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The Beatitudes Introduction

The Beatitudes Introduction

Blessing of the Highest Degree

The beatitudes are most well-known for being found in Matthew 5:3-12, which is what we will be studying. This word “beatitude” never appears in the Bible, outside of the subtitle, which is probably written above verse 3 in your English Bible. This word derives from Jerome’s Latin translation of the Bible, which would have been around 390 A.D. The word comes from the Latin “beatitudo,” which is found in Psalm 32:1-2.

1  Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven,
whose sin is covered.
2  Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity,
and in whose spirit there is no deceit. 

The meaning and purpose of “beatitudo” or “blessed” is that it is a divine blessing of the highest degree. Note that the description of one who is divinely blessed in the highest degree is one who is cleansed from all unrighteousness. This is the point of being “blessed” in accordance with the Word of God.

Notice the similarities in the way that Jesus taught the crowd in Matthew 5. The way in which “beatitudes” were spoken is the same throughout Scripture. There is the first half of the “blessing,” which is then followed by the second half of the impending blessing. For instance, “Blessed is the one” is the first half, and then “whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered” is the second half. The point being that the one who has his transgression and sin forgiven is “blessed.”

The Greek calls this form of congratulatory speech a “macarism.” Ultimately, the individual is being applauded for the finalization of the blessing given. It is of the utmost importance to fulfill the blessing, because the opposite is also true. If you do not accomplish the second half of the macarism, then you are not blessed accordingly.
From a Biblical standpoint, we see that Jesus begins his preaching and teaching ministry with what are known as “The Beatitudes.”

3 Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
7 Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.
12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. 

The scene is set for us at the end of Matthew 4, which leads into chapter 5. There is a large group of people who are following Jesus, so He went up to the mountain, sat down and taught them (Matthew 5:1-2). Immediately, what came out of the mouth of the Messiah was an offense to the religious Pharisees. It was directly counter-cultural.

From Matthew 5:3-7:27, Jesus exegetes the Law with a masterful sermon. Not only does He explain the meaning and the purpose of the Old Testament Law, but then goes further to clearly define the application. Unfortunately, there were some who could not understand the teachings of Jesus because they were blinded by their own pride and selfishness. But for those whom the Father would draw, their spiritual appetites had never been more satisfied.

Jesus begins his teaching ministry in the same way that the Book of Psalms begins. “Blessed is the man.” And the reality of the situation is that every single human being who has ever lived desires to be “blessed.” There is not a single human being who has ever walked the face of the earth who would deny some sort of blessing. The problem occurs when we try to define the word “blessing.” At the time of this teaching, the religious leaders would consider blessing: wealth, happiness, authority, food and drink, self-driven esteem, and a zealous spirit. Amazingly, Jesus goes head-to-head with every one of these standards of “blessing” in accordance with the cultural understanding of being successful.

Even today, all people want to be blessed. It could be defined as: financial well-being, size of house, opportunity for education, occupation, and so many other ways that one could define “blessing” on this temporary earth. It is our responsibility to know this and to use the Beatitudes to go head-to-head with the cultural understanding of basic happiness or blessing.
For the world, happiness can be both self-induced altruism  (which leads to self-gratification) or an attempt at investing in their own personal kingdom here on earth. Both are true for the believer and the unbeliever. We have convinced ourselves that we are at our happiest points, when these are satisfied in our lives.

But Jesus says the very opposite. And this is what his Sermon on the Mount is all about. We, as Christians, need to stop taking “cultural truths” at face value. It is our responsibility to learn the Truth of the Word of God and allow this to framework every aspect of our life.
As we now walk into the study of the Beatitudes, let us approach with the same definition and purpose. We will study each Beatitude individually, and within the literary structure of the verse, you will see the word “Blessed” followed by the first half of the beatitude and then concluded with the congratulatory finalizing statement. It will be essential that we take each of these apart, so that we can conform our minds and hearts to the image of the Son of God.

The ultimate “blessing” is not the way in which the world defines “success” or “happiness” or “blessing.” To be “blessed” by God is to be in possession of the greatest blessing that God has provided to His people. To be “blessed” by God is to be in Christ.

Unless you have been justified by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ alone, then you cannot claim the purpose of the Beatitudes. Jesus is sitting on the Mount, teaching the crowd, and essentially saying, “I am the only way, the only truth and the only life. And unless you put your trust in me, then you will never find blessing.”

Picture yourself sitting on the mount as this teaching is taking place. Don’t miss the opportunity to possess for yourself the greatest gift of grace, which the Father freely bestowed to those who would “confess with their mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in their heart that God raised Him from the grave” (Romans 10:9).
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