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The Rev. David W. Hall (PhD, Whitefield Theological Seminary) is married to Ann, and they are parents of three grown children. He has served as the Senior Pastor of Midway Presbyterian Church (PCA) since 2003. After completion of his undergraduate studies, Pastor Hall studied at Swiss L’Abri and then enrolled at Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri, graduating in 1980. In addition to pastoring, David Hall is the author or editor of over 20 books and numerous essays.

Column: First Truths from the First Gospel by David Hall

Purity and Peacemaking

July 1, 2014 •

Read Matthew 5:6-10

God’s benediction rests on you (you’ll have true happiness) if you are pure in heart. This blessing is not bestowed upon the intellectually keen or emotionally pious, but on those pure or clean in heart. Like poor “in spirit” pure is modified in this blessing by “in heart”—thus it does not refer to being ceremonially or morally clean. The heart, according to biblical imagery, is the center of the entire person. Thus we will be happy if the center of our whole person, the power plant or control central, is single-mindedly pursuing God. That’s the way to be happy. Purity of heart “may be defined as undivided affections, sincerity, genuineness, Godly simplicity. It is the opposite of subtlety and duplicity . . . purity of motives and intents.”[1] Pure means unmixed, un-combined, unadulterated.

Here’s a quick test of this singleness in purpose or purity in heart. “What do you think about when your mind slips into neutral?” To what do you pay consistent or inordinate allegiance? What do you want or love more than anything else? If the answers were God and his Kingdom, that is an evidence of being pure in heart. If not, maybe we need him to make our hearts pure.

The pure in heart do not enjoy distractions. They do not like to get off the path. They stick to their morality. Truth and purity are very important. We need more people like that.

The pure in heart also frequently reexamine their motives. When we work or serve at church is it because we want recognition or influence? Is our service to God for prestige? Do we wish to receive respect in return for our works? Are even our private devotions for less than noble reasons?

The pure in heart are given a great promise: “they will see God.” John 1:18 teaches that, “No one has ever seen God.” This reward promises to let the pure in heart see something never before viewed by human eyes. The object of their vision will be God. That should certainly make the believer happy. (Though it might terrify the unbelievers). If your purpose in life is undivided—to be pure in heart—you will be blessed by seeing God.

God calls you to a single-minded and pure-hearted love for him.

The next beatitude is possibly the most misunderstood of our times: “Blessed are the peace-makers.” This does not say “peace lovers,” those who avoid all conflict—it’s not easy-going indulgence. Jesus did not issue a blessing for the conflict-evaders, appeasers, or peace-at-any-pricers. The peace that Christ made was very costly—it did not come via compromise. Our Lord did not call us to overlook lies and try to put all faiths together. That would contradict the blessing to the pure in heart we just examined. Rather a peacemaker is one who actually makes peace between two persons or serves as an agent of reconciliation. This peacemaker lessens tension, seeks fair solutions, and ensures communication in human relationships. When we serve the Prince of Peace we take on—even if only in small measure—his character and desire to bring peace—not quarreling, dissension and confusion. Is that characteristic of you? Do the people who know you in church or in the world recognize that, if possible, you will do what you can to bring people together rather than pushing them apart? If so you’ll be happy and show forth the reality of your adoption by God.

In fact the promise for peace-making is that these ones “shall be called [because it describes reality] the sons of God.” The phrase “sons of God” means partaking of the Father’s nature because of a relationship with him.  It is to be God-like in nature. Thus peacemakers reflect their heavenly Father’s peace-making character. This is to be done primarily within the church.

If you are a peace-maker, three levels of blessing await you:

  • Peace with God—knowing that you have pleased him and done the right thing.
  • Peace with self—there is a joy of living in non-aggression. It is much more stressful and difficult to live in anxiety than in peace.
  • Peace with others; that, too is a blessing.

Now this kind of peace does take work. It is never easy. Indeed, sometimes, you may have to commit yourself to a long regime of effort to resolve great difficulties, but it is worth it. The next time you have an opportunity to get angry, stop to see if God can’t provide a peace-making solution. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you.

Our final beatitude is “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness.” These ones are not blessed due to their own fanaticism, intemperance, idiosyncrasies, zeal, or obnoxious personality. To be persecuted for these would be to be persecuted because of one’s own self. Rather, these ones are persecuted because of being righteously fitted to God’s will. When we live as Jesus lived, we will be rejected because of him. If we are never rejected, we must wonder if we’re living like him.

