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Jesus Christ gave us the eight Beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount, recorded

for all posterity in the Gospel of Matthew, the first Book of the New Testament
of the Bible. Matthew's Gospel is directed to an audience steeped in Hebrew
tradition. The Gospel of Matthew stressed that Jesus Christ is the Messiah
foretold in Hebrew Scripture, our Old Testament, and that the Kingdom of the
Messiah is the Kingdom of God in Heaven. Jesus offers us a way of life that
promises eternity in the Kingdom of Heaven.

The teachings of Christ Jesus were simple but unique and innovative at the
time of his life on earth. He began teaching about 30 AD during the ruthless
Roman occupation of Palestine. At the time there were four major groups in
the Jewish religion, the Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, and the Zealots, all of
whom presented a different viewpoint to the Jewish people. The Pharisees
demanded strict observance of the Mosaic law expressed in the Torah, but also
accepted the oral tradition of Jewish customs and rituals. The Sadducees were
mainly from the priestly families and strictly accepted the Law of Moses but
rejected oral tradition. The Pharisees, unlike the Sadducees, believed in the
resurrection of the dead. The monastic Essenes awaited a Messiah that would
establish a Kingdom on earth and free the Israelites from oppression. The
Zealots were a militant Jewish group who wanted freedom for their homeland,
and were centered in Galilee; one of the Twelve Apostles was Simon the
Zealot.

The Ten Commandments, given to Moses on Mount Sinai in the Old Testament
Book of Exodus, relates a series of "Thou shalt nots," evils one must avoid in
daily life on earth.

In contrast, the message of Jesus was one of humility, charity, and brotherly
love. He taught transformation of the inner person. Jesus presents the
Beatitudes in a positive sense, virtues in life which will ultimately lead to
reward. Love becomes the motivation for the Christian. All of the Beatitudes
have an eschatological meaning, that is, they promise us salvation - not in this
world, but in the next. The Beatitudes initiate one of the main themes of
Matthew's Gospel, that the Kingdom so long awaited in the Old Testament is
not of this world, but of the next, the Kingdom of Heaven.

While the Beatitudes of Jesus provide a way of life that promises salvation,
they also provide peace in the midst of our trials and tribulations on this earth.

One of the first contemplations on the Beatitudes came from St. Gregory of
Nyssa, a mystic who lived in Cappadocia in Asia Minor around 380 AD. He
described the Beatitudes this way:
"Beatitude is a possession of all things held to be good,
from which nothing is absent that a good desire may want.
Perhaps the meaning of beatitude may become clearer to us
if it is compared with its opposite.
Now the opposite of beatitude is misery.
Misery means being afflicted unwillingly with painful sufferings."

St. Augustine called the Beatitudes the ideal for every Christian life!

The Eight Beatitudes form the core of the Christian life. As Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.,
writes in his Modern Catholic Dictionary, they are the "promises of happiness made by
Christ to those who faithfully accept his teaching and follow his divine example." That
happiness is not in the future but now for those who conform their lives to Christ.

There are two versions of the Beatitudes, one from the Gospel of Matthew and one from
the Gospel of Luke. Both are delivered by Christ during the Sermon on the Mount. The
text of the Beatitudes given here is from Saint Matthew, the version most commonly
quoted and from which we derive the traditional count of Eight Beatitudes. (The final
verse, "Blessed are ye . . . ," is not counted as one of the Eight Beatitudes.)

Persecution! The very word can generate vivid images of hiding in terror of pursuing,
implacable foes; of being found and resolutely facing the excruciating pain of torture
meant to cause renunciation of cherished beliefs; and finally—hopefully—following
faithful resistance to every agonizing constraint to deny the faith, of death. Others
imagine a courtroom scene where one endures a penetrating inquisition before
ecclesiastical or civil authorities. Some think of the Roman Coliseum filled with people
raucously cheering as hungry lions chase down defenseless Christians; of people lashed
to a stake as piled wood is lighted beneath them; or of a person chained in a dark, dank
jail with rats scurrying about his feet. Each of these images can be a dreadful, unwanted
result of our faith in God, yet Jesus calls those persecuted for righteousness' sake
"blessed." Such people will be greatly rewarded!

