Blessed are the Pure in Heart – Matthew 5:8

Although purity can refer to ritual cleanliness, Jesus refers to a person who is actually pure in their inner being. The adjective pure (καθαρός) is the word used frequently in the Septuagint to translate “clean” in the Law. For example, Numbers 8:7 refers to “waters of purification” or clean animals (Gen 7:2). A Jewish worshiper going up to the Temple would wash themselves in one of the many pools leading up to the Temple entrances. This was a ritual performed to symbolize purity and the person could be said to have “clean hands” the waters could not make the person actually pure.

Is Psalm 24 in the background of this saying? R. T. France (Matthew, 204) and McKnight both suggest the possibility since the answer to the psalmist’s question “who may ascend the holy hill of God?” is the one with a pure heart.

In Matthew 5:8, the heart of the follower of Jesus is called clean. The heart is the center of a person in the ancient world so the one who is “pure in heart” (οἱ καθαροὶ τῇ καρδίᾳ) has been really been made pure. In Psalm 26:6-7, the worshiper says “I wash my hands in innocence and go around your altar, O Lord, proclaiming thanksgiving aloud, and telling all your wondrous deeds.” Similarly, 2 Timothy 2:22 uses the same phrase, those who call on the Lord from a “pure heart.”

What is a “pure heart”? In the immediate context of the Sermon on the Mount, the followers of Jesus are the ones who keep the Law internally. In 5:21-26 the follower of Jesus not only avoids murder, but also controls their anger and inner thoughts. In 5:27-30 they not only avoid adultery, but control their lustful thoughts. In both cases, the inner life of the true disciple of Jesus is pure.

The followers of Jesus also stand in contrast to the hypocrites, those who do their acts of worship in public to be seen by people (Matthew 6:1-18). The actions of hypocrites make them to be pure in heart, but in fact “are like whitewashed tombs” (Matt 23:27).

The result in the beatitude is remarkable: they will see God. Exodus 33:20 says no one can see the face of God. After God allows his glory to pass by Moses, God himself writes the Ten Commandments on two stone tablets and then he announces he is the gracious and compassionate God (Exodus 34:5-7). Yet Moses himself cannot see God. In Isaiah 6 the prophet sees the throne room of God and glimpses only the train of God’s robe. Yet he says ““Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!” (Isa 6:5).

In contrast to these two examples of Moses and Isaiah, the true disciple of Jesus will see God. It is possible Matthew intends for us to remember the sign of Emmanuel (Matt 1:23), Jesus is “God with us,” but perhaps the force of the metaphor is judicial. In Psalm 11:7 “the Lord is righteous and loves righteous deeds, the upright shall behold his face.” Remember righteousness is not a state of inner holiness, but real social justice (Matt 5:6). Therefore the person who acts justly will behold God’s face is a metaphor for vindication before a judge. When Joseph interpreted the dream of the butler, he said the pharaoh would “life up his head” and render justice (he would be restored to his position and the chief butler). In the context of a trial, for an ancient Near Eastern king to allow someone to look up is a sign the person has been found innocent.

Once again this beatitude has some persecution and a (future) vindication of the persecuted followers of Jesus. The ones who are pure in heart (the disciples) will look upon the face of God and be vindicated when the king renders justice. There is eschatology here as well, since seeing God may hint at the future coming of the son of Man to render justice when he establishes his kingdom.

24 thoughts on “Blessed are the Pure in Heart – Matthew 5:8

  1. So, the main point That I think I got out of all of the blog, and the reading was that it is not what you do as a person staying true to the law or things like that, it is about knowing that it is nothing that we have done that can get us to heaven except for us to except the Lords call on our life. it is sort of like the old sang “we do not obey the law to become part of the family of God, we do them because we already are in the family of God. like you were saying they talk about in Mathew5:8 that Jesus has made there hearts clean, the key word here is Jesus, it was no law we kept that made us clean it was all Jesus. I also know McNight feels the same when he says “I believe in salvation through faith, and not of works.

