The Beatitudes: Those Who Are Persecuted

Blessed are those who persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake.  Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:10-12).

Roland Q. Leavell remarks, “The eight Beatitudes are the octave of kingdom music.  They are like an eight-rung ladder upon which one can climb the delectable heights of Christian radiance and peace and joyous living.  (Leavell, Studies in Matthew: The King and the Kingdom, p. 36).

The word “blessed” (makarios) is defined to mean – “blessed, happy” (Thayer); “blessed, fortunate, happy usually in a sense of divine favor” (BAG).  True lasting happiness is found in a right relationship with God.

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake.  Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake.  The word “persecute” (dioko) means “(a) ‘to put to flight, drive away,’ (b) ‘to pursue,’ whence the meaning ‘to persecute'” (Vine’s); “1. to make to run or flee, put to flight, drive away… 2. to run swiftly in order to catch some person or thing, to run after… 3. to harass, trouble, molest one, to persecute” (Thayer).  Persecution may take the form of physical assault (e.g. Acts 8:2; 22:4), verbal abuse (Matthew 5:11 cf. 1 Peter 2:23; 4:4; Matthew 10:25), or false accusation (Matthew 5:11 cf. Matthew 26:59-61; Luke 23:2; Acts 6:13; 16:20-21; 17:5-7; 24:5-9).

It is important to observe that it is not suffering for just any reason that is under consideration.  It is suffering for right doing, and for the cause of Christ that is under consideration (Matthew 5:10-12 cf. 1 Peter 2:20; 3:14; 3:17; 4:14-16).  Peter writes, “What credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently?  But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God” (1 Peter 2:20).  Again, “If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you… 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” (1 Peter 4:14-16).  Not all persecution is due to righteous behavior.  Let us make sure – that when we are persecuted – that it is for our being Christians, and not for being obnoxious, or sinful.

We must be willing to endure persecution for being Christians.  Jesus taught this (Matthew 10:16-37; Revelation 2:10).  Paul taught this (Acts 14:22; 2 Timothy 2:12; 3:12).  Peter taught this (1 Peter 4:12-13).  John taught this (Revelation 7:14-14; 12:11). [One does a great disservice when he leads another to believe that if he become a Christian everything will be easy,  all problems will go away, and it will be paradise on earth. Too many teach this false message. It cost something to truly follow Christ.  Family may turn against you (Matthew 10:35-36). Friends may reject you, and speak evil of you (1 Peter 4:4). Men may hate you (Matthew 10:22). It has cost people their lives (Acts 8:2; 12:1-2; Revelation 2:10). The facts should be made clear so that each can weigh the cost (Luke 14:25-33). Otherwise, the church becomes filled with those without deep commitment, and in the long run such weakens the church and its influence.]

When suffering, remember those who went before us.  The prophets were persecuted (Matthew 5:12 cf. Hebrews 11).  “Consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls.  You have not yet resisted to bloodshed striving against sin” (Hebrews 12:3-4).  Few will ever suffer as Jesus did for us.  We have His example and the example of the prophets of old.

Theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven.  The reward in heaven is for those who do not compromise truth, or turn back from the faith,  but are willing to suffer, if necessary, for following Christ (Revelation 2:10).  One who is right with God can rejoice even in persecution. We are told of Jesus “who for the joy set before Him endured the cross” (Hebrews 12:2). The apostles rejoiced in persecution (Acts 5:41; 16:23-25). Paul encouraged,  “I consider the suffering of this present time not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed” (Romans 8:18).  Again, “Our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceedingly and eternal weight of glory” (2 Corinthians 4:17).  The writer of Hebrews wrote to some early Christians saying “you…joyfully accepted the plundering of your goods, knowing that you have a better and an enduring possession for yourselves in heaven” (Hebrews 10:34). Hugo McCord comments, “Early Christians loved the eighth beatitude…It caused them to smile in the bitterest of violence” (McCord, Happiness Guaranteed, p.58).

Eight beatitudes are contained in Matthew 5:1-12.  These eight do not describe eight different types of people (i.e. one who is merciful but not pure in heart.  Another is pure in heart but not merciful et al.).  Instead these eight beatitudes describe one type of people.  The blessed have these eight traits in common.  The blessed: (1) realize their spiritual need; (2) are genuinely sorry for their sins; (3) humbly let God direct them; (4) greatly desire a right relationship with God; (5) are merciful to others; (6) are not double-minded, but pure in heart; (7) are peacemakers; (8) are ready and willing to suffer for the cause of Christ. Hugo McCord comments, “Self-preservation is said to be the first law of nature. When the eighth beatitude takes hold of a man, that man is willing to go contrary to nature” (ibid, p. 54). Commitment to Him must be even stronger than the desire for physical preservation.

