December 14th, 2014
“Emmanuel’s Kingdom – Pt 7”
Service Orientation: Purity of heart is to will one thing. Imagine what it would be like to be pure in heart. Imagine what it would be like to see God. If we trust in Christ, these unimaginable delights can be ours.
Bible Memory Verse for the Week: Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. — Matthew 5:8
Here is one of those passages of Scripture whose depths are immeasurable and whose breadth is impossible to encompass. This incredible statement of Jesus is among the greatest utterances in all of the Bible.
The subject of holiness, of purity of heart, can be traced from Genesis to Revelation. The theme is infinitely vast and touches on virtually every other biblical truth. It is impossible to exhaust its meaning or significance, and the discussion in this chapter is nothing more than introductory. (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 199)
- You cannot choose which beatitudes you want to be true of your life, and leave the others to one side. The Beatitudes come as a whole, not as a series of options. Every Christian is intended to show every grace. One beatitude flows into the next, as we have already seen: the poor in spirit mourn for their sins, and as a result are marked by the meekness of those who know the truth about themselves in the presence of God. Such men and women hunger and thirst for righteousness, and receive it. Since they have been filled only because of the Lord’s mercy to them, they become merciful to others. (Sinclair Ferguson, The Sermon on the Mount, 35-6)
- The word “pure” occurs 28 times in the NT, and ten times it is translated “clean.” Used of linen, it means white linen; of gold, unalloyed gold; of glass, clear glass. Two meanings are perhaps dominant–rightness of mind and singleness of motive. (George Buttrick, The Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. 7, 285)
- Heart translates kardia, from which we get cardiac and similar terms. Throughout Scripture, as well as in many languages and cultures throughout the world, the heart is used metaphorically to represent the inner person, the seat of motives and attitudes, the center of personality. But in Scripture it represents much more than emotion, feelings. It also includes the thinking process and particularly the will. In Proverbs we are told, “As [a man] thinketh in his heart, so is he” (Prv 23:7, KJV). Jesus asked a group of scribes, “Why are you thinking evil in your hearts?” (Mt 9:4; cf. Mk 2:8; 7:21). The heart is the control center of mind and will as well as emotion. (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 202)
- Here, as in the preceding Beatitudes, the word “they” is emphatic: “for they [they alone] will see God.” And as with the other Beatitudes, the future is in immediate reference to what goes before. They will see God as they become pure in heart. And the seeing is continuous. (R. Kent Hughes, The Sermon on the Mount, 57)
The questions to be answered are . . . What does pure in heart mean? So what? How does one become pure in heart? What is the big deal about seeing God?
Answers: Purity of heart is to will one thing . . . loving God. We will never find peace, we will never be able to be righteous, we will never become what we were created and designed to become until or unless we find purity of heart. Purity of heart is a gift from God that comes when the soil of our hearts has been properly prepared to receive it. When we are pure in heart Jesus reveals that we will see God. To see God is the ultimate in experiences. It either overwhelms you to ultimate ecstasy or destroys you depending on your purity of heart.
The Word for the Day is . . . Catharsis
Webster’s = 1: A purification that brings about spiritual renewal or release from tension (the catharsis of tears) 2: Release from an emotional problem through expression of its unconscious basis [Greek katharsis, from kathairein “to purge”, from katharos “pure”.
Pure translates katharos, a form of the word from which we get catharsis. The basic meaning is to make pure by cleansing from dirt, filth, and contamination. Catharsis is a term used in psychology and counseling for a cleansing of the mind or emotions. (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 204)
Four questions we need to answer concerning purity of heart:
- What does pure in heart mean? Answer: It is to will one thing. To love the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our mind, with all our soul and with all our strength. (Dt 4:29; 6:5; 10:12, 16; 11:13; 13:3; 26:16; 30:2, 6, 10; Josh 22:5; 23:14; 1 Sm 12:20, 24; Prv 3:5-6; 4:4; Jer 29:13; Mt 6:24; 22:37; Mk 12:30; Col 3:23; 2 Tm 2:22; 1 Pt 1:22)
We must keep this squarely in mind because it is normally supposed that “pure” as in “pure in heart” primarily refers to being pure in mind regarding matters of sensuality. It certainly includes these matters. But the idea cannot be so limited, for it goes far deeper. Here in the sixth Beatitude it means a heart that does not bring mixed motives and divided loyalties to its relationship with God. It is a heart of singleness in devotion to God–pure, unmixed devotion. (R. Kent Hughes, The Sermon on the Mount, 55)
To be pure in heart, in other words, means to keep “the first and great commandment,” which is that “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.” (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 95)
The “pure in heart” of Ps 73:1 are those who in all sincerity are guided by “God’s counsel” (v. 24). The faith unfeigned of 1 Tm 1:5 adheres to “sound doctrine” (v. 10). And the people to whom Peter refers (1 Pt 1:22) are those who have purified their souls “in obedience to the truth.”