  2. “Blessed is the pure in heart: for they shall see God” (Matt 5:8) What seems like such a simple statement, can be broken down and analyzed in so many different ways. I believe that being pure in heart has a different meaning today than it did to the disciples when Jesus spoke this. Because of Christ’s blood, we are made pure. The disciples believed Jesus by following his commandments and believing in what He taught was to come. This includes making sure their “inner selves” were pure by making sure they did not lust not just avoid committing adultery as you mentioned. I definitely think that the Scriptures give enough proof that seeing God is a foreshadowing of seeing God in Heaven. I love your theory of the persecuted lifting their heads to see God’s face as he vindicates for them as the Judge. McKnight also agrees with this theme of eschatology as He points out that the word “blessed” refers to future blessings although the work we do to “earn” those blessings starts now.

    • Mary I really like the way that you broke down and defined what it means to be pure in heart in todays world. We were made pure when Jesus died on the cross for our sins. I also really like the way that McKnight describes the pure of heart as not only being pure in following the law, but also as seeing, “God asa person to be loved, so their first priority is God, and this love leads to loving others well” (McKnight, 44). For someone to be pure in heart does not only mean their actions. It is also their motives behind their actions. Someone that is pure in heart loves God first and foremost, and their actions follow this love by obeying God in everything they do.

  3. As mentioned above, the pure in heart are those who keep God’s word internally. Looking at the context surrounding this passage in Matthew 5:8 is critical to understand the pureness of heart. I find it interesting how Jesus has laid out his teaching in this section of Matthew. Jesus starts off the lesson with discussing how blessed those pure of heart, humble and so on are blessed. I can almost imagine a few Pharisees standing at the back of the crowd getting their chests puffed up as they hear these first few statements. Then Jesus goes on to explain what the pure of heart truly is and the true meaning of the law. I can see as this chapter goes on the pride and air slowly being let out of those Pharisees’ balloon as Jesus explains how all sin is equal and being pure of heart does not mean seeing yourself above others. Jesus goes beyond stating that those who wish to have eternal life and see God (Matt 5:8) need to be pure of heart. Jesus explains the meaning of pure heartedness and how to achieve it as well.

    • It is interesting to me the way that you described the Pharisees that could have been standing in the back of the crowd listening to Jesus speak. Yeah, they probably did not like what he was saying and may have puffed out their chests, but in reality, many people today can be like the Pharisees in this situation. There is a sense of pride that today’s culture brings, which goes against being pure of heart like Jesus was telling the crowds that day. It’s hard for them to properly love others because they are not striving after God’s love first. Their first priority is not God, therefore they fall short on loving people. The concept of having a “pure heart” would have probably been foreign to the Pharisees like it is foreign to many today. Jesus states though that those with a pure heart will see God.

  4. This beatitude was the first verse of memory that I have known since the young age of nine. It is my favorite and I appreciate your interpretation. To look upon the face of God is the deepest and utmost desire of ones heart.

  5. This is a big one. Specifically within the modern day Church because there is so much that tries to continually corrupt our hearts which ultimately corrupts our beings even more than what we already are. The Bible says to think and dwell on things from above and not of this world because the world as fallen is not of God. McKnight had much to say in that to be pure in heart as believers we must love God as our first priority and then others and in doing this we will be pure in heart because loving a pure God we will be focused and center our life around pure and righteous things. Striving to love a God who is and already loves us will hold us to a way of living that will mold us and our hearts into something that only God can do in us. Which is His goal for believers, His children, to give us clean hearts and new bodies.

