Understanding the Beatitudes in Matthew 5

The gospel lectionary reading for All Saints’ Day in Year A (this coming Sunday as I write) is Matthew 5.1–12, which is mostly composed of the set sayings of Jesus known as the Beatitudes, a name derived from the Latin translation of the opening term of each, ‘blessed’ or ‘happy’.

These sayings are very well known, often being cited as favourite texts, and yet there are some serious puzzles that they present us with. Why are there nine, with the last one seemingly tagged on at the end? Why is there a mixture of future and present tenses in the sayings? Why is one of the promises (about the kingdom of heaven) repeated—did Jesus run out of other good things to say? Are they encouragements under pressure, or commendations of virtue? More to the point, are they realistic, or are they (with the rest of the ‘Sermon on the Mount’) setting out an unattainable ideal?


Some of these questions are answered by paying careful attention to the structure and ordering of the sayings. Here is the central part of the passage, laid out with a view to its structure:

(The structure is slightly clearer in the Greek text, because of the simpler structure of the verb forms.) This leads to a number of observations:

1. The ‘ninth’ beatitude does not really belong to the pattern of the first eight, since it is expressed in the second (rather than third) person, and lacks the pattern of ‘Blessed…for…’ We should therefore consider the other eight as a whole.

2. The eight beatitudes can be viewed as two stanzas: the first four beatitudes are 36 words in the Greek (and all begin with the letter pi), the second four are also 36 words. (This contributes to the evidence that Jesus might well have taught in Greek, especially in the bilingual region of Galilee; future blog post to come on this.)

3. The first beatitude has a promise in the third person ‘For theirs is the kingdom of heaven’ and so does the last beatitude. It is wholly unlikely that this repetition is the result of editorial fatigue with the speaker or writer having run out of promises, and very likely that it is deliberate, creating an inclusio. This suggests the not very surprising conclusion that the beatitudes and indeed the Sermon on the Mount, to which they are a prelude, are about the kingdom of heaven.

4. The other six beatitudes have a variety of promises with a future tense, so that we have in the first half, one present tense + three future tenses, and in the second half the mirror image with three future tenses + one present tense. This makes sense given what we have already suggested about the first and the last forming an inclusio. It also suggests that in fact all the beatitudes are promising the kingdom of heaven to people, with beatitudes 1 and 8 making the promise in general terms, beatitudes 2-7 unpacking that general promise in concrete ways appropriate to the people concerned (hence most clearly ‘those who mourn…will be comforted’, ‘the merciful…will receive mercy’. The kingdom of heaven belongs now to the people whom Jesus describes, but fully entering into the inheritance and experiencing the practical blessings of the kingdom, i.e. the comforting, the seeing God, etc., still lie in the future. So the Beatitudes reflect what we see elsewhere of NT ‘partially realised’ eschatology.

5. The emphatic focus of the Beatitudes is that of ‘righteousness’, which in Matthew means holy and ethical action, and is a non-negotiable sign of the kingdom of God—see, for example, two key texts: 5:20 ‘Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven’ and 6:33 ‘Seek first the kingdom and his (i.e. God’s) righteousness’. This is a distinctive theme of Matthew, who repeats the term seven times in all.


David Wenham, in his study of the Beatitudes, (‘How do the Beatitudes Work? Some Observations on the Structure of the Beatitudes in Matthew’ in The Earliest Perceptions of Jesus in Context LNTS, 2019) comments on the significance of the two halves of the structure, and justifying his view:

The conditions described in beatitudes 1-4—poor in spirit, mourn, meek, hungry and thirsty for righteousness—all suggest need of some sort, with the possible exception of no 3, ‘the meek’, which could be seen as more ethical; the conditions described in beatitudes 5-8 all suggest people living positive kingdom lives—being merciful, pure in heart, peace-makers, and righteous.

And out of all this analysis David notes that ‘the beatitudes are carefully constructed and are a prologue and introduction to the Sermon that is to follow,’ though there is much debate about how closely the sayings here related to the teaching that follows. And he also observes how these sayings accord with the NT’s theology of grace:

The argument for the two stanza structure has been made, and is strong. But still how do the two stanzas relate to each other? They are both about people to whom the kingdom of heaven is given and belongs. The first stanza portrays them as people who are under pressure and hungry for God’s righteousness and justice to come, i.e. for his kingdom to come and his will to be done; the second portrays them as people whose lives are already demonstrating the kingdom and the will of God being done – by being merciful, pure and peace-making. The relationship of the two stanzas has often been explained in terms of dependence on God and his grace on the one hand, the starting-point of kingdom of heaven membership, and of transformation and kingdom living in love on the other. The Sermon on the Mount will develop and explain the second theme at length – living kingdom righteousness – but before that it is important to recognize the starting point of grace.