It is clear, therefore, that the blessing of the sixth beatitude is not pronounced without qualification upon all people who are sincere, but rather upon those who, in the worship of the true God in accordance with the truth revealed in his Word, strive without hypocrisy to please and glorify him. These, these alone, are “the pure in heart.” They worship God “in spirit and truth” (Jn 4:24) and love to dwell on and practice the virtues mentioned in 1 Cor 13; Gal 5:22, 23; Eph 4:32; 5:1; Phil 2:1-4; 4:8, 9; Col 3:1-17; etc. Their heart, the very mainspring of dispositions as well as of feelings and thoughts (Mt 15:19; 22:37; Eph 1:18; 3:17; Phil 1:7; 1 Tm 1:5), is in tune with the heart of God. (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Matthew, 277)
(i) Originally it (pure) simply meant clean, and could, for instance, be used of soiled clothes which have been washed clean.
(ii) It is regularly used for corn which has been winnowed or sifted and cleansed of all chaff. In the same way it is used of an army which has been purged of all discontented, cowardly, unwilling and inefficient soldiers, and which is a force composed solely of first-class fighting men.
(iii) It very commonly appears in company with another Greek adjective–akēratos. Akēratos can be used of milk or wine which is unadulterated with water, or of metal which has in it no tinge of alloy.
So, then, the basic meaning of katharos is unmixed, unadulterated, unalloyed. That is why this beatitude is so demanding a beatitude. It could be translated: Blessed is the man whose motives are always entirely unmixed, for that man shall see God. (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 106)
As we look at Scripture we discover six kinds of purity. One may be called primal purity, the kind that exists only in God. That purity is as essential to God as light is to the sun or wetness is to water.
Another form of purity is created purity, the purity that existed in God’s creation before it was corrupted by the Fall. God created the angels in purity and He created man in purity. Tragically, some of the angels and all of mankind fell from that purity.
A third kind of purity is positional purity, the purity we are given the moment we trust in Jesus Christ as Savior. When we trust in Him, God imputes to us Christ’s own purity, Christ’s own righteousness. “To the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness” (Rom 4:5; cf. Gal 2:16). From that day the Father sees us just as He sees the Son, perfectly righteous and without blemish (2 Cor 5:21; Heb 9:14).
Fourth, imputed purity is not just a statement without substance; with imputed purity God grants actual purity in the new nature of the believer (Rom 6:4-5; 8:5-11; Col 3:9-10; 2 Pt 1:3). In other words, there is no justification without sanctification. Every believer is a new creation (2 Cor 5:17). Paul affirms that when a believer sins, it is not caused by the pure new self, but by sin in the flesh (Rom 7:17, 19-22, 25).
Fifth, there is practical purity. This, of course, is the hard part, the part that does require our supreme effort. Only God possesses or can possess primal purity. Only God can bestow created purity, ultimate purity, positional purity, and actual purity. But practical purity, though it too comes from God, demands our participation in a way that the other kinds of purity do not. That is why Paul implores, “Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Cor 7:1). It is why Peter pleads, “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy” (1 Pt 1:14-16).
We are not saved just for future heavenly purity but also for present earthly purity. At best it will be gold mixed with iron and clay, a white garment with some black threads. But God wants us now to be as pure as we can be. If purity does not characterize our living, we either do not belong to Christ, or we are disobedient to Him. We will have temptations, but God will always provide a way of escape (1 Cor 10:13). We will fall into sin, but “if we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 Jn 1:9).
