This week, we begin a 9 week study of the Beatitudes. (At the conclusion of this study, we will enter the Advent Season and focus on the first coming of Christ. We will continue our study of Hebrews in January.) Before we begin to look at each beatitude, we need to take a look at the whole before we examine the parts. Here is the text that lays before us:
1Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, 2and he began to teach them, saying: 3“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. 5Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. 6Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. 7Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. 8Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. 9Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God. 10Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5.1-12)
D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, in his book Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, writes these words:
“Happiness is the great question confronting mankind. The whole world is longing for happiness and it is tragic to observe the ways in which people are seeking it. The vast majority are doing so in a way that is bound to produce misery. Anything which by evading the difficulties merely makes people happy for the time being is ultimately going to add to their misery and problems. That is where the utter deceitfulness of sin comes in; it is always offering happiness and it always lead to the unhappiness and to final misery and wretchedness.”
He makes the following observations about the beatitudes in general:
1. They describe the attitudes and character of all Christians, not just the saintly few. “The idea that the height of the Christian life is meant only for the chosen few and that the rest of us are meant to live on the dull plains is a denial of the Sermon.”
2. All Christians are to manifest all of these characteristics. They are not like the spiritual gifts where each believer has at least one gift but no believer has them all. No, all Christians are to manifest all of the characteristics.
3. None of these characteristics refer to “natural tendencies.” These are not personality traits given at birth but are produced by grace alone and the in-working of the Holy Spirit.
4. They describe the essential and utter difference between a Christian and a non-Christian because the Christian and the non-Christian belong to two different realms. The first and last beatitude offer the same reward: the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is essentially the rule of Christ. It is experienced both in the “now” and in the “not yet.” In some ways, the Kingdom of God has come, but in many ways the Kingdom is still yet to come. But one thing is for sure, the follower of Christ is no longer a citizen of this world but now belongs to the Kingdom of God.
May the Lord speak to us and into us the Way of Christ through this study.