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Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
August 16, 1998
Blessed are the Peacemakers
One of the commodities that is highly valued by the world is peace. There are diverse opinions on how to gain peace, but it is universally sought after. During the years of the "cold war" we feared losing the quasi-peace that existed. Fear of open war lead the U.S. and the Soviet Union to live for decades on the brink of destroying each other under the policy of "MAD" – "Mutually Assured Destruction" – in order to keep the balance from tipping either way which might lead to open war. Now we say that the cold war is over at isn’t wonderful to have real peace. Of course I wonder what that means since so many of the former communist nations are still very unstable or in actual civil war. And rogue nations are trying to develop nuclear capability.
The Scriptures tell us plainly that as time goes on there will continue to be wars and rumors of war (Matt. 24), so even if one crisis is past, others will come and new wars will be entered into. In our own century war has been constant. We entered the century with the Spanish-American War. Several minor wars then WW I followed by the Russian Revolution and then Spanish Civil War. Then there was the rise of Imperial Japan and the Asian wars. They lead directly into the rise of Hitler and Mussolini and WWII. WWII ends, but China continues in civil war as communism takes over. Civil war and wars of aggression by communism, despots and nationalists have been almost constant. Since WWII war has occurred in Korea, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Uganda, Ghana, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Angola, Ethiopia, Chad, Peru, Chile, Argentina, Cuba, Nicaragua, Panama, Iran, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Iraq as well as Israel and all the nations surrounding her. This does not even bring into account the guerrilla warfare that has been going on in many countries for decades – such as in the Philippines and San Salvador. The only country I could think of that has not been involved in war of some kind this century is Switzerland.
Even domestically it seems that there is a war with ourselves – not only the war on crime and on drugs – because it is unsafe to take a walk in many of our cities at night (some even in the day), but there is also a war between cultures as the morality of the nation is thrown into turmoil with the rise of the amorality of secularism – better understood as just plain immorality. Racial and economic tensions demonstrate the lack of peace on those fronts. Families are often battling one another and even personal turmoil runs rampant so that most people do not even have personal peace.
Yet, in the midst of all this, the desire of mankind is still to find peace. But what is peace? How can we find peace ourselves and how can we help others to find it? And what is the benefit of it? Those are some of the questions I want to address this morning.
We are going to be continuing in our series in the Beatitudes today – that first section of the Sermon on the Mount in which Jesus describes the character of those that are truly righteous – those who will be entering the kingdom of heaven. You will recall that the theme of the whole sermon is the nature of true righteousness and that the beatitudes themselves center on hungering and thirsting after righteousness. The beatitudes are not things you can work up in yourself, but are the marks of a person who has the Holy Spirit working in them. The first three produce the hunger for righteousness. Being poor in spirit – coming to God as a beggar asking for His mercy and grace. Mourning over sin and then becoming truly meek in being submissive to God. The results of hungering and thirsting after righteousness leads to being merciful to others because you realize the mercy you have received. Your striving is not just to be good outwardly, but to be pure in heart. This in turn leads to doing all you can to be a peacemaker. This last one is the Beatitude we will concentrate on this morning.
Jesus said in Matthew 5:9, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God."
First I want to look at the blessing peacemakers receive, then the nature of peace and how to be a peacemaker.
Jesus says here that the blessing given to peacemakers is that they shall be called sons of God. Remember I have said all along that the beatitudes are characteristics of those who are the truly saved. This blessing once again proves the point. It is only the redeemed that can be called "sons of God." Paul tells us in several places that it is not the natural man but the man who has the Holy Spirit that is adopted as a son of God. In Romans 8:14-17 he puts it this way (READ).
14 For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. 15 For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, "Abba! Father!" 16 The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with [Him] in order that we may also be glorified with [Him.]
In Galatians 4:4-7 Paul puts it this way: 4 But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, 5 in order that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. 6 And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, "Abba! Father!" 7 Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God.
The Apostle John put it this way in John 1:12, "But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God."
One becomes a son of God through the work of the Holy Spirit and not by one’s own effort. So again I stress the point that the blessings described in the various Beatitudes belong to the true believer in Jesus Christ. And what a wonderful blessing it is to be a son of God – a joint heir with Christ. But let me caution you here. Many people may profess to know Christ, but the reality of their relationship with Him will come out in their changed character – a character that will be conforming more and more to all the things listed here in the beatitudes. If that character is not there, they are in danger of being included in the same camp as the false prophets described in the last part of the sermon on the mount – Chapter 7:15-23. Though they did many miracles things in the Lord’s name, they were cast away because they did not truly know Christ, but instead were those that practiced lawlessness (vs 22,23). You cannot live a righteous life on your own. You must do it God’s way by seeking Him first with all your heart, then asking Him to help you to do His will – not your own.
The blessing given to those that are peacemakers is that they shall be called sons of God. They are those that belong to God as His adopted children and they are joint heirs with Christ. But what is a peacemaker and how does a person become a peacemaker? First we need to understand the nature of peace.
