21 Matthew 5:8 The pure in heart

by | Jul 14, 2021 | 01 Podcasts, Matthew

The pure in heart are not those who are morally perfect. Rather their hearts have been cleansed of rebellion and rejection of God. The pure in heart live like the gospel is true, though not perfectly. One day they will stand before God and be accepted.


  • The Sermon on the Mount is a very important body of teaching given by Jesus at a time when he was very popular.
  • Jesus intends to show his disciples the issues they will face if they want to be children of God. 
  • Jesus contrasts his teaching with the teaching of the Pharisees.
  • Luke 6 is the same sermon given in shorter version.  We can use Luke to understand Matthew and vice versa.
  • Jesus speaks cryptically.  He makes concise provocative statements that we must think about to understand. 
  • Jesus makes strong categorical, black and white statements that ultimately reflect the end of a process of struggle, growth and maturity.
  • In the beatitudes, Jesus confronts us with fundamental convictions of saving faith.

Each beatitude has 4 features:

  1. A beatitude tells us WHO is blessed.
  2. A beatitude tells us WHY such a person is blessed.
  3. A beatitude tells us ONLY these people are blessed.
  4. There is something surprising or ironic about these people being blessed.


“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” – Matthew 5:8

  • A pure heart could be a heart that is perfectly pure and totally with out sin of any kind. 
  • The immediate problem with that interpretation is that no one other than Jesus Christ has a pure heart. 
  • Lack of purity has been a sub-theme of the beatitudes so far. If pure in heart means totally without sin, then it contradicts the other beatitudes. 
  • Another possible interpretation is that Jesus is talking about something that is not true of believers now but will be in the future.
  • However, there’s no indication that Jesus has shifted gears or that this beatitude is following a different pattern.

Pure in Heart

  • pure: Strong’s G2513 kαθαρός katharos; Of uncertain affinity; clean (literally or figuratively): – clean, clear, pure.
  • The root meaning of this word is cleansing. It is used to describe both ritual purity and true inner spiritual purity.
  • Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for emphasizing outward ritual purity and ignoring inner spiritual purity (e.g. Matthew 23:25-26).
  • Just like we saw poor IN SPIRIT, I think Jesus is emphasizing blessed are the pure IN HEART, not those who are ritually pure on the outside, but those who have an inner purity.

Psalm 73

1Truly God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart.
2But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled, my steps had nearly slipped.
3For I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
4For they have no pangs until death; their bodies are fat and sleek.
5They are not in trouble as others are; they are not stricken like the rest of mankind.
6Therefore pride is their necklace; violence covers them as a garment. 
7Their eyes swell out through fatness; their hearts overflow with follies. 
8They scoff and speak with malice; loftily they threaten oppression.
9They set their mouths against the heavens, and their tongue struts through the earth. 
10Therefore his people turn back to them, and find no fault in them. 
11And they say, “How can God know? Is there knowledge in the Most High?” 
12Behold, these are the wicked; always at ease, they increase in riches. 
13All in vain have I kept my heart clean and washed my hands in innocence. 
14For all the day long I have been stricken and rebuked every morning. 
15If I had said, “I will speak thus,” I would have betrayed the generation of your children. 
16But when I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome task, 
17until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end. 
18Truly you set them in slippery places; you make them fall to ruin. 

  • The Psalmist starts with this simple assertion: Truly God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart. 
  • Then he starts to doubt this assertion.  The wicked seem to be prospering (73:12-14) while he is stricken and rebuked.
  • While the Psalmist is tempted, he doesn’t succumb to temptation (73:2-3).
  • God reminds the Psalmist that the wicked have a different destiny (73:16-18).
  • The Psalm contrasts the “wicked” with the “pure in heart”.
  • The wicked prosper now.  They speak against God.  They are arrogant, clothed in violence, they mock and speak of oppression.   But in the end, the wicked will be destroyed.
  • By contrast, the pure in heart reject a wicked, greedy, arrogant rebellion against God.  They have made God their refuge.  They draw near to God. In the end, they will be received into glory even though they are stricken and rebuked now.
  • In this context, the one who is pure in heart is a faithful, trusting, believer in God. 

Psalm 24

1A Psalm of David. The earth is the LORD’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein, 
2for he has founded it upon the seas and established it upon the rivers. 
3Who shall ascend the hill of the LORD? And who shall stand in his holy place? 
4He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully. 
5He will receive blessing from the LORD and righteousness from the God of his salvation. 
6Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek the face of the God of Jacob. Selah 

  • Many scholars and commentators suggest that Psalm 24 inspired this beatitude. 
  • Psalm 24:4 suggest that a heart that is pure is not hypocritical. It is the same out the outside as the inside.
  • The pure in heart have been cleansed of their rebellion and rejection of God and they genuinely seek Him.
  • The contrast between those who are pure in heart and those who aren’t is not the contrast between the mediocre person and Mary Poppins, who is practically perfect in every way.  
  • The contrast is between those who are seeking to follow God and those who have rebelled against Him.
  • Other passages: Psa 24:4; Psa 51:10; Psa 73:1; Psa 73:13; Pro 20:9; Mat 5:8; 1Ti 1:5; 2Ti 2:22; Heb 10:22.

James 4

4You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.  5Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”?  6But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”  7Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.  8Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.  9Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.  10Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. – James 4:1-10

  • James is writing to people who claim to believe the gospel of Jesus Christ and yet they live as if the gospel is not true. 
  • Although they call themselves believers, the way they live is like the wicked in Psalm 73.  They want the things of this world and they are ignoring the ways of God to get them. James calls such people “double-minded.”
  • James wants them to stop being double minded, trying to love both God and the world.  He wants them to actually embrace the faith as true and live like it is true.  He describes that as cleansing your hands and purifying your hearts. 

Putting these 3 passages together: To be pure in heart is to have a heart that is cleansed of its fundamental unbelief and rebellion to God.  The pure in heart live like the gospel is true, though not perfectly.   This is particularly applicable to the kind of religious hypocrisy and double-mindedness we see in the Pharisees.

Seeing God

  • The pure in heart are fortunate because when the kingdom comes they will see God.
  • Some passages suggest no one can literally see God and live (e.g. Exodus 33:18-23).
  • Psalm 24:3-6 suggest the pure in heart seek the face of God. They want to stand before Him in some sense.
  • The Old Testament describes the destiny of the righteous as beholding the face of God (e.g, Psalm 17:15; Psalm 11:7).
  • Is this literal or metaphorical? I lean toward metaphorical. The ones who are genuinely seeking God will find Him.
  • We — who long for God and who cannot stand before Him as the sinful wretches that we are — will one day be able to stand before Him and see Him in some sense.

Paraphrase: As surprising as it may seem, those who hearts have been cleansed from hostility toward God and worldliness, those who are sincerely seeking the face of God are truly fortunate, because they and only they will stand before God and be accepted when He establishes His kingdom.

Please listen to the podcast for more detail and explanation.

Next: 22 Matthew 5:9 The peacemakers

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Series: Gospel of Matthew: Behold, the King!

Resources: Matthew Resources

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