Witnesses for Jesus

“Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.” —Matthew 5:14

WHEN Jesus appeared to his disciples for the last time before returning to the heavenly courts, he said to them, “Ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Spirit is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) The Apostle John testified, “I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the Word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.”—Rev. 20:4

In II Corinthians 5:20 the Apostle Paul describes the followers of Jesus as “ambassadors for Christ,” and explains that there has been given to them “the ministry of reconciliation.” (vs. 18) From these and various other scriptures, it is evident that the faithful followers of Jesus are looked upon by him as his representatives in the earth—those who, as stated in our text, are the light of the world.

Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, (Matthew 5) of which this text is a part, seems designed to set forth in considerable detail the righteous standards of conduct to which these are expected to hold. Verses 3-12, which contain what are often described as the Beatitudes, are a sort of summary of the entire sermon. There is very little in this Sermon on the Mount dealing with the doctrinal features of the divine plan, but, as we have suggested, its subject matter concerns mostly the way of life and the heart condition of those who will in their faithful ambassadorship be the proclaimers of these doctrines.

In a nominal way the scribes and Pharisees of Jesus’ day temporarily occupied this position, although they had already lost the favor of God and various announcements of doom had been made against them. Because a new age was dawning in which an entirely different work would be carried out, Jesus deemed it important to instruct those who would be his representatives in the new way of life so beautifully set forth in his Sermon on the Mount.

Poor in Spirit

The first beatitude reads, “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt. 5:3) Being poor in spirit is not related to poverty along material lines. One might be destitute of the ordinary comforts of life and yet not be poor in spirit at all. On the other hand, one might be wealthy according to the standards of this world and yet be poor in spirit. One is poor in spirit when he recognizes his undone condition as a member of the sin-cursed and dying human race. The thought is expressed very well in the question that is usually asked one who is about to be baptized. That question is whether or not there is a recognition on the part of the candidate that he is a sinner, and that apart from Christ he has no standing with the Lord.

But a recognition of this basic fact, upon which we are brought into the divine family through Christ, must continue with us throughout our entire course in the narrow way. It is not enough that we express it once at the time of our immersion in water, but should be one of the guiding principles of our Christian life. “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” Only those who recognize their poverty of spirit apart from God can have hope of participating as a joint-heir with Jesus in the kingdom of heaven.

The Mourners

The second beatitude reads, “Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.” (Matt. 5:4) Taking this statement literally, it is not true. There are millions of people who mourn that are not comforted. Even followers of Jesus frequently encounter situations which cause them to mourn, and they continue to mourn—at least for a time. Paul speaks of rejoicing with those who do rejoice and weeping with those who weep, so even those who do not have immediate cause for mourning themselves, weep because of the difficulties encountered by their brethren in Christ.

The mourning here referred to by Jesus is, in fact, our expression of sympathy toward those who are suffering affliction. In this Jesus is our greatest example. We think of the time when Jesus’ friend Lazarus became ill and died. Jesus returned to Bethany and mingled with those who were mourning. Realizing the heartbroken condition of those present, and that scenes of this nature were taking place every day and would continue to do so until the kingdom was established, Jesus’ own heart was touched, and in the shortest verse of the Bible we read, “Jesus wept.”

And Jesus did more than just weep. He used the occasion to do something that must have truly comforted the hearts of Martha and Mary, and all the friends of Lazarus. He awakened Lazarus from the sleep of death. Can we doubt that in this situation Jesus’ own heart was comforted? The fact that he could and did help those who were sad must have done much to remove the Master’s own tears in this situation of mourning.

What a noble example of mourning for others we have in Jesus! And if we take this example to heart we will want to do all we can to comfort others. Indeed, this is a part of the commission of the Holy Spirit—not only to Jesus, but to all his followers. We are to “bind up the brokenhearted,” and to “comfort all that mourn.” (Isa. 61:1,2) This work of comforting is accomplished through the proclamation of the Gospel of the kingdom, and there is no more effective way of removing sorrow from the hearts of those whose families have been visited by the Grim Reaper, Death, than to assure them of the future blessings of the kingdom—blessings of health and life; even the blessing of the resurrection of the dead.

