Using as a guide the book entitled “Studies in the Sermon on the Mount”
by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones
It is reasonable to see from what we have covered so far that our Lord is giving us a description of the character and disposition of the Christian person. So now that this Christian person is born again and is in the kingdom of God lets look at what the Lord says should be the change in the actions of a person who has committed their lives to the Lord and his kingdom. This is where the Beatitudes begin to show that change and it carries throughout the rest of the Sermon on the Mount and New Testament.
Verse 7: “ Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy”.
What does the scriptures mean by merciful? Remember now, we covered the five general principles we need to keep in mind if we are to understand the New Testament. One of those principles was that none of the descriptions given in these Beatitudes refers to what may be called a natural tendency. It is the result of the mercies and gift of God as given through the Holy Spirit at work in those who are in the kingdom of God. It is part of growing in the image of our Lord. Now why will the saints be blessed if the are merciful? For the rest of the Beatitude says: “… for they shall receive mercy”. This is a statement that is like many in the scripture showing that we must understand the general principles first before we take a part of a verse or a whole verse and run with it. Within some of the church today there is this believe that what is being said here is that if you are not merciful you will not receive mercy from God. This is taking scripture piece meal before understanding the whole. This interpretation is wrong for two very important reasons. First, if we were to be judged strictly on those terms, it is certain that not one of us would be forgiven or receive mercy or see heaven. Second, if that interpretation is true it cancels the whole doctrine of grace, which we read from Ephesians: 2:8: “For by grace you have been saved through faith…”. Scripture must interpret scripture. Only scripture has the truth from God. We must never interpret any scripture in such a manner as to contradict other scriptures. We must ‘rightly divide the word of truth’, and we must see that there is conformity of doctrine to doctrine.
Remember we have said that these nine Beatitudes cannot be taken as separate entities. They are to be taken as a whole and in this logical sequence. So when applying these two precepts we see that we cannot know what the Lord is saying to us unless we attach it to the four preceding Beatitudes and in the order in which they are given. This mercy is supernatural, a free gift given to us by the mercy and grace of God through the Holy Spirit; this gift is gained for us by the mercy, grace and blood of our Lord and Savior. If we personally have received all that mercy from God we become empowered to give mercy to others regardless of their condition before God. The Lord is saying that if this kind of mercy to others begins to show in our lives it means that we have received mercy already from God.
Verse 8: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God”
To get a true understanding of this Beatitude we need look at the words the Lord has used. Remember we are looking at spiritual things in the Beatitudes not earthly things. Lets look together at this word “heart”. First, the gospel of Jesus Christ is concerned about the heart; read his teaching in the gospels and you will find that all along He is talking about the heart. In the scriptural and spiritual sense the heart is at the center of a person’s being and personality; it is the basis out of which everything else comes. It includes the intellect, will and emotions. It forms who persons are on the inside of their being. So the Lord is making the point that he is talking about the center of their being and the source of their every activity. The gospel always starts with the heart. Second, the scriptures emphasize that the heart is always the seat of all our troubles. The Lord said in Matthew 15:19-20: “For out of the heart comes evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person.” The world is telling us that the troubles are not in the person but in his or her environment, just change their environment and all will be well. But that is a fallacy because the first man and women were in the perfect environment of paradise and they defiled themselves. Well the world says maybe the answer is education. The facts show that some of the worst villains in history have been highly educated. No, the only true answer is what the Lord says; it is what is inside a person, their heart and because of the fall and the result of sin the heart is desperately wicked and deceitful. In light of that true description of the human heart how could anyone believe they could make themselves a Christian? So that’s the meaning of the heart in this Beatitude. Lets now look at this other word “pure”. One meaning is that it is without hypocrisy; it is single minded and focused. Another is that it carries the meaning of cleansed, with out defilement. Of course the perfect example of pure in heart is to be like the Lord Jesus. It means for us having an undivided love for God. In other words for us it means to keep ‘the first and great commandment’, which is that “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind”. Then to end this particular Beatitude Jesus says: “…for they shall see God”. As these Beatitudes are at work in our lives we take on the image of the Lord and God declares us holy and pure in heart so that we will be able upon our death to see God. There is even a sense here on earth that we can see God at work in nature, at work in history, at work in our lives and the lives of other believers. So as born again believers in the kingdom of God we have this gift of ‘seeing him who is invisible’. Remember now, this Beatitude like all the others is a gift from God. But it doesn’t mean that we just sit back and wait for it to happen. As James tells us in 4:8: “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you”. Just because we know that we cannot purify and cleanse our own hearts does not mean that we should walk in the world’s ways of life and just wait for God to cleanse us. We must do everything we can, out of love for God, to walk in the ways that scripture tells us and still know it is not enough, and that God must do it finally. All these Blessing in these Beatitudes are ours if we have received the faith to believe that grace and true came through Jesus Christ.
Next month we will continue our “Journey Through the Beatitudes”