Happy are the Godly

Posted: August 7, 2011 in Matthew

Matthew 5:6-9, “Happy are the Godly”

Those who come to Christ demonstrate the character of Christ.  We are representatives (witnesses & ambassadors) of the Lord Jesus Christ.  His Spirit is in us, and we are spiritually in Him.  Those who come to Christ are transformed by the Spirit of God & we are now new creations.  The old person who was “us” is gone & now we are brand-new. (Praise the Lord!)  What is now new in us is the character of the Lord Jesus.  The longer we walk with Him – the more time we spend with Him – the more we are transformed by Him, the more we begin to demonstrate His character in our own lives.  What was once completely sinful is now more & more Godly, as our lives are continually molded in His image.  This is the process of discipleship & sanctification…

So how does this relate to the Beatitudes?  It describes the 2nd section.  Quick review: In the 1st part of the Beatitudes, Jesus described the attitudes of someone who would surrender his/her life to Christ by faith for salvation.  We recognize our need when we understand we are poor in spirit (spiritually bankrupt) – we mourn & grieve over our sin as we understand what sin truly is (the guilt of rebellion against God that sent Jesus to the cross) – and in repentance we turn away from that sin & in meekness & humility cast ourselves upon the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.

In the 2nd part of the Beatitudes, Jesus describes the character of someone who has surrendered his/her life to Christ.  These are the godly marks of a disciple of Jesus.  We can actually see each of these attributes on three levels: the seeker, the saint, the Savior.  When it comes to righteousness, mercy, purity, and peace, (1) these are things the Lord Jesus gives us, (2) these are things in which we grow as we walk with the Lord Jesus, (3) these are descriptive of Jesus Himself.  To put it another way… For the seeker, these are things that are given in our initial salvation.  For the saint, these are things seen in our ongoing sanctification.  For our Savior, these are fundamental descriptions of His character.  What is seen in Him ought to be seen in us as our lives are transformed by His grace.

Before we get to the characteristics of godliness themselves, remember that these are Beatitudes – promises & principles of blessing.  Remember that “blessed” could be thought of a transcendent happiness.  The person who experiences all of the things Jesus lists off in the beatitudes is truly happy – this is a happiness that reaches beyond our temporary circumstances & goes to the core of our relationship with God.  The blessed person is the person who has experienced the approval & favor of God – and that produces within us joy unspeakable!  In the 1st section of the Beatitudes, the person who humbled himself found the happiness & approval of God.  In this next section, it is the godly man/woman in Christ who is the truly happy – both in this life & in the life to come.

Matthew 5:6–9 (NKJV)
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled.

