Christian Churches of God
Understanding the Beatitudes
(Edition 2.0 20050505-20061220)
The Beatitudes are nine statements made by Christ in a sermon that we often hear spoken about but don’t often think about. We will look at what Christ meant by them and how they have meaning for us in our everyday lives.
Christian Churches of God
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(Copyright ã 2005, 2006 Dale Nelson, Ed. Wade Cox)
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Understanding the Beatitudes
The Beatitudes are a very important and famous part of a sermon given by Jesus Christ. We can see what he says in Matthew, chapter five. They are the blessings of God to His Church and are a model on which we should live our lives. To understand them we need to look at the words carefully and think about what they mean.
The first Beatitude is, "Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" (Mat. 5:3). When we first read this we might think, "That doesn’t make sense, does it?" Surely the Spirit of God is something we want a lot of. Don’t we want to be rich in or full of the Spirit as Christ was? (Lk. 4:1). What is Jesus Christ trying to teach us? If we read this verse in The Interlinear Bible by Jay P. Green, we can see the Strong’s word for "poor". Now this is a Greek word numbered 4434 and if we look up the Strong’s Concordance we can see that it has the meaning "to beg". Strong’s says that it strictly means that we only live by what we get from begging.
Now that we know the meaning, this verse makes sense. Christ is saying to us that we should think about the Holy Spirit like air, water, shelter and food. Without God’s Spirit we will die and we can only obtain it by asking God for it. The Holy Spirit is not something we earn by hard work, or something that we have a right to. It is something that we have to ask for, and we have to ask for it knowing that we cannot live the way of life God wants us to without it.
It is only with the Holy Spirit that we can understand the ways of God, and so do them. It is only by understanding and doing the ways of God that we can be resurrected to life. It is only by being resurrected to life that we are able to enter God’s spiritual kingdom.
The second Beatitude is, "Blessed are those that mourn: for they shall be comforted" (Mat. 5:4). Does this mean that God would like us to be sad, as being comforted is such a great thing? We know from Revelation 21:4 that God is going to wipe away all sorrow from our lives.
And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. (Rev. 21:4)
It is not sadness and the comforting of that sadness that God wants. Let us think about this. God is asking us to mourn the injustices and the sins that we see around us in a world that does not obey His Laws or understand their importance. He wants us to want what He wants and that is: a world where everyone will be living the way God requires. In this system there will be one God, and one form of worship. People will keep God’s Holy Days. There will be families who love, honour and cherish each other. There will be no murder, stealing or lying. People will be happy for each other’s successes and rally round in people’s sorrows. We need to understand that this world is not God’s world. God has granted it a different supervisor for the present time, for the long-term benefit of us all.
Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out. (Jn. 12:31)
We know too that it will not always be like this. We have the hope and comfort of looking towards the Millennium, which will be run according to God’s Law. All will understand how the Plan of God fulfilled the love of God. It is not only people who won’t hurt each other, but also the animals won’t hurt each other.
The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock: and dust [shall be] the serpent's meat. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, saith the LORD. (Isa. 65:25)
It is a comfort to know why evil things happen now. God has to let us make our own decisions and live by the consequences of those decisions so that finally we understand that we can’t do it right without Him. We need Him. He is our God and not our equal. Satan sinned because he thought he could do it just as well as or even better than God. He is now trying to get us to think the same thing. We cannot be equal to God. Satan cannot be equal to God. Christ cannot be equal to God. God alone will give us a life without suffering only when all of His people understand that they need Him and Him alone. It is only then that everyone can understand and not do what Satan did. God can then be confident in all of us to love Him, as we should. It is only then that the second death can be destroyed and we can live. That is our comfort.
The third Beatitude is, "Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth" (Mat. 5:5). What does this mean? Does God want people who sit down, do what they are told, and don’t rock the boat? What does it mean to be meek? This is Strong’s Greek word number 4239. This word means "to be mild" or "to be humble". Christ is our example in this. We must not confuse "weak" with "meek". Christ turned over the change tables in the Temple when the people were trading money on the Sabbath. He got angry at injustice and at sins made by people who knew better. Christ died an horrific death with a fortitude and strength of mind that would have only been found in a strong, determined person. He was encouraged and strengthened with the aid of the Holy Spirit granted by God.
However, the key to all of this is that we must be like Christ and do all things to the praise and glory of God.
Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God. (1Cor. 10:31)
Now the promise to us is, if we do things to the glory of God the Father and not ourselves, then we will become kings and priests of this Earth. They are the inheritors of the Earth. By that He means we will be leaders and teachers of others by our example in the world today and literally during the Millennium.
Our children today, who think of God first and are humble, will be the kings of the future during the Millennium. For more information about what happens during the Millennium look at these papers What Happens When We Die? (No.CB29) and God's Plan of Salvation (No. CB30).
Consider the following things which show that we put God before ourselves and we won’t compromise when it comes to the rules He has set for us to be happy in the long-term.
