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Lesson One
Lesson Two
Lesson Three
Lesson Four
Lesson Five
Lesson Six
Lesson Seven
Lesson Eight
Lesson Nine
Lesson Ten
Course Wrap-Up
Course Completion
1 Activity | 1 Assessment

Lecture

(Introduction) I will just say, we are very, very thankful that God has sent Dr. Stott to us for the courses of this quarter, here at Trinity. He has already met with his day courses, and those of you who have had the privilege of being in his classes have rejoiced at the fact that he is here with us. Dr. Stott is one of the best-known evangelical clergyman on planet earth, and you really can’t say that about very many people. But you really can say it about him. That’s not the best thing about him. He’s also chaplain of the Queen of England, and you can’t say that about very many people. But the best thing about him is that he is a godly man and a very humble man. He has less to be humble about than anybody I know, but he is a humble and godly man. Therefore, I delight myself in his ministry here on our campus. I hope you folk do too.

Dr. Stott: Well I’m grateful to Dr. [Conser], for his very kind, if exceedingly embarrassing, words of introduction. I’d like to say I’m a committed Trinity man having been myself at Trinity College Cambridge first, I’ve now completed my education by coming to Trinity Deerfield. It’s a great pleasure to be here, and I’m grateful to you for coming to this evening class.

Now let’s have our opening prayer. And I want to use some words that were written by John Calvin in the reformation. “Lord Jesus, in You are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Enlighten our minds by your Holy Spirit, and grant us that reverence and humility without which no man can understand your truth. For your names sake, Amen.”

Well, I think you’d agree that the Sermon on the Mount is certainly the best known, although possibly the least heeded part of the teaching of Jesus. In it He set forth his ideals for Christian discipleship and He listed the chief marks which are to characterize the citizens of the kingdom of God. The Sermon on the Mount remains today Christ’s own description of Christians. Or, if you like more pop-phraseology, it’s Jesus’ portrait of Jesus’ people.

I’ve got a number of things I have to say to introduce the sermon. In order to do so, I’d like to read you the first two verses of Matthew 5, for the sermon, of course, is Matthew 5, 6, and 7. We read that seeing the crowds, Jesus went up on the mountain. When He sat down, His disciples came to Him and He opened His mouth and He taught them, saying.

I just read to you Matthew 5:1 about Jesus going up the mountain and sitting down. There can be little doubt that His purpose in going up a hill or mountain to teach was mainly in order to withdraw from the crowds, and in order to give concentrated instruction to the disciples. But perhaps He also intended, as various commentators, ancient and modern, have suggested, to draw a deliberate parallel between Mt. Sinai, where Moses received and taught the law, and the so-called Mount of Beatitudes in Galilee where Jesus taught His followers. For although Jesus was greater than Moses, and although His message was primarily a gospel and not a law, yet He did know to choose twelve apostles as the nucleus of the new Israel to correspond to the twelve tribes of the old Israel, He did claim to be both teacher and Lord. He did give His own authoritative interpretation of Moses’ law, and He did issue commandments and expect obedience. So we read that on this mountain, He sat down, as any rabbi would sit to teach, or as a legislature, or king. His disciples came to Him to listen to His teaching. He opened His mouth, an expression that perhaps indicates the solemnity of His utterance, and He taught them.

Now, there are two preliminary things which need to delay us for a moment. The first concerns the authenticity of the sermon. Is it an authentic sermon of Jesus? The second concerns it’s analysis. What ground does it cover, what truth does it contain?

First, its authenticity. The Sermon on the Mount occurs only, in at least this form, in the first gospel, the gospel of Matthew. In the third gospel, the gospel of Luke, there is a similar sermon, sometimes referred to as the Sermon on the Plane. These two sermons are not identical in substance. For one thing, Luke’s is considerably shorter. It’s only thirty verses, in contrast to Matthew’s 107 verses. In each of the two, Luke’s and Matthew’s sermon, includes material that is absent from the other. Nevertheless, although they are not entirely identical, there are obvious similarities between them. Both sermons begin with beatitudes, blessed are. Both end with the parable of the two house builders, built the house on rock or sand. In between the same beginning and end, there are the commands to love our enemies, not to judge people, to do to people as we would they would do to us, the golden rule, and the vivid illustrations of the tree and its fruit, and the log and the splinter in people’s eyes. So that there are not only identical beginnings and ends, but a lot of common material in the middle. Therefore, they appear to be versions of the same sermon. What, however, is the relation between the two sermons and how are we to explain the similarities and the differences?

