Our pastor has been preaching chronologically through the life of Christ, and has come to the Sermon on the Mount. He’s spent the last several weeks on the Beatitudes in Matthew 5, and while explaining their purpose and characteristics, he mentioned that they aren’t a list of laws for Christians to live up to, a list of different types of Christians, or a set of purely moral “do-attitudes.” But instead, they are characteristics of the elect, of those with circumcised hearts. The gospel precedes the Beatitudes in the life of the believer, and as such the Beatitudes are blessings upon those whom God has adopted into his family. Because they are unnatural to sinful humans and to ordinary religious thinking, they are antithetical to the world’s definitions of blessings and kingdom growth. They don’t seem like natural ways of growing God’s kingdom. Further, these characteristics are are ultimately and perfectly fulfilled in Christ, the Blessed One.
After these explanations, Pastor Arrick described the progressive nature of the Beatitudes: Their order is intentional, with each successive blessing built upon the preceding ones. To drive this point home, he shared a quotation from J. Oswald Dykes’ The Manifesto of the King (p. 28-29):
“The first beatitude lays the basis of Christian character in a fundamental or conditioning way…from the first to the last they are linked close to one another in such a way, that although all these eight features of Christian character are present throughout the life of a Christian, yet each of them comes successively to full development as Christian life advances. The earliest grace holds the latest in its bosom, and the latest rests upon the first, and each inherits all that go before, and leads on all that follow. In this fair order they describe a stately progress from blessedness to blessedness – from the gracious root of Christian life to the full fruitage of perfected righteousness, which through trial attains to its reward; not so much, as one has said, like sundry grape-clusters ripening one after after another on the vine our Father planteth in believing hearts, as like the plant of righteousness itself, whose germ unfolds to flower and fruit and crown of loveliness unfading in the paradise of God.”
In other words, preached Pastor Arrick,
“One will not begin mourning until they begin to experience what Christ means by being poor in spirit, for why would the rich in spirit mourn? And one will not begin to be truly meek as Jesus describes until one is poor in spirit and begins to mourn, for meekness is all that is left for the poor in spirit and mourning. And one would not begin to hunger and thirst for righteousness until they are poor in spirit, mourning, and meek, for our eyes and desires would still be focused first and foremost on seeking food and drink for the body. And one cannot begin to be truly merciful until they have found and possess the righteousness in the Bible, for it is a righteousness from God that is based solely on His mercy and freely granted to those who repent and believe. And one will not begin to strive for purity of heart before God until they have experienced His righteousness and mercy. Neither will they go forth as peacemakers with the message and ministry of reconciliation. And finally no one will endure true persecution who is not first truly righteous before God and man, but all who are, will suffer persecution.”