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Matthew 5:1-12: The Beatitudes-Introduction

The Sermon on the Mount is found in Matthew chapters 5-7. “And seeing the multitudes, He went up on a mountain, and when He was seated His disciples came to Him. Then He opened His mouth and taught them…” (Matthew 5:1-2). The world of this sermon was a real and sinful world, a world of tax collectors, unjust officials, hypocrites, thieves preying on the weak and poor, and false prophets. This not a description of the Kingdom age.

M.R. DeHaan writes… “In the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord Jesus teaches us to combine idealism with realism. He shows us how to keep from getting so wrapped up in life as it is that we don't see life as it should be. On the other hand, He teaches us to avoid making the equally destructive mistake of becoming so attached to our ideals that we make impossible demands on those around us.”

To whom is the Sermon on the Mount addressed?

1. All of mankind, lost and saved: A basic premise must underline all teaching about this subject, that is, it is dealing with the need for new life, rather than a legalistic system of morality. The failure to see this truth has led to nearly all of the misunderstanding of the Sermon on the Mount.

Those who preach a social gospel say, “All that is needed for the realization of Christ’s kingdom on earth is an understanding of the Sermon on the Mount and a vigorous application to society. In other words, the world is good and getting better, but God’s word says, the world is heading toward a “great tribulation.” All of mankind is doomed to an eternal separation from God. To believe the social gospel, that we are bringing in the kingdom, is to ignore all the signs pointing toward total conflagration. “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat?” (2 Peter 3:10-12)

2. To the Jew only: those who teach this see Jesus as the second lawgiver, so the Sermon on the Mount is a carry over of Old Testament law. But, this teaching is a constant condemnation of any and all attempts to be justified through legalism. Mankind can only be justified by faith in Jesus Christ. “Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:24). “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1). “For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace” (Romans 6:14).

3. To no one: those who teach this teach that the standards set down in the Sermon on the Mount are impossible, so they cannot be taken seriously by Christians. And these teachings are impossible, in the flesh, but God has empowered us with His very presence by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit. And all Scripture applies to every believer’s life. “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work’ (2 Timothy 3:16,17). Even the Old Testament Scriptures: “Now all these things happened to them (Old Testament saints) as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come” (1 Corinthians 10:11).

4. To the disciples only: these teach that the Beatitudes were only intended to apply only to the kingdom age (the millennium, 1000 year reign of Christ), so it is all future teaching. There was a man in our church who told us we couldn’t sing, “Seek ye first, the kingdom of God,” because it was only for those in the kingdom. But Jesus present tense words disprove this, He never intended for His words to be disregarded, either now or in the kingdom age. And just consider Matthew 5:44, “But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.” In the Millennium, the perfect age, no one will act like that, cursing, hating, using people, and persecution.

This teaching is a statement of how those who have been born again by faith in Christ are to live in spite of this imperfect world in which we live. This was written for believers only and has nothing to say to anyone apart from faith in Jesus Christ.

The Setting:

The Old Testament ends with a curse, “Lest I come and strike the earth with a curse” (Malachi 4:6), followed by 400 years of the silence of God. Then the New Testament begins with a blessing, “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ” (Matthew 1:1). “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel, which is translated, ‘God with us’” (Matthew 1:23).

Under the covenant we saw frightening images: Sinai, lightening, thunder, judgment, death and destruction.

Under the new covenant we see: Zion, love, grace, peace, blessing, comfort, righteousness, inheritance, mercy and reward.

Look at the contrast: “You have not come to a physical mountain, to a place of flaming fire, darkness, gloom, and whirlwind, as the Israelites did at Mount Sinai. For they heard an awesome trumpet blast and a voice so terrible that they begged God to stop speaking. They staggered back under God’s command: ‘If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned to death.’ Moses himself was so frightened at the sight that he said, “’am terrified and trembling.’ No, you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to countless thousands of angels in a joyful gathering. You have come to the assembly of God’s firstborn children, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God himself, who is the judge over all things. You have come to the spirits of the righteous ones in heaven who have now been made perfect. You have come to Jesus, the one who mediates the new covenant between God and people, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks of forgiveness instead of crying out for vengeance like the blood of Abel” (Hebrews 12:18-24 NLT).

Jesus begins the Sermon on the Mount with the Beatitudes (the blessed attitudes).

First, there are some general characteristics to be observed:

1. All believers are to live the Beatitudes. They are a description of what every believer is meant to be. Make no mistake, there is a formula for the Christian life, and Jesus gives that formula in the Beatitudes. This is not just a picture of exceptional Christians, it is a description of every true believer.

