The Sermon on the Mount

5) “Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.” Does this mean that God’s mercy to us is a reaction to our own mercy? Can it mean that we can buy our mercy by being merciful to others? No, mercy cannot be bought. But if you are poor in spirit, knowing and mourning over your sinfulness, becoming meek instead of prideful, and hungering and thirsting for the righteousness of Jesus Christ, then you have already obtained God’s mercy, for all of these are His gracious gifts. And He will continue to be merciful to you in this life and in the Judgment. As Hebrews says of God, “For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.” And those to whom God has been merciful will be merciful. When Jesus showed mercy to Zacchaeus by coming to the house of this sinner, Zacchaeus could not help but declare, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold.” Paul explains in Colossians 3:13, “even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.” Do you show God’s mercy to you by being merciful to others?

6) “Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.” What does being pure in heart mean? It should be obvious that man, who is totally depraved in nature, cannot purify his own heart. What example do we find in the Old or New Testaments of a saint who made his own heart pure? None. Those who try to purify their own hearts either live a life of frustrating failure or, if they deceive themselves into thinking they have succeeded, wind up as self-righteous puffballs.

Having a pure heart is a work of God, who in Ezekiel 36:26 says, “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh.” If we are going to have a pure heart, it must be a new heart, and that is a miracle of God. We do not sanctify ourselves. Jesus is our sanctification (1 Corinthians 1:30; Hebrews 10:10, 14). Further reading: “Are We Sanctified by Works or by Grace?

Do you have a pure heart? If so, you will know your sin and mourn over it. Having a pure heart does not mean being sinless. As 1 John 1:8 says, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” But, as John again says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” And in 1 John 3:2, “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.” Do you have a pure heart from God? If so, you are blessed because you will see Him as He is.

7) “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.” Many years ago, I visited a church and heard one of the most carnally minded, world-centered, human-worshipping, Christ-dishonoring sermons I have ever heard. The central message of the sermon was the application of this Scripture to the United Nations. Jesus is not talking about the godless, human efforts of the United Nations in trying to bring about world peace. Romans 3:17-18 says of the carnally minded, “The way of peace have they not known: There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

Another misunderstanding of “Blessed are the peacemakers” is that it refers to men making peace with God. Sometimes we hear of a dying man saying that it is time for him to make his peace with God. But men do not make peace with God. God makes peace with men through His Son, Jesus Christ the Righteous.

So, who are the peacemakers? In Isaiah 9:6, we read of Jesus Christ, who is called the Prince of Peace. Are you ruled by Him? Have you taken up your cross and followed Him? Are your feet shod with the preparation of the Gospel of peace, as Ephesians 6:15 says? Do you speak and support the ministry of reconciliation? Is the Spirit of Christ leading you to “follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another,” as Romans 14:19 tells us to do? Are you, as much as lieth in you, living peaceably with all men? Are you, “With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace”? This does not mean to sacrifice truth for the spirit of unity, but to keep the unity of the Spirit. If you are doing this, “Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God,” you are a peacemaker, and you will be called the children of God, who is, after all, the God of peace.

Please especially notice that neither Jesus nor any of His disciples ever says, Blessed are the war makers; blessed are they who bomb their enemies; blessed are they who waterboard and otherwise torture their prisoners. No, war making has no place in the life of a Christian. If you have been deceived into thinking or acting otherwise, it is time to repent. As we will shortly read, Jesus tells us to love and bless and pray for our enemies.

8) “Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” The key phrase here is “for righteousness’ sake.” Everyone has suffered at one time or another for sins, mistakes, foolish words, wrong-headedness, and so on. Many have also suffered for their own self-righteousness, including wrong religious convictions. Many martyrs have died for the world’s religions. But they are not blessed because they were not persecuted for righteousness’ sake. They died for a false cause.

It is also true that people do not persecute you for doing those things most readily associated with popular Christianity. Who do you know of who has been persecuted for doing good works, giving to the poor, establishing hospitals, or devoting one’s life to the poor and sick in far-flung corners of the world? I can think of no one. Of course, we should be doing good works. But Christians are also supposed to speak the truth. Pull no punches in preaching the truth from the Bible and see how quickly you become unpopular.

9) “Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.” I will tell you how to guarantee persecution. Preach that absolutely no one is good, not one. Preach that every good work that anyone has ever done, whether it is dropping a coin in Santa Claus’s bucket in front of a store or living among the untouchables in Calcutta, are as filthy rags to God. Preach that no amount of law-keeping will ever make anyone righteous, that righteousness and salvation are only in Jesus Christ and that God gives them only to whom he sovereignly wills, and that there is now no condemnation, and never will be any condemnation, to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. You will be persecuted by every variety of human-centered religion. You will be called narrow-minded and deceived. You will be judged as judgmental. You will be called ignorant. You will be accused of limiting God. You will be called antinomian. But take no heed. Yours is the kingdom of heaven.

Now we know for whom Jesus intended the Sermon on the Mount. He intended it for those who know their spiritual poverty, their sinful inability, and mourn and are humbled. But they hunger and thirst after Jesus Christ, the Lord of Righteousness. And, in regeneration, God gives them mercy—both extending mercy and giving them the gift to be merciful. And He gives them new, pure hearts, making them peacemakers. Nevertheless, their Gospel makes the world revile and persecute them. This cannot be referring to the citizens of some future Utopian kingdom, as they would not, in that kingdom, be persecuted. These are the citizens of the kingdom of God on earth right now.

They are not perfect; they are still at war within themselves—the old man against the new. They see their weakness and mourn. But they have perfect righteousness in Jesus Christ. Dear listener, I pray that in this description, you see yourself.

Copyright © 2005-2019 Peter Ditzel