  6. Pure of heart. I believe has a ver different meaning than it did when Jesus was still walking the earth. Jesus died and made us pure of our sins and transgressions. We ask for forgiveness and it is given. Yet we fall back on trying to be pure. We have gotten a mindset where the Bible does not apply to us today. Yet it still does. I believe an example of pure of heart was when Jesus was anointed in Bethany, everyone was mad at the women who poured the perfume on Jesus head. Yet Jesus said its the best thing she could have done. She had a pure intention. Jesus received it. We are losing the battle in which we go out of our way to do what the Lord called us to do. Lets us have pure intentions when we worship the Lord or go and reach out to the lost. “Let us not being conformed to the world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”Romans 12:2

  7. What is a pure heart? As stated above, the inner disciples of Jesus are the pure and also the ones who contrast the hypocrites. McKnight states that the pure of heart worship so that they can engage with God. They should not be worrying about the people around them. It should be strictly between them and God. I believe this to be 100 percent true. Being pure is practicing what you preach from a Biblical standpoint. As Christians, we should strive for pure hearts. Only by the Grace of God can this happen. So, as Christians, why do we act the way we do? Do we actually mean it? Are we actually pure? I find these as very good questions to ask. Not only ask the questions, but actually be able to answer them for yourself.

    • I was having such a hard time grasping the concept of pure heart and blessing. These two things are so hard to wrap our minds around. I was trying to think of what blessings come when one has a pure heart. Do they feel happier than everyone else? Are they lives easier, or less stressful? I know that when I do things for others I do get a feeling of satisfaction, but am I doing it with a pure heart? I think you did a great job explaining how one obtains a pure heart!

      • Yes I love your post and my biggest thing to understand was when you have a clean pure heart blessing often want to come your way. God wants our hearts too be pure so we have no evil intentions with the blessings that he gives us. Also what you said its less stressful and makes your environment better .

  8. “The pure in heart see God as a person to be loved, so their first priority is God, and this love leads to loving others well” (McKnight, 2013, p. 45). I think McKnight’s definition of the pure in heart resembles a very meaningful portion of Jesus’ teachings, found in Matthew 22:36-40. This teaching is about the two greatest commandments: love God and love others. With this in mind it is almost a given that the person who does this will see God, because it would mean following what He has called us to do. Therefore keeping McKnight’s definition of those pure in heart will lead to the assurance of seeing God, whether this is a judicial or literal statement.

  9. Having a pure heart allows a person to see who God truly is as well as how he loves us in order to love one another. Since God is love, Jesus again reminds us here that those who have a pure heart are blessed and are able to see God (Matthew 5:8) when we strive to have a pure heart, we are then in turn striving after God’s will. Jesus then give us “the best commentary on ‘pure heart’ [in] 6:1-18, where religious actions are done not for the praise of others but in order to engage with God” (McKnight 45). When striving to have a “pure heart” one must engage with God. Paul also informs us to “not conform to the patterns in this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” and in doing this, one is able to engage with God and develop a “pure heart.” (Romans 12:2)

  10. In my, the statement “Blessed are the pure in heart” needs to be broken down. What does it mean to be blessed, and giving blessings? Does it mean life will go smoother? Or maybe it means having a better or a less frustrating life. How can a person know what true blessing mean? Is it based on whatever feelings or emotions one correctly feels, or is it more of an ongoing thing? In my opinion, people feel “more blessed” when they have the materialist things they wish to have. You hear things like “I’m so blessed to have this house” but what would happen if you lost that house? Are you unblessed? The second part of the statement talks about a pure heart. How does one obtain a pure heart? This is not a literal saying, for no one can physically clean their heart. This is talking about having a heart that serves our Creator instead of our desires. I think “blessed are the pure in heart” is talking about how those who serve God and others and they are blessed because what they are doing is pleasing to God. The blessing is feeling at peace with their actions and satisfaction because they are doing what God created them to do.

  11. Pure in heart, is such a simple and deep thing to think about. It is interesting to read and see that the inner disciples of Jesus were truly pure in heart. They were able to avoid murder, adultery, and able to take captive their thoughts. Their “pure heart” was not only external but internal. As followers of Christ, it means a lot to have a pure heart. It does not mean we only control our outward actions, or proudly show off our worship, but it comes along with holding our inner thoughts accountable to the word of God. To avoid gossip, to make our thoughts obedient to Christ. If we are truly pure in heart, our internal devotion to Christ must match our external devotion to Him. In Proverbs 4:23, we are told to guard our hearts for it is the wellspring of life (NIV). This shows us how important it is to be pure in heart. Our heart will dictate our whole life. If our heart is full of lust, pride, envy, and sinful thoughts we will not be a representation of Christ on this earth. But if we guard our hearts, and make our thoughts obedient to the word of God and the truths stated within it, we will also be Pure in Heart. As Christians and children of God, we are meant to meditate on His word, seek His truth, abide in His love, and to be pure in heart— both externally and internally.