This reading connects the Beatitudes in Matthew with Is 61, which is more explicitly connected with the Beatitudes in Luke—though of course Matthew does cite Is 61 later in Jesus’ answer to John the Baptist (in Matt 11). ‘The parallels are not total, but there is what we could call an Isaianic logic to the shift of focus in beatitudes 5-8, which also prepares us for the Sermon on the Mount, which is going to describe much more fully what kingdom righteousness and following Jesus look like.’ David concludes his paper (to be published in a collection in honour of John Nolland in LNTS):

We are now in a position to answer our question about the purpose of the beatitudes: what are these blessed sayings doing? What does Matthew think Jesus is doing? The answer is threefold: first, he is proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, identifying and congratulating those who are coming to him and coming into the kingdom and who will receive its amazing blessings. Jesus is thus fulfilling Isaiah 61 with its description of the Spirit-filled one proclaiming good news to the poor and to those of God’s people who mourn. Secondly, he is describing those to whom the kingdom of heaven is given, and their characteristics. The beatitudes highlight first their need, their sadness and their longings for justice, but then sum up what their lives as disciples and kingdom people will (and should) look like – merciful, pure in heart, peace-makers. Thirdly, the beatitudes form a brilliant preface to the Sermon, putting it in the context of the good news, introducing us to the key themes of kingdom of heaven and of righteousness, which the sermon will then expound.


The central term of the Beatitudes is both hard to express well and yet connects with a basic human longing—how might we live ‘the good life’, or find happiness? The question has proliferated in our Western culture of comparative leisure and wealth, which has left many people wondering (in the words of the slogan for the Alpha course) ‘Is there more to life than this?’ Jonathan Haidt’s research (in The Happiness Hypothesis) points out that happiness and true contentment are most often an indirect result of focussing on other things, and there is certainly an indirectness in Jesus’ teaching about what is important here.

Some English translations do indeed render the word makarios as ‘happy’, but this introduces a rather unhelpful sense of emotional satisfaction here, and makes the juxtaposition of happiness with mourning in the second Beatitude seem trivial or even offensive. The other main alternative is to use ‘blessed’, but this both suggests that the state promised has already been achieved, and confuses the term with another, eulogetos, which does indeed have this meaning.

A better translation might be ‘fortunate’; if the two halves of the list relate to those yearning for the kingdom of heaven and those living out the kingdom of heaven in their lives, then the full realisation of the blessings of the kingdom are both experienced in part and still to be fully realised. The life of the kingdom, in every respect, points forwards to future hope when God’s blessing will be fully experienced.

The term is found elsewhere in the gospels (Matt 11.6, 13.16, 16.17, 24.46) often with this sense of yet-to-be-fully realised promise. And it has a long pedigree (in the Hebrew term ‘ashre) in the psalms (Ps 1.1, 32.1–2, 40.4, 119.1–2, 128.1 and numerous other places). In fact, several of the Beatitudes have strong OT precedents or even take up the language of OT texts.


Those who are ‘poor in spirit’ are, in the OT narrative, those who are God’s faithful people, humbly aware of their dependence on God in the face of challenges of every kind. One version (I forget which!) translates this as ‘those who know their need of God’. In the OT, this is sometimes connected with material poverty or the threat of a powerful enemy, but here it is the inner attitude, rather than the outer situation, that is the focus. ‘Poverty of spirit’ is nothing to do with weakness of character, but concerns our relationship with God. It is surely the meaning of the requirement to ‘change and become like little children’ in dependence before we can ‘enter the kingdom of heaven’ (Matt 18.3). We find this language in Is 66.2 and it is closely related to David’s description of the right attitude before God in Ps 51.17.

The language of ‘mourning‘, following mention of ‘the poor’, offers a strong echo of the promise of God’s anointed one bringing good news in Is 61.1–3. This suggests that, whilst the mourning of personal loss might be included, this is not the main focus. Rather, it is those who ‘grieve in Zion’ who will be given a ‘garland’ instead of ashes when they see Israel restored and God’s just reign come to pass.

