by Mike Ratliff
23 And he went about in all Galilee teaching in their Synagogues and preaching the Good News of the Kingdom and healing every disease and every illness among the people. 24 And the report of him went out into all Syria and they brought to him all those having illnesses, various diseases, suffering from torments, being demon possessed, epileptics, and paralytics, and he healed them. 25 And many crowds followed him from Galilee, Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and beyond the Jordan. 1 And having seen the crowds, he went up to the mountain. And when he sat down his disciples came to him. (Matthew 4:23-5:1 Possessing the Treasure New Testament v1)
The Jewish religious system that our Lord confronted head-on when he began his earthly ministry was one based upon the Mosaic Law, but the keepers of that Law had created oral traditions for the people to keep that were not part of the Law at all. The purpose of God’s Law was intended to show the people their inability to be what God commanded and, therefore, their need for a Saviour outside of themselves so that they would come to God. The oral traditions and the legalistic religious system, a system of works righteousness, kept that from happening because it actually created a system of works that people could actually “keep,” even though they were burdensome, but it deceived them into believing they were actually keeping the Law. We have flavors of this in our time in those religious systems that are all about “works righteousness” or “deeds not creeds.” Any religious system calling itself “Christian” that bases justification upon “works” rather than justification by God’s grace through faith is false.
In contrast to that religious system of works that our Lord confronted, our Lord lays out in his Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:1-7:29) what makes up membership of those who are truly in God’s Kingdom what doesn’t. In this post we will look at Matthew 5:1-12.
1 And having seen the crowds, he went up to the mountain. And when he sat down his disciples came to him. 2 And opening his mouth he taught them saying, 3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” 4 “Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted.” 5 “Blessed are the humble for they will inherit the earth.” 6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they will be satisfied.” 7 “Blessed are the merciful for they will be shown mercy.” 8 “Blessed are the pure in heart for they will see God.” 9 “Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called the sons of God.” 10 “Blessed are those persecuted because of righteousness for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” 11 “Blessed are you when they reproach you and persecute you, and false speak all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad for your reward in heaven is great; for thus they persecuted the prophets before you.” (Matthew 5:1-12 Possessing the Treasure New Testament v1)
Notice to whom this sermon was preached. Was it preached to the crowds seeking to be healed or to see the signs and wonders or was it to his disciples? It was to his disciples who came to him on the mountain, which was probably near the Sea of Galilee. The adjective “Blessed” translates the Greek word Μακάριοι (Makarioi), “blessed, fortunate, happy.” The Lexical root of Μακάριοι is μακάριος (makarios), which means to be “fully satisfied.” In the New Testament μακάριος is used to refer to the joy that comes from salvation. It is never the result of circumstances in life. It comes only from being indwelt by Christ. Therefore, ti would be wrong to translate Μακάριοι as “happy” because that English word is connected with luck or favorable circumstances.
What does it mean to be “poor in spirit?” This is the opposite of self-sufficiency. As we mature in Christ and can pray the Lord’s prayer and rejoice as we pray, “Your will be done on earth as it is in heave” we are actually submitting ourselves joyfully to the sovereign will of God and are desiring his will to be done and not our own for we know that our own will is corrupt and self-centered. Therefore, we lose our self-sufficiency and become poor-in-spirit. We cannot have the joy of the Lord growing in us without starting right here. What is the promise? Theirs is the kingdom of heaven! What our Lord is saying is that those who truly belong to him will be those who become poor-in-spirit, the very opposite of proud and self-sufficient.
In v4 we see that true Christians are those who mourn. We mourn over sin. We have godly sorrow that produces repentance leading to salvation without regret. The comfort is the comfort of forgiveness and salvation. There is not one thing the world can offer that is better than this.
In v5 I translated πραεῖς as “humble,” but the ESV, and the KJV and others translate it as “meek.” The NASB translates it as “gentle.” It means, “lowly, meek, gentle, or humble.” You get the idea because whatever word we use here from this group we are talking about a person with the character that is the opposite of being out of control. This is not weakness, but supreme self-control empowered by the Holy Spirit. V5 is actually a quote from Psalm 37:11.
In v6 we have those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. This is the opposite of the self-righteousness of the Pharisees. Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness seek God’s righteousness rather than attempting to establish a righteousness of their own. What is the promise? What they seek will fill them. It will satisfy their hunger and thirst for a right relationship with God.
In v7 we have a truism. The converse is also true as James says in James 2:13, “For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.” In v8 what a promise! The pure in heart shall see God! This is not only true wit the perception of faith, but in the glory of heaven (Hebrews 12:14; Revelation 22:3,4). In v9 we have a blessing promised for peacemakers. These are the ones obey the Lord and minister in such a way that God uses them as a means to accomplish his will in bringing others to have peace with him and other believers. We also have elements of this mentioned in Matthew 5:44,45.
In vv10-12 we have the last beatitude that promises that if one is in Christ and living and standing for his righteousness then persecution of all sorts from the those who hate him and the truth is going to come. However, the promise is that this is actually a blessing and we should rejoice and be glad for our eternal reward is great. (James 5:10,11; 1 Peter 4:12-14).
We will continue with the Part 2 of the Sermon on the Mount in our next post.
Soli Deo Gloria!