This seems far removed from God's multitudinous promises of peace, prosperity and
deliverance. Some think it an enigma or contradictory that a God of endless love and
limitless power can even say such things, let alone seem to do nothing while His innocent
and faithful children are undeservedly, cruelly and painfully harassed, tormented and
mocked. As unjust as this seems on the surface, it is part of God's Word and His way of
life. In no way does it invalidate His love or negate His purpose or care of His children.
The Bible records so much persecution of His servants that, understood in the right
context, we can see that it serves a vital role in the outworking of His purpose.

Strong's Concordance reveals that "persecute" (Greek dioko) means "to pursue, follow
after or press toward." Vine's Expository Dictionary adds "to put to flight or drive away."
Only within certain contexts does it take on the sense of oppression, ill treatment, abuse,
tyranny and even martyrdom and murder. Persecution is aggressive and injurious
behavior carried out in a hostile, antagonistic spirit, normally by a group, but occasionally
by one individual toward another. It is often carried out with fiery zeal, as Paul remarks
about his persecution of the church (Philippians 3:6), but the persecuted must always
remember that the fiery zeal bent against them is, according to Romans 10:2, "not
according to knowledge." Thus Jesus, while dying on the stake, asks His Father to forgive
His persecutors, "for they do not know what they do" (Luke 23:34).

Source and Focus

In the Bible, especially in the New Testament, persecution is so pervasive that it is


presented as a more or less expected terror. Jesus, the epitome of righteousness, is also
the focal point of persecution. As such, He clearly reveals persecution's source. In John 8
the Pharisees challenge Jesus' assertion of who He was, and the ensuing discussion leads
to revealing its source.

The Jews claim to be Abraham's descendants and never in bondage to any man (though at
the time they were subject to the Romans). Their statement is partly true. Jesus readily
acknowledges they are physically Abraham's descendants, but He adds in verse 40, "But
now you seek to kill Me, a Man who has told you the truth which I heard from God.
Abraham did not do this." He implies that, if they were truly Abraham's children, their
conduct would display his characteristics, and they would not be persecuting Him. He
continues:

You do the deeds of your father. . . . You are of your father the devil, and the desires of
your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in
the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own
resources, for he is a liar and the father of it. (verses 41, 44)

Satan the Devil is the source of persecution of those bearing and living the truth of God.
At times he undoubtedly works through people whom he has duped and inflamed to
unrelenting anger toward God's people so that the persecution appears to be entirely of
men. But the Bible reveals the reality of Satan as the source.

Revelation 12:3-5, 13-17 confirms this:

And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great, fiery red dragon having seven
heads and ten horns, and seven diadems on his heads. His tail drew a third of the stars of
heaven and threw them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was
ready to give birth, to devour her Child as soon as it was born. She bore a male Child
who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron. And her Child was caught up to God and to
His throne. . . . Now when the dragon saw that he had been cast to the earth, he
persecuted the woman who gave birth to the male Child. But the woman was given two
wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness to her place, where she is
nourished for a time and times and half a time, from the presence of the serpent. So the
serpent spewed water out of his mouth like a flood after the woman, that he might cause
her to be carried away by the flood. But the earth helped the woman, and the earth
opened its mouth and swallowed up the flood which the dragon had spewed out of his
mouth. And the dragon was enraged with the woman, and he went to make war with the
rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of
Jesus Christ.

Here, the church bears the brunt of Satan's persecution. The church, however, is also the
body of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1:22-23), that group of people in whom Christ is being
formed (Galatians 4:19). Jesus warns us that this will occur:

If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the
world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose
you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. 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 keep yours also. But all these things they
will do to you for My name's sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me. (John
15:18-21)

Thus, because of our relationship to Jesus Christ, persecution becomes our lot in life.
Luke movingly describes this sense of solidarity and union with Christ during Paul's
experience on the road to Damascus. Christ calls out, "Saul, Saul, why are you
persecuting Me?" (Acts 9:4). Just three verses earlier, he writes, "Then Saul, still
breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest."
Paul had physically and psychologically abused the members of the church, but Christ
considers any attack against His church to be an attack against Himself personally.

His disciples can count on persecution. In fact, persecution serves as a sign of the
authenticity of his relationship to Jesus Christ, as Philippians 1:27-30 attests:

Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see
you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one
mind striving together for the faith of the gospel, and not in any way terrified by your
adversaries, which is to them a proof of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that from
God. For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but
also to suffer for His sake, having the same conflict which you saw in me and now hear is
in me.

