cling.” That, beloved, is what it means to be poor in spirit; it is not simply humility but it is the acknowledgement that everything we have, every single good thing that we possess, is a generous gift from the hand of God the Father, who delights in giving good gifts to His children.

those who mourn This is not a simple weeping or a general sadness.  “The Greek word for to mourn, used here, is the strongest word for mourning in the Greek language. It is the word which is used for mourning for the dead, for the passionate lament for one who was loved.” (Barclay). The connotation is a deep guttural wail. The poor in spirit have realized what sin does to our relationship with God and so there is weeping, not just over our own sin but a wailing over the fact that the wicked, who, will not turn, must in the end be consumed buy their wickedness and given over to judgment.

those who are humble (meek/gentle) Before we consider this trait we need to realize that blessed are the meek is the best translation. “Blessed are the meek: It is impossible to translate this ancient Greek word praus (meek) with just one English word. It has the idea of the proper balance between anger and indifference, of a powerful personality properly controlled, and of humility. In the vocabulary of the ancient Greek language, the meek person was not passive or easily pushed around. The main idea behind the word “meek” was strength under control, like a strong stallion that was trained to do the job instead of running wild.” (Guzik)

F.F Bruce points out that the meek are the men who suffer wrong without bitterness or desire for revenge. This is also a very hard personality trait to have since to be meek means to show willingness to submit and work under proper authority. Meekness means I give up my rights and privileges.

Let’s consider this thought from the great commentator, Adam Clarke “Our word meek comes from the old Anglo-Saxon meca, or meccea, a companion or equal, because he who is of a meek or gentle spirit, is ever ready to associate with the meanest of those who fear God, feeling himself superior to none; and well knowing that he has nothing of spiritual or temporal good but what he has received from the mere bounty of God, having never deserved any favour from his hand.”

those who hunger and thirst for justice/righteousness As we hide our lives in Christ, we become consumed by a hunger for His justice and righteousness to work through us. Do not kid yourself into thinking that this is a simple hungering. No this is a hunger that cannot be satisfied until Christ comes.

  • This passion isreal, just like hunger and thirst are real.
  • This passion isnatural, just like hunger and thirst are natural in a healthy person.
  • This passion isintense, just like hunger and thirst can be.
  • This passion can bepainful, just like real hunger and thirst can cause pain.
  • This passion is adriving force, just like hunger and thirst can drive a man.
  • This passion is asign of health, just like hunger and thirst show health.

How does this hunger and thirst for righteousness express itself?

  • A longing to have a righteous nature.
  • A craving to be sanctified, to be made more holy.
  • A fervent desire to continue in God’s righteousness.
  • An insatiable desire to see righteousness promoted in the world.

 

those who are merciful Here we are talking about someone who has already received mercy. The merciful one will show it to those who are weaker and poorer.

  • The merciful one will always look for those who weep and mourn.
  • The merciful one will be forgiving to others, and always looking to restore broken relationships.
  • The merciful one will be merciful to the character of other people, and choose to think the best of them whenever possible.
  • The merciful one will not expect too much from others.
  • The merciful one will be compassionate to those who are outwardly sinful.
  • The merciful one will have a care for the souls of all men.

 

Having been shown mercy, a heart filled with the Holy Spirit will desire to give mercy to others. This is the outworking of the Spirit in our lives both to will and to do (Philippians 2:13)

Next we have the final two characteristics of a life hidden in Christ and the world’s reception of us.

those whose hearts are pure Church Father Origen understood this to be a reference to having a pure mind, as this fits best with the Greek understanding of the intellect. (Origen, De Principiis, 1:1:9, in Roberts and Donaldson, Ante-Nicene Fathers, 4:245.)

This concept of a pure heart denotes one who loves God with all his heart (Deut. 6:5), with an undivided loyalty, and whose inward nature corresponds with his outward profession (cf. Isa. 29:13). ‘Such is the generation of those who seek him’ (Ps. 24:6), and they receive the promise that they shall see God. This can only fully be realized in heaven, when ‘we shall see him as he is’ (1 John 3:2); then ‘we shall be like him’, and the longings of v. 6 will be finally satisfied. But in a lesser sense the vision of God is already the experience of his true lovers on earth, who persevere in his service ‘as seeing him who is invisible’ (Heb. 11:27).
–Tyndale New Testament Commentaries – Matthew.

 

those who work for peace (blessed are the peacemakers) In his exquisite commentary on Matthew, David Guzik tells us “This does not describe those who live in peace, but those who actually bring about peace, overcoming evil with good. One way we accomplish this is through spreading the gospel, because God has entrusted to us the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18). In evangelism we make peace between man and the God whom they have rejected and offended.”

Truly, then, a peacemaker is one who works toward making peace not just between two rivals but ultimately, the true peacemaker seeks to make peace between God and the sinner. This is accomplished through helping the sinner to understand his sin and to understand what an offense sin is when considered by the Holy God. From there we take the sinner, now aware of his wickedness and what is due him, to the cross; it is from the cross that the sinner approaches God’s Throne of Grace and receives reconciliation between himself and his God. Once reconciled and no longer God’s enemies, the repentant now is adopted as a son since he is no more an outsider.

Now, having laid out what life in the Kingdom of Heaven looks like, Jesus takes us to the reception that we can expect from the world and those who are outside the Kingdom…

 

Blessed are those who are persecuted when people mock, persecute and lie about you because of Jesus The world hates Christ and you can be sure that they will hate us too. If you watch any television, these days, you will see that we are portrayed as aberrant, sometimes as simple minded fools, sometimes outright lies are made up about us and our values.

 

Early Christians heard many enemies say all kinds of evil against them falsely for Jesus’ sake. The 1st generations of Christians were accused of:

  • Cannibalism, because of gross and deliberate misrepresentation of the practice of the Lord’s Supper.
  • Immorality, because of gross deliberate misrepresentation of weekly “Love Feast” and their private meetings.
  • Revolutionary fanaticism, because they believed that Jesus would return and bring an apocalyptic end to history.
  • Splitting families, because when one marriage partner or parent became a Christian there was often change and division in the family.
  • Treason, because they would not honor the Roman gods and participate in emperor worship.

Even today, there are those who believe they are doing a righteous work by killing Christians. For example, ISIS believed in beheading Christians, they were earning a place in Heaven and rewards from God. How many Christians have we seen dragged into court because they refused to engage in business practices that violated their conscience but the world demanded thes practices any way.

I could go on about persecution ad nauseum but I would leave you with this thought on the matter: John 16:33b, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

So what do I do about this? Beloved, having now understood what life in the Kingdom of Heaven looks like, it should be our sincere desire to see the traits laid out in the beatitudes cultivated in our lives. These character traits are a gift from God and also an answer to prayer. As we earnestly desire to be more like Christ, we will see these traits manifest more and more in our lives.

Do not be discouraged when trials come. Instead, have the mindset that James, the Lord’s brother encouraged– Count it as a blessing when trials and persecutions come because it means that our faith is being perfected. We will not always get to know what God is doing but when we look back over the most challenging times in our lives, we can see that God is working everything together to conform us to the image of His Son. The ultimate result of such confirmation will be the day when we are resurrected and glorified with bodies suitable for Heaven and prepared to enjoy the majesty of our Savior into the ages of ages.

 

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