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Marriage, Divorce and Remarriage (Paul: 1 Corinthians 7, Part 6)

Now concerning virgins: I have no commandment from the Lord; yet I give judgment as one whom the Lord in His mercy has made trustworthy” (1 Corinthians 7:25).

Paul had received questions from the brethren at Corinth (1 Corinthians 7:1 cf. 7:10; 7:12; 7:25; 8:1; 12:1; 16:1-2; 16:12).  We have his answers.  We do not have the wording of the original questions.

“Paul, what advice do you give concerning virgins and widows?”  It seems that they asked something like this.

His answer was not a commandment from the Lord.  However, it was inspired advise[1 Corinthians 7:25 (cf. 1 Thessalonians 2:4; 1 Timothy 1:11-12); 1 Corinthians 7:40; 14:37].  Robert Dodson comments, “This is not a matter of commandment, but neither is it mere human opinion.  It is the judgment of an inspired apostle” (Dodson, Brown Trail Class Notes).

I suppose therefore that this is good because of the present distress – that it is good for a man to remain as he is: Are you bound to a wife?  Do not seek to be loosed.  Are you loosed from a wife?  Do not seek a wife.  But even if you do marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned.  Nevertheless such will have trouble in the flesh, but I would spare you” (1 Corinthians 7:26-28).

Paul answered: (1) “It is good for a man to remain as he is” (1 Corinthians 7:26).  It was best, in Paul’s judgment, for all not married (including virgin women) to remain unmarried.  This advice was due to the “present distress” (v. 26), which was soon to get much worse (v. 29-31).  No sudden changes in marital status were advised: (a) “Are you bound to a wife?  Do not seek to be loosed” (v. 27a).  The word “loosed” (lusis) “is commonly found in the papyri with reference to the ‘discharge’ of bonds or debts.  It clearly has reference here to breaking up the marriage – a divorce” (Editor Jim Laws, Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage, p. 399, The Spiritual Sword Lectureship).  This may have been said to caution the married not to divorce their mates because of the “present distress.”  Marriage is for “better and worse.”  It is designed for endurance.  (b) “Are you loosed from a wife” (v. 27b).  The word “loosed” (lelusai) does not necessarily mean divorced.  Thayer says of the word, “a single man, whether he has already had a wife or has not yet married.”  Bauer, Arndt, and Gingrich says, “a previous state of being ‘bound’ need not be assumed.”  One who has been married can be loosed to remarry two ways: First, one is loosed when his mate dies (Romans 7:1-3; 1 Corinthians 7:39); Second, one is loosed when he puts away his mate for fornication (Matthew 19:9).  (2) “But even if you do marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries she has not sinned” (1 Corinthians 7:28).

And this I say for your own profit… But if any man thinks he is behaving improperly toward his virgin, if she is past the flower of youth… let him do what he wishes.  He does not sin; let them marry… so then he who gives her in marriage does well, but he who does not give her in marriage does better” (1 Corinthians 7:35-38).

There are two views of these verses.  (1) Some believe that this refers to an engaged man and his fiancé.  “His virgin” is understood to mean “his fiancé.”  The ESV renders it “his betrothed” with a footnote which reads, “Greek virgin.” What about the words “gives her in marriage”? (v. 38 NKJV).  While this is the ordinary meaning of the wording (cf. Matthew 22:30; Luke 17:27; 20:34-35), some argue that the wording sometimes simply means “to marry.”  The ESV reads, “he who marries his betrothed does well, and he who refrains will do better.”  (2) Others believe that this refers to a father and his daughter.  “His virgin” is understood to mean, “his virgin daughter.” The NASB renders it “his virgin daughter,” with daughter in italics.  This is my view.  In my mind, it is the most natural understanding of the Greek in verse 38.  It also provides a most natural reason for the shift in verse 36: “let him do what he wishes.  He does not sin; let them marry.” Robert Dodson comments, “Jewish, Roman and Greek fathers controlled the marriage of their daughters…Paul assures the father that he has not sinned if he gives his daughter in marriage, but if this could be avoided it would be better for the same reasons Paul has already stated in this chapter”(Dodson, Brown Trail class notes). J.W. McGarvey comments, “Marriages in the East were then, as now, arranged by the parents. If a parent saw fit to marry his daughter he had a perfect right to do so and was guilty of no sin, but if he heeded the apostle’s warning as to the coming trials and kept his daughter free…he acted more wisely” (McGarvey, Thessalonians, Corinthians, Galatians, and Romans, p. 84).

