Sermon: Three Virtues
Scripture: Matthew 5:7-9
In this week’s lessons we look at three beatitudes that describe our Christian character, which other people must observe and experience.
Theme: A Turning Point
I was once speaking with one of my friends about the relationship of Christian teaching to Christian conduct. He wanted to write an article about how doctrine and devotion are related, and I agreed with his idea wholeheartedly. When it comes to Christian teaching, what you believe does affect how you live. And if it does not, something is terribly wrong spiritually.
Look at the book of Romans, for instance. Most New Testament scholars would agree that it is the most explicitly doctrinal book in the Bible, because it seeks to set forth the meaning of the gospel of Jesus Christ in terms of man’s enslavement to sin and God’s total emancipation of him through Christ. But the purpose of this statement of doctrine is not to admire the doctrine itself, but rather to live a holy life through the power of the living and reigning Christ. Thus, Paul writes, referring explicitly to the lengthy doctrinal sections:
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God (Rom. 12:1-2).
In the same way, the well-known passage in Philippians 2:5-11 is given so that we might show forth “the mind of Christ” in our conduct. In addition, the great chapter on the resurrection in 1 Corinthians concludes, “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Cor. 15:58). There are many other parallel passages. According to the Word of God, Christian doctrine must always express itself in a new outlook on life and changed conduct. What you believe must affect how you live.
It is the same in the Sermon on the Mount and even, in a general way, in the Beatitudes. We have already noticed in our study of the first four beatitudes that the order in which they occur is intentional. In one respect, all of the beatitudes describe the character of the Christian man; the man who possesses this divine and divinely given character (and only he) is instructed to live as the rest of the sermon indicates. Thus, an application follows verse twelve. In another respect, however, even the Beatitudes contain this development. The first three beatitudes show how a man must stand in his relation as a sinner to God—spiritually bankrupt, sorry for sin, and meekly humble. And from last week we saw that the fourth beatitude contains the promise of God’s provision of righteousness for the man who so comes to God. Given all this, it is logical to expect that the remaining beatitudes will reveal the transformed character of the one who has now been touched by Christ’s Spirit and is being progressively remade in Christ’s image.
What does the Bible teach about the connection between what we believe and how we live?
Describe the progression seen in the first four beatitudes.
Reflection: What evidences do you see of your life being consistent with what you believe? What areas might you need to work on?
Key Point: When it comes to Christian teaching, what you believe does affect how you live. And if it does not, something is terribly wrong spiritually.