The Gospel of Matthew: You are the Salt of the Earth.

“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.” (Matthew 5:13 ESV)

What is the Christian’s identity? In other words, what is the believer’s identity in Christ?

 “Think of the struggle we are witnessing in our culture over the question of identity. Today, people are on an endless quest of finding an identity in those things that they believe will make them happy. The culture tells people to turn inward and follow the desires of the heart to define one’s identity. And once people believe they have found their true identity, notice how passionate they are to make it known,” explains Pastor Christopher J. Gordon.

Jesus stated that His disciples, then and now, are the salt of the earth. That is our identity in Christ. Rather than something to pursue, the believer is presently compared to the characteristics and properties of salt. Salt is who we are. What did Jesus mean by this metaphor?

“Salt in the ancient world was used to prevent the decay of foods and flavor them for better taste. People commonly knew that gypsum and other minerals would dilute the potency of salt and make it useless in the preservation of foods. Jesus used this familiar phenomenon with the added concern that if the salt loses its taste, it is “no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet” (Matt. 5:13). Believers are like salt in this world. Their distinctive character, through good works, preserves and flavors this world to prevent its decay,” states Gordon.

It is an unfortunate characteristic of the contemporary church that its leaders seek to make it as compatible as possible to the current culture. Whatever the fallen world is selling, so to speak, there are those in church leadership who are quick to buy; and who want their congregations to do likewise.

“Matthew 5:13. Ye are the salt of the earth. What belongs to doctrine is applied to the persons to whom the administration of it has been committed. When Christ calls the apostles the salt of the earth, he means, that it is their office to salt the earth: because men have nothing in them but what is tasteless, till they have been seasoned with the salt of heavenly doctrine. After having reminded them to what they are called, he pronounces against them a heavy and dreadful judgment, if they do not fulfill their duty. The doctrine, which has been entrusted to them, is shown to be so closely connected with a good conscience and a devout and upright life, that the corruption, which might be tolerated in others, would in them be detestable and monstrous,” states John Calvin.

What was true for the apostles is true for every believer in Christ. All who are in Christ are the salt of the earth. May our saltiness be seen by all today; and always.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Gospel of Matthew: Blessed when Reviled and Persecuted.  

11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:11–12 ESV)

The final Beatitude that Jesus spoke was specifically directed to His disciples; then and now. Rather than generic principles for all, today’s text is pointedly applicable to those who follow Jesus in this fallen world.

“Just as Jesus experienced opposition and persecution, his disciples can expect the same. Their reward may not come on earth, but it surely will be theirs in heaven. Throughout history, beginning with Cain’s murder of Abel (Gen. 4:8; cf. 1 John 3:12), there have been those who oppose God’s people,” explains Dr. John MacArthur.  

To revile (ὀνειδίζω; oneidizo) is to be insulted for Christ. To persecute (διώκω; dioko) means to encounter harassment because of faith in Christ. The phrase utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account refers to when people say wicked and evil lies about you as a believer in Christ.

Why would, and should, a believer in Christ find joy in such circumstances? It is because of the accompanying promise. Jesus provided the basis for the believer’s encouragement in the midst of the storms of spiritual persecution. He said, “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

“The suffering that is blessed here is suffering for righteousness’ sake—being persecuted for doing the will of our Master. To embrace the promise of this beatitude, the persecution must be for doing His righteous will (1 Peter 3:8–17),” explains commentator Michael Glodo.

“When we are persecuted for righteousness’ sake and wonder if it is worth it, we can remain resolute that the kingdom of heaven is ours. Second, it is a source of joy because in it we are identified with our Lord (Matt. 10:25Acts 5:41). Third, it is a signpost guiding us along the path of Jesus. The way of the cross is not an elective in the school of Christ (Matt. 10:24–25). There is no other path to life except the cruciform way. Fourth, it invites us to take inventory when we aren’t experiencing persecution. All who live a godly life will be persecuted (2 Tim. 2:12). We are to be wary of ourselves when the world has only good to say about us (Luke 6:26). Absence of persecution may be because we are fitting in too well with the world. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer put it, it may mean that we have exchanged discipleship for citizenship,” concludes Glodo.  

Soli deo Gloria!

The Gospel of Matthew: Persecuted for Righteousness Sake. Part 2.

10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:10 ESV)

The Scriptures have much to say regarding the persecution of believers in Christ. There is no doubt that when one serves the Lord Jesus, opposition will occur.

The word persecuted (διώκω; dioko) is a present passive particple. This means the believer in Christ is receiving the action from another. To persecute means to harass and to pursue to oppress. However, the persecution should only be because the believer is righteously following and identifying with the Lord Jesus Christ. I Peter 4:15-16 says, 15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. 16 Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name.”  