However, regardless of which parties are in view (see above), the point is the same.  It was best not to marry at that time.  However, it was no sin to marry.

A wife is bound by law as long her husband lives; but if her husband dies, she is a liberty to marry whom she wishes, only in the Lord.  But she is happier if she remains as she is – and I think I also have the spirit of God” (1 Corinthians 7:39-40).

Paul advised: (1) It was best for the widow not to marry.  He suggested that she would be happier (under the current situation) to remain unmarried (v. 40).  He reminded them, in a sarcastic way, that this was not just an opinion, but inspired advice (v. 40 cf. 1 Corinthians 14:37). (2) However, it was not a sin for her to remarry (v. 39).  Though, she was instructed that if she married, she was to marry “only in the Lord” (see article Marrying “Only in the Lord” ).

What about widowers?  Earlier, Paul spoke of “the unmarried” and “widows” (1 Corinthians 7:8).  The word “unmarried” is masculine.  It likely refers in context to widowers.

A very important point is stated, which should not be missed: marriage is a lifetime commitment (v. 39).

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The Beatitudes: The Peacemakers

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9).

Harry S. Truman said in an address on December 24, 1945, “I do not believe there is one problem in this country or in the world today which could not be settled if approached through the teaching of the Sermon on the Mount… Would that the world would accept that message in this time of greatest need!” (Harry S. Truman: “Address at the Lighting of the National Community Christmas Tree on the White House Grounds,” December 24, 1945).

The word “blessed” (makarios) is defined to mean, “blessed, happy” (Thayer); “blessed, fortunate, happy usually in a sense of divine favor” (BAG).  True lasting happiness is found in a right relationship with God.

Blessed are the peacemakers.  The word “peacemaker” (eirenopoios) is defined to mean “an adjective signifying peace making” (Vine’s); “a peace-maker… pacific, loving peace [others… dispute this secondary meaning]” (Thayer).  A verbal form of this word appears in Colossians 1:20; here it concerns reconciliation. [The word was also used in the secular world  of earthly rulers who maintained peace by force (Theological Dictionary Of The New Testament, Abridged, p. 210; Morey, When is it Right to Fight?, p. 46). However, while the government has a duty to protect its people and to maintain law and order, this usage does not fit the passages which we will consider.]

Peacemakers are not troublemakers, who stir up unnecessary and needless trouble.  God’s people are instructed, “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men” (Romans 12:18); “Let us pursue the things which make for peace and things by which one may edify another” (Romans 14:19); “Pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace” (2 Timothy 2:22); “Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14).

Jesus taught that one should be long-suffering.  (1) One should “turn the other cheek” instead of trading insults (Matthew 5:38-39).  Robert Morey comments, “Jesus specifically referred to the right cheek being slapped instead of the left cheek because the slap of the right cheek by the back of the left hand was a personal insult and was not an act of violence done in the context of war.  Slapping the right cheek was not a life-threatening attack.  It was a personal insult, like spitting in someone’s face” (Morey, When is it Right to Fight?, p. 45).  Oliver Greene comments, “Jesus did not say, ‘If someone shoots you in the back, turn around and let him shoot you in the heart!’  …No one will be very badly hurt by being slapped in the face” (Greene, The Gospel According to Matthew, Vol. 1, p. 413).  (2) One should “give up the cloak” for peace (Matthew 5:40).  If one thinks that you owe him, if one is so petty as to wish to sue you over your inner garment (tunic), then let him have the outer garment (cloak) as well if it will make things better.  This is not addressing matters necessary for caring for one’s family (cf. 1 Timothy 5:8). [Likely, most in Jesus’ day could lose the tunic and the cloak without serious problems. However, such might have been a great loss for some poor. The cloak might have been the only covering at night for some. The law protected the poor from losing their night coverings (Exodus 22:26-27 cf. Deuteronomy 24:12-13)].  (3) One should “go the second mile” (Matthew 5:41).  Roman soldiers and officials could conscript one into helping with a task for the government (cf. Matthew 27:32).  The conscription was limited to one mile, which was measured by 1,000 paces (Bible.org).  One should not have the attitude this is my 1,000 step, I will go no farther.  One should be willing to exceed the requirements for peace.

Peacemakers are not implacable or unforgiving (Romans 1:31).  They seek to resolve conflicts between themselves and others (Genesis 13:1-9; Matthew 5:23-24 cf. 18:15-17).  They seek peace with others.