Happy are you if you are persecuted because of the Christ-likeness of your character. You are to be congratulated if you are persecuted when others find the righteousness for which we hunger and thirst distasteful or annoying. Luke 6:26 warns, “Woe to you when all speak well of you.” An expansion of this theme occurs in vs. 11-12. In v. 11, Christ uses you (second person) to stress real applicability to the hearers. He expands v. 10 to include not only persecution, but also insults, and false accusations. The sole reason for this antagonism is “because of me” or because of righteousness in life that is in imitation of Jesus. If this happens, rejoice and leap for joy.

The reward in v. 10 is the same as v. 3: “theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.” And v. 12 blesses us by associating us with the prophets. This is a token of authentic Christian living, a certificate of lived faith.

People are often misunderstood in churches. I’ve seen more than one person castigated as ‘narrow-minded’ or stodgy simply because he didn’t go along with every new fad or plan in the church. Judgmental critics, who may be more hip than helpful, often insult or say false things about people who stand up for God’s pure ways. It is difficult to try to serve God alone if someone comes up and begins to attack your character. But it will happen. Count on it. Jesus did not want his disciples to expect a rose-colored world.

Remember this week: When falsely reviled, you become like Jesus in some measure.

This is one of the costs of discipleship.

Some theologians and pastors seem unwilling to suffer for righteousness. As you know there are a number of controversial issues in our day. As I watch ministers or leaders, it seems to me—especially when they are willing to change beliefs that have been maintained for years—that one of the factors is that they do not wish to suffer for righteousness sakes. It is one thing to be understanding, charitable in judgment to all, and open-minded; it is another for a Christian leader to sacrifice biblical teachings for little more than an adult version of peer pressure.

When a minister does not want to admit to the biblical teaching on hell, he may have calculated the response and be seeking to avoid suffering. No one likes to be laughed at. Or if a minister does not defend the miracles of the Bible or the teaching on creation simply because he is in a group that is philosophically skeptical, he may be avoiding the call of Jesus. Jesus promises a distinct blessing for those who cling to God’s Word, especially if it brings about persecution, suffering, and false accusations.

This standard is not only applicable for ministers. As Christians, all of us are called on to stand for/with Christ, even if it results in persecution or mocking. Are there any areas where you are doing that? Has the intimidation of persecution reshaped you into one who would never be mocked? Jesus both suffered this and warned against it.

J. B. Shearer wrote: “This is the first part of the sermon. As Jesus pronounces woes against the rich, and the full, and the self-righteous, and the carnally secure, we can almost see the angry scowl, and hear the murmured discontent of the scribes and Pharisees who begin to see that he spoke about them. Their rising wrath is ominous of future persecutions ...”[2]

This is entirely contrary to the world’s view of happiness. The world preaches, “Find your happiness in affluence, luxury, success, things, fame, power, self-fulfillment, strength, sex or pleasure.” But Jesus says receive the happiness which I give you by being poor in spirit, ravenous for righteousness, blessed in peacemaking, etc.

John Stott wrote that just as the nine fold Fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5) is to ripen in every Christian character, so these eight beatitudes “are to blossom in the life of each Blessed one. These are Christ’s own specifications of what every Christian ought to be. They are not a set of virtues that only an elitist group of Christian superstars manifest. They do not refer to eight separate and distinct groups of disciples (some meek, some merciful. Rather they are eight qualities of the normal re-born child of God who is simultaneously (though in varying degrees) meek, merciful, poor in spirit, pure in heart, etc.”[3]

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones wrote that “All Christians are portrayed in the Beatitudes—not just exceptional ones. Let us rid ourselves of the false notion that these are only true of Mother Theresa, St. Francis, Hudson Taylor, George Miller or the Wesley’s, Whitfields, or some other outstanding Christian. These are to describe every real Christian in some degree. Indeed all such persons are canonized by the New Testament and called saints.”[4]

Are these descriptive of your life? If so, then you’ll be blessed and receive the prescriptions promised. They provide us with assurance of our salvation.

Are these never truly descriptive of your life? Then flee to Christ for his Blessing.

Are you searching for real happiness? You can find the answer to the greatest question confronting mankind in him who perfectly possessed all these descriptions—Jesus, our Lord. And these gospel maxims are just the beginning of this great sermon!

[1] A. W. Pink, An Exposition of the Sermon on the Mount (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1982), 34.

[2] J. B. Shearer, The Sermon on the Mount: A Study (1906; rpr Greenville, SC: GPTS Press, 1994), 35.

[3] John Stott, Christian Counter-Culture (Wheaton, IL: Intervarsity Press, 1978), 31.

[4] D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1960), 33-34.


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