Blessed by God! What is your reaction? My friend Mike always says, I’m blessed, doing better than I deserve. If we believe that, then the cover image should be just the beginning of our reaction when God says we are: Blessed! So it might just make your day to know what that really means! I hope so.
Blessed Are You
Most readers know I’ve been working on our next course for Pastor Training. Next month will be the first time we teach this course. And support from many of you is why I can put together an in-depth study of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). And I easily identify with that guy in the cover photo. I’ve jumped for joy several times as I’ve studied Jesus’ Sermon. So let me see if I can put you into that picture. I’m pretty sure you’ll also be jumping for joy by the end of this post.
Blessed: A Word Of Grace
Grace is a gift; that which is unearned. That point is necessary because some scholars believe Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount teaches a salvation of works. They teach that those who would be saved must strive for the qualities set forth in Jesus’ Sermon. But if that is true then there would be disagreement between Jesus and the Apostle Paul about salvation by grace. Notice Ephesians 2:8-9 –
It is by grace you are saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God, not by works, so that no one can boast.
Matthew 5:3 is the beginning of Jesus’ Sermon. And Jesus’ blessing is declared – and that’s important. Before the Sermon John the Baptist was preaching:
Repent for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand.
So in Jesus first ministry action in the New Testament, He is describing those who will be citizens of His new Kingdom. The King declared what Kingdom Citizens are – the nature of their character. And His first word was, Blessed.
Dig Out The Meaning
One section of the new website is going to be How to Study the Bible. This post will appear in that group of resources. So stay with me for a minute and you’ll see why.
What we see as Blessed is the Greek word makarios. Some recent versions of the Bible translate this happy or fortunate. The problem with that is how these words are used today. These definitions trivialize the real meaning of Jesus’ choice of words. Happiness is something we connect to our outward circumstances and/or our wants. But if those circumstances change we can quickly become unhappy. So it’s necessary to get to the bottom of the word: Blessed.
The root word of Makarios gives us what we need to know. It means:
Become long, large
Strong’s Concordance defines blessed as: supremely blest; by extension, fortunate, well off. The most ancient usages carry the idea of being prosperous. So what are we to make of that information? What was Jesus declaring His citizens to be? Are we all supposed to be millionaires? Some think so but they are incorrect.
Here’s how we apply what we learned. A person is blessed when/if God extends (become long, large) to them that which He is (a conferring of His qualities). Blessed describes a believer in the enviable (fortunate or prosperous) position of receiving God’s provisions (Divine favor) – which (literally) extend (make long, large) the benefits of His grace. This immediately brought Matthew 23:37 to my mind. Jesus cried out in prayer for Jerusalem, lamenting that He had desired to gather Jerusalem as a hen extends her wing over her chicks. And there’s something more!
Makarios is used of God. Paul was inspired by the Spirit to write in I Timothy 1:11 (emphasis added) –
According to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which was committed to my trust.
As noted above, God extends to us that which He is. We don’t earn it. It is declared to be true of genuine disciples of Jesus Christ.
The WHY Question
I’ve said it many times. We ought to always read the Bible with Why? on our minds. The question leads us to many discoveries. God the Son declared Kingdom Citizens to be blessed. And God’s Word carries the power to create what He says. Citizens receive this declaration of grace and it’s not random or lacking in reason. The answer is in what follows Jesus’ declaration:
The poor in spirit…
Looking into the word poor, we see these are people who are destitute of any spiritual value, standing, or worth. These are the people who understand their dire circumstance before a holy God. They have nothing, they bring nothing, and they ask nothing but mercy and forgiveness. Jesus’ first Beatitude is about what we don’t have rather than anything a person might bring. Therefore, whosoever will may come. The blessing is open to all who will seek and receive God’s forgiveness. And when forgiveness is received, the recipient is:
In Christ – new creation – old things are passed away and all things are made new.
We know that from 2 Corinthians 5:17. God’s word of grace-filled blessing powerfully re-creates. So makarios is being in right relationship to God. Those in that relationship know they are blessed even if they are unhappy during difficult circumstances. Nothing can take away God’s blessing of those who are in right relationship with Him.
The essence of Jesus’ declaration is: Life. I could leave it there, but I won’t. It just wouldn’t be complete. Here’s the path. The first stop is Genesis 2:7 –
God breathed into Adam and he became a living soul.
Second, Jesus is Life. We know this from John 1:4 and John 14:6. Notice:
In Him was life and that life was the light of men.
I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life, no man comes to the Father except by Me.
So makarios (the blessing) extends to us the gift of life (that which God is). If those steps of implication are challenging, let’s look at something that’s much more simple:
God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes on Him should not perish but have eternal life.
And now we have come full circle. We began by observing that Jesus declared us to be blessed. So I leave you with Matthew 4:4 –
Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.
Kingdom Citizens have life in His declared blessing (makarios). I’m ready to jump up and down all over again! How about you?