A Journey through the Beatitudes
Using as a guide the book Studies in the Sermon on the Mount
by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones
Continuing from last month:
Our next verse is a little different than the others but it is still an account and description of the Christian. The Lord changes the emphasis slightly from what the Holy Spirit is enabling to come forth in our lives to what will be the likely outcome of being born again and entering the kingdom of God.
Verse 10: “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
There is a reason that this Beatitude follows right after the reference to peacemakers. The biblical doctrines of sin and the world are displayed perfectly in these two Beatitudes: “Blessed are the peacemakers…” and “Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness sake…”. If a Christian person is a peacemaker this is what happens to him. Many times, even if you have tried in a calm, gentle and non-threatening way, to explain that what a person has said or done is not in the best interest of peace, it will not be taken kindly and persecution with its many different ways of being displayed will start to happen. It is the way of the world.
The promise attached to this Beatitude is the same as the one attached to the first Beatitude: “…theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” That is further and additional proof of the fact that this is the last Beatitude. The Lord starts with the kingdom of God and ends with it. This verifies his statement at the beginning of his ministry when he said: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” The important point the Lord was making was membership in the kingdom of heaven.
This Beatitude is one that will test us the most as to our Christian character and devotion to the Lord if we ever have to face severe persecution. Therefore, we must be positive that we understand what the Beatitude is actually saying. The key to that understanding is in the words after “persecuted”: “…for righteousness’ sake.” It does not merely say: “Blessed are they which are persecuted.” What it does not mean is being persecuted for being objectionable, quarrelsome, or difficult. We are so prone because of the sin nature still in us to fall into this trap. We must discern between being offensive in a natural sense and causing offense because we are righteous by the Lord’s work in us.
Listen to what Peter says in 1st Peter 4:12-17:
“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice, insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a busybody in other men’s matters. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name.”
What does this “…for righteousness’ sake” mean then? It means being like the Lord Jesus Christ. Following in his footsteps and having the opportunity to speak concerning the things of God, we speak about the truth that is in the scriptures, with the emphasis on the words of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, knowing full well in so doing that we will be persecuted in some way or other. That is why the Lord has given us this Beatitude, to give us a warning. The Lord’s words are certainly ringing true in our 21st century and as it has been down through the ages and will continue to be until the Lord returns to restore all things.
We can draw certain conclusions from all this. First, it tells us what our ideas are concerning the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. If we think He can be admired and applauded by the non-Christian, we have a wrong view of Him. The effect of Jesus on his contemporaries was that they hated him. Second, this Beatitude does test our ideas as to what makes a Christian. The Christian is like his Lord and if the world hated the Lord it will hate the Christian. The Lord explains this to us in John 15:18-20:
“If the world hates you, know that it hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master’. If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me.”
The Lord was so concerned that his followers down through the ages would understand this Beatitude that he added a footnote in verses 11 and 12.
“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
We have been looking at the Beatitudes, which the Lord has used for his opening statement to the Sermon on the Mount. He is giving us in this overview the description and the characteristics of a Christian. In other words, what he expects from us who say we are Christians. Also, he is obviously searching us and testing us. The question remaining is how are we reacting to this searching and testing? ? Our response really tells us everything about our Christian profession. If we dislike this kind of thing, if we are impatient with it, if we dislike this personal searching and testing it simply means that our position is entirely contrary to what the Lord and the rest of the New Testament is saying. But, if the searching and testing are taken in humility and understanding, even though sometimes it hurts, we will mature in knowing that it is for our good spiritually. The primary, central truth about the whole Christian position should come into focus for us. It is that the Christian Gospel places the emphasis upon being, rather than doing. It’s upon our attitude before our action. It’s on what we are rather than what we do. Our actions and doings come out of who we are: born again, Holy Spirit filled, belonging to the kingdom of God. God in his tender mercies and love for us understands our true condition before him, but by the completed atoning work of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, he has promised us that if we “hunger and thirst after righteousness” he will by his power fully complete for us what we cannot do; take on the image of Christ and enter in the kingdom of heaven to spend eternity with him. Praise God!!