Those of you who study a liberal theology at all will know that there are many people who have denied that the Sermon on the Mount was ever, in any meaningful sense, a sermon preached by Jesus. They remind us that it is a well-known feature of the first evangelists editorial work, to bring together the teachings of Jesus into collections. The most famous is in Matthew chapter thirteen in which he has collected together seven of the parables of Jesus. And some have argued that Matthew 7:5–7, the Sermon on the Mount, is similarly an accumulation of the sayings of Jesus, skillfully woven by the evangelist or by the early church into the form of a sermon. Even, I may say to my surprise, Calvin seems to have believed this to some extent. He wrote in his commentary, the design of birth evangelists was to collect into one place the leading points of the doctrine of Christ, which related to a devout and holy life. For he said, Matthew has collected this material out of Christ’s many and various discourses.

Personally, I find that hard to accept because both Matthew and Luke present their material as a sermon of Christ. Both give it a precise, historical, and geographical context. The historical context is that they attribute it to the early ministry of Jesus in Galilee. The geographical context, they say He delivered it on the mountain, Matthew 5:1, or on a level place in the mountains, Luke 6:12 and 17. Matthew goes on to record the astonished reaction of the crowds when He finished, especially because of His note of authority. Both Matthew and Luke say that when the sermon was over, Jesus entered Capernaum, Matthew 8:5, Luke 7:1, which is, again, a clear, historical context.

This does not mean, however, that both the evangelists give us the [ipsissima verba] of Jesus - the precise words of the whole sermon. This is obvious to begin with because we know that Jesus spoke in Aramaic, and both the gospels of Matthew and Luke give us a translation of the original Aramaic into Greek. Besides, as we’ve seen the two sermons, although they have common material, are independent and different. So either both give their individual selections and translations of the same sermon or Luke gives a briefer summary, omitting a lot, while Matthew records most if not all of it, or Matthew elaborates an originally shorter sermon. Personally, I don’t think any of those is the answer, just to confuse you a bit.

I prefer a suggestion made by Professor A.B. Bruce, and I dare say by others, and he believes that the material represents the instruction, not of a single hour, or of a single day, but of a period of retirement. He thought that Jesus may have had his disciples with Him up in the hills on what he calls a kind of holiday summer school. So he called Matthew 5–7, not the Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, which is the name that Augustine first gave to these chapters, but the teaching on the hill. In other words, we’re not apt to think of it as one sermon,; after all, if you read it, it only takes a very few minutes to read. But it’s much more likely to be a summary, and Luke and Matthew giving a different summary of a protracted period of instruction to the disciples of Jesus.

We, too, are going to have a protracted time, for ten weeks this quarter, studying this wonderful passage. I want to beg you at the beginning of our lectures not to come to listen to me, except indirectly, but to come in the mood to listen to Jesus Christ. To sit at His feet like Mary of Bethany in olden days. To imagine yourself to be one of the first disciples who heard this instruction as it is originally given. I hope that this quarter, these Thursday evening lectures, will not just be an academic exercise, but a study of the Lord’s teaching that would have a profound effect upon our lives. So much for the authenticity.

