There is, beyond any question, a very definite order in these Beatitudes. Our Lord does not place them in their respective positions haphazardly or accidentally; there is what we may describe as a spiritual logical sequence to be found here. This, of necessity, is the one which must come at the beginning for the good reason that there is no entry into the kingdom of heaven, or the kingdom of God, apart from it. There is no-one in the kingdom of God who is not poor in spirit. It is the fundamental characteristic of the Christian and of the citizen of the kingdom of heaven, and all the other characteristics are in a sense the result of this one. As we go on to expound it, we shall see that it really means an emptying, while the others are a manifestation of a fullness.
We cannot be filled until we are first empty. You cannot fill with new wine a vessel which is partly filled already with old wine, until the old wine has been poured out. This, then, is one of those statements which remind us that there has to be a kind of emptying before there can be a filling. There are always these two sides to the gospel; there is a pulling down and a raising up. You remember the words of the ancient Simeon concerning our Lord and Saviour when he held Him as an Infant in his arms. He said, `this child is set for the fall and rising again of many.’ The fall comes before the rising again. It is an essential part of the gospel that conviction must always precede conversion; the gospel of Christ condemns before it releases. Now that is obviously something which is fundamental. If you prefer me to put it in a more theological and doctrinal form, I would say that there is no more perfect statement of the doctrine of justification by faith only than this Beatitude: `Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs (and theirs only) is the kingdom of heaven.’ Very well then, this is the foundation of everything else.*
Soli Deo Gloria!
Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Studies in the Sermon on the Mount (Kindle Locations 539-551). Kindle Edition.