Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven

by Mike Ratliff

1 Remind them to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed, 2 to malign no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing every consideration for all men. 3 For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another. 4 But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, 5 He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:1-7 NASB)

18 Pride goes before destruction, And a haughty spirit before stumbling. 19 It is better to be humble in spirit with the lowly Than to divide the spoil with the proud. (Proverbs 16:18-19 NASB)

When I encounter a professing Christian who is joyless and focused entirely on trying to be fulfilled by worldly things, I want to take them aside and tell them that what they are seeking will not be found where they are looking. I want to show them that only genuine Christians who are humble as their Lord is humble find true blessedness. All truly regenerate believers have what they need to become humble and Spirit-filled, but most of us struggle for many years in the furnace of sanctification before God gives us that first taste of joy that is beyond measure. Why do we struggle so? God knows what is best for us. Each of us is unique and God will use us according to His will in His timing. Some require much more refining than others based on what God has for them to do. However, everyone who is regenerate can experience the blessedness our Lord shared at the beginning of His Sermon on the Mount. Let’s take a close look at what some call The Beatitudes.

1 When Jesus saw the crowds, He went up on the mountain; and after He sat down, His disciples came to Him. 2 He opened His mouth and began to teach them, saying, 3 “ Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. 5 “Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth. 6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. 7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. 8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. 9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. 10 “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:1-12 NASB)

The Greek word translated “blessed” is “makarioi.” This word means to be “fully satisfied.” When this word is used in the New Testament it speaks of the joy that comes from salvation. Much like “agapao,” which is translated as “love,” but has a much deeper meaning than what our English translations give it, “makarioi” is a satisfaction that is not the result of favorable circumstances in life. It comes only from being indwelt by Christ. Therefore, it would be wrong to translate “makarioi” “happy.” Why? Happiness is derived from the English word “hap,” which is connected with luck or favorable circumstances.

Blessedness is not static, but progressive. This progress depends upon the fulfillment of the conditions set down in Jesus’ Beatitudes. Therefore, we know that the progression begins in v3 and culminates in v12 with each statement building upon what comes before.

3 “ Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:3 NASB)

The Greek word that is translated as “poor in spirit” is “ptochois.” This word is used to indicate a “helpless” person as opposed to “penes” which means “poor, but able to help oneself.” The first step toward blessedness is a realization of one’s own spiritual helplessness. Compare this passage with Romans 3:9-20, which tells us that no one is righteous and no one seeks after God. Who then is saved? Only those who come to see their utter spiritual helplessness can be saved. No one else is “poor in spirit.” Instead they are proud and self-reliant and in rebellion against our Holy and Righteous God. How then can these “poor in spirit” be saved?

1 And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, 2 in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. 3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ ( by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. (Ephesians 2:1-10 NASB)

The poor in spirit know that God saved them in their spiritual helplessness. God saves sinners, but only those who are poor in spirit. Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Only the poor in spirit are saved.

4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. (Matthew 5:4 NASB)

Jesus tells us here that the poor in spirit also mourn. They sorrow for their sins and the sins of others. The Greek word that is used here for “mourn” is “pentheo.” It speaks of inner grief instead of the external expressions of grief that we see at funerals, for example. I have seen believers making a big deal out of showing their grief over their sin, but what Jesus is talking about here is the sorrow the regenerate will have about sin that is the same sorrow that God has about it. The comfort that our Lord speaks of here is referring to forgiveness and salvation itself.

Look at our progression. The poor in spirit are those who realize they are spiritually helpless and cannot save themselves. God causes this to happen with the washing of regeneration. Sinners see their sin and understand they are lost and cry out to God to save them. They mourn for their sin. This is part of repentance. Whom does God comfort with forgiveness and salvation? Only the poor in spirit and those who mourn and repent are saved.

5 “Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth. (Matthew 5:5 NASB)

Who are the meek? They are those who are willing to see themselves as they really are. This concept they have of themselves is evidenced in their submission to God and His Word, as well as in their dealings with others. Doesn’t this describe being Spirit-filled? Who becomes Spirit-filled? Those who confess their sins, repent, permeate their lives with the Word of God and submit to others. The meek have self-control empowered by the Holy Spirit

9 For evildoers will be cut off, But those who wait for the Lord, they will inherit the land. 10 Yet a little while and the wicked man will be no more; And you will look carefully for his place and he will not be there. 11 But the humble will inherit the land And will delight themselves in abundant prosperity. (Psalms 37:9-11 NASB)

The meek are Spirit-filled and are not out of control worrying about the world going down the tubes or how freedoms are being lost or how wicked everyone seems to be nowadays. They may mourn over those sins, but they remain at peace with God because they know that God saved them for His purposes and according to His will and not because of their own abilities or their own righteousness, therefore, they have total peace with Him knowing that their salvation is secure because it does not depend on them, but on the power and faithfulness of God.