The Bible also shows that the disciple's response to persecution is a veritable litmus test
to determine that authenticity. Notice these two passages in Matthew:

 But he who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and
immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a
while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he
stumbles. (13:20-21)
 Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all
nations for My name's sake. And then many will be offended, will betray one another,
and will hate one another. Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. And
because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. But he who endures to
the end shall be saved. (24:9-13)

Clearly, God will count as righteous those who respond to persecution in faith.

Forms of Persecution

Biblically, persecution is primarily of a religious nature. However, ethnic persecution


appears in the book of Esther. In spiritual contexts, though, persecution takes on a
number of forms:

Beating: I gave My back to those who struck Me, and My cheeks to those who plucked
out the beard; I did not hide My face from shame and spitting. (Isaiah 50:6)
Stoning: Then Jews from Antioch and Iconium came there; and having persuaded the
multitudes, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing him to be dead.
(Acts 14:19)
Mocking: Then Herod, with his men of war, treated Him with contempt and mocked
Him, arrayed Him in a gorgeous robe, and sent Him back to Pilate. (Luke 23:11)
Insults: Because zeal for Your house has eaten me up, and the reproaches of those who
reproach You have fallen on me. (Psalm 69:9)
Slander: I know your works, tribulation, and poverty (but you are rich); and I know the
blasphemy of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.
(Revelation 2:9)
Ostracism: His parents said these things because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had
agreed already that if anyone confessed that He was Christ, he would be put out of the
synagogue. (John 9:22)
Intimidation and threats: So when they had further threatened them, they let them go,
finding no way of punishing them, because of the people, since they all glorified God for
what had been done. . . . "Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants
that with all boldness they may speak Your Word." (Acts 4:21, 29)
Imprisonment: For Herod himself had sent and laid hold of John, and bound him in
prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip's wife; for he had married her. (Mark
6:17)
Exile: I, John, both your brother and companion in the tribulation, and in the kingdom
and patience of Jesus Christ, was on the island that is called Patmos for the word of God
and for the testimony of Jesus Christ. (Revelation 1:9)

And finally, death. God's Word records so many of these that it would be futile to list
them. From righteous Abel in Genesis to the prophetic record of Revelation, Satan has
hounded the righteous even to death in his frenetic, insane attempts to destroy God's
purpose and plan and overcome Jesus Christ.

Wrong Responses
II Timothy 3:12 plainly states, "Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will
suffer persecution." It is inevitable that the truly righteous must face it, and God exhorts
us to respond positively. He condemns negative reactions:

Fear: But even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you are blessed. "And do not
be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled." (I Peter 3:14)
Compromise: As many as desire to make a good showing in the flesh, these try to compel
you to be circumcised, only that they may not suffer persecution for the cross of Christ.
(Galatians 6:12)
Cursing: Bless those which persecute you; bless and do not curse. (Romans 12:14)
Desertion: "But all this [Christ's betrayal and arrest] was done that the Scriptures of the
prophets might be fulfilled." Then all the disciples forsook Him and fled. (Matthew
26:56)
Retaliation: Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all
men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved,
do no avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, "Vengeance is
Mine, I will repay," says the Lord. "Therefore, if your enemy hungers, feed him; if he
thirsts, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head." Do not
be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:17-21)
Apostasy: But recall the former days in which, after you were illuminated, you endured a
great struggle with sufferings: partly while you were made a spectacle both by reproaches
and tribulations, and partly while you became companions of those who were so treated;
for you had compassion on me in my chains, and joyfully accepted the plundering of your
good, knowing that you have a better and an enduring possession for yourselves in
heaven. Therefore do not cast away your confidence which has great reward. . . . But we
are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the
soul. (Hebrews 10:32-35, 39)

Every one of these wrong reactions destroys our witness for God, our character and our
loyalty. Since persecution comes on all who live godly in Christ Jesus, it is no wonder
God places so much emphasis on it. Persecution plays a vital role in God's purpose.