The quality of being ‘meek‘ is closely related to being ‘poor [in spirit]’; both Greek terms are used to translate the same Hebrew term in the OT. Again, this is not about a character flaw or being a ‘doormat’ (as in ‘The meek shall inherit the earth…if that is alright with the rest of you!’) but is the opposite of the arrogant and presumptuous who defy God. Jesus’ saying here is an almost exact quotation of Ps 37.11; in that context, the ge might be understood as the land of Israel, but with the cosmic vision of the kingdom, we should understand it now as ‘the earth’. After all, the promise to those who ‘conquer’ through humble faithfulness to the slain lamb in Revelation is that they will ‘reign with him on the earth’ (Rev 5.10).

The language of the fourth Beatitude is in some ways the most remarkable. Although the language of ‘righteousness‘ in the OT is related to the victory of God’s justice and salvation as he intervenes on behalf of his people (which is surely the major idea behind Paul’s use of this language), within Matthew it has an ethical focus in relation to the disciple’s response to right living in obedience to God (the word occurs seven times in this gospel, of which five are in the Sermon on the Mount: Matt 3.15, 5.6, 5.10, 5.20, 6.1, 6.33, 21.32). The metaphor of eating and drinking (‘hunger and thirst’) parallels John 4.34: ‘My food is to do the will of the one who sent me’ as well as Jesus’ refusal to turn stones into bread, again drawing on the OT text of feeding on God’s words from Deut 8.3. The term for ‘satisfied’ is chortazomai, and is a graphic word used for fattening animals ready for slaughter. The image is that of a person sitting at the end of a magnificent feast, who has eaten as much as they possibly can and cannot manage another mouthful. Imagine being so satisfied with a life of complete obedience to God—and seeing his ways enacted in the world—that you could not manage another mouthful!

Mercy‘ is one of the ‘weightier matters of the law’ in Matt 23.23, and something required of God’s people.

Mercy is closely linked with forgiveness, but is broader here than just the forgiveness of specific offences: it is a generous attitude which is willing to see things from the other’s point of view and is not quick to take offence or to gloat over others’ shortcomings (1 Cor 13.4–7) (R T France, NICNT, p168).

That we will be treated as we have treated others is filled out in the ‘measure for measure’ epigram in Matt 7.2 and the ‘golden rule’ of Matt 7.12.

The notion of being ‘pure in heart‘ alludes to Ps 24.4, which asks who may approach the holy presence of God in Zion. The holiness of inner purity is matched by holiness of outer action in ‘having clean hands’. Purity also suggests a singleness of purpose and direction in life, the opposite of duplicity, and in the letter of James reflects in the life of the disciple the unity and integrity of God’s own nature (James 1.17). ‘Seeing God’ is a privilege that will be realised for the citizens of the New Jerusalem (Rev 22.4), something that we grasp only partially now in anticipation of fulfilment then (1 Cor 13.12).

It is characteristic of God’s people to ‘seek peace and pursue it’ (Ps 34.14), and Paul commands his readers to ‘live at peace as far as it is up to you’ (Romans 12.18). Peace-making and reconciliation are central to the proclamation of the good news, especially in Luke and Paul, and there is a good case for seeing ‘reconciliation’ as the central idea in Paul’s understanding of what God has done for us in Christ (2 Cor 5.19). The wisdom of God which is ours in Jesus by the Spirit is ‘peace-loving’ and ‘peacemakers sow in peace for a harvest of righteousness’ (James 3.17–18).

But anyone who seeks the kingdom of God and his righteousness will face opposition just as Jesus did, not least because his proclamation of God’s kingdom will always ‘bring division and a sword‘ (Matt 10.34), a paradox because people do not want to be called from their own insularity and conflict into God’s peace.


All this, then, offers a challenging but inviting vision of another way to live. It is striking, in the introduction to this teaching, that Matthew has noticed the presence of the crowds, gathering around to listen to the teaching of Jesus. They clearly can overhear this—but it is in the first instance directed to the disciples themselves (Matt 5.1). As we hear and live out this teaching of Jesus, the crowds will both see and hear the good news of the kingdom, so that they too might become disciples.


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14 thoughts on “Understanding the Beatitudes in Matthew 5”

  1. I use to feel discomfited reading the Beatitudes. They seemed like ideals that I could never attain. Then I realised that Jesus was painting a self portrait. He is all of the things he describes. If you look closely at his portrait you can see, like in a school photo, yourself, in the second row, forth from the right.
    Jesus is the Landscape; we are in it. Jesus will one day be the Earth in which His kingdom fills.
    I now feel a sense of awe reading the Beatitudes, it brings out worship in me.

