Matthew 5.3



1.   Near the beginning of His ministry, after He had chosen twelve to be His apostles, the Lord Jesus Christ preached what is called the Sermon on the Mount.

2.   Before this morning’s sermon, I would like you to turn to Luke 6.12, so we can read and consider some things about my Lord’s sermon on the mount.

3.   When you have found Luke 6.12, stand and read along silently while I read aloud:

12     And it came to pass in those days, that he went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God.

13     And when it was day, he called unto him his disciples: and of them he chose twelve, whom also he named apostles;

14     Simon, (whom he also named Peter,) and Andrew his brother, James and John, Philip and Bartholomew,

15     Matthew and Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon called Zelotes,

16     And Judas the brother of James, and Judas Iscariot, which also was the traitor.

17     And he came down with them, and stood in the plain, and the company of his disciples, and a great multitude of people out of all Judaea and Jerusalem, and from the sea coast of Tyre and Sidon, which came to hear him, and to be healed of their diseases;

18     And they that were vexed with unclean spirits: and they were healed.

19     And the whole multitude sought to touch him: for there went virtue out of him, and healed them all. 

4.   Have you ever before noticed, or has anyone ever pointed out to you, that there were three pairs of apostles with the same name?  There were two Simons, two named James, and two named Judas.

5.   Now turn to Matthew 5.1, where we will read Matthew’s more familiar beginning of the Sermon on the Mount:

1      And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him:

2      And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying,

3      Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 

6.   “You mean there are two versions of the Sermon on the Mount, and they are not identical?  That proves the Bible has mistakes.”  There are two versions of the Sermon on the Mount in the gospel accounts, they are not identical (as are many other parallel passages), but that does not mean there are any mistakes, as I will show you in a bit.

7.   My sermon text for today is Matthew 5.3, which is the first of the beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount.  So, to give you some background, let me talk just a little bit about the Sermon on the Mount and the first portion of the Sermon on the Mount, which are the beatitudes: 


         The Sermon on the Mount may be the most famous extended passage in the entire New Testament.  The favorite of religious liberals, because they think it sets forth the kind of behavior that God desires in order to allow people entrance into heaven, the Sermon on the Mount does no such thing.

We will learn more about the Sermon on the Mount in the weeks to come, but for now we can consider the run up to it:

1B.      What the Lord Jesus Christ saw is recorded in Matthew 5.1:  “And seeing the multitudes . . . .”

1C.    I am inclined to think that Matthew means more with these words than the simple idea that the Lord Jesus Christ saw a whole bunch of people.

2C.   My inclination is that the Lord Jesus Christ beheld the people approaching Him.  But, as He always was, was ever mindful of their profound spiritual needs.  His actions were taken in light of their needs.

2B.      Where He went is also recorded in Matthew 5.1:  “. . . he went up into a mountain.”

1C.    Why would the Lord Jesus Christ move up to high ground?  What would His point be in doing that?  The commentators observe that moving to higher ground would give Him the advantage of speaking to more people more easily, taking advantage of a natural amphitheater so His voice could carry farther than it would on level ground.

2C.   While this is true, there is also another reason why the Lord Jesus Christ might have moved to higher ground.  By moving to higher ground He made it more difficult for the multitudes to get to Him.  This would naturally exclude those who might want to be blessed by hearing Him, but who were not so much interested that they would expend any effort to get to where they could hear Him.

3C.   Remember, everything related to worshiping God, to serving God, to hearing about God, to being blessed by the Savior in any way, is inconvenient.  Some people will go to Hell simply because they much preferred their Sunday evening leisure to going to the trouble of coming to the Sunday evening church service.

4C.   Later on in this same Sermon on the Mount the Lord Jesus Christ will say, “Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.”[1]  More than one Puritan commentator has been of the opinion that this refers to those who are unwilling to strive to enter into the strait gate, who are unwilling to put forth any effort to position themselves in the place of blessing.

3B.      Now we turn to what the Lord Jesus Christ said.