Peacemakers are those who help solve problems between others (1 Samuel 19:4-6; Matthew 18:16-17).  Paul seems to be appealing for such when he wrote, “I implore Euodia and I implore Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord.  And I urge you true companion, help these women who labored with me in the gospel…” (Philippians 4:2-3).

Pacemakers are also soul winners.  They want man to be at peace with God.  Therefore, they proclaim the Gospel of peace (cf. Romans 10:15; Ephesians 2:17; 6:15).  The peacemaker “is one who, like Jesus, seeks to reconcile man to God and to bring divine peace into the lives of men” (H. Leo Boles, A Commentary on the Gospel According to Matthew, p. 125).

Peacemakers are needed in our homes and in the church (1) They are needed in our homes.  “Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a fatted calf with hatred” (Proverbs 15:17).  Hugo McCord writes, “Domestic tranquility springs not from household conveniences nor from college educations.  It comes from within, from the deep wells of one’s soul as he eschews friction and stretches for the stillness of peace (McCord’s, Happiness Guaranteed, p. 48).  John’s work included turning, “The hearts of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers” (Malachi 4:6 cf. Luke 1:17).  (2) They are needed in the church.  Members should not be biting and devouring one another (Galatians 5:15).  Malicious words, cannibalism will destroy a church. All members should be “endeavoring to keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3). They should use their tongues for building up and strengthening the one another (Ephesians 4:29; 1 Thessalonians 5:14).  Sowers of discord are an abomination to God (Proverbs 6:16-19).

Let us caution that God desires not only peace, but purity.  Hugo McCord writes, “As desirable as is peace in the church… yet there is something of more value… The scripture does not say ‘first peaceable, then pure,’ but ‘first pure, then peaceable’ (James 3:17).  If a man has stolen his foster-mother and the church out of a fear of causing dissention quietly hushes the matter, that kind of peace is abominable.  When a doctor injects penicillin in a two-year old child there is no peace… The result is good health.  But avoidance of the immediate storm of wailing by not giving the needle could cause a funeral’ (McCord, Happiness Guaranteed, p. 50).  Those who try to have peace without purity are saying, “‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace” with God (Jeremiah 6:14; 8:11).  True peacemakers seek not only peace with man, but also with God.

They shall be called sons of God.  Question: If peacemakers are sons of God, then whose children are trouble-makers?  Hugo McCord comments, “‘Woe to the troublemakers, for they shall be called the children of Satan’ would be the opposite of the seventh beatitude” (McCord, Happiness Guaranteed, p. 46).

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Marriage, Divorce and Remarriage (Paul: 1 Corinthians 7, Part 5)

But… as the Lord has called each one, so let him walk” (1 Corinthians 7:17).

These next several verses (v. 17-24, 26) return us to the general principle: Do not divorce your non-Christians mate (cf. v. 13-14).  Paul has just told the Christian that he is not required to stay with a non-Christian mate, who is unwilling to live with his Christian faith (1 Corinthians 7:12-16).  However, the general principle is: “Do not seek to disrupt your marriage on account of becoming a Christian” (Editor Jim Laws, Marriage, Divorce and Remarriage, p. 398, Spiritual Sword Lectureship).

Was anyone called while circumcised?  Let him not become uncircumcised.  Was anyone called while uncircumcised?  Let him not be circumcised.  Circumcision is nothing, but keeping the commandments of God is what matters” (1 Corinthians 7:18-19).

There are some things which do not need to be changed upon becoming a Christian.  Circumcision is one of these things.  Male descendants of Abraham had been required, by covenant, to be circumcised (Genesis 17:10-14).  This was repeated in the Law of Moses (Leviticus 12:1-3).  It was not repeated in the New Covenant.  It is not required under the New Covenant (1 Corinthians 7:19; 2 Corinthians 5:16-17 cf. Philippians 3:4-5).  Should a circumcised man, upon becoming a Christian, undergo a surgical procedure to hide his circumcision?  (Yes, there existed such a procedure before the time of Paul cf. 1 Maccabees 1:15!).  The answer is no.  Such is not required.  The gentiles were never under the requirement to circumcise.  Should an uncircumcised male under go surgery to be circumcised?  The answer is no (cf. Galatians 2:3).

The point is that, in general terms, one is no more required to change his marital status, than he is to change his state of circumcision.  In context, Paul has just spoken of the Christian married to the non-Christian (1 Corinthians 7:12-13).

Let each one remain in the same calling in which he was called.  Were you called while a slave?  Do not be concerned about it; but if you can be made free, rather use it… do not become the slaves of men.  Brethren, let each one of remain with God in that state in which he was called” (1 Corinthians  7:20-24).

