Using the book entitled “Studies in the Sermon on the Mount”
as a guide, authored by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones,
who was minister of Westminster Chapel in London, England.
In Matthew 4:17, our Lord had gone to be baptized by John the Baptist and in v. 17 it says: From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, ’Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand’.” Jesus starts His ministry with this tremendously short sentence. His whole ministry is going to be centered on the kingdom of heaven, or in other parts of scripture it is called the kingdom of God. He is saying that this kingdom is at hand, in other words it will become available to persons living here on earth. But there is a qualification; if we want to be included in this kingdom of God we must repent. Now repent means to turn around. For us it means to stop taking what the world is calling truth and turn to Jesus Christ himself for truth. As the Apostle John tells us in his gospel (1:7): “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” Let’s remember that verse as we go along because it is a very important part of what Jesus has to say.
What truth about the kingdom of God does the Lord want us to know? The answer is found in Matthew, chapters 5-7. We know this section of Scripture as “The Sermon on the Mount.” Now the Sermon on the Mount is God’s decree as to how to enter the kingdom of God and what we are to become as we walk out our lives within that kingdom.
Starting with Matthew 5:3-11, the Lord gives us a beautiful overview of a Christian. Our Scriptures call this part “the Beatitudes.” When reading and studying the Scriptures it is always best to get a general understanding of what is being said and then to delve into the particulars. Here are 5 general principals when studying the Scriptures, which will help us to get to the truth of what is being taught to the Church in these “Beatitudes.”
First: All Christians are to be like this. What our Lord is saying is that every “born again” Christian is to have these characteristics; they are not for some special super holy person.
Second: All Christians are meant to manifest all of these characteristics. Each and every “born again” Christian is to show all of these characteristics as they mature in the Lord.
Third: None of these descriptions refer to what may be called a natural tendency.
Fourth: We must understand clearly the essential difference between the Christian and the non-Christian. The Christian is in the kingdom of God and under the direct influence of the Triune god; the non-Christian is in the domain of Satan, the world, and their own sinful nature.
Fifth: The Christian and the non-Christian belong to two entirely different realms. The first and last Beatitude end with the promise, “For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” What does this mean? Our Lord starts and ends with it because it is his way of saying that the first thing we have to realize about ourselves is that we belong to a different kingdom. We are not only different in essence from the non-Christian but we also are living in two different worlds. We are in this world but we are not of it.
Matthew 5:3: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
Now all of the Beatitudes start with this word “blessed” which means “happy.” They are saying that if these Beatitudes are beginning to show up in our lives we will be happy. Remember now the Lord is talking about persons who are in the kingdom of God and his kingdom is not of this world—it is spiritual. So this blessedness or happiness is not the happiness that the world is constantly seeking but it is the happiness that is spiritual and touches our very souls no matter what this world or Satan does to us. To be poor ins spirit means to have an understanding of our true condition as God sees us. That true condition as God sees us is that every person on the face of the earth is spiritually dead and is under the wrath of God. There is nothing within ourselves that we can do to change that judgment of God.. He is saying that the first step to entering the kingdom of God is to know that you are poor in spirit; your spirit must be alive to hear the truths of Jesus Christ. It is the beginning of the Gospel—the Good News! If we understand that we are spiritually dead, that makes us poor in spirit. But listen to what Jesus then says; “for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” It’s the doorway (if you will) into the kingdom of heaven.
Verse 4: “Blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”
First off, we must understand that this beatitude is not talking about mourning for the death of a loved one or some sad happening in our lives. So what is this mourning that the Lord is speaking about?
First, we must mourn for ourselves. Having insight into our true spiritual condition before God should cause great distress and a real sense of mourning within us. Then we should mourn for the state of the church as a whole. Finally, we should mourn for the lost who cannot see the truth in Jesus Christ. But, listen to what Jesus says is the outcome of spiritual mourning: “for they shall be comforted.” Did we have comfort when we entered the kingdom of God; do we still have that comfort as we continue to walk our walk with the Lord?
Verse 5: “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”
With this beatitude a slight change is made in relation to the two listed before it. Being poor in spirit and mourning have to do with each of us as individuals understanding our true condition before a holy God. This beatitude changes the focus to a concern about other people. This shows the consistency of the Scriptures. The Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes all follow the same pattern of our relationship to God, and to others. We need spiritual meekness to have a “true view of ourselves, expressing itself in our attitude and conduct with respect to others.” The promise with this beatitude is “for they shall inherit the earth.” These are no idle words; this is a promise from the Creator God of the universe. If this spiritual meekness is manifesting in our lives we have the victory over Satan and this sinful world while we are walking out our walk here on earth. We are persons who are happy, content, and at peace with God and the world. That is what being spiritually meek is all about.
Next month we will continue our “Journey through the Beatitudes.”
Submitted by Tom Ross, Elder Emeritus