Comfort for Christians
by Arthur W. Pink, 1952
"Blessed are the pure in heart; for they shall see God." (Matthew 5:8)
This is another of the Beatitudes which has been grossly
perverted by the enemies of the Lord; enemies who have, like their
predecessors the Pharisees, posed as the champions of the truth and boasted
of a superior sanctity to that confessed by the true people of God. All
through this Christian era there have been poor deluded souls who have
claimed an entire purification of the old man, or who have insisted that God
has so completely renewed them that the carnal nature has been eradicated,
and in consequence that they not only commit no sins—but have no sinful
desires or thoughts. But God tells us: "If we say we have no sin, we deceive
ourselves, and the truth is not in us" (1 John 1:18). Of course such people
appeal to the Scriptures in support of their vain delusion, applying to
experience verses which describe the legal benefits of the
Atonement. "The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin" does
not mean that our hearts have been washed from the corrupting defilements of
evil—but that the sacrifice of Christ has availed for the judicial blotting
out of sins. "Old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new"
(2 Cor. 5:17) refers not to our state in this world, but to the Christian's
standing before God.
That purity of heart does not mean sinlessness of life,
is clear from the inspired record of the history of all of God's saints.
Noah got drunk; Abraham equivocated; Moses disobeyed God; Job cursed the day
of his birth; Elijah fled in terror from Jezebel; Peter denied Christ. Yes,
perhaps someone will exclaim, 'But all these were before Christianity was
established.' True, but it has also been the same since then. Where shall we
go to find a Christian of superior attainment to those of the apostle Paul?
And what was his experience? Read Romans 7 and see. When he would do good,
evil was present with him (verse 21); there was a law in his members warring
against the law of his mind, and bringing him into captivity to the law of
sin (verse 23). He did, with the mind, serve the law of God; nevertheless,
with the flesh he served the law of sin (verse 25). Ah, Christian reader,
the truth is, that one of the most conclusive evidences that we do possess a
pure heart is the discovery and consciousness of the impurity of the old
heart dwelling side by side within. But let us come closer to our text.
"Blessed are the pure in heart." In seeking an
interpretation to any part of this Sermon on the Mount the first thing to
bear in mind is that those whom our Lord was addressing had been reared in
Judaism. As said one who was deeply taught of the Spirit: "I cannot help
thinking that our Lord, in using the terms before us, had a tacit reference
to that character of external sanctity or purity which belonged to
the Jewish people, and to that privilege of fellowship with God which was
connected with that character. They were a people separated from the nations
polluted with idolatry; set apart as holy to Jehovah; and, as a holy people,
they were permitted to draw near to their God, the only living and true God,
in the ordinances of His worship". On the possession of this character, and
on the enjoyment of this privilege, the Jewish people plumed themselves.
"A higher character, however, and a higher privilege,
belonged to those who would be the subjects of the Messiah's reign. They
would not only be externally holy, but, 'pure in heart'; and they would not
merely be allowed to approach towards the holy place, where God's honor
dwelt, but they should 'see God,' be introduced into the most intimate
fellowship with Him. Thus viewed, as a description of the spiritual
character and privileges of the subjects of the Messiah, in contrast with
the external character and privileges of the Jewish people, the passage
before us is full of the most important and interesting truth." (John
"Blessed are the pure in heart." Opinion is divided as to
whether these words of Christ are to be understood literally or
figuratively; whether the reference be to the new heart itself received at
regeneration, or to the moral transformation of character which results from
a Divine work of grace being wrought in the soul. Probably both aspects of
the truth are combined here. In view of the late place which this Beatitude
occupies in the series, it would appear that the purity of heart upon which
our Savior pronounced His blessing, is that internal cleansing which
accompanies and follows the new birth. Yet, inasmuch as no heart purity
exists in the natural man, what is here affirmed by Christ must be traced
back to regeneration itself.
The Psalmist said, "Behold You desire truth in the inward
parts; and in the hidden part You shall make me to know wisdom" (Psalm
51:6). How far this goes beneath the external renovation and reformation
which comprises such a large part of the efforts now being put forth in
Christendom! Much that we see around us is a hand religion—seeking salvation
by works—or a head religion, which rests satisfied with an orthodox creed.
But God looks on the heart—an expression which appears to include the
understanding, the affections and the will. It is because God looks within
that He gives a "new heart" (Ezek. 36:26) to His own people, and "blessed"
indeed are they who have received such, for it is a "pure heart."
As intimated above, we believe this sixth Beatitude
contemplates both the new heart received at regeneration and the
transformation of character which follows God's work of grace in the soul.
First, there is a "washing of regeneration" (Titus 3:5) by which we
understand a cleansing of the affections, which are now set upon things
above, instead of things below; this is parallel with "purifying their
hearts by faith" (Acts 15:9). Accompanying this is the cleansing of the
conscience—"having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience" (Heb.
10:22), which refers to the removal of the burden of conscious guilt, the
inward realization that being justified by faith we "have peace with God."
But the purity of heart commended here by Christ goes
further than this. What is purity? Freedom from defilement, undivided
affections, sincerity and genuineness. As a quality of Christian character,
we would define it as godly simplicity. It is the opposite of subtlety and
duplicity. Genuine Christianity lays aside not only malice—but guile and
hypocrisy. It is not enough to be pure in words and in outward deportment;
purity of desires, motives, intents, are what should, and do 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?—to be
seen of men, or to meet with the Lord and enjoy sweet communion with Him?
"For they shall see God." Once more we would point out
how that the promises attached to these Beatitudes have both a present and a
future fulfillment. The pure in heart possess spiritual discernment and with
the eyes of their understanding they obtain clear views of the Divine
character and perceive the excellency of His attributes. When the eye is
single the whole body is full of light. In the truth, they 'see God'; for
what is that truth but a manifestation of the glory of God in the face of
Jesus Christ—an illustrious display of the combined radiance of Divine
holiness and Divine goodness!
And he not only obtains clear and satisfactory views of
the Divine character, but he enjoys intimate and delightful communion with
God. He is brought very near God; God's mind becomes his mind; God's will
becomes his will; and his fellowship is truly with the Father and with His
Son Jesus Christ.
"Those who are pure in heart 'see God' in this way, even
in the present world; and in the future state their knowledge of God will
become far more extensive and their fellowship with Him far more intimate;
for though, when compared with the privileges of a former dispensation, even
now 'as with open face we behold the glory of the Lord,' yet, in reference
to the privileges of a higher economy, we yet see but 'through a glass
darkly'—we 'know but in part'—we understand but in part, we enjoy but in
part. But 'that which is in part shall be done away,' and 'that which is
perfect shall come.' We shall yet see face to face and know even as we are
known (1 Cor. 13:9-12); or to borrow the words of the Psalmist, we 'shall
behold his face in righteousness, and shall be satisfied when we awake in
his likeness' (Psalm 17:15). Then, and not until then, will the full meaning
of these words be understood—the pure in heart shall see God." (John Brown).