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Matthew 5:8 by Robert Dean
Have you ever known anyone who seemed to be doing good things but was seething with anger, hatred, and revenge on the inside? Listen to this lesson to see how Jesus Christ in the Sermon on the Mount emphasizes the importance of your internal attitudes as you perform deeds of mercy and show kindness to others. Learn the meaning of the word "heart" in the Scripture and how we can be pure in heart. Allow Jesus' message to His disciples to encourage you to live consistently in God's Word, staying in fellowship through confession, and having your character transformed as you are being prepared to rule and reign in the Kingdom of God in the future.
Series:Matthew (2013)
Duration:39 mins 3 secs

How to be Happy - Part 5. Pure Hearts
Matthew 5:8
Matthew Lesson #022
February 9, 2014
www.deanbibleministries.org

The beatitudes are identified because they reflect certain core spiritual/ethical values that should characterize those who are qualified to richly inherit the kingdom. The richness of experience in the kingdom is identified by certain terms such as inheriting the kingdom, and in this passage the term entering the kingdom takes on a meaning which has to do with our rewards in the future, our future destiny to rule and reign with the Lord Jesus Christ. So the focus in Matthew 5, 6 and 7 is not on how to get into heaven soteriologically but how the person who is destined to be in the kingdom should live today in order to develop his capacity for life and for righteousness so that he is prepared to rule and reign with the Lord Jesus Christ in the future. This was given by the Lord Jesus Christ in terms of a contrast to the teaching of the Pharisees who taught a superficial form of righteousness, a form of righteousness that was based on simply and external observance of ritual and following certain traditions that had been developed over the previous four or five hundred years.

At the end of the seventy years of the Babylonian captivity the Babylonians were defeated by the Persians who gave a mandate by Cyrus for the Jews that they were authorized to return to the land. A small group returned under Zerubbabel and they began the process of reestablishing the temple. Over the coming centuries there was a concern on the part of the religious leaders that Israel not repeat the same sins that had caused the discipline to fall upon the nation in 586 BC. So starting in the period from the late 400s and into the 300s they began to develop additional regulations, what they viewed at that time as just additional principles that would protect people from breaking the Law of Moses. The Law of Moses had 613 commandments, but now these religious teachers began to establish new principles and regulations that operated a sort of fence around the original Law. The idea was that if they created this fence then people wouldn't break through that fence and, of course, they wouldn't break the Law which was inside that fence. They created these additional regulations that they treated as having the same authority, and even greater authority, than the Torah, the written Law given to Moses.

There was a belief that developed at this time among the rabbis that Moses was not only given the written Law, he was given an oral law and that this oral law which is not documented anywhere in Scripture was passed down through the priests and the prophets and eventually the rabbis over the centuries. That became the basis for the development of second temple Judaism and the theology of the Pharisees. They had added to the Scripture many hundreds of regulations that had nothing at all to do with the original intent of the Mosaic Law. They became codified by the early second century, approximately 100 years or so after Christ, by a Jewish rabbi know as Judah the Prince. That became known as the Mishnah. Although it wasn't written down and organized until about 100 years after Christ it reflected the "tradition of the fathers", a term used by Paul in Galatians and other places. The tradition of the fathers relates to these additional commandments and mandates that were added to the Mosaic Law during the period after the exile.

This led to a religious system of works, a system of superficial observance that dominated the Jewish religious thought in the first century. This is what Jesus going up against in Matthew chapter five. He is talking about the requirements of righteousness, what righteous living looks like. It is a matter of the heart, an internal reality; not just following some external, superficial regulations.

In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus is going back to the Old Testament and giving the correct and divine viewpoint interpretation of Old Testament teaching, and He is now applying it to the Jews of His generation with reference to this message to repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. They not only needed to have a change of mind but they also needed to have works, i.e. they needed to have obedience in their life that is consistent with that claim of repentance. Passages in the Old Testament emphasize this attitude.

Hosea 12:6 NASB "Therefore, return [shub] to your God, Observe kindness and justice [mental attitude], And wait for your God continually."

Micah 6:8 NASB "He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God?"

Hosea 6:6 NASB "For I delight in loyalty rather than sacrifice, And in the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings." Cf. 1 Samuel 15:22.

We have to keep those passage sin mind as we go to the next beatitude: Matthew 5:8 NASB  "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God."

We need to understand what it means to be pure in heart. Purity of heart in this context focuses on an internal spiritual integrity that is manifested in the inner life of the individual believer. In Matthew we are going to begin here and see increasingly through this Gospel the conflict between Jesus and the Pharisees who are emphasizing an external rule-oriented purity. Jesus rejects that external purity and focuses on the idea that this is to be an internal purity.

