The Beatitudes


We are going to look at the passage of Scriptures that are commonly known as the beatitudes.? We are very familiar with the Beatitudes, but do we know what it means.? What was Jesus teaching the people and us?? What lesson can we gain from the teaching of Jesus Christ, known as the sermon on the mount?? These are the questions that we hope to answer in this study today.

Scripture Lesson

Matthew 5:1 (NKJV) ” {1} And seeing the multitudes, He went up on a mountain, and when He was seated His disciples came to Him.”

There are a few opinions about this sermon as it relates to Luke 6:17-49.

  1. This sermon is the same as Luke 6:17-49 where Matthew added sayings of Jesus Christ from other teachings
  2. This sermon is a separate sermon than Luke 6:17-49
  3. There were two sermons given during the same day:? One on the mountain to his disciples and the other on the plain to the multitudes (This is Augustine?s view).

Some commentators believe that these refer to the same event, but that Matthew chose to include it at a different place in recorded history.? Matthew?s Gospel cannot be perceived as chronological history.? Others hold that they were two separate incidences or even that Matthew used the original from Luke to write his take on the incident.? In any case, we know that Jesus taught these things to the disciples, some of the multitude, and of course to us today.

Jesus was known by many and he was typically flocked by people who wanted to hear him or be healed by him.? This occasion was no different.? The word ?disciples? here does not necessarily refer to the twelve.? A disciple is a follower of Jesus Christ and there was probably a multitude of followers who wanted to hear what Jesus had to say.

Matthew 5:3 (NKJV) “{3} ?Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “

The word bless means an ultimate well being and distinctive spiritual joy for those who are a citizen of the kingdom of God.? The word ?bless? would have caught the attention of those listening to Jesus Christ.? The Bible Exposition Commentary gives the following definition for the word ?bless.?

(The Latin word for blessed is beatus, and from this comes the word beatitude.) This was a powerful word to those who heard Jesus that day. To them, it meant ?divine joy and perfect happiness.? The word was not used for humans; it described the kind of joy experienced only by the gods or the dead. ?Blessed? implied an inner satisfaction and sufficiency that did not depend on outward circumstances for happiness.[1]


The pagan (Greek) use of the word referred to power, greatness, might (as that of the Greek Gods who were blessed because of their greatness and power and not because of their holiness or righteousness), and material prosperity.? It was sometimes used as a synonym for rich.

Blessedness (happiness) took on a new meaning in Christianity.? It was a spiritual attribute and not merely an outward or material attribute.? Therefore, Jesus would not have been referring to material possession and the like as blessedness was internal instead of external as with the pagans.

This sermon of Jesus Christ was very important to the people.? They probably had many questions and concerns about the coming Kingdom of God, which they knew was coming because of the prophecies.? They would have been concerned about their qualifications for entering this Kingdom.? The only qualifications that they would have been familiar with would have been the rules and regulations given to them by the Scribes and Pharisees.? Was that enough?

This whole concern revolved around the question of righteousness.? What is true righteousness?? What does God expect and accept?? Were the people doing well in terms of righteousness or were they off track.? Jesus teaching that day answered the questions pertaining to righteousness for many people.? It also caused those who were proponents of the religious system to be offended.

Poor in spirit

This refers to someone who is destitute in regards to spirituality and recognizes his or her need for God.? It is not being spiritually proud or sufficient.? Pride is not a part of the kingdom of God.? It refers to someone that is humble and has proper self-esteem (See Romans 12:3).

Matthew 5:4 (NKJV) “{4} Blessed are those who mourn, For they shall be comforted. “

Mourning here carries the idea that someone is grieving and cannot conceal it.? This is not specifically referring to mourning because of one?s sins.? It is referring to general mourning because of an event in one?s life for example.? Jesus said that they will be comforted, which implies a future event.? When will they be comforted?? We would have to consider this to refer to God?s Kingdom.

The implication here is that the troubles we go through today is nothing compared to what we will experience in God?s Kingdom.? We may mourn now, but we will be comforted later.

Matthew 5:5 (NKJV) “{5} Blessed are the meek, For they shall inherit the earth. “


Its primary meaning is mild or gentle.

Pre-Christian understanding of meekness referred to inanimate objects (a meek wind).? It also conveyed outward conduct.

The Christian understanding of meekness is humility and this refers to an inward condition.? (See Psalms 37:11 and Romans 4:13).

Note that the word ?earth? could be understood as ?land.?

Matthew 5:6 (NKJV) “{6} Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled. “

?Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness? depicts those who are genuinely seeking God and his way.? They will be filled with what they are looking for.? Jesus later said that those who seek will find (Matthew 7:7).

