Purity and Peacemaking
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (vv. 8–9).- Matthew 5:8–9
Dr. Sinclair Ferguson’s book The Sermon on the Mount reminds us that Christians are not free to embody only some of the traits in the Beatitudes (pp. 35–36). As believers, we must possess all the qualities of Matthew 5:2–12, at least in some measure, lest our claim to have faith be proven false.
The text chosen for today’s study tells us the “pure in heart” receive God’s blessing and will one day see Him (v. 8). Jesus’ instruction in this verse is not new information for those well-versed in the Old Testament. It is based on Psalm 24, which says that only those with “clean hands and a pure heart” can stand in the Lord’s presence (vv. 3–4). According to Augustine, seeing God face-to-face when He renews all things (the beatific vision, 1 Cor. 13:12) is “the end and purpose of all our loving activity” (Fathers of the Church: A New Translation, 11:214). This privilege is only for those who have hearts characterized by purity.
Those pure in heart, Psalm 24 tells us, are wholly devoted to our Father in heaven. They do not lift up their souls (in worship) to falsehoods (v. 4). As a result, their actions and motives line up so that a pure intent lies behind what appear to be their good deeds. In his commentary on Matthew 5:8, John Calvin says to be pure in heart is to “take no delight in cunning, but converse sincerely with men, and express nothing, by word or look, which is not felt in the heart.”
Jesus also pronounces God’s blessing upon “the peacemakers” (v. 9), and this saying cannot be separated from the peace Christ brought through the cross and thus be used to support pacifism. Peacemaking is tied intimately to the work of Christ, which is “to bring together things divided and to reconcile the alienated” (Chrysostom, Sermon on the Mount, 1.2.9). First and foremost, the Son of God came to reconcile sinners to God (Rom. 5:1), and He uses His church to extend this reconciliation. We are peacemakers whenever we share the Gospel in word and deed (Isa. 52:7). Yet our Lord, by destroying the power of sin, also effects peace between people in the church. We are called to be “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:3). In both the church and the world, contention and strife are not to follow in our wake.
By the Holy Spirit, we are “sons of God” and partake of His nature (2 Peter 1:3–4). Since our Father loves peace so much that He sent His Son to reconcile Himself to His people, we have not partaken of His nature and cannot claim to be Christians if we are not peacemakers. We must be willing to put ourselves and our desires in second place to make peace as long as we do not compromise essential biblical truth. Make peace today where you have caused strife.
Passages for Further Study
1 Timothy 1:5