Matthew 5.1 concludes, “. . . and when he was set, his disciples came unto him: 2 And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying, 3 Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

There are three things that need to be said at this point:

1C.   First, the Lord Jesus Christ was sitting down when He was speaking.  William Barclay indicates that when a Jewish rabbi was teaching officially he sat down to teach.[2]  So you see, when the Lord Jesus Christ assumed such a posture, His audience would be prepared for His instruction.

2C.    Next, we see that His disciples came to Him.  This would be a number considerably larger than most Bible readers would think.  The Lord’s main audience, of course, would be His recently chosen apostles.  But beyond that would be the hundred or more disciples who were constantly with Him wherever He went.  Then you must also include the thousands who would comprise the multitudes who are referred to.  Interesting, is it not?  The Lord Jesus Christ would go to the multitudes, then turn around and distance Himself from the multitudes.  Those who followed Him received great blessings.  Those who only listened when He came to them, when it was convenient, received very little.

3C.   Third, “And he opened his mouth, and taught them.”  This is found in verse 2. 

1D.   “This phrase he opened his mouth is not simply a decoratively roundabout way of saying he said.  In Greek the phrase has a double significance.  (a) In Greek it is used of a solemn, grave and dignified utterance.  It is used, for instance, of the saying of an oracle. It is the natural preface for a most weighty saying. (b) It is used of a person’s utterance when he is really opening his heart and fully pouring out his mind.  It is used of intimate teaching with no barriers between.  Again the very use of this phrase indicates that the material in the Sermon on the Mount is no chance piece of teaching.  It is the grave and solemn utterance of the central things; it is the opening of Jesus’ heart and mind to the men who were to be his right-hand men in his task.”[3]

2D.    Now, look at the last phrase of verse 2, which is a single word in the Greek New Testament:  “taught them.”  This verb is in what is called the imperfect tense, “and the imperfect tense describes repeated, continuous, or habitual action in past time. . . Matthew has said as plainly as Greek will say it that the Sermon on the Mount is not one sermon of Jesus, given at one particular time and on one particular occasion; it is the essence of all that Jesus continuously and habitually taught his disciples.”[4]

4C.    Now you know why Luke’s version of the Sermon on the Mount is somewhat different than Matthew’s.  The Lord Jesus Christ preached and taught the truths of this sermon again and again and again throughout His earthly ministry, with minor variations and alterations here and there.  This is why the sermon in Luke and the sermon in Matthew are not identical, not because there are mistakes or errors in the Bible. 


The Sermon on the Mount extends over three entire chapters in Matthew’s gospel.  But our text for today’s sermon is the first of the nine beatitudes that comprise the first portion of the sermon.  Before the sermon on that beatitude, we need to ask what is a beatitude? 

1B.    The word beatitude is derived from a Latin word, beatus, which means happy or blessed.[5]  So, it is easy to see why Matthew 5.3-11 are called the beatitudes.  Each verse begins with the word “blessed.”  But what does the word “blessed” mean?  A superficial consideration of the word would lead you to conclude that the word means “happy, fortunate.”  But a more thorough examination shows that the word is deeper than mere emotions.  It refers to someone who is the “privileged recipient of divine favor.”[6]  So, a beatitude is a pronouncement.  It is the announcement that someone enjoys the blessing of God.

2B.    But what about their descriptions?  If you consider the beatitudes here in Matthew 5, as well as those in Luke 6, you will see that in many ways they are typical.  Most obvious are three things:

1C.   First, every beatitude begins with the same word, makarioV, translated blessed.  This does not mean that whenever you see this word you have a beatitude, but it does mean that whenever you have a beatitude you have this word leading off the statement that is made by the beatitude.

2C.    Next, every beatitude has a subject.  In Matthew 5.3, the subject is “the poor in spirit.”  In Matthew 5.4, the subject is “they that mourn.”  In Matthew 5.5, the subject is “the meek.”  And on it goes.

3C.    Finally, every beatitude has a clause that reads something like “for theirs is” or “for they shall see.”