Righteousness and Persecution

This beatitude presents us with yet another paradox. The other beatitudes show that a
Christian can be filled with a joy that he cannot fully express, yet lament over things that
the carnal consider as insignificant. He has a deep and abiding sense of satisfaction, yet
groans daily and sincerely. His life experiences are often painful, yet he would not part
with them for the great wealth, acclaim and ease the world offers. Though the world
exalts those filled with pride, self-esteem and assertiveness, God exalts the humble and
meek. The world displays its approval for war-makers by giving them ticker tape parades,
putting them into high office and remembering their achievement by naming streets,
cities, parks and schools after them—yet God blesses the peacemakers. Understanding
these earlier paradoxes among the Beatitudes, this one states that all we will receive for
doing well is to earn the antipathy of fellow man.
We need to understand the connection between righteousness and persecution because
not every sufferer or even every sufferer of religious persecution suffers for
righteousness' sake. Many suffer persecution for zealously holding fast to what is clearly
a false religion. Often, a rival religious group or civil authority—just as ignorant of God's
truth—are the persecutors. At any given time persecutions of one form or another are
taking place. In the recent past the Japanese persecuted the Koreans and the Chinese, the
Nepalese. In Africa the Moslem Sudanese are persecuting "Christians," while in Europe
the Slavic Eastern Orthodox "Christians" are persecuting Moslem Kosovars. In the
history of man, this familiar beat of persecution continues endlessly with nary a
connection to righteousness.

Some people become victims of their own character flaws and personality disorders.
They foolishly take comfort in Matthew 5:10-12, claiming persecution when others
merely retaliate against their displays of evil speaking, haughtiness or self-centeredness.
Such people are just reaping what they have sown.

Psalm 119:172 says, "My tongue shall speak of Your word; for all Your commandments
are righteousness." This is a simple, straightforward definition of righteousness. It is
rectitude, right doing. God's commands thus describe how to live correctly. They teach us
how to conduct relationships with Him and fellow man. This beatitude is written about
those who are truly doing this. They will receive persecution, and it will be because they
are living correctly—not because they have irritated or infuriated others through their sins
or because they belong to another political party, religion or ethnic group.

Does anything illustrate the perversity of human nature clearer than this? We might think
that one could hardly be more pleased than to have neighbors who are absolutely
trustworthy; who will not murder, commit adultery or fornication, steal, lie or covet one's
possessions; who rear respectful children; who are an asset to the neighborhood; who so
respect God they will not even use His name in vain; who submit to the civil laws and do
not even flaunt the codes and covenants of the neighborhood.

However, this description does not mention the relationship to God that really brings the
persecution. These are things moral people of this world might do, yet they lack the true
God in their lives and are not regenerated by His Spirit. An element of righteousness is
still missing. Paul writes in Romans 8:14-17:

For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you did not
receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by
which we cry out, "Abba Father." The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we
are children of God, and if children, then heirs—joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we
suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.

The source of true persecution is Satan, and its target is God. Satan not only hates God,
he also hates all who bear His holy image in them by means of His Spirit. Satan works in
and through people just as God does, and he incites them to do all in their power to vilify,
destroy the reputation of, put fear in or discourage God's children to cause their
disqualification. He will do anything to get us to respond, to retaliate, as worldly people
do, because then we would display Satan's image rather than Jesus Christ's. Satan knows
those who have the Spirit of God, and just as he tempted Jesus, he will also single out His
brothers and sisters for persecution.

The righteousness needed to resist these pressures and respond in a godly manner goes
far beyond that of a merely moral person. This righteousness requires that one be living
by faith minute by minute, day by day, week by week, month by month and year by year.
It is one ingrained into a person's very character because he knows God. He is intimately
acquainted with Him and His purpose rather than merely believing academically that He
exists.

Following on the heels of this beatitude is another statement by Jesus on righteousness:


"For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes
and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 5:20). He
focuses on a righteousness that is not merely legal, resulting from God graciously
justifying us by Christ's blood, but one inculcated within the heart and mind by constantly
living God's way. Such a person's righteousness comes of sanctification. He is striving to
keep all the commandments of God, not merely those having to do with public morality.
He has made prayer and study a significant part of each day along with occasional fasting
to assist in keeping humble. He is well on his way toward the Kingdom of God. These are
not normally things that one does publicly; his neighbors may never know much of this
person's life. Nonetheless, Satan knows, and this person's living faith will attract Satan's
persecution, the Devil's attempts to derail him from making it.