Now, just a word about the analysis. I’ve given you one to have with you, so no need to say much. But, however the Sermon on the Mount was composed, it forms a wonderfully coherent whole. It depicts the behavior that Jesus expects of every citizen of the kingdom of God, both his own private and interior conduct in himself and in his relations to God and to his fellow men. We see the Christian depicted in the Sermon on the Mount as he is in his heart. In his motives and in his thoughts, and in the secret place with his heavenly Father. But we also see him out in the arena of life, showing mercy, making peace, acting like salt, letting his light shine, loving and serving others, even his enemies, expecting nothing in return. It’s a beautifully comprehensive portrait of what Christians, like us, ought to be. So it covers first the Christians character, the nine beatitudes that we are to consider; well, there may be eight or nine, the eighth is repeated, really, in the ninth, which we are to consider tonight. Then, a Christian’s influence in the community as salt and light if he exhibits that kind of character. Then we come on to a Christian’s righteousness in the second part of chapter five where Jesus presents Himself, not as the patron of the new morality declaring that the law has been abolished, but explaining that He had not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it and expanding the total demands that God’s law makes upon our lives.

Chapter six deals with a Christian’s piety and a Christian’s ambition. The key expression in the whole of the chapter, in my view, is adverse it — do not be like them. The whole chapter emphasizes that Christians are called to be different, both in their religious life, that is in almsgiving, praying, and fasting, and in their secular life, that is the question of ambition. In both these spheres, religious and secular, we are to be like neither Pharisees nor pagans, neither hypocrites nor materialists. Do not be like them. We ought to be different.

Then we come to a Christian’s relationships at the beginning of chapter seven: relations to each other, relations to God as our heavenly Father, until we come to the conclusion with the two ways — the narrow way that leads to life and the broad road to destruction; the necessity of choice, especially in view of the false prophets, and the sermon ends with a stirring call to obey Jesus as our Lord and master.

Just giving you that very brief conspector solfer, what the sermon contains will I hope convince us that it has a coherence, which I hope we shall understand the better as we go along. So first Christian character and the beatitudes, verses one to twelve. I’m not going to read them; I’m going to ask you to read the passage to yourself each evening before the lecture starts.

Three introductory points about the beatitudes: first, the people described. These are not eight separate and distinct groups of Christian disciples; some meek, others merciful, some peacemakers, others persecuted, no. These are eight qualities of the same group who at one in the same time are meek and merciful, poor in spirit, pure in heart, mourning, hungry, etc. Moreover, this group is not an elitist cert, a small spiritual aristocracy, remote from the common run of Christians. This is Christ’s specification of what every Christian ought to be. So all these qualities in the beatitudes are to characterize all Christ’s followers. Just as the nine found fruit of the spirit in Galatians 5: 22, 23, is to ripen in every Christian character, so the eight beatitudes describe Christ’s ideal for every citizen of God’s kingdom. So that’s the first point. The people described are all Christian people in the ideal.

Two, the qualities commended. The qualities commended are spiritual qualities. If you compare the beatitudes in Matthew and Luke, you’ll find that there is at least a verbal discrepancy between them. Thus, for example, Luke writes, “Blessed are you poor,” Matthew, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” Luke, “Blessed are you who hunger now,” Matthew, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness.” As a result of this verbal discrepancy, some people have argued that Luke’s version is the original. That Jesus was actually making a sociological judgment about the poor, that He was promising food to the undernourished and riches to the proletariat in the kingdom of God. I want to suggest to you that that is an impossible interpretation, unless you are prepared to believe that Jesus contradicted Himself. For in the Judean wilderness, in the temptations, which had been recorded only in the previous chapter in Matthew chapter four, Jesus had refused to turn the stones into bread. He had decisively repudiated the idea that He should establish a material kingdom and consistently throughout His ministry, He rejected the same temptation. “My Kingdom is not of this world,” He said. Besides, material hunger and poverty, although of course, it is a Christian duty to seek to relieve them, and we have our other passages that tell us to clothe the naked and feed the hungry and so on, but material hunger and poverty are not in themselves conditions of spiritual blessing that Christ should pronounce the poor and the hungry blessed simply because they were poor and hungry. No, the poverty and the hunger to which Jesus refers in the beatitudes are spiritual states. It is the poor in spirit, the spiritually poor. It is those who hunger for righteousness, those who have a moral appetite, whom He declares to be blessed. And it’s safe to deduce from this that the other qualities in the beatitudes are spiritual also.

