Purity of heart is the means of seeing God

Number 10 in the Sermon on the Mount Series

Vision of GodAt one point in Jesus’ ministry he was accused by the Pharisees of allowing his disciples to break the tradition of the elders by eating with unwashed hands. This account is recorded In Matthew 15:1-20 and Mark 7:1-23. Jesus’ response is interesting when he declares that it is not what a man eats which defiles him, but the things which come out of his mouth are evidence of the defilement that is already inside.

Jesus is telling the Pharisees (and us) that it is the defiled heart which causes the wrong behavior. The behavior is a symptom and not a cause of impurity.

It is this context which makes the sixth Beatitude in Matthew 5:8 so interesting.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

Practical Purity

In the Israel of Jesus’ day, there were many regulations regarding external purity. The nation had food regulations, commands concerning washing, laws about touching dead bodies, ceremonial cleansings and prescribed worship. When they complied with these regulations, they could claim that they had purity in their practice, or what I would call practical purity.

Modern day legalists operate in much the same way. We can have lists of things to avoid and things to do which are used as litmus tests to determine the level of purity or spirituality. If you’ve been around the church enough, you’re bound to have run into one or more of these modern day Pharisees.

This is not the purity of which Jesus is speaking of here. External purity can be produced by those who are impure in their motives. Jesus referred to them as white washed tombs that were clean on the outside but full of dead men’s bones (Matthew 23:27).

Positional purity

The purity to which Jesus refers is positional purity, or purity that is ascribed to us by God. Jeremiah tells us in Jer. 17:9 that “the heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?” David cried out in Psalm 51:10: “Create in me a clean heart, O God,”

We have a congenital defect, we are born with a sin nature and as A. T. Robertson tells us, “Sin befogs and beclouds the heart.” In Hebrews 12:14 we read that without purity no-one will see the Lord.

So how then can this Beatitude be fulfilled?

Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 5:21 that when we are in Christ, we exchange his righteousness for our sin. In other words, we trade our impurity for his purity. We are then viewed by God as being pure.

It is only after this transaction has taken place that positional purity comes to an individual heart. It is because of this positional purity of heart that we can see God.

The Promise

This is another promise that has an immediate and an ultimate fulfillment. In Ephesians 2:4-5 Paul tells us that though we started out life dead in our sins, we are made alive in Christ. Spiritually dead people cannot see or respond to God. In Christ, however, we can begin to see God in the sense that we are aware of his presence and work in our lives. This is the immediate fulfillment.

The ultimate fulfillment comes when believers stand before God. We read in 1 John 3:2–3 we will see Jesus just as he is in his entire deific splendor. We will then be fully know and be fully known by God (1 Corinthians 13:12). What a day that will be!

Until that day, we have to be satisfied with our intermediate experience of God as our down payment on the ultimate experience. When that happens, the good will be transformed into the best.