Mathew 9:13 NASB "But go and learn what this means: 'I DESIRE COMPASSION, AND NOT SACRIFICE,' for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners." Cf. Matthew 12:7.

One of the key passages which shows us this conflict between Jesus and the Pharisees is Matthew chapter twenty-three. This is the apex of Jesus' conflict with the Pharisees and comes just prior to His crucifixion and He is announcing various judgments on the Pharisees. These are exemplified through the woes. We just want to pick up high points in this passage.

Matthew 23:23 NASB "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others." 

They are hypocrites because they are emphasizing simply an external form of devotion to God which is in direct contradiction to the correct internal attitude. They have redefined giving and sacrifice and it doesn't reflect what God is looking for in terms of the heart. The weightier matters of the law (justice, mercy, faith) are neglected. What God is looking for even in the Old Testament is this internal focus on justice, righteousness, mercy and faith.

Matthew 23:24 NASB "You blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!" They are so concerned about observing the minutia of their traditions that in the process they are violating the whole intent of the Law.

Matthew 23:25 NASB "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence."

The picture He is using is of a used bowl or dish where you have already eaten and have all manner of food left in the dish and all you do is pick it up and wipe off the outside of the dish but don't clean the inside of the dish. The analogy that He is making is that in the external religion of the Pharisees and in numerous religious systems today that is all that is being done; there is an external change but there is no internal transformation of the heart.

Matthew 23:26 NASB "You blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also."

In other words, we have to be transformed from the inside out, not just externally. We have to have an internal transformation that then results in external transformation. It is not just a matter of the heart but a matter of a heart shift that leads to an external shift. He is not saying externals don't matter, He is saying the internal shift will necessarily result in some external shift.

Matthew 23:27 NASB "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness."

Now He changes the imagery to a grave. The outside of the grave is white, it looks good and is attractive; but inside it is rotten, there is corruption, dead men's bones.

Matthew 23:28 NASB "So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness." In this verse He returns to the same theme that He has in Matthew 5-7, that the righteousness that God is looking for for kingdom living is an internal righteousness, not an external righteousness.

In Matthew chapters 5-7 He is not talking about how to get imputed righteousness. The Pharisees don't understand righteousness, whether it is imputed or whether it is experiential. And that applies to both salvation and in terms of the spiritual life for sanctification. But the focus in Matthew 5-7 is on how to have imputed righteousness. It is not on how to get saved, it is on how a saved person should live in preparation for the coming kingdom.     

So He says, Matthew 5:8 NASB "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." The word that is used there for pure is the word KATHAROS, the noun form of the verb that we have in 1 John 1:9 – "cleanse". This is a word that is translated and used several times in Matthew 23 where it talks about cleansing the inside of the cup so that the outside will be clean as well. This is a term that is used throughout the Old Testament law in reference to being qualified to serve God. There has to be cleansing. There are two categories of cleansing. There is positional cleansing that comes at salvation, but then there is ongoing experiential cleansing that takes place every time we confess our sins. In Old Testament ritual every time they came into the tabernacle or the temple in order to worship God there had to be a sin offering and confession for ritual cleansing before they could serve God. What Jesus is talking about here goes even beyond that because He is not talking about those who are simply getting cleansed at confession but those who are staying in fellowship, those who have reached a status of being pure of heart. It is always important to look at the whole phrase in these beatitudes because He is talking about those who have reached a level of what we would say they are staying in fellowship more of the time than less of the time. He is not talking about just people who get back in fellowship.

There are a lot of people who sin and get back in fellowship, then they sin and are out of fellowship; they are spiritual yoyos. They are not staying in fellowship. We have these images in the New Testament where Jesus said: "Abide in me". Abide means to stay. We are to walk by the Holy Spirit. We are not to be shifting back and forth; that is the characteristic of an immature believer. We are talking about exhibiting the qualities of a mature believer who has learned how to walk by the Holy Spirit. So the emphasis here is not simply on getting back into fellowship but staying in fellowship, having a lifestyle that is based on an inner reality of ongoing fellowship with the Lord. This is what is being emphasized here in contrast to the Pharisaical idea of simply a life that is governed by external appearance.

The idea of heart here is also important. Heart is a term that refers to the inner life of an individual. The term as it is used in both the Old Testament and New Testament is a term that often refers to the thought life of a person, the intellectual life of a person, the thinking of a person. Often we think of heart in terms of emotion in our culture but even though it is used in reference to emotion a few times that is exceptional in both Old and New Testaments. Primarily it refers to the thought life of an individual. Sometimes it is simply an expression for the entirety of the inner life of a person. There are passages that utilize heart in this way. Matthew 5:28 NASB "but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart." So He is talking about heart attitudes. Matthew 6:21 NASB "for where your treasure is, there your heart [thinking] will be also." Matthew 9:4 NASB "And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, 'Why are you thinking evil in your hearts?'" By the way, this is one of those passage which tell us that you think in your heart. It is not talking about the physical heart that pumps blood. In Scripture it never refers to that, it always refers to what is going on between your ears.

