Over the past several days I have been sharing a preview of the entire first chapter of my new book on the Beatitudes entitled “Cultivating A Gospel-Shaped Attitude.” If you haven’t read the first two posts please take a moment to click on the following links:
If you enjoy these posts, I hope that you will order a copy of the book by clicking on the the link below or by going to Amazon.com. It would also be a great help to me if you would help me to spread the word about this book by posting a link to this preview on your Facebook or Twitter accounts.
The Relationship to the Rest of the Sermon on the Mount
Before we move any deeper into the text, however, it is important for us to understand the Beatitudes within the context of the gospel of Matthew. The Beatitudes sit at the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount and thus serve as an introduction for the entire sermon. John MacArthur says the Beatitudes “set forth the fundamental principles of His Kingdom. These are the moral, ethical, and spiritual guidelines that should govern the conduct of all kingdom subjects.” In other words, the Beatitudes describe what we are supposed to be, whereas the rest of the sermon describes what we are to do. Martyn Lloyd-Jones notes that the Beatitudes give us:
…a description of what every Christian is meant to be. It is not merely a description of some exceptional Christians. Our Lord does not say here that He is going to paint a picture of what certain outstanding characters are going to be and can be in this world. It is His description of every single Christian.
In the church, we often make the mistake of turning the Christian life into a list of dos and don’ts without giving adequate attention to the way the Bible transforms the way we think. When we come to the Sermon on the Mount then, it is easy to skip right past the Beatitudes so we can get to the “meatier” subjects contained in the remainder of the passage. In doing this, we end up missing Jesus’ intent for this section and short circuit the opportunity for spiritual formation provided by these verses. Any attempt to live out the commands of Jesus prior to being transformed in our attitude will result in disappointment. The Beatitudes describe for us the attitudes that must cultivated before we can put the commands of Christ into practice.
The Beatitudes, therefore, serve a key function in the Sermon on the Mount, which is sometimes missed or ignored. These are not just a list of pleasant sayings or inspirational words, but instead offer us a glimpse into how followers of Christ are to see themselves and the world they live in. When properly understood, the Beatitudes have tremendous value for understanding our salvation, our spiritual formation, and our understanding of the mission.