  1. The word Jesus uses for “righteousness” is a word that Paul will later reference a lot in his letter to the Romans.  Although it’s almost always translated as “righteousness,” it could also refer to the idea of justification – our being made “right” in the sight of God because of the work of Jesus Christ.  The word is based in the idea of “law” – those who are lawless are outside of the good graces of the law; those who are “righteous” abide by the demands of what the law requires.
  2. The problem is that ALL of us fall short of what the law of God requires.  Thus, all of us outside of Christ are unrighteous.  We NEED righteousness, when we have none.  If we were to look at righteousness as a bank account, our accounts would be empty.  Worse yet, left to ourselves we are infinitely overdrawn.  We don’t just have a zero balance; we are infinitely in the negative.  What are we to do?  This is where the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ comes in.  When Jesus died on the cross, He did not die for HIS unrighteousness (because He had no sin); He died for OUR unrighteousness.  He was wounded for our transgressions (Isa 53:5)…  For those who humble themselves before God & place their faith & trust in Jesus, He puts HIS righteousness into OUR account. [imputation]  Romans 4:24b–25, "(24b) It shall be imputed to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead, (25) who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification." [] (“Justification” comes from the same root word as “righteousness”)
  3. Note that righteousness is desired; the other characteristics Jesus will list in this part of the Beatitudes are shown/demonstrated.  How is righteousness to be desired?  As a fundamental physical need: hunger & thirst.  Keep in mind this isn’t “hungry” as in “I’ve got the munchies & need to snack.”  This is “hungry” as in, “I’ve got to eat something soon or I’m going to pass out.”  The idea is an intense desire for something that absolutely must be acquired. … This goes back to the idea of the 1st 3 beatitudes: the person who can be saved is a person who must want to be saved.  The drowning man has to give up his own efforts & surrender himself to the lifeguard – there’s no other way for him to be saved.  Likewise, the only person who will receive righteousness is the person who understands he/she desperately needs it.  A little here & there won’t do – a little cleaning around the edges isn’t anywhere good enough – we’ve got to come to the place that we understand that if we don’t receive the righteousness of God, we will surely die in our sins.  And like a person who has been starving & parched in the wilderness who finally sits at a table with good food & water, we need to desire the righteousness of God in the same way.
  4. The promise is to “be filled,” to receive the righteousness that we seek.  We can see this (and all of this group of the Beatitudes) in three ways.
    1. The seeker who hungers for the righteousness of God will be justified by Christ when he/she places his/her faith in Christ.  Jesus’ righteousness will be imputed to him & he will truly be filled!
    2. The saint: Those who are already in Christ ought to never STOP hungering for righteousness.  Granted, we have already drunk of the Living Water, and as Jesus promised, we never need thirst again (Jn 4:14).  Yet although our justification in the sight of God is an action that happens once & never needs to be repeated, we don’t want to go backwards, either.  The process of sanctification makes it clear that we will continually be transformed by the work of God in our struggle against sin.  We can be assured that we will face temptation (every day!), and one of the first steps to defeating temptation is to desire to do so.  We desire to live righteously & we can be assured of God’s help in the process.
    3. The Savior: Jesus IS the standard of righteousness Himself.  There is none like Him.  It’s His righteousness that we actually receive when we humbly surrender our lives to Him in faith.

