Who is Blessed of God?
“And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him: And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying, Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs 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. Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.” (Matthew 5:1-12)
According to the Book of God, there are some people in this world who are truly blessed, blessed of God, blessed from eternity, blessed now, and blessed forever in Christ, blessed with all the blessings of grace here and all the blessings of everlasting glory hereafter (Eph. 1:3). There are some sons and daughters of Adam who truly are blessed of God. Who are they?
There are some in this world who are blessed of God. Are you among these blessed ones? Am I? Let’s look to the Word of God and see. I am calling for each of us to examine ourselves in the light of Holy Scripture (1 Cor. 13:5). In these twelve verses the Lord Jesus sets before us the character of those men and women who are blessed of God.
These verses are from the first part of our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount. The sermon itself continues in chapters 6 and 7. — “And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him: And he opened his mouth, and taught them” (vv. 1-2).
The preacher is the Lord Jesus Christ himself, the true Prince of preachers, the Prophet of his church. He of whom the prophets spoke is now the preacher. The voice we hear in these verses is the voice of our Master. It is the voice of him who “spoke as never a man spake.”
The place was a mountain in Galilee. It was not Mt. Sinai, or Mt. Olivet, or Mt. Calvary, but a common Galilean hillside. But on that common hillside the Son of God met with and instructed his disciples. That made the place a holy place!
The congregation was his disciples. The sermon was addressed to those who professed to be his followers. Others were present and heard the message. But the message was particularly addressed to men and women who had publicly avowed their faith in Christ by baptism and hoped that they would live with Christ forever in heaven. In a word, this sermon was addressed to people just like you and me.
Look at verse 2 again. – “He opened his mouth, and taught them.” When our Savior’s mouth was closed, he taught by example. Yet, he did not refrain from speaking, as well as living the truth. And when he spoke, he spoke earnestly. He “opened his mouth and taught.” He did not mumble, mutter, or stutter. – When he opens his mouth let us open our ears!
We have a blessed scene before us! As the law was given from the Mount, the Lord Jesus went up on the Mount to proclaim the gospel. But there is a great contrast. At Mt. Sinai boundaries were set, which the people were not allowed to cross. When our great Savior came preaching the gospel, he set no boundaries sinners could not cross. He said, “Come ye near unto me, hear ye this; I have not spoken in secret from the beginning; from the time that it was, there am I: and now the Lord God, and his Spirit, hath sent me. Thus saith the Lord, thy Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel; I am the Lord thy God which teacheth thee to profit, which leadeth thee by the way that thou shouldest go” (Isa. 48:16-17). What gracious words proceeded out of his mouth!
Now, let’s look at the beatitudes given in verses 3-12. Here the Son of God describes his people by eight distinct characteristics, and pronounces eight beatitudes, eight blessings of grace upon them. If we fit the character of those described in the blessing, then the blessing is ours and we are blessed. If we do not fit the character of the ones described, then we have no right to claim the blessing. Our Master begins this great sermon by pronouncing blessings upon his people. He is himself the great comprehensive blessing of all blessings and the blessedness of his people.
In these verses our Savior gives us eight distinct characteristics of blessed people, eight things found in all who are saved by his matchless grace. They are…
When I read these verses, the question immediately arises in my mind, “Where are such people to be found?” It is certain that none among the fallen sons and daughters of Adam possess such traits. Among all the people of our fallen race, there are none who are good, none who do good, and none who seek after God (Ps. 14:1-3. Rom. 3:10-18). Obviously, those who are here described are the redeemed of the Lord, his own elect who were given to him by the Father, made blessed in the righteousness of the Son, and regenerated and sanctified by the Holy Spirit.
“Blessed are the poor in Spirit.” — He did not say, “Blessed are the poor.” He said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” Those who are poor in spirit are men and women who, in their own judgment and esteem, are spiritually poor. Their souls are barren and empty before God. They have no righteousness of their own, no good works, no good thoughts, nothing with which to commend themselves to God. As John Gill wrote, “Being sensible of their poverty, they place themselves at the door of mercy and knock there. Their language is, ‘God be merciful…’ They are importunate, will have no denial, yet receive the least favor with thankfulness.”
Before God lifts us up by his grace, he brings us down. Until we are poor in spirit, we will not seek mercy in Christ. It is painful, but blessed work when God puts a soul into a bankrupt state! The Laodiceans of this world will never seek mercy (Rev. 3:14). Jacob was brought down (Gen. 32:27). Isaiah was brought down (Isa. 6:1-8). Gomer was brought down (Hosea 2:6-23). The woman with an issue of blood was brought down (Luke 8:43). Onesimus was brought down (Phil. 1). The prodigal son was brought down (Luke 15). God knows how to make proud, self-sufficient sinners poor in spirit. He knows how to bring sinners down (Ps. 107).