In doing this we find that we ourselves are made glad, because the sorrows of the moment are superseded by the joy that has come into our own hearts through the effort we have thus made to sympathize with others. This is the thought set for in Proverbs 11:25. The marginal translation reads: “The soul of blessing shall be made fat: and he that watereth shall be watered also himself.”

The Meek

The third beatitude is, “Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.” To be meek is to be teachable—teachable, that is, concerning the things of God as revealed in his Word. It is important to be meek, because we need to know the Lord’s will as clearly as possible in order that we may do it. The thought is set forth by Paul when, in writing to Timothy he said, “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of truth.” (II Tim. 2:15) Our striving to rightly divide the Word of truth is in order that we may be workmen who have the Lord’s approval.

The importance of this is set forth by Jesus in his address to the scribes and Pharisees as recorded in the 23rd chapter of Matthew. In this chapter Jesus pronounces a series of eight woes upon the scribes and Pharisees, and a study of these helps us to see a larger meaning to his Beatitudes, or blessings, upon his followers. For example, Jesus’ statement that the meek shall inherit the earth seems out of harmony with the wonderful hope of glory, honor, and immortality that is held out to those who are called to the high calling. But when we read the contrasting woe we get the thought of what Jesus had in mind. He said, “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell [Gehenna] than yourselves.”—vs. 15

The ancient Israelites, through their religious leaders, were the light of the world for their day. Many of them took this thought seriously and, as Jesus indicates, they encompassed sea and land to make proselytes; that is, to convert the Gentile world to Judaism. But the difficulty was that they were not meek and had not discerned the true will of God, so in the message of instruction that they used they led those who became interested further away from God than they were before.

We of the Gospel Age are not promised a home on earth, nor will we inherit the earth in that sense, but the earth is our field of service. In a limited sense we enter into this field of service now by going into all the world to preach the Gospel, and herein lies the importance of meekness—teachableness. Otherwise we might find ourselves in the position of the scribes and Pharisees, instructing the people in the wrong thing rather than serving as true ambassadors to reconcile the believers to God.

Our promised future inheritance of the earth is truly a large one. It applies principally to the future, when the church will be living and reigning with Christ for the blessing of all mankind. None but those who possess the quality of meekness at the present time will enter into that glorious future inheritance. What we do today in bearing witness to the truth is preparing us for the future time when, together with Jesus, we will have the privilege of causing the knowledge of the Lord to fill the earth as the waters cover the sea.

Hungering for Righteousness

The fourth beatitude reads, “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.” There is no misunderstanding the expression “hunger and thirst.” There is nothing hypocritical about being hungry and thirsty. And it is this genuine desire for righteousness that Jesus is talking about.

In one of Jesus’ woes pronounced upon the scribes and Pharisees he notes their desire to quibble over details rather than having a true thirst after God and after his righteousness. We quote: “Woe unto you, ye blind guides, which say, Whosoever shall swear by the temple, it is nothing; but whosoever shall swear by the gold of the temple, he is a debtor! Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gold, or the temple that sanctifieth the gold? And, Whosoever shall swear by the altar, it is nothing; but whosoever sweareth by the gift that is upon it, he is guilty. Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gift, or the altar that sanctifieth the gift?”—Matt. 23:16-19

This is simply describing the custom of Jesus’ day in the relationship of the scribes and Pharisees to the people. It indicates their willingness to make proverbial mountains out of mole hills in order to reveal their supposedly great wisdom. But this was not pleasing to the Lord. They did not indicate a true desire to know and to do his will.

Let us not think that there is no danger today for any of us to be led into a situation of this kind. When we attend a Bible study, what is the real motive of our hearts? In what we say at the meeting, and the questions that we ask, are we truly seeking to be filled with the righteousness of God, or merely showing others how well we can dispute?