For Righteousness' Sake

Jesus' phrase in the beatitude, "for righteousness' sake," calls upon us to examine
ourselves honestly before God both before and after we are opposed. Notice I Peter 4:12-
16:

Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though
some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ's
sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. If
you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of
God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified. But
let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other
people's matters. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him
glorify God in this matter.

Peter, like Jesus, perceives persecution as inevitable and therefore a Christian should
expect it. Since a disciple is not above His Master, a follower can hardly expect to escape
some form of what the Master received.

Human nature dislikes and is suspicious of anyone who is different. True Christianity
brings on its own form of unpopularity. It has never been easy, in part because, regardless
of where they live, Christians are different. A Christian presents the standard of Jesus
Christ to the world. Worldly witnesses to this do not understand exactly why, but it at
least irritates them, pricks their conscience and separates them from the Christian. In
some it leads to open anger, even rage. For instance, while calling it a virtue, worldly
people think goodness is a handicap because they fear it will keep them from achieving
their goals. At the same time, a truly good person will irritate them. Before long, their
conscience disturbs them, and they react by persecuting the good person. The human
heart is so deceitful that Jesus remarks in John 16:2, "They will put you out of the
synagogues; yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God
service."

Peter also perceives persecution as a trial to overcome. A person's devotion to principle


can be measured by his willingness to suffer for it. Therefore, since he writes of true
Christians and not those merely in name, persecution will be a test. Compromising with
God's standards will not elicit persecution because that leads to agreement with the
world. Jesus says, "If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because
you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you"
(John 15:19). Compromise will certainly ease the pressure, but God intends persecution
to test the Christian's trust, loyalty, sincerity, courage and patience.

Suffering for righteousness' sake is an honor leading to glory. In fact, Peter says that
when one suffers persecution, the glory of God rests upon them. When Stephen was put
on trial, his accusers "saw his face as the face of an angel" (Acts 6:15)! In such an
instance, a persecuted Christian falls into the same category as Jesus Christ because all
He suffered was for righteousness' sake. We therefore share in the same and should be
unashamed.

However, we must be exceedingly careful we do not suffer because of our own


misconduct. A Christian's life should be his best argument that he does not deserve what
is happening to him. Jesus says in Matthew 5:11, "Blessed are you when they revile and
persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake." We hope that we
suffer for our sins only rarely, but when we do, we are getting what we deserve. There is
no glory in that. But even in this, all is not lost because it may lead to repentance, change
and growth.

The Human Source of Persecution

Persecution can come from a wide variety of sources. One of the most likely is within our
own homes and/or families. Christ remarks in Matthew 10:34-36:

Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a
sword. For I have come to "set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother,
and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law." And "a man's foes will be those of his
own household."
Less frequently, our employers may persecute us. Many have found themselves
persecuted on the job because of keeping the Sabbath. A severe form of this is prophesied
to happen to those who do not have the mark of the Beast (Revelation 13:16-18).

At times, we may receive social persecution within a community. We are often excluded
from friendships that would normally be extended to us as they are to others who are not
of the truth. Sometimes our children face this more directly in school than we do in the
neighborhood or market place.

Without a doubt, the most intense persecution begins with those of a religious bent and
culminates with the civil authorities. Christ received His most frequent attacks from the
religious leaders, those with the greatest spiritual pretensions. The scribes, Pharisees and
Sadducees all attempted to ostracize Him or destroy the validity of His teaching. In the
end, the ecclesiastical authorities called upon the civil authorities to administer the savage
beating and execution. As the Beast arises, we can expect its persecution to follow the
same pattern.

Great Is Your Reward

It may seem strange that Jesus passes so quickly from peacemaking in the previous
beatitude to persecution—from the work of reconciliation to the experience of hostility.
But we come to learn from life's experiences following conversion that, however hard we
try to live peacefully or to make peace through reconciliation, some refuse to live at
peace with us. Indeed, as this beatitude shows, some take the initiative to oppose, revile
and slander us. We must live with and adjust to the fact that persecution is simply the
clash between two irreconcilable value systems. God has called us, selected us, to
represent Him in patiently enduring and even overcoming persecution as part of our
witness and preparation for His Kingdom.

God is not without sympathy for the difficulties these challenges pose for us, but He calls
us blessed, counseling us to "rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is [our] reward in
heaven" for successfully overcoming persecution. We should realize we do not earn the
reward because we are doing only what we are supposed to do (Luke 17:7-10). But God
freely gives the reward; He promises it as His gift.

