Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
September 22, 1960
NUMBER 20, PAGE 1,12-14a

Gospel Previews Or Previews Of The Kingdom

J. P. Lusby, Amarillo, Texas

(Author's Note: The title of this article and much of the material are based upon notes taken while listening to brother Foy E. Wallace, Jr., preach on the subject at Olsen Park, Texas, July 2, 1957.)

The sermon on the mount is a preview of the principles of the gospel which the apostles were sent to preach in the great commission. The beatitudes form an introduction to the sermon; they constitute a synopsis of it. We must consider the sermon in the light of the New Testament.

Its purpose was not simply to present a moral code, a code of ethics, but to present doctrine. "And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine: For he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes." (Matt. 7:28, 29) It ties right in with the great commission. The sermon on the mount closes with a statement of authority; the great commission begins with one. It is not provisional, but permanent. Therefore, it is applicable now.

Some deny the personal teaching of Christ is now applicable unless it was repeated by the apostles. They say the four gospels are not part of the New Covenant. Well, they are not part of the law of Moses. Where do they classify?

Jesus said to the apostles in the great commission: "Teaching them (baptized believers) to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you." (Matt. 28:20) He promised them that when the Holy Spirit came, he would guide them into "all truth" and bring "all things" to their remembrance, whatsoever he said unto them. (Jno. 16:13; 14:26) The "all truth" of John 16 is the "all things" of John 14 and is what the Lord charged the apostles to teach baptized believers to observe in Matthew 28. It is contained in "the words" which Christ received from the Father and gave unto the apostles. Jno. 17:8)

Premillennialists would make the great commission provisional, an interlocutory decree. God found fault with the first covenant and made it old. (Heb. 8:7-13) If there had not been fault with the first, there would not have been place for the second. There cannot be a third unless there is fault with the second. We would like for some premillennialist to tell us what is wrong with the second. The New Testament says it is perfect. (Jas. 1:25) Therefore, it is permanent, and shall continue unto the end of the world. (Matt. 28:18-20) We must consider the sermon on the mount in the light of the New Covenant.

We must consider it in the light of the mission of the Son of God. His purpose and mission were announced by John the Baptist. "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world." (Jno. 1:29)

Sin is the barrier that separates man from God. "Behold ....your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear." (Isa. 59:1, 2) Jesus came to "seek and to save" the lost — the world — both Jew and Gentile. (Lk. 19:10) The incarnation was simply God bending to man. Jesus came to reveal the scheme of human redemption. From the "mount of beatitudes" he gave some gospel previews, some previews of the kingdom of heaven.

We must consider it, therefore, in the light of the nature of his kingdom. Some want to use violent methods in making him king. But the kingdom did not come with violence. (Jno. 6:15; Matt. 11:12) It is spiritual in nature. (Lk. 17:20, 21; Jno. 18:36; Rom. 14:17)

The First Beatitude

"Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."

The poor man refers to what a man has. The poor in spirit refers to what a man is, the attitude he possesses. Wealth ofttimes produces a pecuniary attitude. It causes its possessor to feel no dependence upon anybody or anything. The poor in spirit is right opposite to that. He feels his dependence on God.

The "poor in spirit" is a fool. The prophet said: "And an highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called The Way of holiness; the unclean shalt not pass over it; but it shall be for those: the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein." (Isa. 35:8) The "way" and the "highway" are the same. The "wayfaring men" and the "fools" are the same. The fool of Isaiah is the same as Paul mentioned: "Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise." (1 Cor. 3:18-20) In chapters one and two, Paul sets forth what God thinks of the wisdom of this world. In the first seven verses of chapter two, he declares that his preaching was not with "enticing words of man's wisdom" — that he spoke not "the wisdom of this world," but "the wisdom of God." Therefore, "no flesh should glory in his presence," but "according as it is written,. He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord." (1 Cor. 1:29, 31) It is God's wisdom versus human philosophy. If a man thinks himself to be wise in this world, let him lay aside his human philosophy and human wisdom and become a fool — i.e., recognize he cannot guide himself, but must depend upon God for guidance. "0 Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps." (Jer. 10:23)

That is the fool of 1 Corinthians 3 and Isaiah 35 — and the poor man of this beatitude.

"Theirs is the kingdom of heaven" — the blessings of the kingdom they shall possess.

The Second Beatitude

"Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted."