7 Blessed are the merciful, For they shall obtain mercy.

  1. Mercy can be thought of in two ways: (1) the act & attitude of withholding judgment – the kindness that leads to forgiveness, and (2) sympathy/kindness towards others.  Of course, the two ideas can be related: when we show kindness to those who are least deserving of it, we are being merciful to them.  The NT never really separates the concepts – they always seem to go hand-in-hand.  When those who needed to be healed of various diseases called out to Jesus, they often said, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”  As the King, Jesus had the right to judge, yet what the person was crying out for was kindness & blessing in the midst of hardship.
    1. Note that mercy is something that can only be demonstrated when there is a need.  When it comes to judgment, mercy can only be extended after we have been offended.  When it comes to kindness, mercy can only be extended where there is hardship.  We must first have our face slapped on one side before we can ever turn & offer the other cheek – we need to be around people who are seemingly undeserving of mercy if we are ever to extend it.  This is what makes mercy difficult (if not impossible) to show to others if we have not first tasted of the mercy of God.  No one wants to put themselves into that kind of position – typically we want our lives to be filled with ease & comfort, without a care in the world.  Yet Jesus makes it plain that that is not what God would have for His children. We will one day live in such a place, but that place is called “Heaven”; for now, we live in a world in which people are lost & going to Hell.  We are the ones God has sent to demonstrate His mercy to them & we need to be around them in order to do it.  We’ve got to first be willing to get a bit dirty if we’re going to help someone else get clean.
  2. Of course we ourselves NEED mercy in a dire way!  Going back to the idea of being “poor in spirit,” we need to understand that we are bankrupt when it comes to the mercy of God.  Not a one of us will be able to stand before God on Day of Judgment & proclaim to Him our “right” to enter Heaven, because none of us has a “right” to be there!  None of us deserve it.  We don’t deserve that kind of grace because the only thing that we deserve is death & Hell.  The only thing that we can do is fall upon the mercy & grace of God through Christ Jesus. Yet that’s exactly what we CAN do because of the glorious gospel & mercies of God!  Ephesians 2:4–9, "(4) But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, (5) even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), (6) and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, (7) that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His 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 of works, lest anyone should boast." []  The mercies of God lead to the grace of God!
  3. The order of what Jesus teaches here is not what we might normally expect.  We understand our need for mercy, yet Jesus is speaking of our need to show mercy.  Question: is Jesus saying that we can be saved simply by showing mercy to others?  Not at all!  (This is the error of the social gospel.)  There are many people in many different religions around the world that show mercy because of what their religion teaches – there are atheists in the world who have much mercy & compassion – yet the Bible clearly teaches that no one is saved outside of Jesus Christ.  Jesus is not teaching about a generic mercy that is divorced from God; He’s teaching about the mercy that has been received by God.  It’s God’s mercy that we must show to our neighbors.  We must first experience the mercy of God before we can ever extend it to others – but the proof that we have indeed experienced God’s mercy is when we pass it on. [parable of Unforgiving Servant] Matthew 18:32–33, "(32) Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. (33) Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?’ " []  Jesus goes on to teach in the parable that the servant who had withheld mercy, had mercy withheld from himself as well.  Sobering!  To be merciful is not merely a good suggestion for Christian living; it’s a command from Christ our King.
  4. The promise is that we will “obtain mercy.”  That which we extend we will also receive.
    1. The seeker: The person who surrenders to Christ Jesus in faith experiences the grand mercy of God – and this will be shown as he/she extends the mercy of God towards others.
    2. The saint: As we continue to walk with Christ, those who extend mercy to others will come to a greater understanding of what it means to have received mercy.  Paul prayed that the Ephesian church would be able to comprehend the width, length, depth, and height of the love of Christ which surpasses all knowledge (Eph 3:18-19) as they continued to grow in their relationship with Jesus.  The same is true when it comes to the mercies of God.  The more we extend mercy, the more we understand what it is we have received.  The more we are kind to those who are undeserving, the more we understand how undeserving we ourselves are of the kindness of God that we have received.
    3. The Savior: There’s none that demonstrates what it means to be merciful so much as Christ Jesus!  He is kind & good & His mercies are shown to be new every morning in simply the opportunity for all the world to be saved!

8 Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God.