Matthew 5:7 (NKJV) “{7} Blessed are the merciful, For they shall obtain mercy. “

The ?Holman Bible Dictionary? defines mercy (merciful) as follows.

A personal characteristic of care for the needs of others. The biblical concept of mercy always involves help to those who are in need or distress. Such help covers a broad range, from assistance in finding a bride to God?s forgiveness of sin. A wide vocabulary is employed in the original languages to express these concepts, and an even wider vocabulary is found in English translations.

We should understand this, based on the context, as being an attribute of the person as opposed to an activity of a person.? For example, an evil person can show mercy.? A person who has a merciful heart is indeed merciful.? This distinction is revealed in Jesus? teaching about the false prophet (See Matthew 7:15-23).

Matthew 5:8 (NKJV) “{8} Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God.”

Pure in heart

The word heart in biblical times meant the center of the human spirit, from which spring emotions, thought, motivations:? “The wellspring of life”.? It was the life source.? The heart was the center of one?s being.? This makes Jesus statement in Matthew 6:19-21 even more profound and understandable.

A person with a pure heart is someone that has a singleness of heart towards God.? It does not mean one without defect because no human being is perfect.? See Jesus teaching at Matthew 6:22-23.

To ?see? God should not be taken literally as no one can see God.? However, to see God means to perceive him and to understand, so to speak, him.? We know that God?s ways are foolishness to those who are apart from God.? They don?t get it.? Consider the following Scripture, which illustrates this point.

John 3:3 (NKJV) “{3} Jesus answered and said to him, ?Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.?”

We won?t ?get? got unless we are with God.? We cannot make sense of God?s ways unless we are with God.? Those who have a pure heart towards God will indeed ?get? him.? They will be able to comprehend the way of God as it is revealed to us.

Matthew 5:9 (NKJV) “{9} Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God. “

Peacemakers should be understood as those who make peace and not merely as one who is peaceful.? A person who makes peace will be called a son of God.? A son of God refers to someone that is part of God?s family, i.e., part of his kingdom.? Those who are peacemakers will be identified with God.

This also implies that God is a peacemaker.

We should also consider the context of Jesus? teaching here.? A peacemaker here should be understood as someone who has the spirit of God in him or her, which induces the peacemaking.

Matthew 5:10 (NKJV) “{10} Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness? sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

Now there appears to be a contradiction. Jesus said that happy (spiritual blessed) is the person who is persecuted for righteousness? sake.? We might consider any persecution as not being a blessed state.? However, when persecution comes as a result of righteousness then we are indeed blessed.? The Kingdom of heaven is indeed for these people.

Matthew 5:11-12 (NKJV) “{11} ?Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. {12} Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

We should not lose heart when we are persecuted for righteousness? sake.? Of course in America, we hardly know what this means.? We live in a land of tolerance.? We hardly know what it means to be persecuted for the sake of righteousness.? However, if we look at the lives of some ministers that are and were persecuted for the execution of their ministry then we can get a glimpse of what it is like.? We also can see this in the lives of the early Christians, especially the Apostles and Evangelists.



[1]Wiersbe, W. W. (1996, c1989). The Bible exposition commentary. “An exposition of the New Testament comprising the entire ‘BE’ series”–Jkt. (Mt 5:1). Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books.

Part 2 – An Verse By Verse Study

Note:? Originally this was a separate study on the Beatitudes.? I decided to combine them into one study.


The word “Beatitude” comes from a Latin word meaning “happy” or “blessed.” The Beatitudes are therefore blessed sayings or congratulations. The Beatitudes in Matthew chapter five begin what is commonly known as the Sermon on the Mount. The audience of the beatitudes is the disciples. Therefore, we can assume that what Jesus teaches his disciples here applies to all disciples to come (See Matthew 28:19-20).

Blessedness was associated with the existence of the gods In the Greco-Roman world during Jesus’ time. The gods were considered blessed because they didn’t have to deal with all of the everyday stuff that people deal with. Therefore, anyone who seemed to transcend the everyday sorrows and struggles was considered to be blessed. Blessedness in this instance meant that the person enjoyed great fortune.

In the Old Testament, blessedness was quite different. A person was considered blessed if they were perceived to be close to God and lived a godly life. See Psalm 144:14, 112:1-3, 84:12 for examples of Old Testament blessedness. The Beatitude that Jesus gives an announcement of the coming Kingdom or more precisely the way that the kingdom of God is. Those who are citizens of God’s Kingdom are blessed. Note that the blessedness of God’s Kingdom is very different from secular blessing, which is based on material things.