There are some things which do not need to be changed upon becoming a Christian.  Slavery is one of these things.  If one was a slave when he became a Christian, he should not think that this state must change for him to live the Christian life.  The slave is not to run away (cf. book of Philemon).  He is to serve his master according to the flesh, as he serves the Lord (Ephesians 6:5-8; Colossians 3:22-25; 1 Peter 2:18-20).  If one could become free, then he should do so.  Such might lead to greater freedom and opportunities to serve the Lord.  Moreover, if one be free, then he should avoid becoming enslaved.  Such might restrict his service in the kingdom.  All Christians, whether slave or free, should remember that they belong to the Lord (1 Corinthians 7:22-23a cf. 6:20). One should serve the Lord regardless of what external condition or situation in which he is living.

The point is that, in general terms, one is no more required to change his marital status, than he is to change his state of slavery.  In context, Paul has just spoken of the Christian married to the non-Christian (1 Corinthians 7:12-13).

Many use these verse to teach that if one is in a scripturally unauthorized marriage (adultery), he may remain in that marriage, when he becomes a Christian.  I believe that this is a misapplication of the text.  Paul mentions circumcision and uncircumcision, slave and free.  Paul does not mention anything sinful.  Bill Jackson comments, “For those who wish to abuse this, may we ask: Abide in homosexuality?  Abide in incest?  Abide in polygamy?  No, and neither is Paul stating that men and women can abide in adultery.  The adulterous union is not discussed in the chapter, and in no case is Paul stating that any person can abide in any sin” (Jackson, A Commentary on First Corinthians, p. 66).  Robert Dodson comments, “Whether a person is single, married to a Christian, married to a non-Christian, Jew, Gentile, slave or free, when he becomes a Christian, he is permitted to continue to live as such… Paul certainly does not teach that a person may continue in sin when he becomes a Christian…True Contrast: married – unmarried; circumcised – uncircumcised; slave – free. False Contrast: adultery – unmarried” (Dodson, Brown Trail class notes).

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The Beatitudes: The Pure in Heart

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8).

God cares about more than one’s actions; He cares about one’s thoughts.  John Quincy Adams remarked, “Human legislators can undertake only to prescribe the actions of man.  They acknowledge their inability to govern and direct the sentiments of the heart; the very law styles it a rule of civil conduct… The Legislator (God – B.H.) gave them rules not only of action but for the government of the heart” (David Barton, Original Intent, p. 327).  Thomas Jefferson similarly said, “[Jesus] pushed his scrutinies into the heart of man, erected his tribunal in the region of his thoughts, and purified the waters at the fountain head” (ibid).  He knows our thoughts (Psalm 139:2 cf. John 2:24-25; Matthew 9:4; Luke 9:47).  He knows our motives (Matthew 6:1, 5, 16).  He searches our hearts (1 Samuel 16:7; 1 Chronicles 28:9; Romans 8:27; Revelation 2:23).

The word “blessed” (makarios) is defined to mean “blessed, happy” (Thayer); “blessed, fortunate, happy usually in a sense of divine favor” (BAG).  True lasting happiness is found in a right relationship with God.

Blessed are the pure in heart.  Let us consider two words.  (1) The word “pure” (katharos) is defined to mean: “clean, pure” (BAG); “clean, pure (free from the admixture or adhesion of anything that soils, adulterates, corrupts)… ethically; free from corrupt desire, from sin and guilt… sincere… blameless, innocent” (Thayer).  The word has a wide range of usages.  The idea of “free from corrupt desire” seems to best fit this beatitude.  James instructs “purify your hearts, you double-minded” (James 4:8). Notice that to be spiritually double minded is to have an impure heart. (2) The word “heart” (kardia) is defined to mean: “the chief organ of physical life (for ‘the life of the flesh is in the blood’ Leviticus 17:11) …By an easy transition the word came to stand for man’s entire mental and moral activity, both the rational and the emotional elements.  In other words, the heart is used figuratively for the hidden springs of the personal life” (Vine’s); “The soul or mind, as it is the fountain and seat of the thoughts, passions, desires, appetites, affections, purposes, endeavors” (Thayer).  It has been said that the spiritual heart is: “The thinker in the head, not the thumper in the chest.” The spiritual heart, like the physical heart, has four parts: (a) The intellect (e.g. Genesis 6:5; Psalm 19:14; 1 Kings 3:9); (b) The conscience (e.g. Acts 2:37); (c) The will (e.g. Daniel 1:8; Acts 11:23; 2 Corinthians 9:7); (d) The emotions (e.g. 2 Corinthians 2:4; Romans 10:1; Colossians 3:16).

