Summary: Sermon 6 in a study in the Sermon on the Mount
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”
Let’s pause before we go to discuss these three Christian virtues and remind ourselves of a couple of points vital to the understanding of what Jesus is teaching. We want to get facts, but facts alone do nothing but lead us into legalism if we do not understand the spirit.
What I mean by that can be explained this way. Knowledge of Biblical doctrine is fundamental. It is good and must be pursued by the student of the Holy Spirit.
But if I know about Justification and Sanctification and am satisfied with sitting back and admiring these beautiful doctrines but they exact no change in my life, then they are useless. The knowledge of them is useless.
It is good to know that God predestined us to be conformed to the image of His Son (Rom 8:29), but what good is that if I do not present my body as a living and holy sacrifice (Rom 12:1) for His use?
The knowledge that I have been declared right with God through faith in the shed blood and resurrection of Christ will become in me nothing but license to sin, unless I understand that with eternal security comes eternal accountability.
The knowledge that He has set me apart for Himself and for the process of making me like Jesus is so much pulpit fodder unless I cooperate with His Spirit in the work of sanctification.
Having said all that, what I want to refocus on for a minute or two is the need for us to really understand that Jesus is not calling for mercy and purity and peacefulness on some purely human level, but that these are virtues that will arise out of the one He has described thus far.
So we reiterate some facts.
First, let’s re-clarify the term ‘blessed’. It is a spiritual thing. It is a divine happiness; a deep satisfaction and contentment of the spirit that is borne out of being made into a spiritual man and thus becoming both recipient and channel for these spiritual characteristics. It is something the world cannot give because the world neither has it to give nor understands the nature of it.
One commentator said that the word Jesus used to this multitude was a word used in reference to the gods or to the dead who no longer suffered the pangs of physical life. Therefore opening His sermon with it would have made them sit up and take notice.
This would have been tantamount to saying, ‘the poor in spirit will experience the joy of those already in heaven’, if this man’s assessment is accurate.
So looking at the word ‘blessed’ in that light, let these beatitudes run through your mind. “The poor in spirit are happy”. “Those who mourn are happy”. “Those who are meek and gentle are happy”. And so forth.
The world will never send you that message, rather, just the opposite.
The next thing I want us to be reminded of before we go on is that Jesus has been talking about who and what the Christian is by the influence and empowering of the Holy Spirit.
Emptied of self, humble, mourning for sin the way God mourns for sin and the death it brings, obedience and quiet strength, desiring righteousness desperately to the point of a willingness to sacrifice self so that righteousness might be fulfilled.
Now, He is turning from the focus on what makes a Christian, to what comes out of a Christian toward others. And as we look at these virtues we will see that they are a result of the Spirit working in us, and also virtues that the Christian should be aware of and seeking to have developed in him as he matures.
They are things given to us that we could not have obtained or attained to, but that which we are now called and empowered to exude and impart. And the underscoring promise in it all is the experience of divine bliss.
THE MERCIFUL ARE HAPPY
I’ve always loved it when singing “America, the Beautiful”, by Katherine L. Bates, when we’ve come to the third verse and sung these words:
“O beautiful for heroes proved in liberating strife,
Who more than self their country loved, and mercy more than life!”
Bates understood mercy. She wrote of the patriots who have fought and died to give birth to America and to preserve her freedom and defend the oppressed and downtrodden and she named mercy as the quality that they valued more than their very lives; the virtue that drove them into bloody conflict for a just cause.