Those who are poor in spirit are people who have been made to know their desperate need of free grace in and by Christ, their all-sufficient Savior. They have nothing. They can do nothing. They must have someone to atone for their sins. They must have someone to make them righteous before God. They need pardon and grace for their countless sins. Rowland Hill said, “Poverty of spirit is the bag into which Christ puts the riches of his grace.” Saved sinners are men and women who know their utter poverty of soul before God. They are people convinced of their sin by God the Holy Spirit.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit: For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” — “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise” (Ps. 51:17). The Lord God declares, “To this man will I look, even to him that is poor, and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word” (Isa. 66:2). If a person is ever brought to the place that he has nothing in himself, he will have everything by grace in Christ. But as long as a person imagines that he has something in himself, he has nothing. Nothing is more painful to our proud flesh; but nothing is more needful than that we be made “poor in spirit” before God. Are you poor in spirit? If you are, you are blessed. God made you poor. And he has made you an heir of his kingdom in Christ.
“Blessed are they that mourn.” — There is a mourning that is sinful, as when Jonah mourned over a withered gourd. There is a mourning that is natural, as when we mourn over the death of a loved one. And there is mourning that is the result of God’s operations of grace in the heart. Those who mourn in this sense, our Lord Jesus declares are blessed.
The mourners our Savior here declares to be blessed are those who mourn over their sins (Ps. 51:1-17). No sooner is grace poured into our hearts, giving us the knowledge of Christ as our Savior, than we are made to see and know the wretchedness that is ours by nature (Zech. 12:10). When Christ is revealed in us, our hearts melt before him. “I do not understand,” wrote John Owen, “how a man can be a true believer, in whom sin is not the greatest burden, sorrow and trouble.” Indwelling sin is to the believing soul a constant source of bitterness and sorrow. Like Paul, the believer cries out, “Oh! wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” This mourning over sin, the sin that is in us, is a lifelong experience, causing God’s saints to be in a state of continual repentance, ever looking to Christ alone for redemption and righteousness.
The more fully we are made aware of our sin, the more we mourn over it, the more we are compelled to look out of ourselves to Christ alone for righteousness, and the more he is endeared to our hearts. “Unto you therefore which believe, he is precious.”
How delightful it is to hear our Savior declare, “Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted!” Those who mourn because of their sin shall be comforted here by the revelation of Christ in their hearts. Though we mourn because of our sin and utter corruption, we are comforted by the knowledge and assurance of Christ’s all-sufficiency as our Surety, Substitute, and Savior. His righteousness is ours. His satisfaction is ours. He has, by his one great sacrifice, put away our sins forever. — How comforting it is to hear the gospel of God’s free grace in his darling Son! — How comforting it is to hear him speak o our hearts by his Holy Spirit through the Scriptures! — How comforting it is to remember our dear Savior as we eat the bread and drink the wine at the Lord’s Table! — How comforting it is to fetch grace and mercy from the throne of grace in every time of need, by prayer and supplication! — How comforting it is to know that he who loved us and gave himself for us rules all things for our good, ordering all the affairs of providence according to his infinite wisdom and goodness and according to his own infinite, eternal love for us!
Yes, those who are taught of God to mourn over their sin are comforted here. And when we drop this robe of flesh in the grave and are brought into heavenly glory, dwelling forever in the presence of our God and Savior, we shall be fully and eternally comforted (Luke 16:25; Jer. 50:20). In that great day, our God shall wipe all tears from our eyes. Then we shall be free from sin, free from all the evil consequences of sin, free from sorrow, and made possessors of all the glory the Father has given to the Son as our Mediator (John 17:5 and 22).
“Blessed are the meek.” — Someone once said, “Meekness is the mark of a man who has been mastered by God.” The meekness our Lord here pronounces is a blessed thing. It is not that which men call meekness. It is not an outward show of pretended humility. It is that which is wrought in the heart by grace. Meekness is a realization of who I am before God. Meekness is submission to the will of God. Meekness is obedience to God. Meekness causes us to esteem others better than ourselves (Phil. 2:1-5).