Finally, for believers there will also one day be ultimate purity, the perfected purity that God’s redeemed people will experience when they are glorified in His presence. All sins will be totally and permanently washed away, and “we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him just as He is” (1 Jn 3:2). (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 206-7)
- So what? Answer: Purity of heart is cathartic. We will never find peace, we will never be able to be righteous, we will never become what we were created and designed to become until or unless we become pure in heart. Which means purging ourselves of the corruption, pollution and depravity that defines fallen humanity in its natural state (Gn 6:5; Ps 17:15; 24:1-6; 51:4-17; 73:1; 86:11; Prv 11:3; 20:9; 22:11; Jer 17:9-10; Mt 12:34; 15:19; 23:25-28; Mk 7:15, 21; Rom 2:5; 3:9-20; 7:15, 21, 25; Gal 5:16; 1 Cor 7:35; Phil 2:15; 1 Tm 1:5; 2 Tm 2:21-22; Ti 1:15; Rv 21:22-27)
If the eye is not sound, the entire body will be in darkness (Mt 6:23). Ulterior motives divide the heart. (Robert H. Mounce, New International Biblical Commentary: Matthew, 40)
Cleanness of heart brings clearness of vision. We should note that throughout the Sermon, and indeed throughout His ministry, Jesus by-passed the external ritual purity of the Pharisees and insisted on inward purity (Lk 11:39). (J. Oswald Sanders, Bible Studies in Matthew’s Gospel, 27)
There is a tension underlying false discernment, an anxiety that pressures the mind to make a judgment. True discernment emerges out of a tranquil and pure heart, one that is almost surprised by the wisdom and grace in the voice of Christ. Remember, our thoughts will always be colored by the attitudes of our hearts. Jesus said, “The mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart” (Mt 12:34). He also said, “Out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts” (Mk 7:21). Again He said, “the pure in heart…shall see God” (Mt 5:8). From the heart the mouth speaks, the eyes see, and the mind thinks. In fact, Prv 4:23 (NKJV) tells us to diligently guard our hearts for “out of [the heart] spring the issues of life.”
Life, as we perceive it, is based upon the condition of our heart. This is very important because the gifts of the Spirit must pass through our hearts before they are presented to the world around us. In other words, if our hearts are not right, the gifts will not be right either.
When the heart has unrest it cannot hear from God. Therefore, we must learn to mistrust our judgment when our heart is bitter, angry, ambitious or harboring strife for any reason. The Scriptures tell us to “let the peace of Christ rule [act as arbiter] in [our] hearts” (Col 3:15). To hear clearly from God, we must first have peace. (Francis Frangipane, The Three Battlegrounds, 81-2)
It is one of the simple facts of life that we see only what we are able to see; and that is true not only in the physical sense; it is also true in every other possible sense. (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 107)
Purity of heart cleanses the eyes of the soul so that God becomes visible. One sign of an impure heart is ignorance, because sin obscures the truth (Jn 3:19-20). Evil and ignorance come in a package. Other signs of an impure heart are self-centeredness (Rv 3:17), pleasure in sin (2 Tm 3:4), unbelief (Heb 3:12), and hatred of purity (Mic 3:2). Those who belong to God exchange all of those things for integrity and purity. (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 208)
God’s will is the very definition of what is good, pleasing, and perfect. The good is the will of God. The pleasing is the will of God. The perfect is the will of God. The will of God is nothing less than his character, shaped into laws for our conduct. We can never change that. It is the summum bonum. But we can discover his will in its marvelous breadth and beauty. His commands are never burdensome (1 Jn 5:3). But they need to be practiced in order fully to demonstrate their liberating character. (Philip Graham Ryken, Give Praise to God A Vision for Reforming Worship, 349)
It is very seldom indeed that we do even our finest actions from absolutely unmixed motives. If we give generously and liberally to some good cause, it may well be that there lingers in the depths of our hearts some contentment in basking in the sunshine of our own self-approval, some pleasure in the praise and thanks and credit which we will receive. If we do some fine thing, which demands some sacrifice from us, it may well be something heroic in us and that we may regard ourselves as martyrs. Even a preacher at his most sincere is not altogether free from the danger of self-satisfaction in having preached a good sermon. (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 106)
To those who submit gladly to the truth of God about themselves as sinners, and about Christ as the Savior, and about the Holy Spirit as the Sanctifier, and about God the Father as Creator–to them sex and food are sanctified. That is, they are pure. They are not unclean idols competing for our affections, which belong supremely to God. They are instead pure partners in the revelation of God’s glory. They are beams of his goodness along which the pure in heart see God (Mt 5:8). (John Piper, When I Don’t Desire God, 189)
Integrity, the saying goes, begins with “I.” It starts with the day-in, day-out ways in which you and I interact with customers and employees, with patients and clients, with bosses and boards of directors. In noting the common root of the words integrity and integer (or whole number), author Warren Wiersbe observes, “A person with integrity is not divided (that’s duplicity) or merely pretending (that’s hypocrisy). He or she is ‘whole’; life is ‘put together.’ and things are working together harmoniously. People with integrity have nothing to hide and nothing to fear. Their lives are open books.” (Lee Strobel; God’s Outrageous Claims, 45)
Why is it that we cannot see God’s being? Some would say that this is basically an ontological problem, that is, that God is a spirit. He has no mass, no form to behold, and we as creatures do not have the strength of vision to see the invisible being of God. However, the reason provided for us in Scripture is not a problem with our optic nerves. Our inability to see God is not a deficiency in our eyes but a deficiency in our hearts. God will not allow Himself to be seen by those who are impure.