This refers not to those who mourn over losses, even of loved ones. It refers not to losses of material possessions. All of that is too material. If it refers to time, then time would be the great healer. That is too trite for the sermon on the mount.

Blessed are they who mourn over their own sinful condition and the sinful state of man, for "they shall be comforted." How? By the blessings of the gospel. Christ came to take away "the sin of the world." (Jno. 1:29) This he does by the gospel. (Rom. 1:16, 17)

"Comforted" is the same as the blessing of the previous beatitude, and is the "rest" of Matt. 11:28-30, "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." This invitation is to "all" that are heavy laden, not to the Jews alone. Neither is it repeated by an apostle. It is a universal invitation and finds its fulfillment in the kingdom of God. Any position that rules out this, the greatest of all invitations, is an unscriptural, not to say anti-scriptural, position, By the blessings of the glad tidings of the gospel, they shall be comforted. Remember, the beatitudes are simply previews of the gospel.

The Third Beatitude

"Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth."

Who are the meek? They are not the Casper Milquetoast denizens of earth. They are not those who have no more backbone than a wet noodle. Moses the meek man was Moses the fighting man.

"To be meek is not necessarily to be weak or timid, for meekness has been characteristic of very strong natures, faithful to affection or righteousness through all danger, even to death." (English Synonyms and Antonyms, by James C. Fernald.)

'One is meek who is patient under provocation, or whose spirit has been schooled to mildness by discipline or suffering." (Webster's Unabridged Dictionary under "gentle.")

Meekness is "equanimity of spirit that is neither elated nor cast down. " (Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, by W. E. Vine.)

Meekness is equanimity of spirit, equilibrium of mind, balance of attitude — full and complete mastery of all of one's faculties, especially under trial or provocation for righteousness' sake. The meek man is like the captain at the helm of his ship in a storm. He has complete control of the ship. Jesus knew his disciples would be subjected to the pressures of and would have to stand against the Jewish unbelieving world on the one hand and the heathen infidelity on the other, and they would need all their faculties to endure and overcome.

"They shall inherit the earth" does not mean they shall hold title to all the real estate of earth. The meek shall inherit the earth in their teaching. God set Jeremiah over the nations in his teaching. (Jer. 1:10) Paul said, "The saints shall judge the world." How? By their teaching. It is not an earthly rulership that is promised, but the meek would inherit the earth by filling it with their teaching. Their teaching would cover the earth as the waters cover the sea. (Compare Isa. 11:9)

The Fourth Beatitude

"Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled."

What is righteousness? Whatever it is, it must exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees. "For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven." (Matt. 5:20) This does not refer to our giving more than a tenth. If it does, then tithing plus is the condition of entering the kingdom. Jesus was not speaking of a difference in degree, but in kind.

Paul speaks of the "righteousness of God" revealed in the gospel of Christ. (Rom. 1:17) To this righteousness the Jews failed to submit because of their ignorance of it. (Rom. 10:2, 3) Therefore, they failed of justification.

God's righteousness is God's justification, his forgiveness. The law furnished no justification; it provided no forgiveness. The Jews were ignorant of this fact, therefore, they did not submit to the gospel, but went about to establish their own system of righteousness. The gospel system of righteousness is better than theirs.

"They which do hunger and thirst after righteousness" are those who realize their lost condition, their separation from God, and their need for the gospel.

Jesus instructed his disciples not to cast their pearls before the swine. (Matt. 7:6) Why? Lest they turn on you and rend you. This country illustration is designed to teach us that we cannot force the gospel on people or coerce men into receiving it. We must show a man that he is sinful and separated from God, on the one hand, and the offerings of God in the gospel, on the other, which he cannot receive from the law or any other source, and he is ready to be filled.

"They shall be filled" — their desires shall be complemented in the kingdom, by the gospel.

The Fifth Beatitude

"Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy."

God saves us by his mercy. "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost." (Tit. 3:5)

Chart Goes Here God Saved Us

Not By But By

(What?) (What?)

Works Baptism

"According To His Mercy"

All scholars of repute agree that the "washing of regeneration" refers to water baptism. Paul affirms that God saves us. He saves us, not by works, but by baptism. This is how God saves us according to his mercy. Baptism is not what we do for ourselves, but what God does for us. It is how God saves us by his mercy.

A merciful attitude on my part is necessary in order that I might become a recipient of divine mercy. It is a reciprocal attitude.

Frequently it is said of Christ that he had compassion. My condition of heart must be such in order to obtain mercy.