Matthew Henry wrote, “They are meek who are rarely and hardly provoked, but quickly and easily pacified; and who would rather forgive twenty injuries than avenge one, having the rule of their own spirits.” John Gill describes the meek as those who “have the meanest thoughts of themselves, and the best of others; do not envy the gifts and graces of other men; are willing to be instructed and admonished, by the meanest of the saints; quietly submit to the will of God, in adverse dispensations of providence; and ascribe all they have, and are, to the grace of God.”
Moses was the meekest man on earth in his day; but no man looking at his behavior would have thought so. He was meek before God. He knew he was God’s servant, responsible to do God’s will. Therefore, he was as bold as a lion. The Lord Jesus lived on this earth in meekness. It was this meekness that caused him to speak with authority and drive the money-changers out of the temple. Robert Hawker explains…
“The meekness the Son of God pronounced blessed, is the meekness inwrought in the soul, by the gracious influence of God the Holy Ghost. It is learnt of Jesus (Matt. 11:29). It is wholly from Jesus (John 15:4-5). And it is his regenerated members of whom he saith, the Lord will “beautify the meek with salvation” (Psalm 149:4). This meekness of the Lord’s own creating in the soul is of great price (1 Peter 4:3).”
“They shall inherit the earth.” — They shall inherit all the blessings of the earth, all things working together for their good. And they shall inherit all the new earth, when our God shall make all things new. “The meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace” (Ps. 37:11).
Hunger and Thirst
“Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness.” Many imagine that our Lord Jesus is here telling us that those who greatly desire to make themselves righteous are blessed and shall have their hunger satisfied and their thirst quenched. Such teaching is totally foreign to the Scriptures. Mere morality is not righteousness. The Scribes and Pharisees of our Lord’s day prided themselves in the performance of such.
The Son of God did not come into the world to preach that righteousness that men can perform. He did not teach men to trust in themselves, but just the opposite. He preached grace. His gospel demands that sinners count all personal righteousness but dung (Phil. 3:7-8), and look to him alone for righteousness. Those are blessed of God who hunger and thirst for his righteousness, the only righteousness by which a sinner can be justified in the sight of God.
The souls that hunger and thirst for him who is “the Lord our Righteousness,” desiring to be found in him, not having their own righteousness, but the righteousness of God established and brought in by Christ’s obedience to God as our Substitute, the righteousness that can be obtained only by faith in him, they and they alone are blessed of God with grace, salvation, and eternal life. Hungering and thirsting after Christ’s righteousness, we acknowledge and confess that we have no righteousness of our own. Therefore, we long to be clothed with Christ’s robe of righteousness and garment of salvation. Christ is that righteousness and holiness we must have, without which no man shall see the Lord (Heb. 12:14).
Not only does our Savior pronounce those blessed who hunger and thirst after him, he promises, “they shall be filled” (Isa. 55:1; John 7:37). We shall not hunger in vain. All who abandon their own righteousness, seeking righteousness before God in Christ alone, who is “the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believeth” (Rom. 10:4), shall be filled (Ps. 132:9-16; Isa. 61:1-3, 10-11). God’s elect shall be filled with (completely satisfied with) Christ’s righteousness and never seek any other righteousness. And being filled with Christ’s righteousness, they shall be filled “with all other good things in consequence of it” (John Gill).
“Blessed are the merciful.” — The merciful are those who show mercy to others, having obtained mercy themselves from God. Those who are merciful have been made merciful by the experience of God’s mercy bestowed upon them in Christ. They are loving and charitable (1 Cor. 13:8), kind and gracious (Eph. 4:32-5:1), and forgiving (Matt. 6:14-15). These graces within are the fruits and effects of God’s saving grace and the believer’s vital union with Christ in regeneration.
“For they shall obtain mercy.” — This is not a suggestion that our obtaining mercy is in some way dependent upon or determined by our mercifulness to others. Rather, it is the declaration and assurance that all who have obtained mercy in the gift of God’s grace shall continue to obtain mercy all the days of their lives in this world and in the world to come (2 Tim. 1:18).
“Blessed are the pure in heart.” — Almost everything I have read or heard by theologians, preachers, teachers, and religious leaders on Matthew 5:8 is totally contrary to the Scriptures. Men use this verse of Holy Scripture to teach that if we will make our hearts pure, we shall see God in heaven. Very few leave out God’s work altogether. Most try to make their doctrine of works appear to be the doctrine of grace. They tell us, of course that God must first make our hearts new in regeneration; but we must make our hearts pure by the discipline of grace in self-denial and the mortification of our sins in sanctification.