This is not just a particular issue of impurity that may be in our hands or on our lips; it is an impurity in the very core of our being. If there is one impurity there, the direct vision of God is denied us. (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 87)
Like Scripture writers, Augustine thinks of the heart not just as the seat of emotion or desire but also as the governing center of a human being–the human being at his center, at his core, considered in his fundamental orientation. From the heart “flow the springs of life” (Prv 4:23). Hence, in Scripture, integrity is a pure heart (Mt 5:8); where integrity is lacking, it is the heart that is “perverse” and “devious above all else” (Jer 17:9). Accordingly, when Paul wants to describe the source of our new power, love, and integrity, he testifies that Jesus Christ has taken up residence at the governing center of human lives: he “dwells in our hearts” (Eph 3:17). Depending on its orientation, then, the fact that “the heart wants what it wants” may be our shame or our salvation. (Augustine, The City of God, 14.13) (Cornelius Plantinga, Jr., Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be, 62-3)
Those who truly belong to God will be motivated to purity. Psalm 119 is the classic illustration of that longing, and Rom 7:15-25 is the Pauline counterpart. The deepest desire of the redeemed is for holiness, even when sin halts the fulfillment of that desire. (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 204)
James warned double-minded people to purify their hearts (Jas 4:8). Failure to find the wholeness to which Jesus invited people results from trying to face in two directions at once, from trying to gain the benefits of conflicting loyalties. That is double-mindedness. It conjures up a picture of straddling the fence.
- Stanley Jones says that people’s spiritual failures result form being inwardly divided. In The Christ of the Mount (p. 200), he lists nine expressions of human dividedness that Jesus pointed out:
(1) You do your beautiful religious acts with divided motives–you give to God, but also “to be seen of men” (6:1-4).
(2) You pray in two directions–to be heard of God and to be overheard of people (6:5-15).
(3) You fast with divided purpose–you do it before God and yet you hope that people will give you credit for being abstemious (6:16-18).
(4) You try to lay up treasure in two directions–upon earth and in heaven (6:19-21).
(5) You see in two directions–your outlook is divided (6:22-23).
(6) You are trying to be loyal in two directions–trying to serve God and mammon(6:24).
(7) You are anxious in two directions–toward what you shall eat and drink and be clothed with, and also toward the kingdom of God (6:25-34).
(8) You are criticizing in two directions–toward your sister or brother with rather heavy emphasis and toward yourself rather lightly (7:1-5).