  12. Jesus shows clearly in his ministry even before he speaks of the Beatitudes that he cares about a person’s heart rather than what is on the outside. The culture and the context that most of the religious people of Jesus’ time were seeing the idea of purity through was different than what God considered pure. A great example of this is in Luke 11:38. In this passage Jesus is going to eat with a Pharisee and it says, “But the Pharisee was astonished to see that he [Jesus] did not first wash before dinner” (Luke 11:38). This shows that even Jesus’ own actions were contradictory to the human made laws that were more about climbing the social ladder and receiving “social honor” than about a relationship with God (McKnight, pg. 45, 2013). For the Pharisees it is often implied that while their actions showed a sense of religious purity there was not genuine purity in their hearts. McKnight reflects on the purity of the heart and considers the fact that where “religious actions are done not for the praise of others but in order to engage with God” is where the truest form of purity of the heart is (McKnight, pg. 45, 2013). The Pharisees wanted to catch others in a moment of failure and were eager to point out their flaws instead of focusing on worshipping God through their actions. While it is easy to look at the Pharisees through the same lens that they often viewed others through (a lens of criticism and pride) it is so important to remember that we are often more like the Pharisees than the heroes and humble in the Bible. Having a pure heart is not easy for natural born sinners. I pray that God gives us eyes to see ourselves as we truly are when considering the purity of our hearts, and that we rejoice in the fact that he has grace over us – we need it so desperately!

  13. The idea of having a “pure heart,” in the context of the sermon on the mount in the book of Matthew focuses on how followers of Jesus control their inner thoughts and motives along with physically living out the way Jesus set as an example for us. “But the pure in heart see God as a person to be loved, so their first priority is God, and this love leads to loving others well” (McKnight 45). When one is pure in heart, their motive behind their actions has nothing to do with personal gain or advancing their own cause. Their motive is based on loving another person, loving God, and being content with what they have. Being pure in heart comes with a feeling of peace that you did the right thing because it was the right thing to do. McKnight also explains that acting with a pure of heart allows us to engage with God. “The best commentary on ‘pure in heart’ is where religious actions are not done for the praise of others but in order to engage with God” (McKnight 45). I think this was the main problem with the Pharisees in their commitment to their religious law. They saw themselves as pure in the heart because they followed the law strictly. However, they missed the reason on WHY they should be following the law. They should follow it because of their love of God – rather than doing it to appear more religiously in tune than the rest of society. “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water” (Hebrews 10:22). Although the Pharisees were the most evident of those that were committed to the law without purity of heart, modern day Christians can fall into the same trap. We sometimes use our status as Christians to give off a sense of superiority over others. We must be careful of this because although we are set apart, Jesus was the ultimate friend of sinners – an example we need to follow WITH the pure heart from the sermon on the mount.

  14. Someone who has a pure heart has the ability to see who God truly is and how He has the ability to love us and one another. Matthew 5:8 states that those who have a pure heart are bless and able to see God. When we as followers of Christ have a pure heart, we as followers are trying to live our life after God and praise Him. McKnight also states on page 45 that “The pure in heart see God as a person to be loved, so their first priority is God, and this love leads to loving others well”. With this statement by McKnight, I believe it is safe to assume that what he means by “pure heart” is that of Jesus teaching. Jesus was one to always teach with a pure heart and lead His people to live a life with a pure heart. By looking at His teachings there is nothing that is stopping us from living our daily lives with a pure heart, just as Jesus did.

