Thursday, June 16, 2011

Beatitudes: Blessed are Poor in Spirit – 8 Part Series

Bible Study Lesson:

Matthew 5: 3 -12

  • Beatitudes are referred to the account of ‘Sermon on the Mount’ preached by Jesus Christ, recorded in Matthew 5: 3-12 in the Bible.
  • It is one of the most quoted passage of Bible.
  • Similar list of beatitudes is also given in Luke 6:20-23.
  • This bible study lesson is an eight part series on the beatitudes. In this part, we will look at the first of the beatitude “Blessed are the Poor in the Spirit”.

Q. What is the meaning of word ‘Beatitude’? And how does it relate to word ‘Blessed’ used in Matthew 5?

  • The word ‘Beatitude’ is not found in the Englithe beatitudes 300x235 Beatitudes: Blessed are Poor in Spirit   8 Part Seriessh bible. But it is derived from Latin word ‘Beatus’ meaning ‘Happy’ or ‘Blessed’, the meaning of which is very close to original Greek word that Jesus used .
  • The Greek word for ‘Blessed’ is ‘Makarioi’ which means ‘happy, supremely blessed, and fortunate’.

Before we get into the beatitudes, let us look at the similarity and differences in the gospel accounts of Matthew 5:3-12 and Luke 6:20-23.

  • In Matthew, all the 8 beatitudes are written in third person (‘those’), except the last one.
  • On the other hand, in Luke, Beatitudes are in second person (“you”), followed by the list of ‘Woes’ as well. (Luke 6:24-26)
  • The places where Jesus preached the sermon are different. (Mat 5:1 – ‘On the Mount’ and Luke 6:17 – ‘On the plain’)
  • Bible scholars differs on their views regarding these two accounts, whether they are
    • Different records of the same sermon, or
    • Two different sermons with similar contents
  • Peoples often point out to such differences to discredit the authenticity and reliability of gospel records. But these minor differences actually serve as an evidence of the genuineness of these records. [Consider an example of Professor giving homework to his students. If two students have identical, word by word answers, Professor would first suspect ‘copying or cheating’!]
  • Apart from these minor differences, there is a remarkable unity and order of thought and substance in the gospels.

The Beatitudes – The Great Paradox

  • The Beatitudes are the great contrast to the worldly motion of ‘blessedness’ and ‘happiness’. It is no wonder that it does not make sense and almost seems contradiction to the carnal mind. “For the message about the cross is nonsense to those who are being destroyed, but it is God’s power to us who are being saved.” (1st Cor 1:18)
  • The beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount also defied the great expectations of an earthly kingdom, which Jews thought Messiah would establish! For how can you establish a worldly kingdom by the Weak and the Meek? How can you be merciful to your enemies? How can you be peacemakers, if you are to overturn a kingdom (Roman Empire)? How can you let others persecute and insult you? It is obvious that Jesus was not talking about earthly kingdom. But he was promising ‘Kingdom of Heaven’. So let us look at the characteristics to inherit this ‘Kingdom of Heaven’.

Beatitude 1 : Poor In Spirit

  • ‘Poor in Spirit’ is a quite difficult phrase to understand. The word for ‘poor’ in Greek (‘Ptochos‘) literally means having nothing, reduced to begging, like a beggar, totally broke. (Luke 6:20 uses only ‘poor’ in his version of sermon!)
  • While monetary poverty can also be inferred from these verses, what Jesus really meant was spiritual poverty.
  • You can be really poor and yet be arrogant and prideful, or you can be rich and still be poor in the spirit. (King David in Old Testament is great example of this, in spite of being King, he had a humble and contrite heart.)
  • ‘Spiritual poor’ is exactly what it sounds like. It is a state when you realize that you have nothing and need constant help.
  • We have to be careful here not to compare outward modesty with this characteristics. I strongly believe that it is a picture of a man with humble and broken heart who constantly need help from God for his very existence.
  • This image is a stark contrast to the self-contained, self-sufficient spirit which world long for. But in the Kingdom of Heaven, this is the most important qualification, you can have.
  • Isaiah 66:1-2: “Thus says the LORD, “Heaven is My throne and the earth is My footstool. Where then is a house you could build for Me? And where is a place that I may rest? “For My hand made all these things, Thus all these things came into being,” declares the LORD. “But to this one I will look, To him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word.”
  • Isaiah 57:15: “For thus says the high and exalted One Who lives forever, whose name is Holy, “I dwell on a high and holy place, And also with the contrite and lowly of spirit In order to revive the spirit of the lowly And to revive the heart of the contrite.”
  • Psalms 51 is a great example of a man who is craving for God’s spirit. (This Psalm is King David’s confession and repentance after he committed adultery with Bathsheba.)
    • Ps 51:10 : “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.”
    • Ps 51:12 : “Restore to me the joy of Your salvation and sustain me with a willing spirit.”
    • Ps 51:17 : “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.”
  • The opposite of ‘Poor in Spirit’ is ‘proud in spirit’. The Pride of life is one of the three roots of sin and independence from God. (1 John 2:16)
  • Poverty of spirit is the root of all virtues. It is the state of heart; it is how you view yourself in light of God. In this regard, this first beatitude is the root from which all other beatitudes grows.

The Promise: Kingdom of Heaven

  • ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ is a peculiar title only found in the gospel of Matthew. This term is used interchangeably with ‘Kingdom of God’ in other gospels. Kingdom of Heaven is the messianic kingdom promised in old testament, to be established by Messiah. (Daniel 2:44) Matthew represents Jesus as the savior and king prophesied in old testament.
  • Kingdom of God (Heaven) is in twofold:
    • Already Here: Luke 17:20-21: “Once, having been asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is within you.”
    • Yet to Come: Kingdom of Heaven will be fully realized and established when Christ will come as a King and Ruler over all earth. (Daniel 7: 13,14,27)
  • What a blessed hope and promise, Jesus offers to those who are poor in the spirit. “Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.”

Practical Applications:

  • How do you view yourself in light of this beatitude?
  • How do you view others?
  • Do your attitudes reflect your beliefs?

Other Resource: The Message of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7 : Christian Counter-Culture) Beatitudes: Blessed are Poor in Spirit   8 Part Series

Part 1: Beatitudes: Blessed are the Poor in Spirit

Part 2: Blessed are those Who Mourn: Beatitudes Bible Study Series

Part 3: Blessed are the Meek: Beatitudes Bible Study Series

Part 4: Blessed are those who Hunger and Thirst for Righteousness: Beatitudes Bible Study Series

Part 5: Blessed are the Merciful: Beatitudes Bible Study Series

Part 6: Blessed are the Pure in heart: Beatitudes Bible Study Series

Part 7: Blessed are the Peacemakers: Beatitudes Bible Study Series

Part 8: Beatitudes: Blessed are the Persecuted (The link will be added as the lesson is available online.)

Lessons provided by Bibleseo

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