(9) You are giving yourself–giving yourself to God and also giving that holy thing called personality to the dogs of appetite and the swine of desire (7:6). (Jason Martin; The Sermon on the Mount, 130)
The vision of God, even in that incipient and imperfect form which is possible upon earth, is the one thing that will calm our distractions, that will supply our needs, that will lift our lives to a level of serene power and blessedness, unattainable by any other way. Such a sight will dim all the dazzling illusions of earth, as, when the sun leaps into the heavens, the stars hide their faces and faint into invisibility. It will make us lords of ourselves, masters of the world, kings over time and sense and the universe. Everything will be different when “earth is crammed with heaven, and every common bush afire with God.” That is what is possible for a Christian holding fast by Jesus Christ, and in Him having communion with the Father and the Holy Spirit. (Alexander MacLaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture, St. Matthew 1-8, 160)
When the Apostle Paul, describing the man who is a new creature in Christ, says that “old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Cor 5:17), he is speaking of the new disposition of the Christian’s heart, which is wholly unlike his inner disposition prior to the Holy Spirit’s work of regeneration. (Arthur W. Pink, The Beatitudes and the Lord’s Prayer, 44)
In one sense, of course, the demands of the kingdom do not change: perfection is always required (5:48). But from this it follows that the disciple of Jesus who looks forward to the kingdom as it will be finally perfected, is already determined to prepare for it. Knowing himself to be in the kingdom already, he is concerned with purity because he recognizes that the King is pure, and the kingdom in its perfected form will admit only purity. (D. A. Carson, Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, 26-7)
Purity or cleanliness was an important religious theme in Jesus’ day. Observing all the OT laws of being clean could bypass the most important purity of all, purity of the heart. Jesus declares here that a pure heart is what produces external purity, not vice versa (e.g., 15:1-19). In this beatitude Jesus continues an important OT theme in which a pure heart describes a person whose single-minded loyalty to God affects every area of life. (Michael J. Wilkins, The NIV Application Commentary: Matthew, 209)
III. How does one become pure in heart? Answer: You don’t by yourself! Because of the depravity of your heart you can only prepare your heart to receive God’s work as only the holy, righteous and pure God of the Universe can give you a pure heart. (1 Sm 10:9; Ps 51:4-17; Prv 4:23; Jer 4:4; 7:3-7; 13:23; 31:31-34; 32:39; Ez 11:19; 36:25-26; Mt 23:26; Jn 3:6; 13:10-11; 15:3; Acts 15:9; Rom 1:21; 2 Cor 7:1; 11:2-3; Eph 2:7; Phil 2:13; 1 Tm 3:9; 2 Tm 2:22; Ti 2:11-14; 3:5; Heb 10:22; Jas 1:27; 4:4-8; 1 Jn 1:9; 3:1-3)
The pure in heart are the single-minded, who are free from the tyranny of a divided self, and who do not try to serve God and the world at the same time. From such it is impossible that God should hide Himself. (R.V.G. Tasker, The Gospel According to St. Matthew, 62)
The only way in which we can have a clean heart is for the Holy Spirit to enter into us and to cleanse it for us. Only His indwelling and working within can purify the heart, and He does it by working in us “both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” Paul’s confidence was this, that “he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 98)
The only true religion, however, is heart religion, which is based on God’s implanted purity. By faith in what God has done through His Son, Jesus Christ, “we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace” (Eph 1:7). When God imputes His righteousness to us He imputes His purity to us. (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 206)
The Biblical balance is: I must do everything I can and still realize that it is not enough; only God can make my heart pure (cf. Rom 11:7 and Eph 2:7a). (R. Kent Hughes, The Sermon on the Mount, 59)
The impure heart is not simply unclean; it is undecided and divided. It is characteristic of the man James describes as “double-minded” (Jas 1:8; 4:8) and, therefore, unstable in all his ways.