The Lesson

Matthew 5:1 through Matthew 5:2 (KJV) 1And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him: 2And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying,

Jewish teachers usually sat down to teach as opposed to today where teachers typically stand up in front of the class. Jesus was teaching his disciples so what he says applies to disciples as stated in the Introduction.

Matthew 5:3 (KJV) 3Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

The word “blessed” comes from a Greek word that means fortunate, happy, well off. We should not confuse the word happy with the emotional state of being happy. Happiness in this context transcends emotions and describes a state of being. Remember that the beatitudes are statements of Jesus Christ so these things are as they are. The term “poor in spirit” denotes someone who knows that they are spiritually needy. Jesus says that the Kingdom of God belongs to those that are spiritually needy people. Note that this pertains to those that are citizens of the Kingdom, namely the disciples. This is not suggesting that all who are generally spiritually needy has the Kingdom of God.

The word heaven in this verse also implies a place of happiness, power, and eternity. It is a blessed place of which disciples are citizens of.

Matthew 5:4 (KJV) 4Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.

Citizens of the Kingdom of God that grieve will be comforted. They are happy because God will comfort them. We can have assurance being citizens of the Kingdom of God and thus disciples (seekers, learners, students of truth) that God will comfort us when we are in sorrow.

Matthew 5:5 (KJV) 5Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.

Those who are humble (consider themselves insignificant as in not being conceited) will inherit the earth. This is an allusion to the original purpose that God gave humans. We were supposed to possess the earth that God gave to man. However, those who are humble will inherit the earth and walk in the fulfilled purpose of God.

Matthew 5:6 (KJV) 6Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.

The word “fill” means to be satisfied. Those who want to do what is righteous vehemently are happy because God will fill satisfy them with righteousness (and the righteous life).

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

The word merciful identifies someone that is actively compassionate. These people will reap mercy. This mercy is ultimately from God, however people may manifest it. See Luke?6:38. Therefore, the merciful are happy.

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

The word heart in this context refers to the thoughts, feelings, i.e., the mind. The word “see” means to gaze with wide open eyes as at something remarkable. Therefore, those who have a pure mind (thinking) shall view God in awesome wonder.

Matthew 5:9 (KJV) 9Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.

The word peacemakers identify those who are peaceable. The word children denote someone considered to be in kinship as in a son. Therefore, peaceable people and those who promote peace will be called children of God. This implies that God is a peaceable God and therefore his children will be peaceable as well.

Matthew 5:10 (KJV) 10Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

The Kingdom of God belongs to those who suffer and are persecuted on account of the righteous life that they live. You are blessed according to the standards of the Kingdom of God, though you are being persecuted.

Matthew 5:11 (KJV) 11Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.

You are blessed (disciples) are blessed even when people taunt, persecute you, and say all kinds of hurtful, mischievous, and malicious things about you falsely on account of Jesus Christ. Again note the contrast between the Kingdom of God and the secular world. One is not considered blessed by the world’s standard if you are being persecuted.

Matthew 5:12 (KJV) 12Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.

Be full of cheer and jump for joy because you have a great reward waiting for you in heaven (the abode of God). The prophets in the past were also persecuted. The word “reward” implies payment for a service rendered as in wages.

Lesson Learned

Do you accept and believe what Jesus taught in these scriptures or are the beatitudes simply a nice scripture to recite. Your blessings do not refer to feelings. Rather, the blessings (congratulations) declared by Jesus Christ are so. It is up to us to accept it regardless of the situation that we are in and believe it knowing that our lives transcend the physical world and that our lives extend into eternity with the Father.

Be blessed because Jesus said that you are.

Also, note that the blessings of the Kingdom of God are very different from the blessings of the world. Those who are meek, peacemakers, and spiritually needed are not necessarily considered blessed. However, those who have an abundance of money and material things are considered blessed in the secular world.

Christians have to be careful that we don’t get caught up in the blessings of things. Even many Christian organizations and preachers have succumbed to the mentality of blessings by riches. The word of faith movement vehemently associates blessings with the abundance of material things. This is in the world. This is not to say that having an abundance is not a blessing from God because God is ultimately the one who gives us such things (for a purpose). Our blessing is not in the things but rather in the fact that God chose us as a steward of those things. This implies that God trusts us. To be trusted by God even if with the smallest thing is far more significant than having an abundance of stuff and declaring yourself as blessed.

The Beatitudes reveal to us the operation of the Kingdom of God and it lets us know that we are blessed according to the teaching of Jesus Christ recorded in Matthew.


The Beatitudes
(c) 2000 William R. Cunningham
January 3, 2000




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