Later in Matthew 12:34, 35 Jesus has a major confrontation with the Pharisees: NASB "You brood of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak what is good? For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart…" It refers to the thought life that is behind what is said with the mouth. "… The good man brings out of {his} good treasure what is good; and the evil man brings out of {his} evil treasure what is evil."

The real problem is an external worship without a heart change. Matthew 15:8 NASB "THIS PEOPLE HONORS ME WITH THEIR LIPS, BUT THEIR HEART IS FAR AWAY FROM ME." It is all external. This is a quote from Isaiah 29:13. That is true for a lot of believers; it is also true for a lot of unbelievers. They are focusing on externals, just a works religion.

In Isaiah 29:13 we see that this emphasis on purity of heart is not something that Jesus is just pulling out of thin air. He is showing that what He is saying has its root in Old Testament teaching. NASB "Then the Lord said, "Because this people draw near with their words And honor Me with their lip service, But they remove their hearts far from Me, And their reverence for Me consists of tradition learned {by rote,}". They are just going through the motions, going through religious activities, but there is no internal dependence upon God. There is a pseudo respect because it is taught by the commandments of men, not following the commandments of God.

The issue is heart attitude, which is the issue for the Christian life. After we are saved the issue is our ongoing walk with the Lord. It demands not just external observance but a shift in our thinking, a purity of heart that follows confession but also leads to a maximum time in fellowship where we are abiding in Him. Only when we are abiding on Christ, only when we are walking by the Spirit can we come to truly know God and to truly have intimate fellowship with God both here and in the future in terms of our position, our roles and responsibilities in the future kingdom and on into the eternal state. The difference between trusting in Christ as savior and truly knowing Christ or knowing God or seeing Him—seeing Him is not just walking by on the street and saying He, how are you, I know who you are, you are Jesus—has to do with intimate fellowship.

John 14:6 NASB "Jesus said to him, 'I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me'." This is a clear statement that salvation is by faith in Christ alone. 

Then He said to His disciples (Remember He has already cleansed the disciples by ejecting Judas the unbeliever from the crowd. He has eleven men in front of Him who are all believers, are already justified, and already have a secured destiny in heaven) who have spent three years with Him, listening to everything that He taught and having close physical fellowship with Him in many ways: [7] "If you had known Me …" Wait a minute. Don't they know Him after three years? They know Him at a superficial level but they don't have a rich fellowship with Him. "… you would have known My Father also …" What He is saying is that there are levels of intimacy and knowledge of Jesus and the Father that are the result of an ongoing walk with Him and growth to spiritual maturity. "… from now on you know Him, and have seen Him." This is indicating the fact that by having a relationship with Christ you have a relationship with the Father.

John 14:8 NASB "Philip said to Him, 'Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.'" Is Philip saved? Yes. Is Philip going to heaven? Yes. Is he justified? Yes. But he is like many believers: he really doesn't have a clue yet.                

John 14:9 NASB "Jesus said to him, 'Have I been so long with you, and {yet} you have not come to know Me, Philip? …'" That is the point Jesus is making. You can hang around church and take a lot of notes, but if you are not spending time in fellowship walking by the Spirit then you aren't deepening your intimate relationship with the Lord. That is where Philip was; that is whether the others were too. "… He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how {can} you say, 'Show us the Father'?"

The important thing about that verse is that He uses that phraseology to "see the Father". That phrase has to do not with justification; it has to do with a closer intimate relationship with God as the result of spiritual growth. This is what Jesus is indicating in Matthew 5:8. Happy are the pure in heart. That is those who are living consistently on the basis of the Word of God, walking closely in fellowship—"for they shall see God". They shall have a closer intimacy with God. Seeing God in Matthew 5:8 isn't into heaven. It is talking about when we are in the kingdom we will have closer fellowship and intimacy with the Lord than others do, because others have not qualified through their spiritual life to a closer relationship with God in heaven. So the closeness and development of our relationship here on earth will impact the closeness and intimacy of our fellowship when we are in heaven.

This is important to understand because as we build our understanding of the Sermon on the Mount Jesus again and again is emphasizing that what we do with our spiritual life today is important for the quality, for the depth, for the richness that we will experience when we come with the Lord in the kingdom. It is not just about having righteousness to spend eternity in heaven. It is not just about justification and settling on the destiny, it is also about the quality and richness of that experience after we are with the Lord.