We are to face persecution remembering "that the sufferings of this present time are not
worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us" (Romans 8:18).
When it comes upon us, we should not retaliate like the world, sulk like a child, lick our
wounds like a dog in self-pity, or simply grin and bear it like a masochistic Stoic. Our
Savior tells us to rejoice in it because it proves the authenticity of our faith, puts us into a
noble succession of towering figures of faith who have preceded us, and guarantees us
great reward in the Kingdom. It may also put us into the company of many martyrs
exalted in God's Word.

Above all, persecution for His sake brings us into fellowship with the sufferings of our
Savior. Our love for Christ should be so great that we rejoice that it has come upon us on
His account. If He suffered so much to give us this awesome future, why should we not
gladly suffer a little for Him?

Persecution is a blessing in disguise designed to bring out the best of Christian character.
From it we frequently become aware of weaknesses in our character. Persecution's
pressures are humbling. They make us understand that our spiritual infirmities are so
great that we cannot stand for a single hour unless Christ upholds us. How true are His
words, "Without Me you can do nothing" (John 15:5).

Persecution can also keep us from certain sins because it makes us more vividly aware of
the impossibility of friendship with the world. Seeing we cannot have both the world and
the Kingdom, it can help us set our resolve to live righteously. "And not only that," the
apostle Paul writes in Romans 5:3-4, "but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that
tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope."

At first glance, persecution seems contradictory to the way and purpose of God. Though
we certainly do not wish it upon anyone, and though we sincerely hope we do not have to
face it, we can understand in the broad overview that, because of the enmity of Satan, it is
inevitable. And in reality, it is a disguised blessing, designed to complete our preparation
for God's Kingdom.

© 1999 Church of the Great God


PO Box 471846
Charlotte, NC 28247-1846
(803) 802-7075

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Bible Study Lesson:

Matthew 5: 3 -12

• Beatitudes are referred to the account of ‘Sermon on the Mount’ preached by


Jesus Christ, recorded in Matthew 5: 3-12 in the Bible.
• It is one of the most quoted passage of Bible.
• Similar list of beatitudes is also given in Luke 6:20-23.
• This bible study lesson is an eight part series on the beatitudes. In this part, we
will look at the first of the beatitude “Blessed are the Poor in the Spirit”.

Q. What is the meaning of word ‘Beatitude’? And how does it relate to word
‘Blessed’ used in Matthew 5?
• The word ‘Beatitude’ is not found in the English bible. But it is derived from
Latin word ‘Beatus’ meaning ‘Happy’ or ‘Blessed’, the meaning of which is very
close to original Greek word that Jesus used .
• The Greek word for ‘Blessed’ is ‘Makarioi’ which means ‘happy, supremely
blessed, and fortunate’.
Before we get into the beatitudes, let us look at the similarity and differences in the
gospel accounts of Matthew 5:3-12 and Luke 6:20-23.

• In Matthew, all the 8 beatitudes are written in third person (‘those’), except the
last one.
• On the other hand, in Luke, Beatitudes are in second person (“you”), followed by
the list of ‘Woes’ as well. (Luke 6:24-26)
• The places where Jesus preached the sermon are different. (Mat 5:1 – ‘On the
Mount’ and Luke 6:17 – ‘On the plain’)
• Bible scholars differs on their views regarding these two accounts, whether they
are
o Different records of the same sermon, or
o Two different sermons with similar contents
• Peoples often point out to such differences to discredit the authenticity and
reliability of gospel records. But these minor differences actually serve as an
evidence of the genuineness of these records. [Consider an example of Professor
giving homework to his students. If two students have identical, word by word
answers, Professor would first suspect ‘copying or cheating’!]
• Apart from these minor differences, there is a remarkable unity and order of
thought and substance in the gospels.

Beatitudes – The Great Paradox

• Beatitudes are the great contrast to the worldly motion of ‘blessedness’ and
‘happiness’. It is no wonder that it does not make sense and almost seems
contradiction to the carnal mind. “For the message about the cross is nonsense to
those who are being destroyed, but it is God’s power to us who are being saved.”
(1st Cor 1:18)
• The beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount also defied the great expectations of
an earthly kingdom, which Jews thought Messiah would establish! For how can
you establish a worldly kingdom by the Weak and the Meek? How can you be
merciful to your enemies? How can you be peacemakers, if you are to overturn a
kingdom (Roman Empire)? How can you let others persecute and insult you? It is
obvious that Jesus was not talking about earthly kingdom. But he was promising
‘Kingdom of Heaven’. So let us look at the characteristics to inherit this
‘Kingdom of Heaven’.