I ask all who give and all who attempt to follow such counsel ― Have you succeeded? Have you made yourself pure in heart? ― So pure that you can now, by reason of your heart purity, confidently hope to see God himself face to face in heaven’s glory? If we have even a shred of honesty in us, we must hang our heads with shame and confess ― No! What, then, does this mean? ― “Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.”
These words, lofty and remote as they seem, are in fact among the most hopeful, comforting, and radiant that ever came from our Master’s lips. They proclaim the certain, sure realization of something that seems impossible. They promise the possession of an apparently impossible vision. And they soothe our corrupt, sinful hearts, so sinful that we most naturally shrink from and tremble at the thought of seeing God in all the splendor of his radiant glory, assuring us that seeing God shall be our highest, ultimate blessedness.
Our hearts, yours and mine, are by nature horribly evil (Gen. 6:5; Ps. 12:2; 101:4; Isa. 44:20; Jer. 17:9; Mark 7:20-23). The promise of grace is, “I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh” (Ezek. 36:26). Do you see this? Has God taught you the evil, the horrid corruption of your hard, cold, dead, unfeeling, unmoved, heart of stone? Well may we look within and sigh,
“The rocks can rend, the earth can quake,
The seas can roar, the mountains shake;
Of feeling all things show some sign,
But this unfeeling heart of mine.”
If this is the state of my heart, if this is the condition of every man, woman, and child by nature, how can we ever hope to know the blessedness of which the Son of God speaks, when he declares, “Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God”? Such hearts cannot see God. Such hearts can never see God. Indeed, such hearts as these, the heart of man, cannot see the things of God, much less God himself. Did not the Lord Jesus say to Nicodemus, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3)? The natural man simply cannot see God, cannot see Christ, and cannot see the things of God (1 Cor. 2:14).
That is the state and condition of every man’s heart by nature. It is anything but pure. Yet, our Lord speaks of “the pure in heart.” What does our Lord mean by this statement? — “Blessed are the pure in heart.” This purity of heart is, not the external varnish of a Pharisee, or the boasted perfection of a hypocrite, or the empty dream of the carnally secure. They are pure in their own eyes; but they are not pure (Pro. 30:12).
The pure in heart are not those vain, religious fools who convince themselves that they are pure. They shall never see God. They are an irksome smoke in his nose (Isa. 65:5; Jude 16-19). Purity of heart certainly does not imply sinlessness of heart. Those who think that they have no sin are yet dead in sin (1 John 1:7-10). Heart purity is not accomplished by the imaginary self-sanctification of those multitudes who delude themselves into thinking they make themselves pure by their slight, occasional conformity to selected points of the law in their outward behavior (Isa. 66:16-17). And that which our Lord speaks of as a pure heart is not a changed heart. When I was a young man, before God saved me, people would often ask me to give my heart to the Lord. Even then, in my utter ignorance, I thought, “What on earth would God want with that filthy thing?” Salvation is not you giving God your old, wretched heart. Salvation is God giving you a new heart (Jer. 32:37-40; Ezek. 36:26). There are multitudes who talk about conversion as “a change of heart.” Nothing could be further from the truth. Salvation is God giving us a new heart.
Those who are blessed of God are those whose hearts the Lord has made new, those who are holy and pure in the cleansing and justifying purity and holiness of the Lord their Righteousness. They are a people who know their own, personal corruption and groan under its weight. They see God in Christ in all the blessedness of salvation here in the life that now is, and they shall see him in the complete enjoyment of him in the life of glory that is to come.
This purity of heart stands in having the heart sprinkled from an evil conscience by the sprinkling of Christ’s precious blood (Heb. 9:11-14). What is the meaning of this word “pure”? There are three words translated “pure” in the New Testament. The word used here is the word from which we get the name “Katherine.” It is also the word from which we get the term used in psychology, “catharsis,” which means, “the purging of emotions, the release of pent up emotions, and the relief of guilt.” Actually, that is pretty close to the meaning of the word “pure” in Matthew 5:8. The word means “purified by fire,” “purified as a vine that is pruned and made fit to bear fruit,” “free from corruption, sin, and guilt,” “blameless, innocent,” “unstained with the guilt of anything,” “transparent and undiluted.”
