The Character of the Kingdom’s Citizens (Matthew 5:1-16)

In these verses Jesus gives eight beatitudes that describe the true character of those who are citizens of His kingdom. The word “beatitude” is from the Latin meaning “blessing”. We could simply call these “the blessings”. The beatitudes are not given in a random order, but overflow into each other providing a complete picture of a kingdom citizen. Interestingly, the first and the last contain the same promise (“for theirs is the kingdom of heaven“). These bookends show that this is a description of a kingdom citizen. All eight beatitudes state a condition and then provide a promise. When does the believer experience these blessings? In eternity they will be experienced in their fullness, however there is a true sense in which they can be experienced now.

1. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” ()
This is a reference to those who see themselves as spiritually empty before God. This condition is the opposite of pride and self-sufficiency. To be “poor in spirit” means to recognise one’s spiritual poverty and look to the Lord for mercy (cf. ). Their reward is “the kingdom of heaven” which means they are a believer.

2. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matt. 5:4)
The second beatitude describes the believer’s grief over his or her own sinful condition. This is the natural response of the recognition of spiritual poverty. The outcome of this kind of mourning is comfort, which is provided by the gospel (cf. Is. 61:1-3).

3. “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” (Matt. 5:5)
The word “meek” is not to be connected with the word “weak”. Biblical meekness is not weakness. It refers to those who are able to harness their command and conviction. The meek believer demonstrates power under complete control. The promise is that they will “inherit the earth“. In the future they will reign with Christ as He will have dominion over all things, but in the meantime they allow this hope to drive their efforts in the world today.

4.”Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” (Matt. 5:6)
This is a description of a believer’s internal longing for righteousness. Because this can only be found in the Lord, it is the believer’s desire to conform to this. The promise of such a longing is a true and lasting satisfaction. 

5. “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy” (Matt. 5:7)
As a believer longs for the righteousness of God, it is only natural that they be merciful like the Lord. The promise is the provision of matched mercy.

6. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matt. 5:8)
To be “pure in heart” is to have our minds and emotions set upon the Lord. It is an unwavering commitment in worshipping Him from deep within. The great promise of this condition is to “see God“. The ultimate fulfillment will occur when we are with the Lord in heaven (). However, this is experienced now I the intimacy of unbroken fellowship.

7. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matt. 5:9)
The believer is not at enmity with God because Jesus Christ made peace possible (; ). Now the God’s people enjoy this peace, they are to be “peacemakers“. This occurs though the sharing of the gospel and the application of the gospel within the body. The promise “for they shall be called sons of God” means that the believer will reflect the character of the Father. 

8. “Blessed are the those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:10)
The final beatitude may be a bit surprising at first and appear to be an anticlimax. We have just seen a great progression, then suddenly persecution. But this ought not to be a surprise (). To live as Jesus lived will inevitably lead to persecution and hardship in varying levels.

Jesus expands on this final beatitude by reminding His people of the reality and expectation of persecution. Though hardship may be experienced now, this has been an ongoing assault against God’s people in past ages. For this reason they are to hold onto the hope of the final reward in heaven (). How does a Christian provide a faithful witness to the world? The answer is by living out the beatitudes. Jesus likens this kind of lifestyle to two metaphors – salt and light (). The metaphors in this passage presuppose the reality of the world’s corruption and darkness. As salt, the Christian’s witness functions as both a preservation against corruption and a seasoning of the delight of Christ. As light, the Christian’s witness exposes society’s sin and reflects the holiness of Christ.

Study Questions:

1.         What are your overall impressions of the sermon of the mount? Are there any particular verses or passages that have been a great encouragement or challenge?

2.         What is happiness in the world’s standard and how are the beatitudes in 5:3-12 contrary to the world’s view of happiness?

3.         Discuss how the promises in all the beatitudes have a present and eternal fulfillment.

4.         After examining the first seven beatitudes, why is persecution inevitable?

5.         Discuss the significance of the two metaphors describing the Christian witness (5:13-16).

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads.

5:1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

21 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds,

18 “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. 20 Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.

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.

13 “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.

14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.