Now just a little digression here, it may be that the original Aramaic word that Jesus used was simply, “Blessed are the poor.” But then the poor, God’s poor, were already a clearly defined group in the Old Testament. They were not merely poverty stricken people. They were those needy and downtrodden and depressed people whose faith and hope were in God. That is the point about them. that they were men and women of faith. They’d come to the end of themselves and, therefore, committed themselves to God alone. They were spiritually poor; that was the point.

So far then, in introduction we’ve seen that the persons described are all Christians in the ideal, and the qualities commended of spiritual qualities.

Thirdly, the blessings promised. Now each quality is commended and each person who exhibits it is pronounced blessed. The word makarios, blessed, can and does mean happy. It is perfectly true that holiness and happiness frequently coincide. Yet to translate the beatitudes, happy are the poor in spirit, would be an unfortunate rendering because happiness is a subjective state, whereas Jesus is making an objective judgment about these people. He is declaring not what they feel like, that they’re happy and ebullient people, He is declaring what God thinks of them and what, on that account, they are. They are blessed.

The second half of each beatitude elucidates what the blessing is. They possess the kingdom of Heaven, they inherit the earth, the mourners are comforted, the hungry satisfied, they receive mercy, they see God, they’re called the sons of God, and their heavenly reward is great.

Let me suggest that all these blessings belong together. Just as the eight qualities describe every Christian, at least in the ideal, so the eight blessings are given to every Christian, also. For the eight qualities, meek, merciful, etc., constitute the responsibilities and the eight blessings the privileges of being a citizen of the kingdom of God. This is what the enjoyment of God’s role means. When you’re in the kingdom of God, these are the blessings you get, now in this life and perfected in the life to come. For the blessings are both present and future, and there can be no doubt of that for God’s kingdom and the teaching of Jesus is a present reality that He Himself inaugurated; one day it will be consummated in the world to come.

Let me sum up these three introductory points. The people described are all Christian disciples in the ideal. The qualities commended are spiritual qualities. The blessing promised, which is incidentally an honor and free gift, is the gloriously comprehensive blessing of the kingdom of God tested now, consummated later. Now we turn to the beatitudes in detail.

I would like to suggest that the first four describe the Christian’s relation to God, and the second four his relations and duties to men. First, blessed are the poor in spirit, verse three. The Old Testament background to this beatitude to which I’ve already just alluded, is the right context in which to understand it. I give you some references. The psalmist in Psalm 34:6 designates himself, “this poor man who cried and the Lord heard him and saved him.” He was a poor man. He acknowledged his spiritual poverty, and in this condition he cried to the Lord; he called upon the name of the Lord and he was heard. So the poor man in the Old Testament is one who is both afflicted and unable to save himself and, therefore, looks to God for the salvation that He cannot himself achieve and on which or for which he can make no claim.

This kind of spiritual poverty especially commended in Isaiah. For example, it is the poor and needy who seek water and there is none and their tongue is parched with thirst. For whom God promises to open rivers, that’s Isaiah 41:17. The poor are described as humble and contrite in spirit. To them, God looks and with them, He dwells. Isaiah 57:15, Isaiah 66:1-2. It is as such that the Lord’s anointed would proclaim good news of salvation. Isaiah 61:1. “The spirit of the Lord is upon me. Because He’s anointed me to preach good news to the poor.” And Jesus quoted it in the Nazareth synagogue. What, are we to restrict our evangelism to the proletariat? No, the poor, to whom we make the gospel known, are those who have come under conviction of sin and are ready to receive the good news because they know their spiritual bankruptcy.

So to be poor in spirit is to acknowledge our spiritual poverty before God. It is to acknowledge that we are sinners, under the wrath of God, deserving nothing but the judgment of God, confessing that we have nothing to offer, nothing to plead, nothing with which to buy the favor of heaven, nothing in my hand I bring. That is the language of the poor in spirit. Calvin puts it, “He only who is reduced to nothing in himself and relies on the mercy of God is poor in spirit.” Not as such only, Jesus says, “The kingdom of God is given.” Theirs is the kingdom of God because God’s kingdom is a gift. Absolutely free and utterly undeserved. It is to be received humbly, this rule of God. Identical with salvation and eternal life. It is to be received as a free gift, like a little child.