  1. To be pure is exactly what we think it would mean: clean & free from stain.  When an OT Jew would bring an animal for sacrifice, it needed to be without blemish (no spots, no broken legs, no sickness, etc) because it represented a pure sacrifice unto God.  To be “pure in heart” is to be without blemish or stain.  Some scholars note this could also refer to genuineness/sincerity in our relationship with God – we need to be single-minded in our devotion to Him.  Both ideas go together because one naturally leads to the other.  Those who are single-minded towards God are those whose lives reflect purity   To be “pure in heart” is to be without blemish or stain.  Some scholars note this could also refer to genuineness/sincerity in our relationship with God – we need to be single-minded in our devotion to Him.  Both ideas go together because one naturally leads to the other.  Those who are single-minded towards God are those whose lives reflect purity.
    1. Note Jesus calls for a specific kind of purity: “pure in heart.”  The legalistic Pharisees were very familiar with outward ritualistic purity.  They went through grand steps to wash their hands & do all sorts of practices to “purify” themselves.  Yet Jesus makes it perfectly clear that although there’s nothing necessarily wrong with washing our hands, THAT is not the kind of purity that the Lord desires for us. Matthew 15:17–20, "(17) Do you not yet understand that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and is eliminated? (18) But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man. (19) For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. (20) These are the things which defile a man, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man." [] We’re to be pure in our heart.  Those that have found that purity are truly blessed!
  2. Of course the problem is that none of us are pure!  Purity is something that is inherently lacking in every single human being.  It’s not that we become impure over time; it’s that we never had purity to begin with.  From the womb, we carry the curse of sin.  We start out life impure & our condition never improves because we can’t do anything about it.  We cannot make ourselves pure, no less than we can remove a drop of cyanide after it falls into a glass of iced-tea.  Something has to happen to MAKE it pure.  Likewise, we must be made pure.  This takes us back to the gospel! J  The reason Jesus shed His blood on the cross is exactly so we could be made pure.  As God told the Jews, though our sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow (Isa 1:18).  The purity we always lacked is something that we receive when we come to Christ by faith.
    1. Question: “I know that as a Christian that Jesus makes me pure, but I sure don’t feel like it.  I struggle with sins in my heart all the time.  Does this mean I haven’t been saved?”  Not at all.  The struggle that born-again Christians experience with sin is something the Bible tells us to expect.  Paul wrote of it in detail when he wrote of the things he didn’t want to do, those were the things he practiced & the things he wanted to do, he didn’t. (Rom 7:15)  Yet his deliverance (like ours) is found in Christ!  John acknowledges that we all sin (and if we don’t admit it, we’re lying), but that we are forgiven & cleansed when we come to Jesus in confession (1 John 1:8-9).
    2. That said, although we are made pure in heart by the work of Christ, we don’t stop striving for purity.  It’d be easy to say, “I guess since I’m forgiven, I can just roll over & give into sin as much as I want.”  Not at all!  The person who has that attitude likely doesn’t understand the forgiveness of God at all & needs to truly examine their heart to see if they’re in the faith!  As much as Paul praises God for our deliverance in Christ, he also wrote of the need for personal purity.  To the Corinthians he wrote of running the race as to win the prize & to discipline his body to bring it to subjection (1 Cor 9:27), to do what it takes to strive to please the Lord in every respect.
  3. The promise? “They shall see God.”  Amazing!  This means exactly what Jesus says it to mean: we shall SEE God.  This isn’t metaphor or symbolic language; this is literal truth.  Those who have been made pure in heart will one day look upon their glorious God in Heaven.
    1. The seekers are made pure in heart after they come to Christ.  The moment we receive Jesus as our Lord, we receive the promises of forgiveness & eternal life & we can be assured that we will indeed see God in His glory & love.
    2. The saint demonstrates the purity of heart that we receive after we come to Christ.  We may struggle against sin, but we have the grand promise of forgiveness & cleansing.  And the promise is the same: we WILL see God.  There may be a struggle now, but the prize at the end of our race is absolutely worth it.  Keep running towards your Lord!
    3. The Savior is truly pure.  Jesus is absolutely free from any taint of sin whatsoever.  The only sin Jesus received was OUR sin when He went to the cross – otherwise, He is the spotless Lamb of God sent to take away the sins of the world (Jn 1:29).  Not only is Jesus God Himself, but He HAS seen God.  He’s seen God from eternity past & has known God the Father in ways that no one else (not even Moses or any prophet or saint) has ever known.  No one has seen God at any time, but the Son of God has declared Him (Jn 1:18).

9 Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God.