Outward actions flow from the inward heart.  The book of Proverbs warns, “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it springs the issues of life” (Proverbs 4:23).  Jesus teaches that it is “What comes out of a man, that defiles a man.  For from within, out of the heart of men, proceeds evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness.  All of these things come from within and defile a man” (Mark 7:20-23).

It is possible to have the outward appearance of righteousness, and an impure heart.  Jesus said of certain scribes and Pharisees that they were “hypocrites” (Matthew 15:7).  They drew near to God with their mouths and honored Him with their lips, but their hearts were for from him” (Matthew 15:8).  Again, He said, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!  For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence… Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!  For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.  Even so you also appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lewdness” (Matthew 23:25-28).  It is possible to fool some men, but not God.  He looks upon the heart (1 Samuel 16:7).

It is possible to do good deeds out of wrong motives.  Some do charitable deeds, pray, and fast in order to be seen and recognized by men (Matthew 6:1, 5, 16).  Such men may have their reward from men (Matthew 6:5, 16), but they have no reward from God (Matthew 6:1).

It is also possible to sin in the heart, without doing the outward act.  Jesus teaches, “Whoever looks at a woman to lust after her has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28 cf. 1 John 3:15).  Let us point out that this is not describing a man who is momentarily tempted by some woman he sees.  The words “to lust” denote purpose.  He purposely looks for lust.  Moreover, “looks” (present tense) denotes continuous action.  He keeps on looking upon a woman to lust.  This is not mere temptation but meditation of the heart.

It may be possible to outwardly, by ritual, comply with God’s teachings.  However, God wants more.  He wants us to obey “from the heart” (Romans 6:17).  He wants us to worship Him “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24).  Worship in spirit is sincere worship (John 4:24 cf. Joshua 24:14).  Worship in truth is worship in accord with His word (John 4:24; cf. John 17:17).  We are to love the LORD our God with all our being (Mark 12:30): heart (emotions, feelings), soul (being, existence), mind (intellect, brain power), strength (energy, effort, muscle power).  Our love for the brethren is to be sincere (Romans 12:9; 1 Peter 1:22).   Our faith is to be genuine (1 Timothy 1:5; 2 Timothy 1:5).  Those who will be blessed sincerely and genuinely serve Him.  They do so out of a pure heart.

They shall see God.  That is: They shall see Him in glory.  John says, “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called the children of God!  …Beloved, now we are children of God: and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure” (1 John 3:1-3 cf. Revelation 22:4).

Consider the words of the following song: “Purer in heart, O God, Help me to be; May I devote my life wholly to Thee; Watch Thou my wayward feet, Guide me with counsel sweet; Purer in heart, Help me to be/ Purer in heart, O God, Help me to be;  Teach me to do Thy will most lovingly; Be Thou my Friend and Guide, Let me with Thee abide; Purer in heart, Help me to be/ Purer in heart, O God, Help me to be; That Thy holy face one day may see; Keep me from secret sin, Reign Thou my soul within; Purer in heart, Help me to be. Amen.” (Purer in Heart, O God by Mrs. A. L. Davison).

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The Beatitudes: The Merciful

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy” (Matthew 5:7).

It is reported that Mohandas Gandhi once told the British Viceroy of India, Lord Irwin: “When your country and mine shall get together on the teachings laid down by Christ in this Sermon on the Mount, we shall have solved the problems not only of our countries but those of the whole world.”

The word “blessed” (makarios) is defined to mean, “blessed, happy” (Thayer); “blessed, fortunate, happy usually in a sense of divine favor” (BAG).  True lasting happiness is found in a right relationship with God.

Blessed are the merciful.  The adjective “merciful” (elemon) refers to those who are “not simply possessed of pity but actively compassionate” (Vine’s).  It is from the noun “Mercy” (eleos) which is defined to mean “the outward manifestation of pity; it assumes need on the part of him who receives it, and resources adequate to meet the need on the part of him who shows it” (Vine’s);  “Kindness or goodwill toward the miserable and afflicted, joined with a desire to relieve them” (Thayer); “Mercy, compassion, clemency” (BAG).

“Mercy” is used in different ways in the Bible.  (1) It is used of God’s pity on the spiritually lost, and His forgiveness of sins.  Consider: “Have mercy upon me, O God,… blot out my transgressions” (Psalm 51:1); “God be merciful to me a sinner!” (Luke 18:13);  “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ” (Ephesians 2:4-5); “not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5).  (2) It is sometimes used of compassionate help of those in physical need.  Consider: “He who despises his neighbor sins; but he who has mercy on the poor, happy is he” (Proverbs 14:21); “‘So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among thieves?”  And he said, ‘He who showed mercy on him.’  Then Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do likewise'” (Luke 10:36-37).  (3) It is sometimes used of tender-hearted forgiveness.  Consider: “Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, ‘You wicked servant!  I forgave you all that debt because you begged me.  Should you not also have had compassion (same word) on your fellow servant, just as I had pity (same word) on you?'” (Luke 18:32-33).