"Peace" is another one of those words that is used so much that it has lost a lot of its meaning. It can mean anything from a serene and tranquil place – a peaceful setting; to no longer shooting at each other (peace after a war); to a person who is too selfish and fearful to fight ("peace baby" – hold up "peace" sign). What then is peace? The Greek word used here as used in classical literature meant that interlude between the everlasting state of war – a state of peace, and hence the idea of being in a state of rest. As mentioned earlier, that still seems to be the meaning of the word for a lot of people. One person put it this way, "peace is that glorious moment in history when everyone stops to reload." However, the concept of peace Jesus is dealing with here is not the Greek concept, but the Hebrew concept. The Hebrew word, Shalom, was consistently translated as this Greek word for peace, and doing so gave the word a new richness and depth of meaning. The word still carried the idea of being the opposite of war, i.e., Zech. 8:10, " . . . there was no peace because of his enemies, and I set all men one against another." But "peace" also came to be used in contexts that had nothing to do with war. It took on more of the general sense of well-being in contrast to evil in every possible form, i.e., Proverbs 3:17, "her (wisdom’s) ways are pleasant ways, And all her paths are peace." It could signify the good which comes from God, such as in Numb. 6:26 in the Aaronic blessing . . . "The LORD lift up His countenance on you, and give you peace." The word "peace" did not merely mean "rest" anymore, but it could denote the salvation of man which could not be overthrown by any violence or misfortune, thus in Genesis 15:15 even death could be spoken of as "going to your fathers in peace."
In the New Testament, "peace" was no longer just the state of rest between warring nations, but now also referred to the relationship between individuals and with God. This is seen in its usage in common greetings and farewells and in passages speaking about having peace with the soul and peace with God. This is the sense of "peace" that Jesus is talking about when He talks about peacemakers. In addition peace is not just the absence of conflict, but the state of reconciliation.
For example. North and South Korea are at peace in the sense they currently are at rest with each other. They are not shooting at each other and dropping bombs. But those countries have not reconciled with each other which is why they are technically still at war with each other. That is the reason for the DMZ and UN troops (mostly U.S.) being stationed there. They are there to try to keep the nations abiding by the cease fire agreement that was made over 40 years ago. But until the two nations reconcile with each other they will continue to be poised for open war, the DMZ will continue to exist, and foreign troops will continue to be stationed there. North and South Korea are not at peace in the full sense of the word as would be meant by our Lord. A truce is good, but it is not fully peace.
When Jesus says that peacemakers are blessed, He is not saying that those who negotiate truces between warring nations will be called sons of God. He is saying those that bring true peace are His children.
What is true peace? It begins by gaining peace with God. Romans 5:1 gives us our introduction into what this means. "Therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." Eph. 2:14-18 expands on this point. 14 For He Himself is our peace, who made both [groups into] one, and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, 15 by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, [which is] the Law of commandments [contained] in ordinances, that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, [thus] establishing peace, 16 and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity. 17 And He came and preached peace to you who were far away, and peace to those who were near; 18 for through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father.
Notice in the passage that there was enmity (vs 16) between God and man. We were His enemies because of our sin. Something had to be done to end the war that was between us. A truce would not have been enough because that would have left us in our sins and we would eventually have to pay the price for those sins. God sent His own son Jesus Christ to pay the penalty of our sin so that we could be reconciled with God (vs 16). That is the message of peace that Jesus brought and preached (vs 17) and why Jesus is called our peace (vs 14). Romans 5:10 says the same thing, "For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life." The first step in true peace is being reconciled to God through Jesus Christ which is salvation. That is why the Gospel is called the Gospel of peace (Eph 6:15, Acts 10:36). And since the reconciliation of man and God takes place because of God’s initiative, God is called the God of peace (Heb. 13:20, Phil 4:9).
It is upon the basis of this peace we have with God that we can move forward to be peacemakers – understanding that the true nature of the peace that Jesus is talking about is not just the absence of conflict – but reconciliation. First and foremost a peacemaker helps people to become reconciled to God. This is primary because it is out of a correct relationship with God that the secondary aspect of peacemaking, helping people reconcile with one another, can be accomplished.
If a person wants to be a peacemaker then, they must follow the model that God has already given us in that He made peace with us. He saw the need of man, He met the need of man, and He offered forgiveness to man.
But, you say that "you are not God and that you cannot see the needs that are there, and if you do you cannot meet them and it is difficult to forgive those that are at war with you and attacking you." No, you are not God, but God has given the example for us to follow and in the Beatitudes themselves He gives the guidelines by which we can become peacemakers.
Note the following from the beatitudes as practical guidelines to becoming true peacemakers. First, the peacemaker is poor in spirit. A peacemaker must have an entirely new view of himself – not one of pride and of self-centeredness, but one that understands his/her own need for God’s grace and mercy. A person who is still proud and self centered can never be a peacemaker because their own ego and selfish desires will get in the way. Even in seeking to bring people to peace with God they falter. They tend to pervert the gospel in order to gain more pagan scalps for their belt, they do not share the gospel with everyone, but only those they think would be good for the church, and they seek to take the glory for themselves. They become stumbling blocks to those they are supposedly helping. In helping people with other people all they can add is a third opinion rather than wisdom.
