We are Blessed by Grace

Matthew 5:6

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

Reading through the beatitudes, it’s interesting reading them in light of “grace”. They no longer feel like commands, but rather, they feel more like declarations of truth, truths for us to believe, experience and walk in. We are blessed when we are poor in spirit. We are blessed when we mourn, when we are weak, when we are merciful, when we are poor in spirit.

We are blessed because of Christ. Not, we will be blessed if…

This one beatitude about “hungering and thirsting after righteousness,” we will be filled. We will be satisfied. We should hunger and thirst for righteousness, not for doing “right” things, but for being “right” in Christ, for truly understanding that in Christ, we are perfectly “right” in God’s eyes. Not from what we do, but for who we are in Christ.. We should hunger and thirst for arriving at this belief that we are righteous in Christ. If you hunger and thirst, if you crave this desire to be in right-standing with God, you will be filled. You will be made right through you faith in Christ.

Matthew 5:8

Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.

Even in this declaration from Christ, we see it as a command. “When you are pure in heart, then you will see God.” That’s inaccurate.

What it’s saying is, “When you truly understand that you are pure in heart through Christ, you shall see God like you’ve never seen him before.”

Matthew 5:13, 14

You are the salt of the earth… You are the light of the world.

These are declarations of who you are in Christ. You are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world. You are! It’s a clear declaration of who we are in Christ, not what we can become, nor what we must strive for. It’s about your identity. We must come to believe that we are salt and we are light.

Matthew 5:16

In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

I love this: “let your light shine…” Notice it did not say “shine your light”. It said “let…” Let is all about resting. When you put your focus on Christ, then you don’t have to strive to shine. You just shine. It reminds me of Moses. When he came down the mountain, his face shone brightly. It wans’t something he was trying to do. It was simply a result of spending time in the presence of God.

Matthew 5:17

Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.

I think these are the first key words in the New Testament about grace. What did Jesus come to do? From earlier verses, we know he came to “save his people from their sins”. How did he do that? By fulfilling all of God’s requirements from the Law and the Prophets. Man could not do this, but Jesus did.

Matthew 5:18

For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.

Wow, this scripture now takes on a different meaning to me. This is how I originally understood it: the Law would be in effect until “heaven and earth pass away” and that it was my duty, my job to make sure we walk in the Law till heaven and earth pass away.

That’s not what Jesus is saying here.

One key point about grace that we have to understand is that the New Covenant did not start with the gospel of Matthew. Yes, it may be the New Testament, but it’s not the New Covenant. Odd as it may sound, Jesus lived his life under the Old Covenant. Everything he did was under the Law so that he could fulfill the Law.

The New Covenant started when he died and rose again. So, in Matthew 5:18 he was simply saying, “Until I die and come back to life, the entire Law will be accomplished in me.”

Even in verse 19, the following verse talks about how we must follow the law and make sure we teach others to follow the law. But, this is not a New Covenant command from Christ. It’s an Old Covenant command. While he was alive, the people he was speaking to must follow the Law.

Matthew 5:20

For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

I love how Jesus is telling them about the new standard of righteousness that God requires. The righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees was an external righteousness–what they did, what they wore, how they followed the Law. But, the righteousness that Christ was talking about was an internal righteousness. He talks about this internal righteousness in the very next verse…

Matthew 5:21

You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.

I’ve heard messages taught that Jesus now holds us to a higher standard, a higher requirement because of this new “internal” motivation, not just external transgression. You’ve heard it said, “Don’t murder”, but I say, “Don’t even hate.” This new “requirement” is not a stricter command to follow. He’s simply giving them a comparison of this “righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees” he talked about in the previous verse. He was showing them what God’s standard of righteousness was really like.

These next few verses, that’s what Jesus expounds on. You’ve heard it said… But, I say to you…

  • Don’t hate. v21
  • Don’t lust. v27, 28
  • Don’t divorce. v31
  • Don’t take an oath. v33, 34
  • Don’t retaliate. v38
  • Love your enemies. v43

Again, we see these as commands or “ought to’s”, but the key thing Jesus was trying to show them was this juxtaposition of outward righteousness and inward righteousness. There was a higher standard of righteousness required by God for those who lived under the Law.

Everyone listening to him that day were “under the Law” and were required to walk in that higher standard of righteousness to be accepted by God.

Why did Jesus tell them these things? Was he expecting them to walk in those higher standards, higher requirements? First, he was speaking to those under the Law, so they needed to know what was expected of them.

But, more importantly, I believe he was trying to communicate to them that there is no way they could keep all of God’s requirements of the Law, both outwardly and inwardly. The standard was too high. The standard was perfection. In fact, it was so high and the punishment so great, that to prevent you from sinning, you should cut out your eye or cut off your hand to keep from doing it. He was communicating to them that it’s impossible for us to meet those requirements for righteousness.

So, should we disregard these “commands” that Jesus was telling them that day since we are now under grace?

Everything he shared was for our benefit. There is natural consequences in this world for those things.

  • When you hate, it destroys you and those around you.
  • Lust will destroy your life and your family.
  • Divorce hurts and is a very painful experience.
  • Oaths are hard to keep.
  • Don’t respond to anger and give to those in need.
  • Anyone can hate their enemies, but loving them changes everything.

Clark Whitten said it well: “There are only two things in the New Testament — good news and good advice.”

The things Jesus encourages us to do are good advice, for our benefit to have an “abundant life”. There are good reasons why we should do these things. We need to stop seeing them as commands and see them as “good advice” to improve our life.

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