Summary: A practical analysis of beatitudes and their application to Christian living in our world today.
How To Be A Happy Christian
This is perhaps one of the most misunderstood passages in the scriptures. It is the core of what has come to be known as the Sermon on the Mount. Those who believe salvation is by works rather than by grace through faith alone, point to these verses as God’s basic plan of salvation. According to their theology, if man desires to be justified before God and make it to heaven, he must meet all the standards of ultimate righteousness outlined here.
Those who advocate a social gospel sincerely believe this passage outlines a wonderful charter for world peace and they urge men and nations to try to conform to it and achieve the idealistic, worldwide, universal utopia that envision as man’s ultimate destiny.
There are sincere Bible-believers who believe this passage does not apply to our day and time but merely describes the perfect future Kingdom of God that will be established when Christ comes to rule this world with a rod of iron for one thousand years.
But I agree with those who believe that the understanding of these verses relates to verse twenty. Jesus said, "For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed [the righteousness] of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven." (Matt 5:20) The pharisees were primarily concerned with an artificial outward righteousness. The truly felt their puny and pathetic attempts to keep the Law could justify them before God and man. They seemed to feel that conduct rather than character was the key to righteousness.
But the words of our Saviour tell us that good conduct can only flow from good character and that good character begins in the heart of man. Only the righteousness of Jesus Christ and the new character given to us when we are made new creatures in Christ Jesus can bring about the sort of real righteous conduct that will be recognized as right and pleasing to God.
These words were spoken on this occasion directly to His disciples who were gathered at the feet of their Teacher upon the mountain top. They are repeated in various forms in the epistles later written by the apostles to those in the early New Testament Churches. These were immersed believes who had already been called into a close knit assembly. They are learning the all things of Jesus and will soon receive instructions detailing local church policy, discipline and responsibility. (See Matt. 16:16-20, 18:16-20) The multitudes are merely onlookers but the disciples are to be inlookers. Jesus is giving insight to the insiders.
These words have been called the beatitudes. Some have called these Christ’s laws for living that have been proven valid and true by true believers throughout centuries of challenging experience. These rules surely describe good attitudes to be in and to always live by. In His last revelation, Jesus guarantees ultimate happiness to all who understand and follow the all things of His teachings. "Blessed [is] he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time [is] at hand." (Rev. 1:3)
We are all interested in true happiness. A loving God surely has a desire to give His dear children His joy unspeakable in all circumstance. He is not some great cynical cosmic kill joy who sits upon the circle of the earth devising methods of punishing and causing His creatures constant pain and heartache. The Greek word used here can literally mean happy. The word emphasizes what we are, not what we have.
It is clear that Jesus desires the state being described in these verse for all those who follow Him. Such a state should be considered the normal Christian life. Someone has said that ordinary Christians are so subnormal that if they lived normally the world would think they were abnormal. Perhaps this reflects an all too common attitude that only those who are super Christians can really serve and please God and influence the world around them. But this is not the case. Here Jesus tells us in the simplest terms how the ordinary Christian can be a happy Christian.
HAPPY CHRISTIANS ARE HIS CHRISTIANS. Our Saviour begins His teaching with those who are seeking to follow Him seated at His feet. These are disciples of the Lord. These are those who have responded to the preaching of John the Baptist. They have repented of their sins and placed their faith in the coming Messiah of Israel; their Kinsman Redeemer. They are those Jesus described as Israelites indeed. They have confirmed and affirmed their repentance and faith by immersion in water at the hands of God’s appointed and authoritative herald of the arrival of the Lamb of God: the One Who would take away their sins and the sins of the world. They have been personally, individually and collectively, called out of the world to follow Him. They belong to Jesus.