Second, the peacemaker must be mournful over sin. This goes along with the change in understanding of one’s self. You recognize your own sin and in humility examine yourself before you step out to assist someone else. Gal 6:1 puts it this way, "Brethren, even if a man is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and thus fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself." But notice that this also requires a change in your view of others. You no longer see them as adversaries, but as those who are also entrapped in sin, and this causes you to mourn for them. Because you are poor in spirit and mourn over sin you are also merciful. You know what God has done for you and you want to do the same in extending mercy to them. You no longer ask why a difficult and offensive person is like that because you know they are like that because they are still being governed by the god of this world, the spirit that works in the children of disobedience. They are victims of self and Satan. When a person begins to see their enemies from that view they are in a real position to help and help them make peace.
Another practical application from the Beatitudes about being a peacemaker is that the peacemaker is meek – a person controlled by God. The meek are humble so that personal insults are not received with anger and seeking revenge, but instead with compassion and forgiveness. The meek do not seek for themselves, but in their hunger and thirst after righteousness the want God’s will to be done. That is why they are pure in heart. They want God to be glorified and that demands that any peace that is arrived at is done in a manner that will glorify God. True peacemakers seek to use Godly wisdom which according to James 3:17 is first pure, then peaceable." The ramification of that is that peace is not pursued by a true peacemaker at the expense of righteousness. Heb. 12:14 tells us to "pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord." That means that peace cannot be pursued at the expense of holiness either. In short, true peacemakers do have direction in what they are to do – and they do not make peace at any cost. They are not appeasers but pursue peace in the context of truth and righteousness. That is one reason that the Scriptures give a qualification about the Christian’s pursuit of peace. Romans 12:18 tells us, "If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men."
We need to realize that in our pursuit of holiness we will bring on the opposition of a world that is bent on sin. If peace were only absence of conflict, then we would be appeasers, but since true peace demands reconciliation with God first and then with other men, then true peace can only exist when everything is in harmony God. A true peacemaker knows that there will often if not usually be opposition and strife before harmony and peace occur. They will not settle for peace at any price but will continue to set God’s standard of righteousness before a world that loves wickedness and accept the inevitable conflict because until a sinner comes to God they can never have peace with God – or for that manner anyone else.
Jeremiah was a true peacemaker yet he was always in the midst of conflict. He was poor in spirit, mourned so much he is called the "weeping prophet, he was meek and hungered and thirsted after righteousness. He was merciful and pure in heart. That is why he was a peacemaker. The religious leaders of the day would foolishly talk of peace they would never gain because they refused to listen to Jeremiah’s call for them to repent. Jer. 8:11-12 tells that they proclaimed, "Peace, Peace, but there was no peace," because they and the rest of the people were not "ashamed because of the abomination they had done." If we are going to be peacemakers we must be like Jeremiah who held out the standard of God’s righteousness even though he personally suffered from the conflict that caused all because he desired his people to repent from their sins, become reconciled with God and know true peace. A person that is not willing to upset things by doing God’s will and proclaiming His standard of morality cannot be a peacemaker.
In summary then, a peacemaker is at peace with God because they have been justified by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (Rom 5:1). They have the Holy Spirit living in them who produces in them the fruit of peace (Gal 5:22). They strive to be at peace with all men so much as it depends on them (Rom 12:18), but they pursue holiness and purity as their priority (James 3:17, Heb 12:14). In meekness and humility they proclaim all that God has said and call sin exactly what it is. They do not seek appeasement, but instead to fulfill their role as ambassadors of reconciliation (2 Cor 5:18) because they know there "is no peace for the wicked" (Isa 48:22). They also know that in this world they will have tribulation, but they are of courage because in Jesus they will personally have peace (Jn 16:33). Peacemakers love their enemies and pray for those that persecute them (Matt 5:44). A peacemaker strives primarily to bring men and women into reconciliation with God and secondarily into reconciliation with one another.
Let me conclude with a few remarks concerning putting all this into practice, for it is in the practice that you will prove whether you are a peacemaker or not. Peacemakers contend for the faith without being contentious. They disagree with the world without being disagreeable. They confront without being abusive. Scripture says they are to "speak the truth in love" (Eph. 4:15). We need to be characterized by all of the beatitudes – a person who is selfless, humble, loveable and approachable.
One of the great lessons for us to learn to become peacemakers is to learn to hold our tongues. James tells us to be "swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger." Too often we let our mouth go before the mind is in gear. We must learn to control what we say. Not only do we need to keep ourselves from slander, gossip and repeating hurtful things unnecessarily. But also have to be watchful for being both cutting and defensive in our own remarks. If we would first learn not to speak, and then to speak only in light of gospel in each and every situation we would be a long way toward being true peacemakers. At every circumstance we should consider God’s view of it and how we can respond to further the cause of Christ. Will what we say and do bring glory to His name? Is it according to His will? Will it help bring people into reconciliation with God and with one another?
"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God." May that blessing be true of you today.
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