Bro. Nathan and Sis. Michelle Barth
Part 1 and Introduction
Introduction: This is part one of a series that will be released through several future issues of The Remnant. It is an in-depth study of the Beatitudes. The Beatitudes refer to the blessings taught by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount, which begins in the Gospel of Matthew, chapter five. The Sermon on the Mount is the first recorded sermon of Jesus after His baptism. To help give you a greater understanding, we recommend reading through this chapter before you begin.
Christ’s Sermon on the Mount, where He taught what we know as the beatitudes, were instructions for how to live a blessed life. Later in Matthew 25:31-46, while showing the judgment scene of all mankind, Christ makes reference to the sheep, or the “saved”, as being blessed. Additionally, the psalmist tells us in Psalm 1:1, “Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly…” Using the Amplified Version to make this scripture even clearer, we read, “Blessed (happy, fortunate, prosperous, and enviable) is the man who walks and lives not in the counsel of the ungodly…”1 Taking this all into consideration, we can conclude that if one is desiring to be blessed, it would behoove them to take heed to the words of life that Christ presented in the seven beatitudes. Each of these beatitudes is distinct characteristics that are necessary for forming the complete character of a soldier for Christ.
Some have considered verses 8-10 in the 5th chapter of Matthew, to also be part of the beatitudes, but in actuality, what they are showing is that persecution will follow the people of God. The Apostle Paul tells us in 2 Timothy 3:12, “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.”
The word beatitude, according to Noah Webster’s 1828 Dictionary is, “the declaration of blessedness made by our Savior to particular virtues.”2 The dictionary.com definition is: “beatitude means supreme blessedness; exalted happiness”. The definition found on britannica.com states: “beatitude, any of the blessings said by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount as told in the biblical New Testament in Matthew 5:3-12 and in the Sermon on the Plain in Luke 6:20-23. Named from the initial words (beati sunt, “blessed are”) of those sayings in the Latin Vulgate Bible, the Beatitudes describe the blessedness of those who have certain qualities or experiences peculiar to those belonging to the Kingdom of Heaven.” Listed below are the seven beatitudes found in Matthew chapter five.
- Blessed are the poor in spirit: for their’s is the kingdom of heaven.
- Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
- Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
- Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
- Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
- Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
- Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
The beatitudes contain spiritual blessings; not to be confused with temporal blessings. For example, a person could leave this earth with a disease, and still go on to Heaven; or, they could be delivered from their disease, and instead miss out on the joys of Heaven. These blessings are greater than just having a feeling of euphoria resulting from temporal things. The blessings found in the beatitudes are constant, and only for believers that are currently living on this earth; not reserved for a future time and place. We see this thought in Matthew 25:34, where Christ said, “Come ye, blessed of my Father”. He was not saying come, and my Father will bless you, but you that are currently blessed.
These blessings are something the world cannot take away from a believer – they are joys that come from Heaven. John 16:22 says, “And ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you.” Just as there are temporal pleasures in life that bring temporary happiness, there are temporal circumstances that bring sadness and sorrow, such as the death of a loved one. Even though there are situations that can bring pain and suffering, the joy that comes from God supersedes it and is such that no man can take it away. Martyrs were able to sing through unspeakable persecution because they possessed this blessedness and joy.
To fully understand the beatitudes there are a few important qualifiers. First, the reader must understand that there are two parts to be considered in each beatitude. The first part of the beatitude is the condition, and the second part is the blessing. A person must meet the condition in order to receive the blessing. It is essentially an “if-then” statement where in order for the “then” to occur, the “if” condition must be met. Another important aspect to remember is that the condition of the blessing is not based on a person’s current set of circumstances, but on the state of their soul and the way they conduct their life.
“Blessed are the Poor in Spirit”
The Sermon on the Mount begins with the beatitude, “Blessed are the poor in spirit…” This is one of the most profound statements that Christ made in his ministry. Unfortunately, some have misunderstood the true essence of what Christ meant. Christ was not implying that a person’s financial state had to be penniless. A person’s financial state, or status, is not an indicator or measurement of their spirituality. We also know that Christ was not teaching that it is blessed to be in poor spirits. Some feel that they are only pleasing to God when they are inflicting some type of physical or mental pain on themselves. No, Christ is not advocating self-inflicted suffering here, either. If these things are not what Christ meant by being poor in spirit, then what did he mean?
Let’s first look at the definition of the word “poverty”. There are two types of poverty. One is when a person does not have anything extra to offer. The second is when a person is completely destitute and does not have anything. The word “poor” in Matthew 5:3, according to the Strong’s Concordance means “helpless, powerless to accomplish an end, poor, and needy.”3 This is the state a person is in when Christ is saying they are blessed. When a person realizes they are powerless, destitute, and cannot do anything for themselves they find themselves in a blessed position with God. In John 15:5 we read, “…for without me you can do nothing.” Christ wants people to put their complete trust in Him. A person is blessed when they can trust Him with their life, health, finances, occupation, soul, etc. Psalm 34:6 tells us what happens when someone is poor and cries out to God: “This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles.”
It is spiritually beneficial for a saved person to keep in their remembrance of how Christ delivered them from the yoke of sin that once held them powerless as a captive. Isaiah 61:1 reminds of the captivity of sin, “…to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound.” The Apostle Paul gives the testimony he had prior to his conversion in Romans 7:18, “…for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.” He remembered that prior to his deliverance, he wanted to be free to do the right thing, but he was a captive to sin and the sinful nature. This mindset of remembrance generates a thankfulness that will naturally draw a person closer to Jesus Christ, and produce true joy, peace, and contentment that only comes from our Heavenly Father. Keeping this mindset will also help the believer to become and remain detached from the things of this world and come to be completely dependent on God.
Another wonderful benefit that comes from being poor in spirit is that a person will find themselves becoming a spiritual beggar unto God. Luke 18:7, “And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them?” One that is poor in spirit will spend much time in prayer talking with their heavenly Father, thus developing a true intimate spiritual relationship with God. It is in this state that a true Christian is blessed. Matthew 6:33 promises that “all these things shall be added unto you”. It becomes a reality in the life of those that are poor in spirit. This is because they have learned to put the heavenly Kingdom or the Church of God first – above everything else. Matthew 6:24-34 gives a greater context to verse 33 and illustrates the attitude of dependence the poor in spirit have on their Heavenly Father. This poorness in spirit, and the dependence on God that it generates, will produce the diligent seeking that God rewards (Hebrews 11:6).
How would a person know if they are poor in spirit? In Revelation 3:14-17 we read of those who feel that they are rich and have need of nothing: “And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God; I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.” In this passage, we see that those who feel self-sufficient in their own means and riches are actually the ones that are poor and wretched. On the other hand, those who are poor in spirit and place their dependency on God are the ones that are rich in spiritual blessings. One can know if they are poor in spirit by whether they see themselves as those who were warned in the third chapter of Revelation, or if they view themselves as being nothing and having nothing without God. One who is poor in spirit is blessed and will recognize and appreciate the true spiritual wealth and blessings that God has given them.
The warning found in 1 Timothy 6:17 is a reminder to us all: “Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy;”. The riches of this world are uncertain at best. By remaining poor in spirit we keep our dependence on the living God who through His divine power gives us “all things pertaining to life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). He owns the cattle on a thousand hills (Psalm 50:10). God resists the proud, but those who are humble and are poor in spirit, as Christ taught, are those that God draws close to and freely gives spiritual blessings. †
- The Amplified Bible, Zondervan, 1965
- Noah Webster, “American Dictionary of the English Language”, 1828 3. James Strong, “Strong’s Concordance”, 1890