This week we will begin our study of the Sermon on the Mount from Matthew’s Gospel account.
The sermon opens with “The Beatitudes” which describe qualities that ought to be the character of every Christian. These qualities are not exhibited by an elite group of believers, but rather should be exhibited by all those who follow Christ. Also, remember that it is by the grace of God that these characteristics are worked in us, not as a result of our own doing.
With that being said, let’s look at the first Beatitude.
Each of the Beatitudes opens with the word “blessed.” So it is essential that we understand here in the beginning what this word means because it bears on everything that will be said in the remainder of Matthew’s account.
Contrary to popular opinion, blessed does not mean “happy,” even though some translations have rendered it this way. Happiness is a subjective state, a feeling. But Jesus is not declaring how people feel; rather, He is making an objective statement about what God thinks of them. Blessed is a positive judgment by God on the individual that means “to be approved.” So when God blesses us, He approves us.
The history of the Greek word for “poor,” pto-hos, provides some insight. It comes from a verbal root that denotes “cower and cringe like a beggar.” It was used to describe someone who crouches about, wretchedly begging. Describes a person who earns their living through begging. He is fully dependent upon others. He cannot survive without help from the outside. Thus the translation reads, “Blessed are those who are beggars in their spirit.” It is the awareness that we are utterly dependent upon Christ’s mercy and grace for salvation. It is the complete absence of pride, self-assurance, and self-reliance.
This verse is manifested in the life of all true believers. Before salvation, a person must come to the realization of his or her own spiritual bankruptcy. It is the acknowledgment that we are nothing, that we have nothing and that we can do nothing to earn salvation. It is the acknowledgment that you are dead spiritually apart from Christ. Perhaps John Newton said it best when he wrote, ‘’Amazing grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me .. “This is not something you can do, it is something that God does in you through His grace.
Those who are “poor in spirit” have the assurance of salvation. Why? Because it is evidence of God’s approval of them. This verse is not teaching how to become a Christian, but it is giving the characteristics of those who already are. Notice, that when we recognize our spiritual poverty, God makes us rich. He wants us to recognize our lowliness so He can raise us up. “Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord and He will exalt you” (James 4:10). When you give up your kingdom, you inherit God’s.