When persecution happens, and it will, the Lord assures us that we belong to the kingdom of heaven. To encounter persecution for Christ is one of the marks of true citizenship in God’s kingdom.

“Many of the Old Testament prophets suffered in bringing God’s word to Israel (e.g., Jer 26:11); Jewish tradition amplified the number of prophetic martyrs further and made it a major emphasis. The burden of proof was always on the prophet who spoke what people wanted to hear (Jer. 28:8–9; cf. 6:14; 8:10–11; 23:17),” explains commentator Craig S. Keener.

“Most Jewish people did not believe that prophets still existed in the Old Testament sense, so Jesus’ comparing his followers to the prophets indicated that they would have an extraordinary mission. To suffer for God was meritorious (Ps 44:22; 69:7), and Judaism highly honored martyrs for God’s law; yet no other rabbi called disciples to die for his own teachings or name.”

“People possessing these qualities (the Beatitudes) would naturally stand out in the crowd and would not be understood by others. Thus they would be persecuted; others would speak evil of them (v. 11). However, Jesus’ words encouraged His followers, for they would be walking in the train of the prophets, who also were misunderstood and persecuted (v. 12; cf. 1 Kings 19:1–4; 22:8; Jer. 26:8–11; 37:11–16; 38:1–6; Dan. 3; 6; Amos 7:10–13),” states commentator Louis Barbieri.

Are you standing out in the crowd at work, home or at school? Do people know that you are a dedicated believer in Christ? If you are, they will.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Gospel of Matthew: Persecuted for Righteousness Sake.

10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:10 ESV)

The Scriptures have much to say regarding the persecution of believers in Christ. There is no doubt that when one serves the Lord Jesus, opposition will occur. Take note of the following biblical references.

18 “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. 20 Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. 21 But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 Whoever hates me hates my Father also. 24 If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. 25 But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: ‘They hated me without a cause.’ (John 15:18–25 ESV)

31 Jesus answered them, “Do you now believe? 32 Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me. 33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:31–33 ESV)

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” (James 1:2–8 ESV)

12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. 15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. 16 Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. 17 For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18 And “If the righteous is scarcely saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” 19 Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.” (1 Peter 4:12–19 ESV)

More to come regarding the subject of persecution. Be encouraged in Christ.

Soli deo Gloria!  

The Gospel of Matthew: The Peacemakers.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” (Matthew 5:9 ESV)

What does it mean to be a peacemaker? Does this beatitude pertain to politics, business, home, school, social relationships, church, or all of the above? Peacemaking involves all human relationships, regardless of their particular category.

The word peacemaker (εἰρηνοποιός; eirenopioi) means to be one who works for peace. It means to be a reconciler in all relationships; whether they be political vocational, educational, familial, social or ecclesiastical. Peacemaking involves every aspect of the believer’s relational life. There are no exceptions.

Romans 12:9–21 (ESV) has much to say about the discipline of peacemaking. This discipline marks the true believer in Christ.  

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. 10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.”

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. 17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

The key verse in this extended text is Romans 12:18: “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” We may not be able to control another individual’s behavior, but we can control our own; with the assistance of the Holy Spirit.

Peacemaking is also a Fruit of the Spirit. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”

Earlier, I wrote that peacemaking is the mark of a true believer in Christ. This is supported by the latter half of today’s text from Matthew 5:9. Peacemakers will be called the sons of God. This is because God is a God of peace. Believers in Christ not only have the peace of God, but also peace from God and peace with God (Romans 5:1-2; Phil. 4:6-7; Isaiah 26:3).

“Conflict among individuals, races, and nations comes from our alienation from God. Jesus is the great peacemaker through His wall-destroying death (Eph.2:14-18). In Matthew 5:44-45, Jesus calls the children of God to make peace, even with their enemies,” explains Dr. R. C. Sproul.

With the Holy Spirit’s invaluable help, let each of us strive to be a peacemaker. Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Gospel of Matthew: The Pure in Heart.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” (Matthew 5:8 (ESV)

Being poor in spirit, mourning over one’s sin, being meek and hungering and thirsting for righteousness has corresponding results in the believer’s behavior. It begins with being merciful to others as God has been merciful to the believer in Christ. It continues with being pure in heart. What does it mean to be pure in heart?

“Blessed are the pure in heart.” Opinion is divided as to whether these words of Christ refer to the new heart received at regeneration or to that moral transformation of character that results from a Divine work of grace having been wrought in the soul. Probably both aspects of the truth are combined here. It would appear that the purity of heart which our Savior pronounced His blessing is that internal cleansing that both accompanies and follows the new birth. Thus, inasmuch as no inward purity exists in the natural man, that purity attributed by Christ to the godly man must be traced back, as to its beginnings, to the Spirit’s sovereign work of regeneration,” explains commentator A.W. Pink.