  15. “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God”. This beatitude is focused not on humility or peace, as some of the others are, but it can be classified as one of those who pursues justice. The article mentions that the Lord loves righteous deeds which “is not a state of inner holiness, but real social justice” (McKnight, 2013). The actions of a person originate in the heart. By the words and deeds of a person you can often see what is in their heart. Those who are pure have been washed by the blood of Jesus. He washes us white as snow. The pure in heart want to love God and others well. Their motivation is not recognition, but justice and to interact with God. However, we are not able or worthy to see God. We could not handle it directly. We see evidence of this when God reveals part of himself to Moses. He covers Moses so that he does not see too much, because God knows Moses would not be able to handle it. Yet, this is a desire we have, to see God and to know Him. Our purpose in life is to glorify God and to enjoy Him. “One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple” (Psalm 27:4). This wish is fulfilled for those who are pure in heart. That is God’s promise to us. That is the fulfillment of our joy, the joy of our heart and soul, to see God.
    ESV Study Bible. Wheaton: Crossway, 2011.
    McKnight, Scot. The Sermon on the Mount. The Story of God Bible Commentary. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2013.

  16. This is a very important blog post because of how applicable it is in today’s society. In order to live a life pleasing to God and in order to truly look upon His face one has to have the purest of hearts, with no hypocrisy. Unfortunately, in today’s society especially, there are tons of “Christians” that claim to have good intentions and pure hearts but are only putting on a facade. As P.Long and the book of Matthew puts it, “those who do their acts of worship in public to be seen by people” (Matthew 6:1-18). This is a selfish and sad way that most Christian have adopted in order to have a pure heart; for one is only trying to put out a fake image of a good Christian. The actions of hypocrites make them to be pure in heart, but in fact “are like whitewashed tombs” (Matt 23:27). The actions that these “hypocrites” are portraying are trying to convince others that they are good Samaritans, However, God is all knowing, and one cannot fool Him no matter how many good deeds one does in front of others He will always know what one does in private. In order to have a pure heart one needs to imitate the life of Jesus, for He came to Earth to teach and influence mankind with the most perfect pure heart. Thus, imitating Him would involve a completely different lifestyle than that of Christians today. Keeping God’s laws internally, no matter if one is in front of witnesses or not and controlling impulsive thoughts and loving one’s neighbor as if themself is having a pure heart.

  17. The word pure in the Bible often refers to clean water. Clear and free of impurities. What is a pure heart? I like the verse Matthew 5:21-26 that you included in this blog post. I would hope most of us agree that murder is wrong. However, the Bible also says that impure thoughts or anger are just as wrong. Having a pure heart is also cleansing the mind from impurities such as evil thoughts. Matthew 5:8 ends with saying, “for they shall see God.” This is the ultimate fulfillment that is in Revelation 22:4 (ESVSB, p. 1828). Revelation 22:4 tells us that if we are pure in heart, we will look upon the face of God. McKnight says that one immediately thinks of the questions Psalm 24 asks “Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord?” (McKnight, 2016). The answer is those with a pure heart. This is why it is so important as Christians we guard our hearts and cleanse our mind from evil or tempting thoughts. There are so many promises God gave to us with a pure heart. However, those who are trying to have a pure heart will face many trials to stop them.

    Crossway. (2011). Esv study bible: English standard version.
    McKnight, Scot and Longman, Tremper, (2016). The Story of God Bible Commentary. Sermon on the Mount. Zondervan.

  18. In Scripture, one can find many verses where we are called to have “clean” and “pure hearts”. Ranging from the Old Testament (Psalms 51:10) to the New Testament (Matthew 5:8). It is important for God that we come before him with clean and pure hearts. Jesus allowed us to have a clean heart after his sacrificial act on the cross. We can repent of our sins and recognize He is our Savior and come to Him. Today, there are many problems with the church. Just like in the New Testament, people are straying away from God. People are focused on worldly things and losing sight of the above. The world has nothing good to offer its full of hate, anger, greed, and pain. In a short time, we start filling out hearts with these negative traits. Hebrew 10:22, states that we need to draw near to God with a “true heart”. In contrast, God is filled with love, compassion, forgiveness, and kindness. Our hearts should also be filled with these positive traits. It is only then that we will be able to draw near to God.

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