When our Lord speaks of those who are “pure in heart,” he is talking about a people who have in their hearts an honest, transparent consciousness of perfection, righteousness, innocence, sinlessness, and stainlessness before God, without pretense or hypocrisy. In Titus 2:14 the Holy Spirit tells us that it was the intention, design, and purpose of Christ in his death to make us pure before God. In Acts 15:8-9 we are told that God the Holy Spirit purifies the hearts of chosen, redeemed sinners by the blessed gift of faith in Christ. When Christ is revealed and the sinner looks to him alone for complete atonement, for all righteousness, for acceptance with God, looking on Christ, his heart is sprinkled with the blood of Christ and his conscience is purged of all guilt before God. William Huntington wrote…
“Men who are destitute of this faith, and who never received this atonement, are as destitute of internal purity as the prince of devils. ‘Unto the pure all things are pure, but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure, but even their mind and conscience is defiled.’ The man whose sins are forgiven him, and whose conscience is purged from guilt and dead works, who is renewed by the Spirit, who is a believer in Jesus, and holds fast the truth of the gospel as it is in Christ, is the man that holds the mystery of faith in a pure conscience. These are the people to whom the Lord turns a pure language, and such bring to the Lord a pure offering.”
The pure in heart are those who, looking to Christ, are convinced of God the Holy Spirit concerning sin, and righteousness, and judgment (John 16:7-11). They are those who openly, frankly, honestly confess their sin to God, trusting Christ alone for the forgiveness of sin (1 John 1:9; Ps. 51:1-10).
These, and only these, are truly blessed of God, “for they shall see God!” Has the Lord God given you a pure heart? Has he given you a tender, feeling heart? ― A broken and contrite heart? ― A heart that is crushed under the awareness of your utter sin and depravity? ― A heart that mourns over sin and hungers and thirsts for righteousness? ― A heart that looks for grace, righteousness, merit before God, and eternal life altogether outside yourself? ― A heart that pours out the painful, bitter confession of sin before God, acknowledging that there is nothing you want more than purity and that there is in you no purity at all? If he has given you such a heart, this is the blessedness that is yours. ― “Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God!” — “God who commanded the light to shine out of darkness hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”
This is nothing less than seeing him who is invisible. It is seeing him as he is in his true character, as he reveals himself to your soul in Christ, and seeing him forever. The promise is that you shall never be separated or banished from God and his presence. You shall see him with acceptance, and with approbation as your dear and everlasting Father. You shall see his face without a cloud, and hear his voice without a proverb. The promise here given is that you shall have an eternal abiding with him, in whose favor is life, in whose presence is fulness of joy, and at whose right hand are pleasures for evermore. This is the promise of complete salvation in Christ in the glorious liberty of the sons of God in heaven, when “the righteous shall shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father,” forever and ever. We shall then see as we are seen, and know as we are known (1 John 3:1-2;Rev. 22:3-5). “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God!”
“Blessed are the peacemakers.” — Again, I ask, “Of whom does Christ speak?” Clearly, he is not talking about men who make peace with God. That is impossible. Christ alone makes peace between God and men. Our peace with God is found in the blood of his cross. The peacemakers are those men and women whose hearts are ruled by the Prince of Peace, in whose hearts the peace of God rules. They are peaceful themselves. They strive to live peaceably with all men, especially with those who are of the household of faith. They strive to make all men love one another by preaching the gospel of peace.
“They shall be called the children of God.” Their adoption as the children of God by grace is made manifest and they are known to be God’s children by the grace of God that is wrought in them, making them peaceful before God. And those who are at peace with God, by faith in Christ, are at peace with all things and with all men.
“Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake.” — Many suffer greatly because they are haughty and self-righteous (1 Pet. 2:19; 4:16). But God’s people are now, have been throughout history, and shall be so long as time shall stand persecuted and reviled by a self-righteous world “for righteousness’ sake,” because they trust Christ alone as the Lord their Righteousness and assert that there is no righteousness to be found in the world except the righteousness of God in Christ.
To my knowledge, no one has ever been persecuted or reviled for living a good life, for doing what men call works of righteousness. No one is going to persecute you for being honest, being a faithful husband, a good wife, or an exemplary citizen. God’s saints are persecuted for declaring that no man can produce righteousness and asserting that salvation is by the obedience and righteousness of Christ alone. When we declare that salvation is by a righteousness given to sinners freely in Christ, not by a righteousness performed by sinners, we are reviled as promoters of licentiousness (Rom. 3:8). They are persecuted for believing and preaching free justification by the righteousness of Christ, which all men naturally despise because it excludes all boasting. Though persecuted an reviled as the offscouring of the earth, these are a truly blessed people, “for theirs is the kingdom of God.” — “Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you” (vv. 11-12)
How different Christianity is from that which the world looks upon as Christianity! The very characters the world despises and ridicules, Christ honors and calls blessed. The blessedness pronounced upon believing sinners in this world and in the world to come is the blessedness of pure, free grace, gospel blessedness, which is altogether the gift of God.