3B.    It is this final clause in beatitudes that we can call the declaration.  Something is asserted, or stated to be so.

1C.     In Matthew 5.3, for instance, something is asserted in the present:  “for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

2C.     In Matthew 5.8, on the other hand, something is asserted in the future:  “for they shall see God.”

3C.     If it is a beatitude, something will be declared to be, or in some way asserted. 


1.   No one likes the Sermon on the Mount more than liberals, since they think the Sermon on the Mount justifies their wrong-headed notion that if you are good enough you can go to heaven. 

2.   They want to believe that the Bible teaches that if your good deeds outweigh your bad deeds in God’s balance then He is obligated to let you into heaven or else renounce any claim to being fair-minded.

3.   But such a wrong conception of the Sermon on the Mount is dependent upon an erroneous view of the beatitudes.  Rather than saying, “This is the way you ought to be so you can be blessed by God and get this stuff,” beatitudes say, “Those who are blessed by God act this way and get this stuff.”

4.   Brother Isenberger will now come and lead us in a song before this morning’s sermon. 


1.   My text is Matthew 5.3:  “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

2.   Just a few minutes longer and I will let you go.  But first, let me use this beatitude to contrast the saved with the lost, the person who has trusted Christ with the person who has not, the person who recognizes his sinfulness and need of a Savior with that person who does not really recognize his sinfulness and need of a Savior. 


1B.    My friends, this word is not a verb.  This is a noun, a word that is used to describe a person, a place, or a thing.  And what this noun is used by the Lord Jesus Christ to describe is a kind of person.  Not a person who is a certain way because of a skill that he possesses, or a level of intelligence that he enjoys.  Remember, the person who is “blessed” is someone who is the “privileged recipient of divine favor.”

2B.    Folks, this is the most succinct description of a saved person to be found anywhere.  Keep in mind, we typically define God’s grace as divine favor, or as undeserved divine favor.  But who is that person who is the recipient of this divine favor?  We typically call such a person a Christian.  The Lord Jesus Christ calls such a person “blessed.”

3B.    Contrariwise, what can be said about the person who is not “blessed,” about the person who is not the recipient of divine favor, about the person who has not experienced the grace of God?  Lost.  Unsaved.  Damned.  Wretched.  Blind.  Unconverted.  Helpless.  Hopeless.  When a sinner comes to Christ, however, he becomes one who is, in a word, “blessed.” 


1B.    What is “poor in spirit”?  The word translated “poor” is used as a reference to someone who is “needy, dependent upon others, a beggar.”[7]  Do we know anyone in the Word of God who exhibits this poverty of spirit?  Job comes to mind:  “Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”[8]  And so does Paul:  “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.  For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.”[9]

2B.    Does this surprise you?  Are you one of those misguided souls who has always thought that Christians thought they were somebody, that Christians felt confident and cock sure?  Think again.  Though the Christian is confident (“I can do all things”), his confidence rests in Christ (“I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me”).

3B.    But do you find this poverty of spirit in those who are unconverted?  Quite the contrary.  Listen to these words uttered by Nebuchadnezzar, which are typical of the unsaved, even though Daniel had warned caution:  “Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honour of my majesty?”[10]  What business owner does not think these thoughts, though he may say quite the opposite for the appearance of modesty?

4B.    Much is made these days of one’s self-esteem, as though a high self-esteem was somehow beneficial. But self-esteem is merely pride and a sense of self-sufficiency.  And self-sufficiency is something that unsaved people have a great deal of.  They think that by their intelligence, or their hard work, or their cleverness, they will somehow get by.  But what about the by and by?

5B.    The man who is “poor in spirit” is a person who has been brought by God to the place of realizing that he is incapable of saving himself, that he is dead in trespasses and sins, and that he has no capacity within himself to deliver himself from the consequences of his sins.  Because he is “poor in spirit” he knows that salvation is not found within himself, and he has looked outside himself to Another for deliverance.

