There are many useful ways to break down Matthew Chapter five in smaller passages for useful study, I would like to suggest its progress can be seen in the following manner with the following subsections: (1) Matthew 5:3-10 as the character of the Christian in general terms, or foundational character; (2) Matthew 5:11-12 as the proof of Christian character; (3) Matthew 5:13-16 as Christian character in society; and (4) Matthew 5:17-48 are illustrations of Christian Character.
Our study of poor in spirit will focus in on the character of the Christian, not a code of ethics or morals. The Sermon on the Mount (Sermon) is a description of what Christians are meant to be: people of Christlike character. It has been said that “Christian character is considered before conduct.” Character is what determines a man’s actions and our development is character based, not action based. When character is properly developed into Christlikeness the action of the Christian will be as the Scriptures portray as ordinary Christian behavior. Thus character development will be our focus in the study of the first Beatitude: poor in spirit.
There are five principle ideas that need to be kept in mind as we study the Beatitudes specifically. The first is the Beatitudes describe the character of all Christians. There are no indications in the text of the Beatitudes being applied only to the spiritual elite. Nowhere in the New Testament is there a doctrine of the exceptional Christian versus the ordinary one. The Beatitudes are the standard of Christian character; that is our blessing and happiness. Not only are all Christians meant to have character as displayed in the Beatitudes it must be concluded that this character is at hand. There is no way to argue this, though some have tried. We will see through the study how this character is attainable. To conclude our first principle: the Beatitudes tell us what the Christian (that means all Christians) is to be in character.
The second principle grows from the first: every Christian is meant to manifest all the characteristics of the Beatitudes. Since we are presupposing that each Beatitude builds upon the preceding one they all need to be developed to attain Christian character. Let us keep in mind each believer is in the process of being perfected as the following two Scriptures remind us:
Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (Hebrews 12:1-3, NASB)
And I am convinced and sure of this very thing, that He Who began a good work in you will continue until the day of Jesus Christ [right up to the time of His return], developing [that good work] and perfecting and bringing it to full completion in you. (Philippians 1:6, Amplified)
During this perfecting process some characteristics of the Beatitudes will be manifested more than others. This iscommon until we are perfected. This unsteady growth is part of the process that is seen in the lives of Christians who are building character. Concern yourself with proceeding along the path the way Christ taught it, and to proceed in the order taught despite the visible manifestations of character. To live the whole Sermon we began with the first Beatitude. To conclude our second principle: each of the Beatitudes implies the other, and is wholly dependent upon each other.
Commit to applying the Beatitudes one at a time, and in their entirety, to your life starting by becoming poor in spirit.