Those who will be blessed care about other people.  They are beneficent and forgiving.  Consider: “Judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy.  Mercy triumphs over judgment” (James 2:13).  (1) They care about those who are in Spiritual need.  “Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the firmament, and those who turn many to righteousness like stars forever and ever” (Daniel 12:3 cf. Proverbs 11:30).  God’s people are to be involved in the lives of others.  Paul wrote, “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness… Bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:1-2).  James pointed out, “he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins” (James 5:20).  (2) They care about those who are in physical need.  Paul wrote, “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:10).  John wrote, “Whoever has this world’s goods and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?” (1 John 3:17).  (3) They are forgiving of others.  Jesus said, “If you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:14-15).  We are told to pray “forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors” (Matthew 6:12).  Jesus taught, “If your brother sins against you, rebuke him: and if he repents, forgive him.  And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, ‘I repent,’ you shall forgive him” (Luke 17:3-4); moreover, “I do not say to you up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven” (Matthew 18:22).  If we desire God’s forgiveness, then we must learn to be forgiving (Matthew  6:14-15; 18:21-35). We must not be like Jonah or the elder son, both of whom pouted over God’s forgiveness of others (Jonah 4; Luke 15: 25-32).

What should motivate one to so care about others?  The answer is at least two-fold. First, the love of God should motivate one.  Paul wrote, “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32); “bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do” (Colossians 3:13).  John wrote, “Beloved, if God so loved us,  we also ought to love one another” (1 John 4:11); “We love because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19, Note – “Him” is missing in many manuscripts).  Jesus taught, “Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?” (Matthew 18:32). Second, one should be motivated by judgement. They shall obtain mercy.  Hugo McCord comments, “Since nobody can go to the mansions being prepared unless God leans over and extends mercy, no unmerciful person will ever see the land of God” (McCord, Happiness Guaranteed, p. 39).  Dave Miller comments, “If a person cannot show mercy in this life, he will receive no mercy after this life (James 2:13).  On the other hand, if we will put our total trust in God and humbly bow to His will in our lives, we can eagerly anticipate the tender mercy of God (James 5:11)” (Editors Garland Elkins and Thomas Warren, The Book of Matthew, p. 198, Spiritual Sword Lectureship).

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Marriage, Divorce and Remarriage (Paul: 1 Corinthians 7, Part 4)

But if the unbeliever departs, let him depart; a brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases.  But God has called us to peace” (1 Corinthians 7:15).

Paul has instructed a Christian to remain with a non-Christian mate, if the non-Christian mate is willing to live with the Christian (who is practicing the faith), 1 Corinthians 7:12-14; But, what if the non-Christian is not willing?  What if he/she wishes to depart?

Paul answered: “Let him depart.”  Gary Workman writes, “Since this is his desire, the Christian is under no obligation to try to prevent the break-up of the marriage” (Editor Jim Laws, Marriage, Divorce and Remarriage, p. 389, Spiritual Sword Lectureship).  The word, “depart” (Chorizo or Choridzo), also, appears in 1 Corinthians 7:10-11, and a form of this word appears in Matthew 19:6 (“separate” NKJV; “put asunder” KJV).  Here is what lexicons say: “‘to put apart, separate,’ means in the middle voice, ‘to separate oneself, depart from'” (Vine’s); ” to separate… to leave a husband or wife: of divorce, 1 Corinthians 7:11, 15″ (Thayer); “separate (oneself), be separated of divorce” (BAG).  The context is divorce (1 Corinthians 7:10-11 cf. Matthew 19:3-6).

