I was pleasantly surprised by this straightforward book on the beatitudes from Matthew 5:1-12. Smith first sets the context by clearly articulating the gospel message, then describes the beatitudes like a “series of seven rings, each suspended on a rope from a high ceiling” (25). His point is that they are not standalone virtues, but links in a chain which build upon each other. This analogy of moving from one ring to the next is helpful without becoming programmatic. Each chapter also includes a block insert to summarize the main points of application.
Smith writes like an old soul. The Word of God dwells richly in his exposition, but he also draws upon the early church fathers, Puritan writers such as Thomas Watson and John Bunyan, and time-honored preachers like Charles Spurgeon and Jonathan Edwards. The entire book is filled with jewels of biblically-grounded quotations. His vivid illustrations, both biblical and personal, shine a floodlight on the wisdom of his writing. As a skilled preacher, his applications are practical, multi-faceted, and clearly tied to the biblical principles.
Smith also writes as a biblical counselor. He makes the clear distinction between roots, shoots, and fruit (21-22, 95-96) and gives examples of how the beatitudes might be used in counseling hurting people (139-41). The entire book is an exposition on Jesus’ teaching about progressive sanctification.
This book was a challenging read at times because of the depth of thought-provoking material. Occasionally, I had to stop reading to consider certain doctrinal concepts or reflect on the layers of biblical application. I found myself discovering new truths about the theology of sanctification and being reminded of old ones on almost every page. I did wrestle with Smith’s argument that we cannot forgive a person unless they are repentant (122-23). I prefer the terminology of attitudinal forgiveness, whereas he prefers the heart focus of love and compassion. The chapter as a whole, however, was full of insight and convicting application. I highly recommend this book for personal study, small groups, or classroom discussion.