    Reply
  2. Indeed, Steve.
    From DA Carson and Thomas Watson’s books on the Beatitudes, and another, “Crucifying Morality, the gospel of the Beatitudes” by R W Glenn, I’.m fully and gratefully persuaded that the Beatitudes are not “how to” become a Christian, but reflect what a Christian is, through who Jesus Christ is. It is something of being and becoming.

    Reply
    • I agree that they do not decribe ‘how to’ become a Christian, but they are clearly God’s expectations of his followers. Whilst they can be about ‘being’ they are simultaneously about ‘doing’ as it is the doing that one reflects one’s being. For example, you are deemed ‘meek’, ‘merciful’, ‘pure in heart’ etc if your actions and behaviour express those characteristics.

      Those sorts of behaviours are then precisely the basis upon which we are judged, as Jesus indicates elsewhere in Matthew.

      Peter

      Reply
  3. I think it is wrong to paint out the more material element in the first four Beatitudes.
    Poor in spirit may well have a material origin, poor to the guts, wretchedly poor; mourning naturally is about grief, particularly those who have died when they should not have; “meek” may well be linked (Ps 37:11) to the dispossessed of land (which is why they inherit the earth) – Psalm 37 would seem to be the OT reference here; and those who hunger and thirst for “righteousness / justice” – again there is an obvious group who are hungry and thirsty because justice has not been done; those done out of food will be feasted just as those done out of land will inherit the land, while the poor are promised their’s is the Kingdom and the grieving will find God’s comfort – what a reversal!
    The first four are about the poor, the grieving, the dispossessed, the hungry and thirsty – should we really spiritualise these very obvious material conditions?
    Is it not that, in the first stanza, the suffering, the victims, are blessed and so in the second stanza are those whose ethic and life is about peace mercy and honesty etc, a commitment to a non-aggressive, non-acquisitive, peace-making, forgiving world.
    This strand is explored well by Bill Domeris in an article in Journal of Theology for Southern Africa no 73 (Dec 1990). While he may overplay some elements, I still think it is dangerous to spiritualise the Beatitudes too much. Doing the Word, acting on the teaching is central to Matthew, and there are several warnings against not doing through the gospel.
    How these verses go alongside the rather similar verses in Luke is a challenge, and I don’t think it can be solved simply by claiming that Matthew is third person (blessed are they) and Luke second person (blessed are you). The interpretation above however is close to Luke 4 and Jesus use of Isaiah 61.
    It is of course more comfortable for us (me as a well-fed and reasonably well-off person) to spiritualise these verses but..

    Reply
  4. Could gently suggest Peter, that you widen your reading. The books I suggest are far from over spiritualising. Even a glance at RW Glenn’s book reviews on amazon would consistently draw the conclusion, that it is not over- spiritualising. The beatitudes are not a negation of action are reveal what grace produces in us, are a radical usurpation of performance based salvation which lurks in every corner of Christianity, in each of us, which is no gospel at all.
    They are not comfortable at all, but deeply challenging on the the reading of them that you are criticising, of which you seem to have had little exposure, drawing your comment as it does.

    Even minimal understanding of any of CA Carson’s writings would show he doesn’t shun human responsibility; the opposite in fact. I think his doctoral paper was published under the title, The Sovereignty of God and Human Responsibility.

    Here is one review, from Amazon, of Glenn’s book, by Dr. Tim Challies who has been prominent in Keswick Ministries in the UK over a number of years:

    “No one could possibly claim that the Beatitudes (see Matthew 5:1-12) are overlooked or underappreciated. They have been the subject of countless books and sermon series. But this is not to say that the Beatitudes have been widely understood and properly taught. As often as not they have suffered from moralization, reduced to the level of the fortune cookie and with all the spiritual power of a fortune cookie.

    In Crucifying Morality, R.W. Glenn takes a new look at the Beatitudes saying, Maybe you “were taught that the Beatitudes were the highest form of morality that anyone could live by, and you know now how impossible they are. Or maybe you experienced the flannelgraph version of the Beatitudes.” If that is the case, “maybe it is time to get unfamiliar. Maybe you need to read these verses with fresh eyes for the first time. Whatever your exposure to the Beatitudes has been, you probably think of them as less powerful and captivating and helpful than they are. Take a step back to see how breathtakingly radical their real message is.”