That football competition missed, despite our coach needing us so badly, because it was being played on Saturday.
That exam we had to take later because we were at the Feast.
That prayer for inspiration and we remembered to thank God afterward for granting it.
That fight we knew we could win but backed away from anyway.
That comment to our mate who knew better to get his act together because he would thank us for it one day.
It is only when we prove to be humble to the One True God that we show we are able to teach others, and thereby earn the right to be kings and priests as Christ was.
The fourth Beatitude, is, "Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled" (Mat. 5:6). We must want to be righteous as fervently as we must beg for the Holy Spirit. This word "righteousness" is Strong’s Greek word numbered 1343, which means "righteousness" or "equity of character or deed/act". To be equitable we need to be fair and just in everything we do. We should know what is fair and how to judge right from wrong. We need to understand the Law of God. To do this we need to read the Bible and know and understand His Commandments (Deut. 4:8; Hab.1:4; Psa. 119:42).
Therefore the law is slacked, and judgment doth never go forth: for the wicked doth compass about the righteous; therefore wrong judgment proceedeth. (Hab 1:4)
The Ten Commandments are central to us being righteous. Please look at the papers The Ten Commandments (No. CB17) and The Law of God (No. CB25) for more information on the Law of God. It is from understanding the Law that we will be filled with knowledge of God’s will and His ways.
It is not our stomachs that are filled; it is our minds and hearts. We know from keeping Pentecost that we are to be filled with the Holy Spirit. See the paper God's Holy Days (CB22). It is the Holy Spirit that helps us learn and obey the Law and to be righteous (see the paper What is the Holy Spirit? (No. CB3). So we know we can’t get to here without having fulfilled the first Beatitude.
The fifth Beatitude is, "Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy" (Mat. 5:7). One of the principles we can see God wants us to live by is, "do unto others as you would have them do unto you". This is reflected in Matthew 22:39 where Christ is summarising the Law of God into two points. The first relates to our love of God, "And the second [is] like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself". If we don’t like a particular thing to happen to us then we try to prevent it from happening to someone else. So, we don’t hurt others; we don’t steal from them; and we don’t lie to them, etc.
Even in regard to the punishment for sin we can see how God is trying to make us understand this. When we steal we have to pay it back plus add some more. We have to feel a similar but more severe discomfort than that which we inflicted on someone else.
If the theft be certainly found in his hand alive, whether it be ox, or ass, or sheep; he shall restore double. (Ex. 22:4)
Here God is telling us to be careful. We need to treat everyone with love and mercy because God will treat our situation the same way. If we are hard on others He will be hard on us. Read also Matthew 18 from verse 20 on. Think about this story in terms of putting oneself as the servant and God as the master. As the servant we ask God for forgiveness and He grants it, but when we are asked for forgiveness from one of our servants we refuse.
He is not telling us to let people get away with treating us badly or to accept sin, but we are to teach in love and by example. Remember, discipline means to teach and not to hurt. If we treat others kindly and guide them gently God will be kind and gentle with us. Read over Zechariah 7:8 through to chapter 8. God has a lot to say about mercy and just judgements in this passage.
The sixth Beatitude is, "Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God" (Mat. 5:8). If we are pure in heart we are honest in thought and intent. To do things honestly we have to do them because we believe we should be doing them. We have to prove all things to ourselves. We have to act on everything we believe to be true. If we don’t the Holy Spirt will leave because God knows that we do not really want it in all earnestness. We should be honest with God and ourselves by doing things which we know are right and not because someone else says so or because it seems right at the time. We need to prove it, believe it and do it.
To see God means we are gazing on the Glory of God. We enter Holy ground. Paul said, "No man has seen nor ever will see God" (1Tim. 6:16). No man had seen God, because God is a spiritual power. We have to be in the form and capacity of spirit to see God, and no man can be that way. It is something to be achieved after the resurrection. See the paper Who is God? (No. CB1).
The word "see" is Strong’s Greek number 3700, which means, "with eyes wide open at something remarkable". We are not just talking physically here but spiritually. If we are honest and open and do all things with a pure intent we will have our eyes widened and opened. We will understand all mysteries. We can see physically and spiritually. We will understand the nature of God.
The seventh Beatitude is, "Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God" (Mat. 5:9). To be a peacemaker we have to want to resolve conflict and to do that we have to esteem others. We have to try and put ourself in their shoes and explain things so that they can understand and not get frustrated. We should not get riled up ourself and to do that we need to ignore insults and frustrations and get to the heart of the matter.
Christ never got into a fight. He explained his situation or kept silent despite the fact that he was unjustly accused. He corrected people if they wanted to know but not if they didn’t except when they were in the Temple, in God’s House, and then he was angered by their sin in a holy place (Mat. 8:22, 26:63; Mk. 14:61; Jn. 2:14-15).
Christ was a child of God because he acted like God and we too are children of God when we act like God. If we are children of God we will have the same inheritance as Christ (Gal. 4:7; Rom. 8:14-18).
