Monthly Archives: September 2015

Blessed are the Merciful.

The fifth beatitude deals with the extension of, as well as the reception of, mercy. Jesus said, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy” (Matthew 5:7). At first glance, it seems like Jesus is saying people must first extend mercy to others before they receive mercy from God. Indeed, this is how some people interpret the passage. As D. A. Carson explained, “Some try to interpret this verse legalistically, as if to say that the only way to obtain mercy from God is by showing mercy to others: God’s mercy thus becomes essentially contingent to our own” (Carson, The Sermon on the Mount, 23). Is this the correct interpretation? Is Jesus saying God’s mercy is contingent upon our showing mercy towards others? I think not.

Mercy means “to be greatly concerned about someone in need, have compassion, mercy, pity” (BDAG, eleeo). So, does God only show us compassion when we show compassion to others? Again, I think the answer is no. Why? Because God’s mercy and grace is not dependency upon human works. God doesn’t extend grace or mercy based on our actions. This would be a “works righteousness” or works-based salvation,” which Scripture roundly condemns. So, if Jesus isn’t saying we have to show mercy to receive mercy, what in the world does He mean?

To put it simply, those who have received mercy and salvation will show mercy and compassion to others. The mercy they show is proof they have received God’s mercy in the past, as well as proof they will receive God’s mercy in the future. As Turner put it, “Those who have experienced God’s mercy will show it to others (Matt. 18:21–35) and so demonstrate their destiny as those who will yet receive mercy at the last day” (Turner, Matthew, BECNT, 152). Christians who have received God’s mercy will extend that mercy to others, and they will yet again experience God’s mercy on the last day.

So, we should show mercy to others, not in order to receive mercy, but because we have already received mercy. And, we should thank God for His mercy towards us, who deserve eternal judgment but receive everlasting life!

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Blessed are Those Who Hunger and Thirst for Righteousness.

Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” (Matthew 5:6). The fourth beatitude deals with righteousness, which seems simple enough, but there is debate as to what Jesus means when He says “righteousness.” Is He talking about imputed righteousness, or is He talking about right behavior? David Turner argued Matthew (and Jesus) were not talking about imputed righteousness, which is a more Pauline concept. He wrote:

Protestant Christians who are used to reading Paul may think that Matthew is speaking of the imputed righteousness of Christ (cf., e.g., Rom. 5:1–2), but this forensic sense is not a Matthean nuance. Here the emphasis is on the practical side, the upright lifestyle (Turner, Matthew, 152).

Morris presents a more balanced view (and I believe a better view) of righteousness here in Matthew 5:6. He wrote:

Righteousness is often used in the New Testament for the right standing believers have before God because of Christ’s atoning work, but this is often said to be a Pauline concept rather than one that Matthew sets forth. Now it is plain that Matthew has a strong interest in the upright living that should characterize the servant of Christ, and we must not try to turn him into a pale shadow of Paul. But we must not minimize his emphasis on grace either (cf. v. 3). Specifically we should notice that he is not suggesting that people can make a strong effort and achieve the righteousness of which he is writing: it is a given righteousness, not an achieved righteousness. The blessed do not achieve it but hunger and thirst for it. They will be filled, which surely means that God will fill them (cf. 6:33, “his righteousness”) (Morris, Matthew, 99).

Morris acknowledges the practical aspect of righteousness, but he also emphasizes the positional dimension of righteousness. Christians are to seek to live righteous lives, but their righteousness is an imputed righteousness (not an earned righteousness).

If both of these aspects of righteousness can be seen in this verse, we should respond in two ways. First, we should praise God for the righteousness of Christ that has been imputed to us. It is not an earned righteousness; it is a received righteousness. Second, we should hunger and thirst for practical righteousness. That is, we should desire to live holy and righteousness lives…and Jesus says that those with this desire will be satisfied! God will enable those who desire to live godly to actually live godly!

Blessed are the Meek.

In Matthee 5:5, Jesus said, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” As David Turner put it, “God’s inaugurated reign will eventually result in humble disciples, not arrogant tyrants, inheriting the earth” (Turner, Matthew, 151). While the world often thinks those with power money or popularity will “inherit the earth,” Jesus reminds us of the importance of meekness and humility.

Turner described meekness as “an unassuming humility that rests in God (Ps. 37:7) and renounces self-effort to relieve one’s oppression and to achieve one’s desires” (151). This should be true of Christians, since we have abandoned attempts at self-salvation and trusted in Christ for salvation. The gospel produces humility in us, driving us to forsake self-righteousness and rest in God’s grace.

Are you meek and humble? Have you allowed the gospel to humble you and lead you to forsake self-justification and trust God’s grace? Has the gospel humbled you and given you a greater appreciation for God’s grace? Christian, rest in the gospel and let it produce authentic humility in you!