"They shall obtain mercy." They shall receive the pardon and blessings of God, through the gospel and in the kingdom. Christ is setting forth gospel previews, previews of the kingdom!

The Sixth Beatitude

"Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God."

This has to do with vision — singleness of vision, clearness of mind. It is opposed to double vision, vision that is blurred, characteristic of one who does not see straight or clearly, one who is walking in the darkness of superstition and ignorance. Jesus said: "The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness l" The pure in heart are those who have a right conception of the truth, a clear understanding of the truth.

"Where there is no vision, the people perish." (Prov. 29:18) There is a misuse of this passage by men today. They apply it to our own foresight, imagination, and planning. This shows a misapprehension of the language. Consider the contrast: "Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he." "Vision" means divine revelation. Of apostate Zion, Inspiration wrote: "Her gates are sunk into the ground; he hath destroyed and broken her bars: her king and her princes are among the Gentiles: the law is no more; her prophets also find no vision from the Lord." (Lam. 2:9) Nathan spoke unto David "according to all these words, and according to all this vision." (1 Chron. 17:15) Of the acts and goodness of King Hezekiah, the record states: "Behold, they are written in the vision of Isaiah the prophet...." (2 Chron. 32:32) The book of Isaiah records "the vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah....and Hezekiah, kings of Judah." (Isa. 1:1) Concerning false prophets, the Lord said unto Jeremiah: "The prophets prophesy lies in my name they prophesy unto you a false vision." (Jer. 14:14) To the people, God, through Jeremiah, said: "Hearken not unto the words of the prophets that prophesy unto you: they make you vain: they speak a vision of their own heart, and not out of the mouth of the Lord." (Jer. 23:16) These passages are sufficient to show the sense in which "vision" is used, Prov. 29:18 is an inspired answer to the question sometimes raised: "What will become of the heathen who have never heard the gospel or who have no access to the revealed word of God?" God, through the writer of Proverbs, said they perish. Men are sinners, therefore lost. The revelation of heaven is the means of their salvation.

This passage also sets forth the fact that divine revelation is valueless unless men learn it and obey it. Therefore, to be blessed of God, one must not only have an accurate understanding of the law God has made known, but he must bow in humble obedience to that law.

Without divine revelation, people perish. Without a correct understanding of divine revelation, people perish. Without obedience to divine revelation, people perish. This is the meaning of Prov. 29:18.

With this view of the passage, consider Hos. 4:6: "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge " They had access to the knowledge of Jehovah, but rejected it. The former (Prov. 29:18) perish for lack of vision; the latter (Hos. 4:6) were destroyed for lack of knowledge. Perished — destroyed; vision — knowledge. They perished for lack of an accurate conception of what the prophets taught.

The same is true in Matt. 5:8. We must have a true and accurate perception of the truth or we cannot come into relation with God. There is no way apart from truth. "And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." (Jno. 8:32)

"They shall see God." They shall enter covenant relationship with him, possess his kingdom and enjoy its blessings. They shall become heirs, members of one body, partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel. 1 Cor. 2:9-13; Eph. 3:1-16)

The Seventh Beatitude

"Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God."

Let us keep constantly in mind the mission of Jesus as set forth by John the Baptist: "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world."

The peacemaker of this passage is not one who makes peace between two men who are quarreling and fighting, or even between nations at war, even though this is commendable in both instances and much to be desired. But the peacemaker of this passage is the peace-preacher. "How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!" (Rom. 10:15) Although the Roman passage refers to inspired proclaimers of the gospel of peace, the Matthew passage is not restricted, but has to do with the disciples in general. The peacemakers are those who preach peace between God and man, to them afar off and to them that are nigh. (Eph. 2:11-22)

Anybody who shows the way is the peacemaker of this passage, the peace-preacher.

"They shall be called the children of God" — because they themselves have obeyed the gospel of peace which they preach, and are following the Prince of Peace.

The Eighth Beatitude

'Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."

The persecution may be of a silent rather than of a violent nature. There may be no publicity. Those upon whom it comes may be obscure, and remain unknown. The scorn and contempt heaped upon those who stand for the truth, the gospel, his name's sake, which they have espoused, is persecution for righteousness' sake.

The compensation: "Theirs is the kingdom of heaven."

This beatitude closes with the same promise as the first.

These are gospel previews, previews of the kingdom. The sermon on the mount closed with a statement of authority; the great commission began with one. The two merge in the gospel.