    The fact is that

    the flannelgraph and the saccharine tone of those reductionist Sunday school lessons can’t get the job done. Jesus’ teaching is too radical to be stuck on felt. He uses counterintuitive gospel logic to show us that life in the kingdom of God is completely contrary to what we expect. In fact, we could not have predicted it. Kingdom blessing looks like the opposite of everything we value. So don’t moralize the Beatitudes, sterilizing the gospel as though it is primarily or even only a rule book for nicer living. You cannot put the mind-altering, world-shattering nature of the Beatitudes into neat categories. Jesus won’t let you.

    Glenn wants the reader to contemplate this: “It is no accident that the Beatitudes contain no imperatives whatsoever. Because we are wired for performance and have an insatiable hunger to turn Christianity into a system of dos and don’ts to earn a spot at the table of grace, we feel almost irresistibly inclined to turn them into commandments. Instead, they are the qualities that begin to characterize sinners who encounter God’s grace in the gospel.” We need to be careful not to read the Beatitudes as a series of commandments because when we do that we empty them of their true power.

    After all, “the Beatitudes are a profile of the Christian. They are a description of people who would never dream of turning the characteristics God has given them by grace into a list of moral commands because they know that Jesus has crucified even their best attempts at self-centered, self-propelled morality on the cross.” The Beatitudes are not a list of dos and don’ts that get you into God’s kingdom, but a list of declarations of what a child of the kingdom looks like. Where too many people reduce Christianity into a system of achievement in which you do certain things in order to gain life, the Beatitudes instead show Jesus saying, “I have done this, so you can live.”

    With all of that in place, Glenn proceeds through the Beatitudes pausing to explain and apply each one. He shows that perfect conformity to the Beatitudes is absolutely essential to our salvation and then points to Jesus Christ as the one who has perfectly kept them on our behalf. In fact, Jesus is the Beatitudes. And now, through the work of Jesus Christ, they are character traits that mark the person who has encountered the gospel of God’s amazing grace.

    Crucifying Morality is an antidote to performance-based religion, a temptation that is always near to each one of us. It is an antidote to a grave misunderstanding of the Beatitudes that eviscerates them, reducing them to an impossible to-do list. It is a powerful call to live out of the joy and freedom of the gospel.”

    Reply
  5. Thank you, Geoff, for the recommendation of Glenn. I wonder what you made of the article by Domeris, if you have access to it.
    The sermon on the mount and the gospel of Matthew as a whole make clear, both that we must seek mercy and healing from the Christ, and as followers and disciples then make disciples of others, AND that we must live out our faith as doers not just hearers and those who do not *do* the faith are at great risk, just as are those who think they are ok in their own garments, or who claim a righteousness that is not genuine, whether they claim it of God or not.
    I don’t have Glenn’s book but the reviews I read of it suggest he avoids the more material element and impact of this teaching. Did Jesus really use such earthy words as beggar, mourn, dispossessed, hungry and thirsty only to make them metaphors for how we should feel towards God?
    Although Ian would disagree, the hungry and thirsty from the Beatitudes also appear in the final teaching of Jesus and in terms of whether we have fed them or not, helping create an inclusio of Jesus’ teaching in the gospel. Who is blessed and who is welcome in the Kingdom?
    Just as we can have the cop-out that good people are saved (by works) so we can also have a cop-out that we don’t need to do good, do what is right to be and remain saved / remain in God.
    A recognition that the Beatitudes are about real living does make them a challenge – they are presented as a challenge, but it does not reduce them to performance, but makes clear that faith without works is dead. James and Matthew are in lockstep here, and while their language may be a bit different, and the focus too, they are in tune with the other gospel accounts and with Paul

    Reply
    • Argh…I lost it, Peter.
      That’s probably what you are thinking anyhow, but I started a response on my phone and lost it.
      1. I don’t think we disagree over some of your comment, in regard to works, but it is the place and theological chronology of works where I think we significantly, substantially may differ.

      2. If I can pick out one key point from Challies review of Glenn’s book, it is this: the beatitudes do not contain any imperatives.
      Yes, scripture does contain imperatives for Christians, but I’d suggest that they flow from, the result of the indicatives/facts about the great Gospel Good News of the person, man/deity of Jesus Christ the long Promised Messiah, God with us, from his work on the cross, his resurrection, ascension, and poring out His Spirit, proceeding from the Father and Son.
      Anything else, I’d suggest, is in Christian theological terms, like looking through the wrong end of the telescope. The letter to the Ephesians is an exemplary example of this indicative to imperative progression, as is the letter to Romans – there ore no imperatives in the first 11 chapters, then they come thick and fast.