The Danish theologian-philosopher Søren Kierkegaard expressed Jesus’ meaning well in the title of one of his books: Purity of heart is to will one thing. To be pure in heart is to be uncompromisingly dedicated to Christ! This is the way truly to see (or “know”) God. (Sinclair Ferguson, The Sermon on the Mount, 37)
Because it is the heart which must be pure, this beatitude interrogates us with awkward questions like these: What do you think about when your mind slips into neutral? How much sympathy do you have for deception, no matter how skillful? For shady humor, no matter how funny? To what do you pay consistent allegiance? What do you want more than anything else? What and whom do you love? To what extent are your actions and words accurate reflections of what is in your heart? To what extent do your actions and words constitute a cover-up for what is in your heart? (D. A. Carson, Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, 26)
I know of only two alternatives to hypocrisy: perfection or honesty. Since I have never met a person who loves the Lord our God with all her heart, mind, and soul, and loves her neighbor as herself, I do not view perfection as a realistic alternative. Our only option, then, is honesty that leads to repentance. As the Bible shows, Gods’ grace can cover any sin, including murder, infidelity, or betrayal. Yet by definition grace must be received, and hypocrisy disguises our need to receive grace. When the masks fall, hypocrisy is exposed as an elaborate ruse to avoid grace. (Philip Yancey; What’s so Amazing About Grace?, 204)
Is our work done from motives of service or from motives of pay? Is our service given from selfless motives or from motives of self-display? Is the work we do in Church done for Christ or for our own prestige? Is our Church-going an attempt to meet God or a fulfilling of an habitual and conventional respectability? Are even our prayer and our Bible reading engaged upon with the sincere desire to company with God or because it gives us a pleasant feeling of superiority to do these things? Is our religion a thing in which we are conscious of nothing so much as the need of God within our hearts, or a thing in which we have comfortable thoughts of our own piety? To examine one’s own motives is a daunting and a shaming thing, for there are few things in this world that even the best of us do with completely unmixed motives. (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 106-7)
Opinion is divided as to whether these words of Christ refer to the new heart received at regeneration or to that moral transformation of character that results from a Divine work of grace having been wrought in the soul. Probably both aspects of the truth are combined here. (Arthur W. Pink, The Beatitudes and the Lord’s Prayer, 45-6)
It is not enough to be pure in words and in outward deportment. Purity of desires, motives, and intents is what should (and does in the main) characterize the child of God. Here, then, is a most important test for every professing Christian to apply to himself. Are my affections set upon things above? Are my motives pure? Why do I assemble with the Lord’s people? Is it to be seen of men, or is it to meet with the Lord and to enjoy sweet communion with Him and His people? (Arthur W. Pink, The Beatitudes and the Lord’s Prayer, 47)
This beatitude calls us to the most exacting self-examination. Perhaps we need to examine our motives in religious exercises more than in any other area. How easy it is to cover selfish ambition with the cloak of religious service. Throughout the sermon Jesus raises the issue of motive, asking that we serve not for the praise of men, not for conventional respectability, but with integrity of heart. It has been said that in religious service there are three temptations: the first, the temptation to shine; the second, the temptation to whine; and the third, the temptation to recline. (Myron S. Augsburger, The Communicator’s Commentary: Matthew, 65)
What then is necessary before I can see God? Here is the answer. Holiness, a pure heart, an unmixed condition of being. Yet men and women would reduce all this to just a little matter of decency, or morality or an intellectual interest in the doctrines of the Christian faith. But nothing less than the whole person is involved. “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.” In the spiritual realm you cannot mix light and darkness, you cannot mix black and white, you cannot mix Christ and Belial. (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 96)
The fact that I know that I cannot ultimately purify and cleanse my heart in an absolute sense does not mean that I should walk in the gutters of life waiting for God to cleanse me. I must do everything I can and still know it is not enough, and that He must do it finally. Or listen again to what Paul says: “It is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” Yes, but “mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth.” Strangle them, get rid of them, get rid of everything that stands between you and the goal you are aiming at. “Mortify,” put it to death. (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 99)
- What is the big deal about seeing God? Answer: It is the summum bonum. The beatific vision. The visio dei. The ultimate experience in life. (Ex 24:10; 33:11, 18-23; Job 19:25-27; 42:5; Ps 11:7; 17:15; 42:1-6; Isa 6:1; Jn 1:18; 5:36-40; 6:46; 14:6-9; 1 Cor 13:12; 2 Cor 3:18; 1 Tm 1:17; 6:16; Ti 2:11-14; Heb 11:27; 12:14; 1 Jn 3:1-3)
This is surely the most amazing thing that has ever been said to man, that you and I, such as we are, pressed with all the problems and troubles of this modern world, are going to see Him face-to-face. If we but grasped this, it would revolutionize our lives. You and I are meant for the audience chamber of God; you and I are being prepared to enter into the presence of the King of kings. (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 97)