We tend to label Christians as, exceptional/nominal; dedicated/ordinary; or sacred/secular, but a true believer is sacred, dedicated to the Savior, serving an exceptional Savior, living a Beatitude life. Every believer has at least one spiritual gift to be used in Christ’s church, but these are not a description of spiritual gifts, these are Christian character traits.

Is the height of Christian living to be only enjoyed by the super-saints, while the rest must live their lives on the dry, mundane plains of mediocrity? Antonio Salieri, supposed rival of Mozart, referred to himself as “the patron saint of mediocrity.” (from the movie, Amadeus). Is that your assessment of your Christian life? The Catholic Church, canonizes people who were very dedicated to the church, calling them “saints.” But according to Scripture, every believer is a saint. Let’s once and for all get rid of the notion that this kind of life was meant only for the Apostle Paul’s, Hudson Taylor’s, Charles Spurgeon’s, John and Charles Wesley’s or the Billy Graham’s of the Christian world. It is meant for every believer!

2. All Christian’s are to manifest all of these characteristics. It is not that some are to be “poor in spirit,” while others are to be “meek,” or “peacemakers” and do not have to be “merciful.” Every believer is to be all of them!

3. None of these Christian character traits are natural tendencies. We all know people who claim to be Christians, even some church members, who never attend services, never read the Bible, never pray, and frankly tell us they are not interested in spiritual things, but seem to have more Christian character traits than some who are faithful church attenders. They are always polite, nice, you never hear a harsh word from them, they never gossip, do not use bad language, are never unkind to others, never judgmental, and they are always doing good. We would probably say, “they must be believers, the beatitudes are obvious in them.”

I understand that there is a difference in people, we each have our own personalities, our own strengths, but this is more than personal strengths, it is supernaturally infused when we became believers. In fact, some of the Beatitudes are impossible on our own. For example, “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” “Happy are the nobodies,” how hard is that? Our human nature feeds on being important, on being accepted, on being recognized as wonderful individuals. For me to say, “I am a nobody,” goes against every human drive.

4. These characteristics indicate clearly the absolute, essential, utter difference between believers and unbelievers. The glory of the gospel is seen when the church is absolutely different from the world. The world will not listen to the message of the church unless they can see it as a divine institution.

When the world can see a group of people (the church) who are totally in love with Jesus Christ and each other; totally one in unity of thought and purpose; totally concerned about each other and a lost world, then they will see the difference in a supernatural institution as compare with the worldly ones of which they have been accustomed. But when they see bickering, backbiting, gossip and lack of love or even consideration for each other they will look elsewhere for God.

The Beatitude believer will always demonstrate the life of Christ in their lives. And the more we show our Beatitude life in our daily living, the more the world will see Jesus in us and in our church.

5. The Christian and the non-Christian are totally different:

•In what they admire. Consider the first Beatitude for example: The Christian is “poor in spirit,” The Greeks and Romans despised this, and people today still find this disgusting. A humble person is not macho, weak, not assertive, non-aggressive, an apology for a man, who will never amount to anything in this world. The world teaches and practices, self-expression, self-confidence and the mastery of life, the power of positive (possibility) thinking, their slogan is, “I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.” –From Invictus by William Ernest Henley

•In what they seek. Consider the fourth Beatitude: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.” The world seeks after wealth, fame, status, power, popularity, and position. Listening to celebrities, they actually think they are doing something important. Christians need to be careful that they are not identifying with actors in their worldly pursuit for fame and fortune. And Christians need to be careful not to be better acquainted with celebrities than they are with Jesus Christ. True believers seek after God.

•In what they do. The unsaved world is consistent. They live as if this world is the only important thing, so they say, “live it up,” “grab all the gusto,” “you only go around once in life,” “live is short, live a little.” The Christian needs to be consistent too, our slogan is, “The world is not my home, I’m only passing through, my treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue.”–Jim Reeves “Dear friends, I warn you as “temporary residents and foreigners” to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against your very souls. Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors. Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will give honor to God when he judges the world” (1 Peter 2:11,12 NLT). Christians must maintain their utter difference in philosophy, attitude and actions with the world. John admonishes us: “Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you” (1 John 2:15 NLT).

6. The Christian and the non-Christian belong to two entirely different realms. The Christian will never find true happiness in this world, it is like seeking the living among the dead!