Pure (καθαρός; katharos) means to be clean and innocent (Luke 11:41; John 13:11; James 1:27). This purity is to be in the individual’s heart (καρδία; kardia). This comes by the monergistic work of the Holy Spirit (John 3:1-21; Titus 3:1-5).

This purity in heart is not merely outward. It penetrates to the believer’s core. It impacts the intellect, emotions and will. It is freedom from defilement and divided affections. It is sincerity and integrity. It is a singleness of purpose. It is the opposite of hypocrisy and duplicity.

The result of such purity in the heart of the believer in Christ is the promise of seeing God. This is not only a future fulfillment (I John 3:1-3), but also a present promise. “The pure in heart possess spiritual discernment. With the eyes of their understanding they obtain clear views of the Divine character and perceive the excellency of His attributes. When the eye is single the whole body is full of light,” states Mr. Pink.

“Seeing God is a gift of the gospel of Christ. Long ago, Moses knew the desire to see God’s glory (Ex. 33:18), and David prayed for this “one thing” alone, that “I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple” (Ps. 27:4). The biblical witness so consistently points to the fact that we are made with the divinely designed yearning for God that the early Christians spoke of our great hope as the “beatific vision” of God,” explains commentator Michael Allen.

May each of us have the “beatific vision” of God. Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Gospel of Matthew: The Merciful.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.” (Matthew 5:7 (ESV)

Therefore, is your brother a sinner? Then cover his sin and pray for him. Do you publish his sins, then truly you are not a child of your merciful Father for otherwise you would be also as he; merciful. It is certainly true that we cannot show as great mercy to our neighbor, as God has to us; but it is the true work of the devil that we do the very opposite of mercy, which is a sure sign that there is not a grain of mercy in us.” — Martin Luther

To be merciful (ἐλεήμων; eleemon) means to show compassion on the poor and lowly. It is to be the attitude and action we have to those who not only are our brothers and sisters in Christ but also for those who are lost in their sins. This is the mercifulness that Jesus Christ displayed toward sinners such as us when He came to this earth.

Hebrews 2:17 says, “Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.”

The cause and effect relationship in this beatitude is that those who show mercy will receive the same. The Lord’s mercy is not a reward that believers earn by showing mercy to others. Rather, those who understand the magnitude of the mercy God has shown them will treat others as their heavenly Father has treated them. (Matt. 6:14-15; James 2:14-26).

“Blessed are the merciful, for they will obtain mercy is a saying which is quite foreign to our normal way of thinking. Where else do we imagine happiness to lie, except in the absence of worry or distress? ‘Leave us alone’, we cry. ‘Let others suffer in silence. We don’t want to know. We don’t wish to be bothered.’ Peace of mind, indifference to anything else — it is enough if we are able to satisfy our physical wants and contemplate all earth’s villainies without feeling sorrow, disquiet, or distress,” explains John Calvin

“That is why many imagine they are blessed when they are at ease, able to live the good life without thinking of what is happening around them. They want only to block their ears so as to shut out news which might affect them. For there are two kinds of emotions which disturb us: unhappiness which arises from personal misfortune, and compassion when we see some poor person suffering beyond measure — someone, perhaps, who is unjustly oppressed, or who has lost all his worldly goods, unhappy orphans without fathers, wives without husbands, or unexpected events which, I repeat, greatly trouble us. Those who are looking for happiness (as they understand the term), seek to escape personal misfortune in the form of injury to themselves or loss of property. They love men’s approval; they revel in entertainment, in laughter, in good fortune; they want flattery and praise.”

“So when we see some who are sick or poor or destitute, and others who are in trouble and distress of body or mind, we should say, ‘This person belongs to the same body as I do.’ And then we should prove by our deeds that we are merciful. We can proclaim our pity for those who suffer time without number; but unless we actually assist them, our claims will be worthless. There are plenty of people who will say, ‘Oh dear! How terrible to be like that poor man!’ Yet they simply brush it all aside, making no attempt to help. Expressions of pity stir no one into action. In short, this world is full of mercy if words are to be believed; in reality it is all pretense. It is the height of insolence to say, Ah me, what a shame!’, when no one is willing to lift a finger or even utter a word in order to help the distressed. We must learn, therefore, first to be kind and compassionate toward those who suffer; and then to make diligent use of the opportunities which God affords,” concludes Calvin.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Gospel of Matthew: Those Hungry and Thirsty.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. (Matthew 5:6 ESV)

In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus provided a panoramic journey for those who are members of the kingdom of heaven. The passage for sinners began with an awareness of their spiritual poverty, a mourning over their sin, resulting in a sincere and profound humility. Respectively, the spiritually poor become citizens of the kingdom, the mourners are comforted and meek inherit the earth. The first beatitude leads to the second, and the second to third; and so on.