“The pure in heart shall see God,” nothing less than that. How foolish we are to rob ourselves of these glories that are here held out before our wondering gaze. Have you in a partial sense already seen God? Do you realize you are being prepared for this, and do you set your affection on it? “Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.” Are you looking at these things which are unseen and eternal? Do you spend time in meditating upon the glory that yet awaits you? If you do, the greatest concern of your life will be to have a pure heart. (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 98)
You and I are going to be transformed at the visio Dei into the likeness of Christ. This is the most stupendous thing we could ever be told! This is our purifying hope. (R. Kent Hughes, The Sermon on the Mount, 60)
None but the pure are capable of seeing God, nor would it be a felicity to the impure. What pleasure could an unsanctified soul take in the vision of a holy God? As he cannot endure to look upon their iniquity, so they cannot endure to look upon his purity; nor shall any unclean thing enter into the new Jerusalem; but all that are pure in heart, all that are truly sanctified, have desires wrought in them, which nothing but the sight of God will satisfy; and divine grace will not leave those desires unsatisfied. (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Vol. V, 52)
The greatest motivation for purity is one’s desire for God Himself. Sexual sins and impure thoughts are impediments to intimacy with God. Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” (R. Kent Hughes; Disciplines of Grace, 134)
The unsolved problem of theology is always the recognition of God. The end of that quest will be the end of time, when we see God face to face and all our theological problems begin to disappear. In that way, God is the first problem and the last problem of theology. At the moment, His existence and His presence make us feel some things as problems that we might not otherwise consider problems at all. (Michael Bauman, Roundtable: Conversations with European Theologians, 35)
In Christian theology, the beatific vision (Latin: visio beatifica) is the ultimate direct self communication of God to the individual person. A person possessing the beatific vision reaches, as a member of redeemed humanity in the communion of saints, perfect salvation in its entirety, i.e. heaven. The notion of vision stresses the intellectual component of salvation, though it encompasses the whole of human experience of joy, happiness coming from seeing God finally face to face and not imperfectly through faith. (1 Cor 13:11–12).
In Christianity, the Bible teaches that God “dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has even seen or can see” (1 Tm 6:16), but when God reveals Himself to us in heaven we will then see Him face to face (1 Cor 13:12; Mt 5:8; Ps 17:15) . This concept has been termed “the beatific vision of God” by theologians of the Catholic Church as well as various Protestant denominations, including the Lutheran Church and the Methodist Church.
Saint Cyprian wrote of the saved seeing God in the Kingdom of Heaven. “How great will your glory and happiness be, to be allowed to see God, to be honored with sharing the joy of salvation and eternal light with Christ your Lord and God… to delight in the joy of immortality in the Kingdom of Heaven with the righteous and God’s friends”
Thomas Aquinas defined the beatific vision as the human being’s “final end” in which one attains to a perfect happiness. Thomas reasons that one is perfectly happy only when all one’s desires are perfectly satisfied, to the degree that happiness could not increase and could not be lost. “Man is not perfectly happy, so long as something remains for him to desire and seek” [STh III, q., 3, a. 8]. But this kind of perfect happiness cannot be found in any physical pleasure, any amount of worldly power, any degree of temporal fame or honor, or indeed in any finite reality. It can only be found in something that is infinite and perfect – and this is God. [STh I–II, q. 2, a. 8]. And since God is not a material thing but is pure spirit, we are united to God by knowing and loving him. Consequently, the most perfect union with God is the most perfect human happiness and the goal of the whole of the human life. But we cannot attain to this happiness by our own natural powers; it is a gift that must be given us by God, who strengthens us by the “light of glory” so that we can see him as he is, without any intermediary. (Thomas quotes Ps 35:10 on this point: “In your light we shall see light.”) [STh I, q. 12, a. 4]. Further, since every created image or likeness of God (including even the most perfect “ideas” or “images” of God we might generate in our minds) is necessarily finite, it would thus be infinitely less than God himself [STh I, q. 12, a. 2]. The only perfect and infinite good, therefore, is God himself, which is why Aquinas argues that our perfect happiness and final end can only be the direct union with God himself and not with any created image of him. This union comes about by a kind of “seeing” perfectly the divine essence itself, a gift given to our intellects when God joins them directly to himself without any intermediary. And since in seeing this perfect vision of what (and who) God is, we grasp also his perfect goodness, this act of “seeing” is at the same time a perfect act of loving God as the highest and infinite goodness.
According to Aquinas, the Beatific Vision surpasses both faith and reason. Rational knowledge does not fully satisfy humankind’s innate desire to know God, since reason is primarily concerned with sensible objects and thus can only infer its conclusions about God indirectly.
