“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3 ESV)
So we know what blessed means. But what about poor in spirit? We could take this as materially poor. The problem is that it doesn’t say “poor in money” or “poor in wallet.” It says, “poor in spirit.” So it doesn’t matter your status, financial or otherwise; this is possible.
Poor in what way? Lacking in spirit? Impoverished in emotional resource? The promise is that the poor in spirit have the kingdom of God. Notice “is.” For theirs “is” the kingdom of God. That’s present tense. So there is a connection between poor in spirit and a present obtaining of the kingdom of God. That is why this one is so important. It is the foundation for all the others, and in some ways, the entire Sermon on the Mount. Here is the foundation of it all.
Test #2 – Immediate Glory Without Suffering
“Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, “‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and “‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’” (Matthew 4:5-6 ESV)
The temple described here is known as Herod’s temple in Jerusalem. It was a large complex. It was very tall by the standards of the day. What better way to quickly unveil your true identity than to jump from where everyone could see you and as you hurtle to the ground suddenly be caught by angels and gently set down in the temple courtyard for all to see? Talk about a stunt! Do that without a parachute. Without wires. No tricks. Just gravity, speed, and angelic deliverance. What would the Pharisees say then? He would be crowned King of Israel on the spot. What better way to fast track the kingdom of God than a public miracle and immediate coronation? Satan accurately quotes the verse in Psalms. There’s no problem with translation. Where’s the problem? Application.
“And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people.” (Matthew 4:23 ESV)
What is the Kingdom of God/Heaven?
Matthew most often uses “kingdom of heaven.” There is debate about any nuance difference between “kingdom of heaven” and “kingdom of God” but most scholars say they are synonymous. So what is the kingdom of God?
“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8 ESV)
Forever is much longer than simply tomorrow. Forever is all our tomorrows; all the future of eternity. Here is where immutability (the unchanging nature of God) is most helpful to us. The fact that he never changes means ultimately that he is dependable. Trustworthy. Our trust in him is based on who he was in the past and because he never changes, I can rest on the fact that he will be my Savior, Lord, and friend forever.
“The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 ESV)
What does he say? Here is the sum. Here is the bottom line and final conclusion. What should we do? Two things: fear God and obey his commands.
“Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, “I have no pleasure in them”; before the sun and the light and the moon and the stars are darkened and the clouds return after the rain, in the day when the keepers of the house tremble, and the strong men are bent, and the grinders cease because they are few, and those who look through the windows are dimmed, and the doors on the street are shut—when the sound of the grinding is low, and one rises up at the sound of a bird, and all the daughters of song are brought low—they are afraid also of what is high, and terrors are in the way; the almond tree blossoms, the grasshopper drags itself along, and desire fails, because man is going to his eternal home, and the mourners go about the streets—before the silver cord is snapped, or the golden bowl is broken, or the pitcher is shattered at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern, and the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it. Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, all is vanity.” (Ecclesiastes 12:1-8 ESV)
Remembering means not regretting
Not long ago I attended my 30-year high school reunion. 30 years. I’m here to tell you I blinked…and 30 years were gone. To the young people reading this, I remember when I was your age and I heard people that were my age now, and I sat there thinking, “OK, old guy, that’s the way it is for you, but I’m 19 years old, the world is my oyster. I’ve got my whole life ahead of me. It’s going to be different for me.” No, it’s not.
Baptism – Identify with Jesus
Let’s look at a few key texts on baptism (my emphasis added).
- “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 28:19)
- “And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38)
- “And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him.” (Acts 8:38)
- “And [Peter] commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.” (Acts 10:48)
- “And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.” (Acts 22:16, from Paul’s testimony)
There are many other passages. This is just a sampling. Especially noteworthy is Matthew 28:19, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” These are the final words of Jesus on earth as recorded by Matthew. The key phrase is “make disciples.” This includes evangelism and then the guidance and nourishment of that new disciple into maturity. This is the core of our mission. But right there in the mix is the need for new disciples to be baptized.
Why? Let’s be clear. It’s not to save them. The saving work is done by Jesus, not baptism. Salvation is by faith through grace. No religious ceremony or water can save anyone. You could be baptized in the Jordan River itself and still be lost. Personally believing in Jesus as Savior is the means by which the atoning work of Jesus on the cross is personally applied to my status before God. So baptism doesn’t save. Then what is its purpose?