Following spiritual poverty, mourning and meekness comes hungering and thirsting for righteousness. Hungering (πεινάω; peinaō) is a present, active participle referring to an individual believer’s earnest desire and appetite for righteousness. Thirsting (διψάω; dipsaō) is also a present, active participle meaning to desire and crave righteousness. Righteousness (δικαιοσύνη; dikaiosynē) refers to a divine righteousness that is imputed to the sinner by grace alone, through faith alone, in the person and work of Jesus Christ alone (Rom. 3:21-26). This is the result of repentance and faith in Christ.  

“This is the opposite of the self-righteousness of the Pharisees. It speaks of those who seek God’s righteousness rather than attempting to establish a righteousness of their own (Rom. 10:3Phil. 3:9). What they seek will fill them, i.e., it will satisfy their hunger and thirst for a right relationship with God,” explains Dr. John MacArthur.

The promise God gives that those who hunger and thirst for righteousness will be filled. To be filled (χορτάζω; chortazō) means to be satisfied. This filling is a contentment, a fulfillment and a gratification in Christ that the world does not understand or want. In fact, the world hates individuals who possess this filling from the Lord.

“To hunger for righteousness is to yearn for God’s rule in our lives (Matt. 6:33). It is to have a thirst for God’s Word and for the company of the godly. In Scripture, righteousness has several aspects.

First, there is the personal righteousness, which we just stressed. This hunger leads us to uproot our sin by the power of the Holy Spirit and be-come more like Jesus. This is sanctification,” explains commentator Daniel Doriani.

“But since our quest for righteousness always falls short, we think next of the righteousness of Christ, bestowed when we believe in Him. This is justification. Justification confers legal righteousness, so believers can stand before God the Judge on the last day. Justification wipes away all sin and guilt, whatever our level of sanctification.”

“Third, disciples long for social righteousness, for God’s cleansing of society. Hunger for righteousness leads disciples to promote God’s cause in business, education, politics, and more. Further, we look to the day of Jesus’ return, when He will set creation right, Satan will be overthrown, and God’s righteousness will cover the earth,” concludes Doriani.

Have you encountered this filling from God that completely satisfies your spiritual hunger and thirst? Such filling is found solely in Christ.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Gospel of Matthew: The Meek.

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” (Matthew 5:5 ESV)

Jesus continued to proclaim the Lord’s blessings to the disciples who followed Him (Matt. 5:1-2). He preached about who God would bless and why. Jesus previously declared blessing on the poor in spirit and those who mourn. In today’s text, He addresses those who are meek.

To be meek (πραΰς; praus) means to be gentle and humble. Meekness is not weakness. It is the opposite of being out of control: physically, intellectually, emotionally and volitionally.

“The word is best understood as “gentleness,” or a refusal to take control by brute force or manipulation. Meekness, from a Christian perspective, is about faith. It is about trusting God to win the battle in the end instead of going to extremes to win the battle on our own terms. The concept is often referred to as “strength under control,” rather than “strength seeking control,” explains one commentator.

To inherit (κληρονομέω klēronomeō) means to obtain or receive by inheritance. This idea is taken from Psalm 37:11.

“The idea of gaining the world, whether as individuals or as a nation, is as old as human history, and the spirit of the builders of the tower of Babel reverberates through all such efforts: “Let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens and let us make a name for ourselves” (Gen. 11:4). This seems to be the goal of fallen humanity, both individually and collectively: to make a name for ourselves through accumulation, accomplishment, or through expanding our borders. And when these things are the defining pursuits of a person or a people, the defining character of that person or people will lean in the direction of avarice and arrogance,” explains Pastor Ken Jones.

“So in looking at Matthew 5:5, we note that this verse is connected to texts such as Psalm 37, where the ruthless ambition of evildoers to gain the things of the world is contrasted against the righteous who commit their way to the Lord and trust in Him (Ps. 37:5). In verses 9–10, we are told that the evildoers will be cut off. Moreover, the earth will not be earned but will rather be inherited (vv. 9, 11, 22, and 34). And here’s the kicker: the ones who will gain the earth by inheritance are the meek.”

Meekness is foreign to our fallen, sinful condition. It is rather a fruit of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:23). It is a result of justification by grace alone, through faith alone, in the person and work of Jesus Christ alone.

“So, the blessing of this beatitude is that those who look to Christ in faith will inherit the earth because they have been credited with His meekness and have been given the gift of the Spirit, who connects us to Christ and conforms us to His likeness,” concludes Pastor Jones.

Soli deo Gloria!