      3. The language for example of beggar, is deeply offensive to us, to humanity, in our pride, our pride of life, with all our western relative material wealth and possessions: to be radically convicted that is what we are before God, empty handed, cap -in hand, with nothing of worth but filthy rags, on our knees seeking mercy from God, who in Christ on , gives mercy, to have been knock-sideways by the shear magnitude, of that mercy is to be merciful, to others who may not deserve it. It is to recognise our need before God and recognise the need of humanity for ministries of mercies; God also engage his body here on earth in those ministries. Aked why are we doing it is to answer, because we have receive Christ’s mercy.

      4. Sure there are non Christians involved in acts of mercy, but this is but them unknowingly demonstrating the mercy of God through them, through what is known in reformed circles, as “common grace”, God’s grace to the whole of humanity.

      5, This emphasis, message of the beatitudes, is not new but may be uncommon outside reformed circles.
      Thomas Watson (1620-1686) draws out some of this in his book: The Beatitudes.
      An on-line version of the full book is here, :

      https://christian.net/pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-10/web/watson-beatitudes.html
      https://christian.net/pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-10/web/watson-beatitudes.html

      What breadth, what depth, that seems almost extinct today, notwithstanding the language of that day. It is challenging indeed, unsettling for a lot of us on the one hand but at the same time pacifying, and engendering praise and exultation on the other.

      6. Last Peter, I’ll see if I can track down your suggested reading.

      Reply
  6. Hello Peter.
    This is something I tried to post earlier, but doesn’t seem to have passed Ian’s moderation, perhaps as it contained a link to an on-line version of Thomas Watson’s book. (It has now been removed), We’ll see. This is the third attempt to respond.

    Argh…I lost it, Peter.
    That’s probably what you are thinking anyhow, but I started a response on my phone and lost it.
    1. I don’t think we disagree over some of your comment, in regard to works, but it is the place and theological chronology of works where I think we significantly, substantially may differ.

    2. If I can pick out one key point from Challies review of Glenn’s book, it is this: the beatitudes do not contain any imperatives.
    Yes, scripture does contain imperatives for Christians, but I’d suggest that they flow from, the result of the indicatives/facts about the great Gospel Good News of the person, man/deity of Jesus Christ the long Promised Messiah, God with us, from his work on the cross, his resurrection, ascension, and poring out His Spirit, proceeding from the Father and Son.
    Anything else, I’d suggest, is in Christian theological terms, like looking through the wrong end of the telescope. The letter to the Ephesians is an exemplary example of this indicative to imperative progression, as is the letter to Romans – there ore no imperatives in the first 11 chapters, then they come thick and fast.

    3. The language for example of beggar, is deeply offensive to us, to humanity, in our pride, our pride of life, with all our western relative material wealth and possessions: to be radically convicted that is what we are before God, empty handed, cap -in hand, with nothing of worth but filthy rags, on our knees seeking mercy from God, who in Christ on , gives mercy, to have been knock-sideways by the shear magnitude, of that mercy is to be merciful, to others who may not deserve it. It is to recognise our need before God and recognise the need of humanity for ministries of mercies; God also engage his body here on earth in those ministries. Asked why are we doing it is to answer, because we have receive Christ’s mercy.

    4. Sure there are non Christians involved in acts of mercy, but this is but them unknowingly demonstrating the mercy of God through them, through what is known in reformed circles, as “common grace”, God’s grace to the whole of humanity.

    5, This emphasis, message of the beatitudes, is not new but may be uncommon outside reformed circles.
    Thomas Watson (1620-1686) draws out some of this in his book: The Beatitudes.

    What breadth, what depth, that seems almost extinct today, notwithstanding the language of that day. It is challenging indeed, unsettling for a lot of us on the one hand but at the same time pacifying, and engendering praise and exultation on the other.

    6. Last Peter, I’ll see if I can track down your suggested reading.

    Reply
  7. “One version (I forget which!) translates this as ‘those who know their need of God’.”

    It is the NEB.

    Interestingly, the REB revises this back to the “standard” of “poor in spirit.”

    Reply
  8. I’ve only just read this!! Yes I know I’m late…. but for me as a pleb in the pew!! They strike me as having a domino effect.. one leads into the next one… but you cannot leapfrog/jump the next one because you don’t like it!!

    Reply

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