  1. Peace was a familiar concept to the Jews listening to Jesus – the Hebrew word “shalom” was a standard greeting of the day & spoke not just of the absence of conflict, but of general well-being (Kittel).  But keep in mind, this isn’t just speaking of generic peace, but of “peacemakers.”  The only way someone can make peace is if conflict already exists.  This Beatitude is directly tied into conflict of some sort.  The person who makes peace is the person who brings calm into a situation where there is none. [Jesus on the boat – “Peace, be still!” Mk 4:39]  The peacemaker is the person who takes proactive steps to bring resolution to problem.  Perhaps it’s an argument between two other people; perhaps it’s a personal issue with someone else – it could be any number of examples.  The peacemaker does not escalate an argument, but actively works to make things better.
    1. Our problem is that we often want peace to come reactively, rather than proactively.  We tend to sit around & wait for problems to go away by ignoring a conflict, rather than tackling them head-on to resolve them.  Simply because people are not currently yelling at each other does not mean that there is peace.  Peace comes when a problem has been resolved & people are reconciled.
    2. Making peace does NOT mean to appease sin; it means that we do what it takes to make things right.  This is the opposite way of thinking in our culture today.  People often want to appease sin in the name of “tolerance,” under the guise of “not judging one another.”  That’s not at all what Jesus is referring to here.  Contextually, Jesus just spoke of personal inward purity, the need to extend mercy, and the utter need to receive righteousness.  Clearly, Jesus does not want us to tacitly approve sin merely in order to avoid conflict.  Peace isn’t simply the absence of conflict; it’s the resolution of it. Those who would make peace will strive in the power of God to make these things that are wrong, right again.
    3. Keep in mind that to bring a message of peace is at the very heart of the Great Commission as we take the gospel into the world!  Because we have been reconciled to God through the work of Jesus Christ, we have been given a ministry of reconciliation as we take that same message to a lost and dying world (2 Cor 5:18).  As Paul quotes from Isaiah, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, who bring glad tidings of good things!” (Rom 10:15)  We take a message of peace – showing others how they can have peace with God where they have none.
  2. As with the other Beatitudes in this section, this is something that first must be experienced before it can be extended.  We are in dire need of having peace made between us & God.  Prior to coming to Christ, the Bible makes it plain that we were at enmity with God (Rom 8:7) – we warred against Him in our rebellion and sin.  Yet Jesus proactively intervened when He died upon the cross, rose again from the grave, and called us to Himself through His grace.  He is the One that makes peace between us & God, and He is the One that makes it possible for us to make peace with one another.  This was Paul’s point when he wrote to the Ephesians of Jesus making one Church from both Jews & Gentiles.  Ephesians 2:13–16, "(13) But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. (14) For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, (15) having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, (16) and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity." []  Jesus is our peace between us & God & Jesus is our peace between one another.  Why do we make peace?  Because our Lord & Master models the very same for us!
  3. The promise? We will be “called sons of God.”  The word specifically is “sons” – but don’t think that gender is a problem here.  The fact that every Christian (man or woman) can be truly called a “son” of God is a wonderful thing!  Keep in mind that in the ancient culture (both Jewish & Greek), women held an inferior place & were thought of as having less value than men.  Yet the gospel of Jesus Christ changes all of that!  Because of the cross, there is neither male or female, but we are all one in Christ Jesus! (Gal 3:28)  Men and women in Christ have absolutely equal value because the Lord Jesus died equally for us all.  Thus when Jesus says that we will be called “sons of God,” the promise would have been absolutely revolutionary for the women listening to Him at the time.  They would receive every right as a male son would receive: an equal share of the inheritance & equal standing with the Father.
    1. The seeker who comes to Christ has been granted peace with God & become His child.  The Bible tells us that as many as receive Jesus as Lord, to them God gives the right to become the children of God (Jn 1:12).
    2. The saint brings the gospel of reconciliation to the entire world, and demonstrates son-ship in our relationship with the Father.
    3. The Savior IS our peace with God.  And of course, He IS the Son of God. J

Conclusion:
Those who belong to Christ Jesus demonstrate the character of Christ Jesus.  As His representatives, we reflect His godliness. 

  1. For the seeker who comes to Christ, these are the things Jesus grants us.  We desperately need His righteousness, His mercy, His purity, and His peace, and He grants them. 
  2. For the saint who walks with Christ, these are the traits Jesus develops within us.  We need to grow in righteousness, extend mercy, strive for purity, and make peace – and these are the things Jesus empowers us to do. 
  3. For the Savior Himself, these are the things Jesus models for us.  It’s His righteousness we receive, it’s His mercy that is shown, it’s His purity that He examples, and it’s His peace that He brings.

So which are you?  Are you the seeker or the saint?  Either way, Jesus proclaims that you are blessed!  Those who trust in the Lord Jesus for godliness will find themselves joyful beyond their circumstances.  Those who grow in their relationship with Christ experience the blessed happiness of God.  Keep in mind that the key is not OUR effort, but Jesus’ grace.  We cast ourselves upon Him – always being intentional in our walk with God, but fully reliant upon His power and grace.

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