Now thus, right at the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus contradicted all human judgments and all nationalistic expectations about the kingdom. The kingdom, He said, is given to the poor, not the rich. It’s given to the feeble, not the mighty. It’s given to little children who are humble enough to receive it as a gift, not to soldiers who think they can obtain it by their prowess. It wasn’t the Pharisees who entered the kingdom, who thought they were rich, needing nothing; so rich that they could thank God they weren’t like the rest of humanity. And it wasn’t the zealots who entered the kingdom who longed to establish the kingdom by blood and a sword. It was the publicans and the prostitutes who had nothing to offer, the rejects of human society who cried, “God be merciful to me, a sinner.” So the indispensable condition of receiving the kingdom of God is to acknowledge our spiritual poverty. C.H. Spurgeon writes in his commentary, “The way to rise in the kingdom is to sink in ourselves.”

Thirdly, as to the second beatitude, blessed are those who mourn. Now the mourners whom Jesus is referring to here are surely not those who mourn the loss of a loved one, but those, rather, who mourn the loss of their innocence, their righteousness, and their self-respect. It’s not the sorrow of bereavement to which Christ refers, but the sorrow of repentance. This is the second stage of spiritual blessing. For it’s one thing to be spiritually poor and acknowledge it, it is another to bewail it and to mourn over it. Or to put the same truth into theological terms, confession is one thing, contrition is another.

So then we need to observe, and I think this is very important if I may say so for evangelical Christians, we need to observe that the Christian life is not all joy and laughter. Some Christians seem to imagine that if they’re filled with the Holy Spirit, they must wear a perpetual grin on their faces and be everlastingly bubbly and boisterous. How unbiblical can you get? Brethren, there are such things as Christian tears, and too few of us ever weep them. Jesus wept over the sins of others, and over their bitter consequences in judgment and in death. He wept over the impenitent city of Jerusalem. Have we ever wept over the impenitent community in which we live? We should weep over the evil in the world. “My eyes shed streams of tears because men do not keep thy law.” Psalm 119:136. But we haven’t got other people’s sins only to weep over. We’ve got our own sins as well. We need to ask whether they’ve ever caused us any grief.

I’m a member of the Episcopal Church, and whenever we go to church and the general confession, we are obliged to say we acknowledge and bewail our manifold sins and wickedness. That is, we don’t just acknowledge them as a fact, period. We weep over them. We bewail them. Was Ezra mistaken to pray and to make confession, weeping and casting himself down before the house of God? Ezra 10:1. And I fear that we evangelical Christians, by making much of grace, sometimes thereby make light of sin. There’s not enough sorrow for sin among us. There’s not enough in my own heart. There should be more godly grief of Christian penitence.

I hope you’ve read David Brainerd’s remarkable journal, one of the great Christian classics. But on one occasion he wrote in October 1740, you know he was a missionary among the Indians in your country: “In my morning devotions, my soul was exceedingly melted, and bitterly mourned over my exceeding sinfulness and vileness. I never before had felt so pungent and deep a sense of the odious nature of sin, as at this time. My soul was then unusually carried forth in love to God, and had a lively sense of God’s love to me.” In other words, we don’t just wallow in sin. It isn’t only Christian tears that we have to weep. You go on after God has given us an assurance of forgiveness to rejoice with exceeding great joy. But such mourners, you see, who bewailed their sinfulness are comforted. Comforted in the only way they can be comforted, by the forgiveness of God, until the final state of glory comes when sin is no more and God will wipe away every tear from our eyes.

There brings us thirdly to the meek. “Blessed are the meek,” verse five. Now the Greek word means gentle, but we have to ask ourselves what kind of gentleness Jesus has in mind that He declares blessed. It seems to me important to note that the meek come between those who mourn over their sin and those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. In other words, it is still in a moral context. So the meekness Christ declares blessed will surely have something to do with this sequence.