A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases.  What is meant by “bondage”?  (1) Some believe that it refers to the marriage bond.  However, let us consider the wording.  Roy Deaver writes, “The word ‘bondage’ here is the Greek dedoulotai, perfect, indicative, third person singular of douloo.  In three passages where the bond is unquestionably the marriage bond (1 Corinthians 7:27; 1 Corinthians 7:39; and Romans 7:2) the word used is deo, not douloo.  In this very chapter, in referring to the marriage bond, Paul twice used deo.  But, in verse 15 he used a different word.  This must be significant.  The word douloo (in some form) occurs 133 times in the New Testament, and not a single time – unless 7:15 is the exception – does it refer to the marriage bond” (Deaver, Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage, p. 27, Harding Lectures, 1977).  Furthermore, let us consider the force of the negative in the perfect tense.  Gary Workman writes, “A negative statement in the perfect declares that no such action has taken place in the past” (Editor, Jim Laws, p. 392).  Professor Ed. L. Miller (Philosophy/Religious Studies; Director, Theology Forum), of the University of Colorado at Boulder writes, “The verb in question, dedoulotai, ‘has been in bondage,’ is in the perfect tense and indicates a past action, or situation, with continuing, present consequences.  I would say that the rendering of the whole phrase, ‘is not now and never has been in bondage,’ is an over-translation but does justice to the verb.  More accurate would be, simply, ‘has not been in bondage,’ with the implication that the person still isn’t, or ‘is not in bondage,’ with the implication that the person hasn’t been” (personal letter to me, 1995).  This is not speaking of marriage.  The person clearly has been married.  This is not speaking of marital obligations.  The person clearly has had such obligations (cf. 1 Corinthians 7:3-4).  (2)  One is not so bound to the unbeliever that one should give up Christianity, or weaken one’s commitment and service to Christ, for the sake of one’s mate.  Harvey Floyd comments, “Paul uses dedoulotai in 1 Corinthians 7:15 because he wishes to say that for a Christian to yield to pressure to give up his Christianity to preserve his marriage would mean slavery of the most abject kind.  The Christian must never consider himself or herself in such bondage” (Deaver, pp. 27-28).  The words, “in such cases” are more literally rendered “in the suches” or “by the suches.”  The word “cases” is supplied.  Gary Workman suggests that this would better be understood to mean “by such persons” cf. 1 Corinthians 7:28; 16:16 (Jim Laws, pp. 393-396).  Again, he writes, “The Christian must not think that his spouse (or anyone else) has dictatorial power over him when it comes to his religion” (Editor Jim Laws, p. 396).  God has called us to peace.  Bill Jackson comments, “The faithful Christian… faced with the determination on the part of the unbeliever to depart, the Christian follows the course of peace – absence of strife – and lets the unbeliever depart, rather than to engage in strife, force, and disruption of order in trying to compel the unbeliever to remain” (Jackson, A Commentary on First Corinthians, p. 64).

For how do you know O wife, whether you will save your husband?  Or, how do you know, O husband, whether you will save your wife?” (1 Corinthians 7:16).

Many understand this as a reason that the Christian should stay with the non-Christian mate.  Not only is the marriage legitimate (1 Corinthians 7:14), but there the possibility of saving the non-Christian mate (1 Corinthians 7:16 cf. 1 Peter 3:16).  Those who hold this view tie verse 16 to verse 12-14.

However, some (including me) understood this very differently.  This seems to provide a  reason why one should let the unbeliever go (if he/she is not willing to live with a Christian, and their full commitment to Christ).  You do not know that you will ever lead this person to Christ, and God has called us to peace.  Verse 16 seems to tie back to verse 15.  I have seen Christians compromise and weaken their commitment and service to Christ in order to please their non-Christian mates.  Attendance gets compromised (e.g. the non-Christian may want the Christian to miss services now and then, or the non-Christian may want the Christian to miss the assembling of the saints to occasionally, attend some other religious assembly with them).  Doctrine gets compromised (e.g. the  non-Christian may want the Christian to participate in worshipping with them, in some unauthorized manner).  Service gets compromised (e.g. the non-Christian may not want the Christian teaching a Bible class, or visiting shut-ins, or  because it takes too much time).  Giving gets compromised (i.e. the non-Christian may not want the Christian to give so much in support of the work of the church).  Morals may even get compromised (e.g. to keep the peace).  Many times Christians do these things thinking that through this “give and take” the non-Christian will be won to Christ.  Rarely is a spouse led to Christ this way. It is not worth it.  Never compromise.

Some refer to 1 Corinthians 7:15 as “the Pauline Privilege.”  They believe that this is a second reason which allows for divorce and remarriage.  However, Paul says nothing of remarriage in context.  In truth, departure does not necessarily mean that one is free to remarry another (cf. 1 Corinthians 7:10-11).  The I.S.B.E. comments, “Paul has not said in that verse or anywhere that a Christian partner deserted by a heathen may marry someone else… To say that a deserted partner ‘hath not been enslaved’ is not to say that he or she may be remarried” (in older edition, Vol. 2, p. 866).  Furthermore, Jesus used the word “except” (me epi) in Matthew 19:9.  In doing so, He excluded all but one reason for divorce and remarriage to another.

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