6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. (Matthew 5:6 NASB)

The Greek word translated as, “they which do hunger and thirst” is “hoi peinontes.” A better rendering would be, “the hungering ones.” This indicates a constant and recurrent satisfaction with God’s righteousness. The nourishment received from being filled is expended in hungering anew for another filling. This is the opposite of being self-righteous. Those who hunger after God’s righteousness do not attempt to establish a righteousness of their own. (Romans 10:3; Philippians 3:9) The Holy Spirit is the driving force behind this. He gives this hunger to the meek who are those who mourn who are poor in spirit. The filling also gives us joy, which is our strength, and our Lord says He gives it to those who obey Him so they can continue to obey Him and prove to be His disciples. (John 15:10-11)

7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. (Matthew 5:7 NASB)

The merciful are characterized by a caring attitude for those who are in misery. They take the heartaches of others and make them their own. This is also a reflection of God’s character flowing through the regenerate. God saves His people by being merciful to them. He is patient with us, showing us mercy, as we struggle with sin and obedience. Therefore, we are to show mercy to others. We are to forgive and ask God to forgive us to the level we forgive others. (Matthew 6:12)

8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. (Matthew 5:8 NASB)

Purity of heart can only be acquired through the continuous cleansing that believers experience when they have fulfilled the previous conditions of blessedness. The purer a person becomes, the more clearly he can see God. This is why it is essential for Christians to not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of their minds as living sacrifices. (Romans 12:1-2)

9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. (Matthew 5:9 NASB)

A peacemaker is not simply someone who tries to stop the feuding between nations and people. It is a believer that has experienced the peace of God and who brings that peace to his fellow human beings. This is one who shares His faith with others and God uses to bring them into the Kingdom. These peacemakers also rebuke the backsliders and apostates while preaching to the atheists and pagans all with the goal of reconciling them with God.

10 “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:10-12 NASB)

Being persecuted for righteousness sake causes a person to reach the highest level of the satisfaction of blessedness. (James 5:10,11; 1 Peter 4:12-14) It is a lie from our enemy that states that it is not God’s will for Christians to suffer. God uses suffering to refine His saints, developing in them these attributes we have been studying.

The state of blessedness begins the very moment that a person believes on Jesus Christ for salvation. This is demonstrated by the fact that the promises concerning the kingdom of heaven in v3 and v10 are in the present tense. While in this life one may enjoy the results of implementing these truths, the ultimate condition of blessedness will be experienced when we go home to be with our Lord.

Some teach that these Beatitudes are not for Christians on earth now, but are only for some future sinless state ruled by Christ. This teaching comes from those who also teach that there is such a things as a Christian who has not surrendered to the Lordship of Christ. These fictional Christians live for self and cannot be discerned from lost folks other than they profess to be Christians. No, sorry, that is not found in the Bible. Instead, we see that at salvation, we are New Creations and have begun our journey that God has laid out for us. Jesus said that only those who deny themselves, die to self, and take up their crosses and follow Him can be His disciples.

What we must do is examine ourselves. Are we on this magnificent path of blessedness or are we pretending? That is between you and God, but I pray that you will settle this with Him if He shows you that you are depending upon self for your salvation or anything or anyone other than our Lord Jesus Christ.

Soli Deo Gloria!

10 thoughts on “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven

  1. Dear Mike,

    You have touched on the intangible. This is the part of Christianity that can’t be manufactured.

    You wrote:

    “The merciful are characterized by a caring attitude for those who are in misery. They take the heartaches of others and make them their own. This is also a reflection of God’s character flowing through the regenerate. God saves His people by being merciful to them. He is patient with us, showing us mercy, as we struggle with sin and obedience. Therefore, we are to show mercy to others. We are to forgive and ask God to forgive us to the level we forgive others. (Matthew 6:12)”

    People can espouse “correct” theology (and you know more than anyone that I think proper division of God precious Word is to be held in highest regard), but the difference in the true believer is that it carries to application. We must be different by our love. I keep going back to
    “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one anther even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34-35 I have really appreciated the little saying “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” I keep reminding myself that if… “I do not have love, I am nothing.” 1Corinthians 13:2

    I pray that God may grant us a large measure of His supernatural love through the power of the Holy Spirit indwelling us for His glory in a broken desperate world.

    May God continue to bless your ministry!!!!

    Kept only by His grace, charisse graves

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  2. Please help me. John16:23,26 KJV
    “[23] And in that day ye shall ask me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you. [26] At that day ye shall ask in my name..”
    It says 2 times “in/at that day”. What day is it talking about? Please tell me. If you don’t mind.

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  3. Agree,

    23 In that day you will not question Me about anything. Truly, truly, I say to you, if you ask the Father for anything in My name, He will give it to you. 24 Until now you have asked for nothing in My name; ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be made full. 25 “These things I have spoken to you in figurative language; an hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figurative language, but will tell you plainly of the Father. 26 In that day you will ask in My name, and I do not say to you that I will request of the Father on your behalf; 27 for the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me and have believed that I came forth from the Father. (John 16:23-27 NASB)

    These references to “In that day” are referring to what will be different after our Lord departs. What is different? The Holy Spirit comes upon the Church. This happened at Pentecost and we who are truly in Christ have the Holy Spirit now. We no longer have to ask Christ personally about doctrine or God’s will because now we have the Word of God and the Holy Spirit. We are in the last days now which is what Jesus was referring to.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

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