I believe Dr. Lloyd Jones is right, and I’ve been, I think, particularly blessed in his own volumes by his sermon on this beatitude. I think he’s right that this meekness indicates that our gentle attitude to others is determined by a true estimate of ourselves. He points out this very perspective thing that it is comparatively easy to be honest with ourselves before God. When we’re alone, we acknowledge ourselves sinners. But he goes on, and I’m quoting now, “How much more difficult it is to allow other people to say things like that about me. I extinctively resent it.” We all of us prefer to condemn ourselves than to allow somebody else to condemn us. I may put it in my more homely way, I don’t find it too difficult when I go to church to get on my hands and knees and call myself before God a miserable sinner. I have to do it in the Episcopal Church; we call ourselves miserable sinners. And we seem to take it in our stride. But if I go out of church and you come up to me and say, “You’re a miserable sinner,” I want to punch you in the nose because I’m not prepared for you to think about me what I have just acknowledged I am before God.

Now that, I think, is the perceptive thing that Dr. Lloyd Jones says here about meekness. “Meekness is this gentleness and humility in relation to other people that arises from an acknowledgement of the kind of person I am. Meekness,” I’m quoting again, “is essentially a true view of one’s self, expressing itself in attitude and conduct with respect to others.” Now these meek, gentle, humble people inherit the earth. Did you ever hear such a thing? Why, you would have expected the exact opposite! You’d think that these much liked people would get nowhere. The world would ignore them; the world seems to ride roughshod over people like that and trample them in the mud. Why, we know it’s the tough people, it’s the brash people, it’s the overbearing people who go places, and who seem to succeed in the struggle for existence. But not in the kingdom of God. You want to inherit the earth; you’ve got to be meek. But you know, whatever your views may be about millennial theology and millennial doctrine, there is a sense in which we have already inherited the earth.

You know 1 Corinthians 3:22 which tells us that if you’re in Christ, all things are yours and “topenta” all things means the universe. If I’m in Christ, the universe is mine in Christ because the universe is His. All things are yours whether the world or life or death or the present or the future. Everything is yours and you are Christ’s. It’s the meek who inherit the earth, as Rudolf Stier says rather epigrammatically, “Self-renunciation is the way to world dominion.”

That brings us to the fourth beatitude, “those who hunger and thirst after righteousness.” Now such spiritual hunger is a characteristic of all the citizens of God’s kingdom. Their supreme ambition is not material, but spiritual. Christians are not like pagans who are engrossed in the pursuit of material possessions. They’ve set before them as Jesus will say in chapter six of the sermon; they have set before them as the supreme good they seek — God’s kingdom and God’s righteousness. They hunger and thirst after righteousness. What is this righteousness for which they have such a hearty appetite? Well, it is both moral, surely, and social. Moral righteousness is righteousness of character and conduct. Righteousness that at the end of chapter five, Jesus explains must exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees. Because it is not merely an external conformity to rules, but as Dr Conser was saying so movingly in our chapel this morning, it is an inner righteousness of heart and mind and motive. But it’s social righteousness as well. For do we not hunger and thirst after this righteousness in the human community, that men and women will be delivered from oppression and bondage and discrimination? Don’t we hunger for the promotion of civil rights, of justice and the law courts, integrity in business dealings, and honor in home and family life? This too, righteousness in the human community, Christians are committed to hunger for, for something pleasing to a righteous God.

Now there is perhaps no greater secret of progress in the Christian life than this healthy spiritual appetite. Again and again, the Scripture assures us that the only people God fills with good things are those who are hungry, but the rich He sends empty away. I sometimes wonder if the major reason for our slow growth in the Lord Jesus is our jaded appetite, and hopefully, the fact that we’re here this quarter to study the Sermon on the Mount, is a token of our spiritual hunger. It’s not enough to mourn over our past, longing for forgiveness. We must hunger for future improvement, longing after righteousness.

God says we shall be satisfied. And yet, in this life, our hunger will never be fully satisfied. We are satisfied as the beatitude promises, but we’re satisfied only to hunger again and our thirst is quenched only to break out again. Don’t you know that in your own spiritual experience as I do?