Are we truly hungering for righteousness, not only in our meetings, but in our fellowship and association with the brethren generally? These are questions of which the beatitude concerning hungering and thirsting might well remind us, as we pursue our efforts at getting better acquainted not only with the technicalities of God’s plan, but with God himself, as he reveals himself through his plan.

The Merciful

The fifth beatitude, “Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy,” is basic among God’s requirements of all his people. So important is it that Jesus incorporated it in his prayer: “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” While this is part of a prayer, on another occasion Jesus made it even more emphatic by say that unless we do forgive men their trespasses, neither will our Heavenly Father forgive us.

And how much we need the mercy of God! There is not a day that passes but what we come short of the complete doing of his will. If we did not obtain mercy from him, we would soon be outside of his favor entirely. So let us endeavor to exercise mercy—and this includes mercy toward those who really transgress against us, not mercy toward misunderstandings. Where there is merely a misunderstanding there is no call for mercy, because those misunderstandings can be cleared up. But when we experience the efforts of another really to injure us, then we need to exercise the quality of mercy. God does not misunderstand us. We actually transgress against him and he forgives—shows mercy—and we should endeavor to be like God in our exercise of mercy toward our own debtors.

Heart Purity

The sixth beatitude is, “Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.” Purity of heart is well illustrated in one of Jesus’ woes upon the scribes and Pharisees. We quote: “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also.”—Matt. 23:25,26

The thought here clearly is inward purity rather than an outward profession of purity. Jesus said that those who are pure in heart shall see God. There is a sense in which the Christian sees God at the present time—sees him, that is, through the glorious truth of his Word which reveals the attributes of his character: wisdom, justice, love, power. But in a still more realistic sense, those who are faithful in doing his will now, shall have the inestimable privilege of being with him, of beholding his glory throughout all the ages of eternity. What a blessing indeed this will be!


The seventh beatitude is, “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.” There are two senses in which all of God’s people should endeavor to be peacemakers. We should endeavor to radiate the quality of peace and good will wherever we go, among all with whom we come in contact. We know that there are those in the world who are of a contrary disposition. They are known to be troublemakers almost anywhere they go.

We are not to be like this. We are to be peacemakers, even at the cost of being misunderstood and perhaps misrepresented. We are to be of such a disposition that our brethren in Christ will know that whenever we associate with them there will radiate from us the spirit of peace, of good will, of kindness; for surely this was true of Jesus, and we are to be like him.

But we are to be peacemakers also in the sense of being ministers of reconciliation through our witnessing to the Gospel of Christ, which is “the power of God unto salvation.” (Rom. 1:16) To the extent that the Lord blesses our efforts there will be one here and one there who will be brought into harmony with God—brought into the state of peace with him—because they have accepted the provision he has made through Christ, and have dedicated themselves to the doing of his will. Paul wrote, “Being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Jesus said that the true peacemakers would be called the children of God.

All those who qualify for a position of joint-heirship with Jesus in his kingdom will be called the children of God. The statements of these beatitudes do not mean that the rewards promised are limited to one who adheres to a certain beatitude. All of the poor in spirit shall enter into the kingdom, shall be comforted, shall inherit the earth, shall be filled, shall obtain mercy, shall see God and be called the children of God, and all will receive that promised reward in heaven mentioned in the final beatitude.


The eighth and final beatitude reads, “Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.”—Matt. 5:10-12

Persecution has been the common lot of all the true followers of the Master. It is an evidence of the enmity of the seed of the serpent against the Seed of the woman. To whatever extent we are persecuted—not for our own faults, but for righteousness’ sake—we have great cause for thankfulness, because it means that we are in the mainstream of experiences which the Scriptures outline will be theirs who walk in the narrow way of sacrifice.

Even the prophets of old, because of their faithfulness to the Lord, were persecuted. We can rejoice that we are sharing with them in their experiences. And since it is through much tribulation that we will enter the kingdom, whatever of persecution may come upon us will be one of the witnesses of the Spirit that we are the children of God, and that the Lord is dealing with us, and finally, if we continue faithful, will exalt us to live and reign with Christ a thousand years.

Dawn Bible Students Association
|  Home Page  |  Table of Contents  |