The beatitudes are essential to the Christian life, but many people have not taken the time to understand them. Due to this lack of understanding, there are many Christians who have misconceptions about what they are and what they mean. With this in mind, here are five mistakes people make in understanding the Beatitudes.
1. They assume the beatitudes are something only special Christians possess.
The beatitudes are not something set aside for some unique category of Christians. They are something every Christian should possess. We do not do these things to be saved; we are this way because we are saved. They are the products of the grace of God in our lives. It is true that none of us possess them perfectly, and we should all desire to grow in them, but not to have them at all should be a grave warning to us.
2. They assume Christians will only have one or two of the Beatitudes.
The Beatitudes are not like spiritual gifts. One Christian does not get poverty of spirit while another has hungering for righteousness. All Christians are meant to manifest all of these. One of the main reasons is that as you begin to study through the beatitudes, you will find that they are all linked together. Poverty of spirit is linked to mourning, and mourning is linked to meekness, and meekness is linked to hungering for righteousness and so forth. To have one is logically connected to having all of them.
3. They assume the beatitudes are natural tendencies or dispositions.
None of the beatitudes are natural tendencies. They do not exist in the heart of the natural man, nor are they even possible in people who have not been born again. Part of this misunderstanding stems from not understanding the Beatitudes themselves. They may assume that poverty of spirit means to sympathize with the poor, or to mourn means simply to be sorrowful when someone dies, but even people who reject God do those things, and they do not possess the blessings attached to these beatitudes. The beatitudes go much deeper than natural behaviour.
4. They fail to see them as the essential difference between Christians and non-Christian.
Since they often misunderstand the Beatitudes themselves and see them something that can exist in the natural man, they do not see how entirely upside-down they are compared to the desires and goals of the world. Instead of poverty of spirit, the natural man pursues pride of spirit, and instead of mourning, they pursue their own self-satisfaction. Rather than being meek, they believe the only way to inherit the earth is through a will to power, and we could go on, but the reality is, rightly understood, only Christians can possess these. The Beatitudes reveal that the non-Christian and the Christian operate from contrary principles.
5. They assume that the Beatitudes can help them gain worldly success.
The reality is that the Beatitudes show us that we belong to an entirely different kingdom. The non-believer is pursuing the kingdom of this world while the Christian is pursuing the kingdom of heaven. The beatitudes are contrary to seeking the riches and treasures of this world, and those who try to use them in pursuit of worldly glory, show us that they do not understand them. The Beatitudes belong to those who desire God’s rule, righteousness, and glory. Which kingdom do you desire?
This list of mistakes was derived from Martin Lloyd-Jones’ outstanding book, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount. In the book, he lays out five things we need to know about the beatitudes. Each of his points corresponds to one of the mistakes I have written above. These common misunderstandings are why we are writing a series of posts on each of the Beatitudes on this blog. Below you will find the list of beatitudes. As each new post is written, I will update this page with the links to each article.
Man’s Relationship to God
Man’s Relationship to Man
- Pure in heart
- Persecuted for Righteousness
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