As the eighth Beatitude, Christ said, "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" (Mat. 5:10). What Christ is saying here is that we are to do everything in the face of embarrassment or discomfort or difficulty.
Because God is playing a "hands off" role at the moment in order to teach the whole world we can’t do it without Him, it is hard for the few that understand to live in this world easily. It is not easy when we have to say "NO" to so many invitations and celebrations of this world. For example we have to say "NO" to the Christmas and Easter celebrations (see the paper Why we don't celebrate Christmas (No. CB24)). We have to say "NO" to jobs that require us to work on the Sabbath and invitations to restaurants where someone else would be earning a living on the Sabbath by feeding us.
Being obedient sometimes means we don’t go to some get-togethers. Some people are understanding and will try to accommodate us when they can but sometimes people don’t like it when we put God before them. They take it that we don’t love and value them. They don’t understand that keeping the Commandments is more important, but one day they will be doing it too and will regret that they made us feel bad.
We need to make sure that we show our love and respect in other areas that don’t compromise our love for God. If people get upset because they don’t understand about putting God before anything or anyone else then we can’t worry about it. We need to stay true to God and if we do that we will be true to ourselves and will have our reward. That does not mean we won’t have some sad times now but our reward will be great later.
See also Acts 7 and Isaiah 66:5, which are further examples of persecution of God’s people and by other people who think they know God but do not.
At the ninth Beatitude, we read, "Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely, on my account" (Mat. 5:11).
We have people, even family members and friends, who wonder why we do what we do and sometimes even make it hard for us.
Man’s heart does not like God:
Because the carnal mind [is] enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. (Rom. 8:7).
If we are representing God’s way of life it is inevitable that we will be different from the rest of the world. We will seem just that little bit odd, even to the point where people may dislike us. Nobody likes to think that there is a God and a Plan and even if they do, they like to think it is a Plan that suits them. We are saying that that is not true, that there is a Plan and our part in it is that we just have to love God by being obedient to His Law, know that Jesus Christ is His Son and that God’s Law and Plan are the best for mankind. Who are we, created by God, to disagree or think we can do it just as well as our Creator. For some reason this can upset people, and because they feel uncomfortable they may take it out on us.
Christ and many of the prophets were unjustly accused so when, or if, it happens to us remember it was the same for these men whom God loves.
Remember Job (Job 1 and 2). Satan asked to attack Job to prove that we only love God when He is directly blessing us. Satan believes that if he persecutes us long enough we will crack. We will break our faith with God and then God’s Plan to have all mankind choosing to act like Him and worship Him will not happen. Since that time there have been many men who, like Job, did not crack. It is in Satan’s interests to persecute us. But know that like Job we can hold on to our faith. We are not given more trouble than we can spiritually bear (1Cor. 10:13).
God is saying don’t feel down if people don’t like us and even go out of their way to hurt us and accuse us of things that we are not. At the end of the day, it is not us they dislike it is the fact that we are obeying God when it is not easy to do so and underneath it scares them that perhaps they should be obeying God also. Satan has made it too easy for them not to understand. The few that do understand and obey God now will be an example to those resurrected in the Second Resurrection, proof that they had a choice. They just have to start with begging for the Holy Spirit.
Look to Job, Daniel, the prophets and Christ.
rejoice and be glad for your reward is great in heaven for as they persecuted the prophets who were before you, so also they will persecute you. (Mat. 5:12)
What else did Christ say? "Forgive them Father for they know not what they do" (Lk. 22:34).
Notice that each of the Beatitudes is connected to the other. It is like a big circle with one Beatitude leading to the other and then we get back to the beginning again.
In summary the Beatitudes show us we have to:
Ask for the Holy Spirit; it is a gift from God.
Realize this world can’t get it right and never can without God.
Humbly put ourselves in God’s hands.
Show God we understand by keeping His Laws and changing our ways to be His ways.
Treat other people kindly and remember we are not perfect either.
Be honest with God and others. Do things because we believe it is right and not because someone told us to, or it is easier to.
Be peaceful. It is not our job to enforce God’s or our own rules on others. God has a long-term Plan to make sure everyone will want to obey Him. Let His Plan take its course.
Do not be disheartened when people don’t like the fact that we are trying to do as God says.
Don’t be surprised if people accuse us of things that aren’t true because they don’t understand.
When, and only when, we come to understand and recognize our need for God, and then do what He asks of us in love and consideration for those around us no matter who they are, or what they think, then we will have a resurrection to life.
From these Scriptures we know that if we can keep all these things in mind and do them faithfully we will be presented by Christ to God and be able to see Him in His full Glory. We will have hope for the future. We will understand what God is doing for today and tomorrow. We will be kings and priests in the Millennium. We will understand right from wrong and God will have mercy on us and welcome us despite the mistakes we make along the way. We will understand the full nature of God and see Him as the loving, merciful Father that He is. We will be His children and He will be our Father as Christ is a Son of God, and we will inherit immortality as Christ has.