Beatitude 1 : Poor In Spirit

• ‘Poor in Spirit’ is a quite difficult phrase to understand. The word for ‘poor’ in
Greek (’Ptochos‘) literally means having nothing, reduced to begging, like a
beggar, totally broke. (Luke 6:20 uses only ‘poor’ in his version of sermon!)
• While monetary poverty can also be inferred from these verses, what Jesus really
meant was spiritual poverty.
• You can be really poor and yet be arrogant and prideful, or you can be rich and
still be poor in the spirit. (King David in Old Testament is great example of this,
in spite of being King, he had a humble and contrite heart.)
• ‘Spiritual poor’ is exactly what it sounds like. It is a state when you realize that
you have nothing and need constant help.
• We have to be careful here not to compare outward modesty with this
characteristics. I strongly believe that it is a picture of a man with humble and
broken heart who constantly need help from God for his very existence.
• This image is a stark contrast to the self-contained, self-sufficient spirit which
world long for. But in the Kingdom of Heaven, this is the most important
qualification, you can have.
• Isaiah 66:1-2: “Thus says the LORD, “Heaven is My throne and the earth is My
footstool. Where then is a house you could build for Me? And where is a place
that I may rest? “For My hand made all these things, Thus all these things came
into being,” declares the LORD. “But to this one I will look, To him who is
humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word.”
• Isaiah 57:15: “For thus says the high and exalted One Who lives forever, whose
name is Holy, “I dwell on a high and holy place, And also with the contrite and
lowly of spirit In order to revive the spirit of the lowly And to revive the heart of
the contrite.”
• Psalms 51 is a great example of a man who is craving for God’s spirit. (This
Psalm is King David’s confession and repentance after he committed adultery
with Bathsheba.)
o Ps 51:10 : “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast
spirit within me.”
o Ps 51:12 : “Restore to me the joy of Your salvation and sustain me with a
willing spirit.”
o Ps 51:17 : “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and a
contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.”
• The opposite of ‘Poor in Spirit’ is ‘proud in spirit’. The Pride of life is one of the
three roots of sin and independence from God. (1 John 2:16)
• Poverty of spirit is the root of all virtues. It is the state of heart; it is how you view
yourself in light of God. In this regard, this first beatitude is the root from which
all other beatitudes grows.

The Promise: Kingdom of Heaven

• ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ is a peculiar title only found in the gospel of Matthew. This
term is used interchangeably with ‘Kingdom of God’ in other gospels. Kingdom
of Heaven is the messianic kingdom promised in old testament, to be established
by Messiah. (Daniel 2:44) Matthew represents Jesus as the savior and king
prophesied in old testament.
• Kingdom of God (Heaven) is in twofold:
o Already Here: Luke 17:20-21: “Once, having been asked by the
Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The
kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will
people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is
within you.”
o Yet to Come: Kingdom of Heaven will be fully realized and established
when Christ will come as a King and Ruler over all earth. (Daniel 7:
13,14,27)
• What a blessed hope and promise, Jesus offers to those who are poor in the spirit.
“Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.”

Practical Applications:

• How do you view yourself in light of this beatitude?


• How do you view others?
• Do your attitudes reflect your beliefs?

Other Resource: The Message of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7 : Christian
Counter-Culture)

Part 1: Beatitudes: Blessed are the Poor in Spirit

Part 2: Blessed are those Who Mourn: Beatitudes Bible Study Series

Part 3: Blessed are the Meek: Beatitudes Bible Study Series

Part 4: Blessed are those who Hunger and Thirst for Righteousness: Beatitudes Bible
Study Series

Part 5: Blessed are the Merciful: Beatitudes Bible Study Series

Part 6: Blessed are the Pure in heart: Beatitudes Bible Study Series

Part 7: Blessed are the Peacemakers: Beatitudes Bible Study Series

Part 8: Beatitudes: Blessed are the Persecuted (The link will be added as the lesson is
available online.)