Now I want to say to you, beware of those Christians who claim they have attained. Beware of those Christians who boast that they have arrived, and who look rather to their past experiences than to their future development. These eight beatitudes describe the permanent characteristics of all the citizens of God’s kingdom. One of those permanent characteristics is hunger and thirst after righteousness. Show me a complacent Christian who is satisfied with what he’s got, and you give me cause to wonder what kind of a Christian he is. He’s not fulfilling this beatitude; he should be hungering and thirsting for more. Not until heaven shall we hunger no more neither thirst anymore, but only then will Christ our Shepherd lead us to springs of living water.

That brings us, fifthly, to the merciful, verse seven. Jesus doesn’t specify who the people are to whom we are to be merciful whether they are casualties of the rat race, whether they are drug takers, people overwhelmed with disaster, the hungry, the sick, the outcast, those who do wrong to us. But there is no need for Him to specify because our God is a merciful God and He expects His children to be merciful too. And if we show mercy, we shall receive mercy, just as if we forgive others, we shall be forgiven. Now don’t misunderstand that; that is not teaching salvation by merit and good works, that it is not turning the gospel upside down, it is not saying that we can merit mercy by mercy and forgiveness by forgiveness. What it’s saying surely is this, that we cannot receive the mercy of God or the forgiveness of God unless we repent. We cannot claim to have repented of our sins if we’re unmerciful towards the sins of others.

Now the pure in heart, verse six. (I’m thankful for the rain because it means you can’t go on to your next lecture at the moment. That gives me just a little bit longer.)

Six, the pure in heart. Now the popular interpretation here is to regard purity of heart as inward purity as opposed to ceremonial purity or even as Luther rather delightfully says, “physical dirt.” “Christ,” I’m quoting Luther, “wants to have the heart pure, though outwardly, the person may be a drudge in the kitchen — black, sooty, and grimy and doing all sorts of dirty work. Though a common laborer, shoemaker, blacksmith may be dirty and sooty, or may smell because he’s covered with dirt and pitch, though he stinks outwardly, yet inwardly he is pure incense before God.” Oh, typical Luther. But I’d think in the context that Jesus means something different. The purity of heart, again, refers in some sense to our relationships. And so I think JB Phillips is right to translate the pure in heart, the utterly sincere. Their whole life is pure, transparent before God and men. Their very heart, including their inner thoughts and motives, is pure. It’s unmixed with anything devious or ulterior or base. Hypocrisy and deceit are abhorrent to them. They are utterly without guile. Isn’t that a rare virtue, even among Christians?

How few Christians there are who live one life and live it in the open. Most of us tend to wear masks. We put on a different mask according to the company we’re in. We play different parts according to the occasion. There are some people I’ve met who weave round themselves such a tissue of lies that they no longer know which of them is the real person and which is the make believe, and that is a terrible condition to be in. But Jesus Christ was pure in heart, and He bids us be the same. It’s only the pure in heart who see God, for only the utterly sincere can bear the dazzling vision before which all shams shrivel and are burnt up.

The seventh beatitude is the peacemakers, verse nine. Now the sequence from purity of heart to peacemaking is natural because openness and sincerity is an essential condition of peacemaking. Every Christian is called to be a peacemaker in the church and in the community, and again, would that we all were. So many of us are troublemakers instead of peacemakers.

Peacemaking is a divine work. The greatest peacemaker there’s ever been is God Himself. Because peace means reconciliation, and our God is the God of reconciliation and the God of peace. We read in Colossians 1:20 that He was pleased to reconcile all things to Himself, making peace by the blood of Christ’s cross. We read in Ephesians 2:15 that His purpose was to create in Himself, one new man in place of the two, so making peace. He is a peacemaker. Not surprising though that Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers; they shall be called the sons of God.” Why, of course, because they’re seeking to do what their Father has done.

