Tuesday, February 10, 2009

An Exposition of Matthew 5:1-6

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.

The Kingdom of Heaven
Matthew, like many Jews of his day, would have refrained from using the word “God” because of the holiness associated with that word. It was not uncommon to adopt euphemisms such as “The Kingdom of Heaven” in place of “The Kingdom of God” in order to not break the third commandment. This Kingdom of Heaven is therefore referring to the Kingdom of God is it is called in the other Gospels.

We know that the Kingdom of Heaven is not only the body of Christian believers, but it also encompasses all things in time and space, as nothing is outside of the control of God, yet that is not the Kingdom Christ refers to here. Mark 9:45-47 gives us a glimpse of what must be the Kingdom of God/ Heaven.

And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. 45And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell. 47And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell.

The Kingdom of Heaven is life itself. To enter the Kingdom is to begin life: eternal life.

“Beatitude” is a transliteration of the Greek word beatus, it is best translated blessed. So in essence we should call these "The Blessings" rather than "The Beatitudes." We see two beatitudes offer the same reward, this is a stylistic device known as “inclusion’ which means everything bracketed in between the two are all under one central theme: the kingdom of God. This is why D.A. Carson refers to the beatitudes as “The Norms of the Kingdom.”

Verse 3: Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

This idea of being poor in spirit develops from the OT when God’s people were known as “The poor of the Lord.” Some of the various Hebrew words translated as poor can also mean “lowly” or “humble”. This gives us a glimpse into what “poor in spirit” is actually referring to. Poverty of Spirit is the personal acknowledgment of spiritual bankruptcy. It is the conscious confession of unworth before God.

Verse 4: Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

This idea of being blessed for mourning seems strange. This however does not mean those who are always upset are blessed, nor does it mean to enter the Kingdom of Heaven one must always be solemn and down in spirit. Rather this mourning is at the personal level of personal sin. The more one is exposed to the holiness of God, the more he is aware of the utter blackness of his own sin.

But the Christian will be comforted. We mourn over sin, but we rejoice in the substitutionary death of Jesus Christ which offers the complete and final forgives for our sins.

Verse Five: Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

Poverty of spirit has to do with ones personal assessment of himself, where meekness has to do with a relationship with God and men.

Martyn Lloyd Jones says meekness does not mean indolence, flabbiness, niceness or easy to get along with. Those are natural qualities; a dog can be nicer than another dog. Meekness is not something that is naturally attainable; it is only available through the spirit. We may think someone is meek because they are nice to others, but there inner desire may be for selfish gain. Meekness is not weakness. A meek man will die for the truth if necessary. The martyrs were meek, but they were by no means weak. A weak pushover cannot be meek, for meekness involves control over ones self.

Meekness is a controlled desire to see the others interest advance ahead of one’s own. “It is a true view of oneself, expressing itself in attitude and conduct with respect to others. It is my attitude toward myself; and it is an expression of that in my relationship toward others.” – Lloyd-Jones

Verse Six: Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

Many in our current Christian world do not hunger and thirst for righteousness. They may want to know how to live a purpose driven life or how to live their best life now. Many want to know the most effective way to evangelize or what worship style is best. And many more jump from church to church, conference to conference wanting to experience some kind of spiritual high, but few thirst for righteousness. The man who is marked by poverty of spirit, who grieves over personal sin, and who lives in meekness, must also hunger and thirst for righteousness. It is not that the man, is looking for the next step for becoming a better Christian, but the change in his life from living like Christ has produced a hunger for righteousness, that he cannot imagine living without. This is the man who is not just sorry he got caught sinning, but whose sin utterly breaks his heart, and is begging God to help him conquer his sin.

Martyn Lloyd Jones states: "I do not know a better test that anyone can apply to himself or herself in this whole matter of the Christian profession than a verse like this. If this verse is to you one of the most blessed statements of the whole of scripture, you can be quite certain you are a Christian; if it is not, than you had better examine the foundations again.”

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