6B.    And who is He that the one who is “poor in spirit” looked to for salvation from his sins?  The Lord Jesus Christ, the Savior who died on the cross for his sins, who was buried and rose from the dead, the Savior who is seated at the Father’s right hand on high.  The “poor in spirit” looks to Jesus Christ, the Author and Finisher of his faith. 


1B.    Pay special attention to the fact that this beatitude pronounces a present reality and not an expected hope.  The Lord Jesus Christ declares about the blessed, “for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”  My friends, that is an announcement of ownership, if not possession.

2B.    God’s dealings have very much to do with the covenant He established with Abraham back in Genesis chapter 12.  Subsequent covenants clarified God’s intentions.  The Palestinian Covenant guarantees the chosen people a land for the theocratic kingdom.  The Davidic Covenant guarantees a ruler for the theocratic kingdom, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself sitting upon the throne of His father David.  And the New Covenant guarantees a converted citizenry for the theocratic kingdom.

3B.    What has proven to be so difficult to so many commentators over the years as they study these beatitudes, in my opinion, is their failure to recognize that these beatitudes are not goals to be strived for but declarations of things as the way they already are.  And in Matthew 5.3 we are told about those who are blessed, who are described as being poor in spirit, that “theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”  That is, they are citizens of the theocratic kingdom, which can only mean that they are born again, John chapter 3, and have new hearts, Ezekiel chapter 36.

4B.    Now, it is true that the Lord Jesus Christ’s theocratic kingdom is not yet set up on earth, and will not be set up on earth until He comes again to rule in power and great glory.  After all, He must come to take possession that which is His, this wicked old world, and establish the Davidic throne in Jerusalem.  As well, the prayer, “Thy kingdom come.  Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven” must be answered in full.

5B.    But just because the kingdom is not yet established on earth, and just because the throne is not yet set up on earth, and just because the king is not yet come, does not mean kingdom citizens cannot already be here.  Amen?  After all, you do not have to be in the United States to be a US citizen, do you?  So, in like manner, the Lord Jesus Christ is making a declaration that there are already theocratic kingdom citizens in place . . . before the kingdom is come.

6B.    By contrast, what can be said about those who are not Christians?  They are citizens of another kingdom, a kingdom of darkness and a kingdom of doom.  If you are not a Christian you are a citizen of a dark domain whose population is utterly doomed.  If you are not a Christian you are an impoverished soul. 


1.   My friends, no one ever becomes a Christian who does not want to become a Christian.  My hope is that this beatitude will show you reason to want to become a Christian.

2.   The Savior decided that His newly appointed apostles, along with His other disciples, needed instruction about kingdom life long before the kingdom would come.

3.   But before He gave instructions for ministry to believers He told His disciples what it was like for believers by uttering a number of beatitudes.  These are truths, declarations, certainties.

4.   The Christian is blessed in a way no other person is or ever can be blessed, because he enjoys the privileged favor of God.

5.   He is poor in spirit because he has been made to recognize that in himself he is nothing and he has nothing, with every conceivable benefit coming from Another.

6.   And that his is the kingdom of heaven.  The Christian is a citizen of a far better country than any on earth at this time, and his loyalties are to that far better land.

7.   My unsaved friend, what do you have in comparison?  You have nothing.  Yet the wrath of God awaits you, while the Christian’s future is assured.

8.   I hope you will someday come to Christ, the place of God’s blessedness.

1 [1] Matthew 7.6

2 [2] William Barclay, The Gospel Of Matthew,Vol 1, (Philadelphia, PA: The Westminster Press, 1975), page 86.

3 [3] Ibid.

4 [4] Ibid., page 87.

5 [5] Webster’s New Universal Unabridged Dictionary, (New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1996), page 163.

6 [6] Bauer, Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, (Chicago, Illinois: The University of Chicago Press, 2000), page 611.

7 [7] W. D. Davies and Dale C. Allison, Jr., The International Critical Commentary, “The Gospel According To Saint Matthew,” Vol I, (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1988), page 442.

8 [8] Job 42.6

9 [9] Romans 7.18-19

10[10] Daniel 4.30  

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