Wednesday, October 19, 2011

A Discussion on the Beatitudes

A friend of mine from church asked me the following question on the Beatitudes from the Gospel of Matthew:
I have theology question for you. Right after Jesus preaches the beatitudes he says,

3"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.16In 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.

who is the "you" in these statements? The crowd, or those who are doing the beatitudes? 
I followed this up with a reply as follows:

I am certain that Jesus is speaking this entire sermon on the mount to his inner circle of believers – the disciples – the ones that left everything to follow Him.

Jesus purposely withdraws from the work of healing the multitudes to take a moment to teach His tiny flock about Kingdom things as evidenced in verse 5:1. I’m sure that the multitudes are taking in this teaching as well but they cannot receive it the same way as His disciples can. (Matthew 7:28-29)  The disciples are the good soil and this Word from Jesus is going to bear fruit with them because they were chosen and have put their faith in Him only. Anyone else (outside of faith in Christ) represents the other types of soil that Jesus warns His disciples about later in a different parable.

Now specifically about the “you” in the statements concerning being salt and light – disciples of Jesus Christ only. In context, Jesus was addressing His inner circle here but I am comfortable saying that this applies to any disciple of Jesus Christ between then and now.

I believe that Jesus leads off with the Beatitudes to describe the types of people (the good soil) that are ready (and able) to receive the Gospel. Read the parable of the Sower in Matthew 13 then continue on.

Verses 3 through 10 (of the Beatitudes) are describing people who are distraught, broken, humble, thirsting for righteousness that they do not have of themselves, merciful and not selfish, have not hardened their heart, who long not just for peace but wanting to establish peace, and are willing to take a stand for righteousness. The law of God was designed to make His people into the (good soil) so that they could receive the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It was designed to be a mirror and expose man for what he really is; a sinner. Brokenness over sin leads to repentance and then to salvation by Jesus Christ. Sinners who are not broken are the other types of soil and cannot receive the Gospel. The message from John the Baptist and then from Jesus was always “REPENT! The Kingdom of God is at hand!” It’s impossible for a man to repent if he is not broken by his own sin. Brokenness leads to God’s gracious salvation in Jesus Christ alone and then to healing and change.

The Beatitudes are describing the disciples; those who are broken and in need of a Savior and the promise is that all of that brokenness will lead them to the promised salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. It’s a gradual revelation that Jesus is giving these folks back then but we, in the 21st Century, have the testimony of the complete revelation. Jesus graciously gives the disciples a foretaste of the coming revelation of His work on the cross as atonement for sinful mankind in Matthew 5:18-20:
Matthew 5:18-20 KJV
For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. (19) Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. (20) 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.
I find it interesting in the "Sermon on the Mount" that Jesus tells the disciples that the law is going to stay intact until all is fulfilled but then tells them that those who are law breakers and teach others to break the law will be called the least in the kingdom of heaven? Aren’t law breakers worthy of being tossed into the darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth but here He is telling them they will be the least in the Kingdom of Heaven? How can this be unless, of course, the law breaking is atoned for? Jesus gives a clue of the type of righteousness that it was going to take (ie., not of themselves but of Christ alone) to enter the Kingdom in verse 20. The disciples wouldn’t be able to fully understand this entire thing until after the day of Pentecost though. And there are many that walk around today that lack this understanding as well.

At the time of His earthly visitation, the law was only given to His chosen people. Now, after His glorification and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on ALL FLESH – as we read in Acts 2:17 (which is quoting Joel) – the law of God is written on the hearts of all flesh. Men are without excuse. Even sinful men know God’s law – in their sinful condition they are slaves to sin and are depraved and cannot stop without Jesus but it is guaranteed that deep inside of them they know the difference between right and wrong – good and evil – they just don’t obey it because they can’t. They just need to acknowledge to their creator that they need a savior to set them free from the bondage of sin and receive the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ but men continue to harden their hearts against the good even though their consciences tell them otherwise.

Romans 1:18-19 KJV

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; (19) Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them.

I believe that there’s accountability for mankind to respond to the call of repentance and call on the name of the LORD for salvation as a result of this out pouring. It’s a Divine commandment to all men:
Acts 17:30 KJV

And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent:

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