This will remind us that the words peace and appeasement are not synonymous. The peace that God has made through Jesus Christ is not peace at any price, and to proclaim peace, peace when there is no peace is the message of the false prophet and not of the Christian witness. When God made peace, He did it at infinite cost, at the price of the lifeblood of His only son. So why should we expect peacemaking to be easy?

Peacemaking in our lesser ways is a very costly activity. Sometimes there is the pain of apologizing to somebody we’ve injured. Sometimes the pain of rebuking somebody who’s sinned against us when we’d far rather be silent. But there is a pain in rebuking him and in refusing to forgive him until he repents. We mustn’t cheapen forgiveness. You look up Luke 17 and the first three or four verses sometime and you’ll see Jesus says, “If he sins against you, rebuke him. If he repents, forgive him.” So much of our forgiveness is cheap forgiveness; it’s not peacemaking, it’s appeasement. Sometimes it’s the pain of struggling to reconcile to each other, those who are estranged and at enmity. Sometimes in our evangelism, it’s the pain of insisting on the necessity of repentance as we proclaim the gospel of peace, and not taking forbidden shortcuts in our evangelism. Peacemaking.

Now eighth and last before I conclude, the persecuted. It does seem strange to pass from peacemaking to persecution from the work of reconciliation to the experience of hostility, but the point is that however hard we try to make peace, there are some people who refuse to live at peace with us. Not all attempts at reconciliation succeed. Indeed, some take the initiative to oppose us, to revile, slander, and persecute us. But this is no persecution because we’re stupid or because of our idiosyncrasies or because we’re eccentric, this is persecution, He says in this verse, verses 10-12, for righteousness’ sake and for my sake. That is because we take our stand on moral issues and our stand for Jesus Christ.

How then are Christians to react under persecution? Answer, verse twelve, “Rejoice and be glad.” No, we’re not to retaliate and hit back as the world would. Nor are we to sulk like children. Nor are we to lick our wounds like dogs. Nor are we to grin and bear like stoics. Still less are we to pretend to enjoy it like masochists. We are to rejoice and be glad and even Luke 6:23, “To leap for joy,” like Christians, partly because our reward will be great in heaven. Partly because our persecution will be a token of our genuineness, a certificate of authenticity because Jesus says, verse twelve, “So men persecuted the prophets before you.” You’ll be in a good succession if you’re persecuted, and partly because we’re enduring it on my account, for the sake of Jesus, and there is no greater privilege than that.

So I must conclude. Here in the beatitudes is a comprehensive portrait of the Christian. This is Christian character. We see the Christian alone on his knees before God, acknowledging his spiritual poverty, mourning over his sin, bewailing it. Meek, too, because he’s willing for others to think that he is what he says he is to God. And we see him hungering and thirsting after righteousness. Then we see him in his relation with others out in the human community. Not insulated from the world’s sorrows and pains. He is merciful. He’s pure in heart, open, transparent, sincere. He plays a constructive role in the community as a peacemaker. Yet he’s not thanked for his pains. He is opposed, slandered, and persecuted. Such is the man or woman who is blessed, who has the approval of God and finds self-fulfillment.

But my last word is this (I don’t just want to, if you’ll give me just two or three sentences), this is the exact opposite, these beatitudes, to what the world imagines. The world judges the rich blessed, not the poor, both in material and spiritual affairs. The world judges the happy-go-lucky, the carefree blessed, not those who take evil seriously and mourn over it. The world judges the strong and the brash blessed, not the meek. The full, not the hungry. Those who mind their own business, not those who meddle in other men’s matters and occupy their time in do-goodery, and share mercy, and try to be peacemakers. The world judges those who are secure and who live at ease to be blessed, not those who are persecuted. So that’s where we finish. Jesus Christ challenges the standards of the world. Jesus Christ congratulates those whom the world most pities and calls the world’s rejects blessed.

Just a moment of prayer: Lord Jesus, we ask your forgiveness that we fall so far short of the high standards that you set us. But we thank you for the power of your indwelling spirit. We ask that he will make us like Yourself, increase our appetite, our hunger and thirst for righteousness. For the glory of your great name, Amen.

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