Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Friday, 7 January 2022:
Genesis 5:1-3 — This is the book of the generations of Adam. When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God. Male and female he created them, and he blessed them and named them Man when they were created. When Adam had lived 130 years, he fathered a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth.
Immediately after discussing Cain’s lineage (chapter 4), Moses gives the account of Seth’s descendants, first reminding us that God created man (mankind) in the likeness of God, but Adam went on after the Fall to have children “in his own likeness.” (Genesis 5:3) After the Fall, mankind retained the likeness, or image, of God (Genesis 9:6; James 3:9), but a distorted and limited likeness due to the sinful nature inherited through Adam –
- Psalm 51:5 – Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. - Romans 3:23 – …for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…. - Romans 7:24-25 -- Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! - Romans 5:12-18 – Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned— for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come. But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. - 1 Corinthians 15:49 -- Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.
The descendants of Cain and Seth demonstrate two separate paths in life, one path which ultimately seeks to serve and honor self, and one path which seeks to serve and honor the LORD, to return to the right relationship with God (righteousness) which Adam and Eve rejected for sake of their lustful desires. Both Cain’s lineage and Seth’s lineage were corrupted by sin, but Seth’s family, in contrast to Cain’s family, stands out for its faithfulness to God. Both Cain and Seth had descendants named Enoch, but Seth’s Enoch knew it was more important to humbly serve, obey, and glorify God than to establish a legacy of his own in this world with a city named after himself (Genesis 5:24; 4:17). The Bible records that Enoch, like Moses after him, “walked with God” (Genesis 5:22, 24; Genesis 6:9), and Enoch, like the prophet Elijah, was rewarded by the LORD by immediately being translated into heaven (Genesis 5:24; 2 Kings 2:1–12a). Enoch’s story is one of the few direct allusions to eternal life with God in the Old Testament. In Seth’s line we also see Lamech who faithfully hoped for relief from the curse (Genesis 5:28-31) and Noah who will soon learn “found favor in the eyes of the LORD… a righteous man, blameless in his generation.” (Genesis 6:8, 9) What Lamech couldn’t fully understand in his day which has been revealed to us is only Jesus Christ can bring relief from the curse, only Jesus Christ can save us from our sin and restore our relationship with God which was broken by sin. In in our readings in Matthew today, Jesus begins His public ministry by explaining who can truly receive the blessings of God —
Matthew 5:3-11 — And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
Chapter 5 of Matthew begins with Jesus’ teaching what we call “The Beatitudes.” The Beatitudes are perhaps some of the most well-known verses within the Gospels but also arguably some of the most neglected and misapplied. Some secular scholars and liberal theologians have sought to coopt the Beatitudes as a great moral code for mankind, but the Beatitudes cannot be separated from their foundation, which is Jesus Christ, and still stand. As we will see, the Beatitudes have no value to the kingdoms of man. They were given specifically to the disciples as a guide for leading a devout and holy life as true disciples of Christ and Kingdom people. We should essentially seek to “be” these “attitudes,” to embody them and to live them out. However, growing into them is a life-long endeavor.
Jesus begins with “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven,” a statement which notably offers an immediate blessing rather than a future promise like most of the other beatitudes. The poor in spirit are those who recognize that, of themselves, they are spiritually bankrupt, with no righteousness at all of themselves. These are they who recognize their total depravity and total dependence on God. The poor in spirit who humbly accept God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ and place their trust in Him and Him alone are saved and enter into the Kingdom and eternal life immediately, not merely when they die – “And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” (John 17:3)
The only other beatitudes with immediate blessings rather than future promises are the last ones, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven,” and “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.” There is a clear connection between these beatitudes with immediate blessings:
Those who are “poor in spirit,” those who recognize their total dependence on God’s grace and mercy, are naturally merciful gracious to others. They don’t hope for others to get justice (what they have coming to them) while claiming grace for themselves; instead, they see themselves as stewards of God’s grace and ministers and messengers of reconciliation. Those who are poor in spirit live out the Lord’s Prayer – “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven…. Forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors.” (Matthew 6:10-12)
- Romans 5:8 — …while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
- Philippians 2:5-8 — Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
- 2 Corinthians 5:18-20 — All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.
The poor in spirit who are truly ‘amazed by grace’, who truly appreciate the value of the grace which they have received in Christ and who truly love others are compelled to share the Good News with others regardless the personal cost. These are they who are willing to surrender their personal ‘rights’ in relationships when offended that nothing would stand in the way of the Gospel – ambassadors for Christ rather than ambassadors for self. Jesus promised the poor in spirit would be persecuted because He was sending them out to reach sinners who would naturally sin against them — “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” (Matthew 10:16) Jesus made clear that only the poor in spirit who were ready to be persecuted in His name were truly His followers and citizens of the Kingdom — “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23)
Some translate the word “blessed” to mean “happy,” but happy doesn’t adequately capture the meaning, a point made even more obvious when you try to make sense out of ‘happy are those who mourn….’ And certainly, persecution doesn’t make us feel happy. Blessed here is more accurately described as the deep personal joy and fulfillment of experiencing the fellowship and favor of Christ as we live out our purpose of glorifying Him and enjoying Him through all circumstances – “But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.” (1 Peter 4:13-14)
Are you joyfully reaching out to hurtful people in loving hope that they might receive the Gospel through the power of the Holy Spirit?
At the end of Matthew 5, Jesus describes what the blessed life of a child of God looks like –
- Matthew 5: 43-48 — “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Children of God who are poor in spirit (of themselves) but rich in Christ love their enemies (genuinely) and pray for those who persecute them. This is a shocking love which only makes sense to those who truly appreciate the grace and unimaginable blessings they have received in Christ and who are filled with the Holy Spirit and the love of Christ. This sort of love is unnatural; it is supernatural, flowing from Christ, through us, to others as we serve as instruments of Christ – “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing…. Whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked…. Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling…. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. (John 15:5; 1 John 2:6; 1 John 2:10; 1 John 4:11, 12) Do you genuinely love your enemies? Are you praying for those who persecute you?
The Beatitudes provide a framework for the rest of Jesus’ teachings, and as we continue to read, I would encourage you to continuously cross-reference them. I pray that as you read these familiar verses, they would not get stuck in your head but would instead move to your heart through prayer and the power of the Holy Spirit.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) — 7 Jan 22: Today, use the Beatitudes as a guide for self-examination. “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? — unless indeed you fail to meet the test!” (2 Corinthians 13:5) Pray that the beatitudes will increasingly become your attitudes which drive your behavior and demonstrate to the world around you the power of the love and grace of Jesus Christ.