God never said, “Blessed are the successful, rich and powerful.” Look at King Solomon: he was of royal lineage, the most noble and revered, Jesus will be from this lineage. Solomon’s palace was the most beautiful in all the world. His wealth was immeasurable and his treasurer so vast that silver and gold were as common as rocks in his kingdom. He had fabulous stables with hundreds of the finest horses, houses overlaid with gold, hundreds of servants, and a harem of 700 wives and 300 mistresses. By the world’s standards, he should have been the happiest man on earth, but listen to him: Ecclesiastes 2:1-11 MSG:

“I said to myself, ‘Let’s go for it—experiment with pleasure, have a good time!’ But there was nothing to it, nothing but smoke. What do I think of the fun-filled life? Insane! Inane! My verdict on the pursuit of happiness? Who needs it? with the help of a bottle of wine and all the wisdom I could muster. I tried my level best to penetrate the absurdity of life. I wanted to get a handle on anything useful we mortals might do during the years we spend on this earth. Oh, I did great things: built houses, planted vineyards, designed gardens and parks and planted a variety of fruit trees in them, made pools of water to irrigate the groves of trees. I bought slaves, male and female, who had children, giving me even more slaves; then I acquired large herds and flocks, larger than any before me in Jerusalem. I piled up silver and gold, loot from kings and kingdoms. I gathered a chorus of singers to entertain me with song, and—most exquisite of all pleasures—voluptuous maidens for my bed. Oh, how I prospered! I left all my predecessors in Jerusalem far behind, left them behind in the dust. What’s more, I kept a clear head through it all. Everything I wanted I took—I never said no to myself. I gave in to every impulse, held back nothing. I sucked the marrow of pleasure out of every task—my reward to myself for a hard day’s work! Then I took a good look at everything I’d done, looked at all the sweat and hard work. But when I looked, I saw nothing but smoke. Smoke and spitting into the wind. There was nothing to any of it. Nothing.”

Now listen to Jesus, Luke 12:15: “Beware! Guard against every kind of greed. Life is not measured by how much you own.”

The Beatitudes:

The key word is “blessed,” used 9 times in 11 verses. It comes from the Greek word “Macharios,” “Makarios,” from the root, “Machar,” meaning, real joy, inward bliss, and happiness. It is a character word, God and Christ are described by this word, and since believers are indwelt by Christ, partakers of His divine nature, “…by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature…” (2 Peter 1:4).

How does joy differ from happiness? Happiness is a fleeting emotion based on external circumstances. But true joy is different, it is something that comes from within, a deep abiding peace and sense of contentment and strength that is due to something internal. This joy cannot be produce by circumstances. There is no lasting happiness to be found in this world.

The smile on my face wasn’t always there,

Struggles used to get me down.

Hassles and problems from every direction

Used to make me wear a frown.

In the midst of the storms

I found deep contentment,

To help me face this night and day,

You see, the world didn’t give it to me,

And the world can’t take it away.

The world didn’t give it to me

And the world can’t take it away!

This happy face that I’m wearing,

You know Jesus put it there to stay.

And since the world didn’t give it to me,

The world can’t take it away.

–Bill and Gloria Gaither and Gary Paxton–

Benjamin Franklin was concluding a speech that he’d given about the Constitution, when someone shouted out from the audience, “Aw, those words don’t have any meaning. Where’s all the happiness you say it guarantees us?” And Benjamin Franklin responded, “My friend, the Constitution only guarantees the American people the right to pursue happiness. You have to catch it yourself.” And that reminds me of a Roger Miller song, “You can’t roller skate in buffalo herd, but you can be happy if you’ve a mind to.”

Joy is a fruit of the Spirit, so every believer in endowed with joy by the Holy Spirit. “The fruit of the Spirit is…joy…” (Galatians 5:22).

Want to be joyful? Here’s the key, Matthew 5:1-12 MSG:

“When Jesus saw his ministry drawing huge crowds, he climbed a hillside. Those who were apprenticed to him, the committed, climbed with him. Arriving at a quiet place, he sat down and taught his climbing companions. This is what he said:

‘You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.

You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.

You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.

You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.

You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for.

You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.

You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.

You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom.

Not only that—count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens—give a cheer, even!—for though they don’t like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble.’”

Unless otherwise noted, the New King James Version of the Bible was used. Also The New Living Translation (NLT); The New American Standard Bible (NASB); The Message (MSG); The New Century Version (NCV); The Amplified Bible (AMP); The King James Version (KJV), The New Life Version (NLV); English Standard Version (ESV); J.B. Phillips New Testament; Easy to Read Version (ERV); Common English bible (CEB); NET Bible (NET) and The Living Bible (TLB). Contemporary English Version (CEV).

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