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5 Tips for Understanding the Beatitudes

5 tips for understanding the Beatitudes.
5 tips for understanding the Beatitudes.

The next few posts will discuss the Beatitudes in Luke 6:20-23, and I thought it would be fitting to begin by providing some tips for understanding them correctly.

TIP 1: THE BEATITUDES DISCUSS SPIRITUAL FAVOR.

The Greek word for blessed is makarios, and it means, “happy, fortunate, blissful.” The word “beatitude” comes from the Latin word for “happiness.” We associate happiness with feelings and circumstances: “I feel happy, because _______.”

But this isn’t what Jesus meant by the word blessed: “Blessed are you who weep now” (Luke 6:21). People weeping don’t feel too happy. Instead, Jesus is describing blessings based not on physical circumstances, but on spiritual status with God. Jesus is discussing the special joy for those favored by God and able to experience His grace.

TIP 2: THE BEATITUDES ARE BLESSINGS FOR BELIEVERS.

Unfortunately some people think the beatitudes are evangelistic. They see them containing the Gospel, and revealing the way to be saved, i.e. containing requirements for entering God’s kingdom. In this sense, they’re a message for unbelievers.

But the Beatitudes describe blessings for believers.

  1. Luke 6:20 says Jesus, “Lifted up His eyes toward His disciples” (see also Matt 5:1). Plenty of unbelievers were present, from as far away as Tyre and Sidon (Luke 6:17), but Jesus addressed His followers because the blessings were for them.
  2. Jesus used words that describe believers: spiritually poor, hungering for righteousness, weeping over sin.
  3. In Luke 6:22 Jesus described individuals persecuted “for the Son of Man’s sake.”
  4. In Luke 6:23 Jesus said His hearers should rejoice because they have a “reward [that] is great in heaven.”
  5. In Luke 6:23 Jesus puts His hearers in the same category as prophets; some of the most faithful men in the Old Testament.

Why is it important to understand the Beatitudes are for believers? The alternative forces them to be read as, “Do this or you won’t be saved.” This makes the Beatitudes the opposite of the way Jesus intended them—instead of being blessings and words of encouragement, they’re condemnations or judgments.

Jesus is saying, “You who are poor, hungry, weeping, persecuted, My kingdom belongs to you. Things might not look good now, but the future blessings more than make up for your present situation. This is why you can feel blessed despite what you’re going through.”

TIP 3: THE BEATITUDES AREN’T COMMANDS.

Jesus wasn’t providing rules that result in rewards by obeying them. The Beatitudes aren’t a recipe for receiving God’s grace. It’s not, “Do this and this and you’ll be blessed by God.”

Instead, Jesus describes people who are blessed by God. Believers who receive the favor of God because of their godly character. The blessed life comes not from doing, but being. The Beatitudes present the sort of godly character that believers have.

TIP 4: THE BEATITUDES STILL CHALLENGE BELIEVERS.

Although the Beatitudes are meant to encourage believers, they still provide exhortation. They describe the virtues that should characterize those living for the kingdom of God versus living for the world.

Believers can be challenged by providing some self-examination:

  • Do I look like the type of person Jesus describes?
  • Do these characteristics characterize me?

TIP 5: THE BEATITUDES ARE THE OPPOSITE OF THE WORLD’S TEACHING.

Jesus says the poor, hungry, weeping, and hated are blessed. The world says this is a description of the cursed. Jesus’ words couldn’t be more different than the world’s.

The same takes place with the woes in Luke 6:24-26: woe to those who are rich, full, laughing, and popular. Jesus says these people are cursed, but the world says this is a description of the blessed.

Jesus presented attitudes and values that were completely contrary to the world’s views.

Is this how you view the Beatitudes? Did you previously see them as described above? Comment below with your answers.

You can listen to the entire sermon this is drawn from here.

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