The theological virtue of faith, too, is incomplete, since Aquinas thinks that it always implies some imperfection in the understanding. The believer does not wish to remain merely on the level of faith but to grasp directly the object of faith, who is God himself.
Thus only the fullness of the Beatific Vision satisfies this fundamental desire of the human soul to know God. Quoting St Paul, Aquinas notes “We see now in a glass darkly, but then face to face” (1 Cor 13:12). The Beatific Vision is the final reward for those saints elect by God to partake in and “enjoy the same happiness wherewith God is happy, seeing Him in the way which He sees Himself” in the next life. (Beatific vision; Wikipedia, December 9th, 2014)
In the Scriptures, heart means more than just the mind; it also includes the emotions and the will. It is the totality of our ability to think, feel and decide. So “pure in heart” means that not only our minds but also our feelings and actions are to be concentrated singly on God. If our focus is merely intellectual, we are not pure in heart. This is a most daunting requirement—a radical cleanness of heart, totally focused on God.
The depth of this heart requirement is further underscored by the realization that it is from the depths of our hearts that all our human problems come. Jeremiah said, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure” [17:9]. Jesus said, “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander” [Mt 15:19]. On top of that He said, “Nothing outside a man can make him ‘unclean’ by going into him. Rather, it is what comes out of a man that makes him ‘unclean.’ … For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts” [Mk 7:15, 21]. The Scriptures are conclusive on this matter, but our hearts tell us the same. All we have to do is look into our own hearts of darkness, observing the mixed motives, the distractions, the divided loyalties, to know this is completely true. The words of Ivan Turgenev, the 19th century Russian novelist, speaks for us all: “I do not know what the heart of a bad man is like. But I do know what the heart of a good man is like. And it is terrible.”
. . . No one is perfectly pure in heart. Then what are we to do? There can only be one answer … we must cast ourselves on the grace and mercy of God and thus receive His radical renewal. We must ask Him to implant and nourish the character of the Kingdom in our lives. God demands a humanly impossible character, but then gives us that very character by His grace. And with that He bestows a humanly impossible vision.
. . . We see God in the pages of His Word. We also see and celebrate God in His creation. This kind of seeing is the special possession of the believer. We see the footprints and the hands of God in nature. And those of us in faith, also see Him in the events of our lives—even the difficulties. Job exclaimed after his varied hardships of life, “My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you” [Job 42:5].
This sixth Beatitude goes even further as it tells us that the purer our hearts become, the more we will see of God in this life. The more our hearts are focused on God, absorbed with Him, concentrated on His being, freed from distraction, sincere— single, the more we will see Him. As our hearts become purer, the more the Word lives and creation speaks. Even the adverse circumstances of our lives seem to sharpen our vision of God. Seeing God in this life [what I often call “God sightings”] is the summum bonum—the highest good, because those who see Him become more and more like Him. “And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into His likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” [2 Cor 3:18].
But there is even more to seeing God, for the “pure in heart” will one day see Him face to face. And in that split second of recognition, believers will experience more joy than the sum total of accumulated joys of a long life. We will behold the dazzling blaze of His being that has been, and always will be, the abiding fascination of angels. Both Scripture and reason demand that we understand that it will be the greatest event of our eternal existence—the visio Dei, the vision of God. (The Visio Dei: The Greatest Event of Our Lives; http://ipressontothegoal.blogspot.com/2011/01/visio-….)
Worship Point: Worship the One who was pure in heart and can impute His purity to anyone who trusts in Him by faith.
Gospel Application: We need to look to Jesus Who can help us focus, concentrate and eliminate all of the pollution, contamination and distractions of this world and our human nature so He can make us and mold us into what we always knew we should be.
Spiritual Challenge: Use the means of grace to prepare the soil of your heart so Jesus can move you towards purity of heart so that one day you might enjoy the ultimate experience . . . seeing God!
Quotes to Note:
The rabbis were developing a complex system of laws for maintaining ceremonial purification, which later comprised Tohoroth (“Cleannesses”), one of the divisions of the Mishnah. But all of those laws could bypass the most important purity of all, purity of the heart. A pure heart produces external purity, not vice versa (e.g., 15:1-19). A pure heart describes a person whose single-minded loyalty to God has affected every area of life. (Clinton E. Arnold, Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary: Vol 1, 35)
Pure in Heart