"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.Matthew 5:8(NASB)
Too often when we look at a verse in Scripture, we interpret it from a present-day, human viewpoint, rather than in its biblical context and from God's perspective - and this is one such verse. Many look at this verse and say, "Ah! If I am pure in heart, then I will see God. I want to see God... so I will do this good thing and perform that righteous act, to make sure that I am pure in heart - and then I will see God."
"If my heart is pure, then I will see God," we argue - but we forget that the heart of man is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. The truth is that those who see God... have already been given a pure heart, as a free gift of God's grace, by faith. As Church-age believers, we 'see' God because we have been clothed in Christ's righteousness, by faith. At salvation we are given a new, Christ-like nature. We receive a pure heart, which is acceptable to God. We are given a blessed new life-in-Christ in exchange for our filthy, old, sinful, unsaved heart of stone, when we trust Him as the sacrifice for our sin.
The moment that we are saved by grace through faith, we have an assurance that we are part of the group that are blessed by God and will indeed see Him... not because of what we have done to make our hearts pure - but because of what Christ has done for us so that by faith in His sacrificial death and glorious Resurrection, we are given a pure and holy heart - which will see God.
God is Spirit, and He is the immortal, invisible God, but we SEE God in the face of Jesus Christ our Saviour - not because of the virtuous things that we have done to purify our heart. We cannot create in ourselves a pure heart in order to receive His blessing. We are given a pure heart because of our faith in what He has done on our account. We will see God... because our sinful heart has been cleansed, by faith, through the shed blood of Christ, for the forgiveness of sins and life everlasting.
Although this beautiful verse is relevant to us in the Church age - in its biblical context, this teaching was given to Israel. It is a passage that relates to the kingdom of God which Christ came to set up, as promised in Old Testament Scriptures. Jesus was the Word made flesh Who had come to earth. He was being heralded as 'the One sent from God to set up the prophesied Messianic kingdom', and the question in the heart of all Jewish people at that time would be, "do I qualify to enter the kingdom of heaven? Am I righteous enough to be part of God's kingdom?"
The Pharisees taught that strict adherence to the Law was the way to earn salvation and 'see God'... but Christ came to show that it was inner cleanliness that mattered to the Lord and not exterior religiosity. And so Christ's call to God's chosen people, in His Sermon on the Mount, was to repent of their sins - both individually and nationally. They were to turn away from their sinful apostasy and to turn back to the true and living God. They were to believe on God the Father... but also, they were to believe on the One Whom He had sent - the Lord Jesus Christ - for we are saved by grace through faith in HIM and not by works of the law.
This sermon does not outline the way to be saved, but identifies the standard God expects from those that are already in a right relationship with Him. It explains the way those that have been saved by grace through faith should live their lives.
In His sermon, Jesus was teaching the people of Israel about the coming Messianic kingdom. As His covenant people, they believed in God but had wandered far from Him. They were to repent of this apostasy, return to the Lord with purified hearts, and believe on the One Whom the Father had sent... if they wanted to see God and be part of His kingdom. But they rejected their Messiah, and the kingdom had to be postponed for a season.
However, this beautiful beatitude is equally relevant to Church age believers today. Purity of heart, together with meekness of soul and poverty of spirit, is not something that can be attained by self-effort or external, Pharisaical works of the Law. A heart is purified by the inner work of the Holy Spirit in the man or women who is rightly related to God - through faith in Christ. How blessed are we, who are inwardly cleansed of sin by the Spirit of God.. through faith in Christ Jesus, our Lord? Blessed indeed, are the pure in heart, "for they shall see God." Indeed, we have already seen Him - in the face of Jesus Christ.
Heavenly Father, thank You that my heart has been cleansed of sin, through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, my God and Saviour. Thank You that He is the image of the invisible God, Who has been revealed to me, by faith. Keep me low at the Cross and broken before You, and open my eyes to see more and more of His beauty and grace, and I pray that may I live to His praise and glory. This I ask in Jesus' name, AMEN.