Blessed are the Peacemakers
7th of a Series of 10 messages on the “Beatitudes”. This sermon was delivered by Pastor Eric Chang on May, 4, 1980.
Today we continue in the Word of God in that part of the Lord’s teaching that is called the Beatitudes. The Beatitudes simply mean the blessings, and that is the part that we read: “Blessed are the poor in spirit”, “blessed...those who mourn”, “blessed...the meek”, “blessed...those who hunger and thirst for righteousness”, “blessed...the merciful”, “blessed...the pure in heart” (which we studied last time) and today we come to the words in Mt. 5:9: “Blessed are the peacemakers.”
Let us sum up very briefly on what we saw last time. The Lord Jesus said that blessed are the pure in heart, for they - not anyone else - but they shall see God. Only those who are pure in heart are given the promise of the vision of God, the promise of eternal life. This leads us to the question: What does it mean to be pure in heart? To summarize what we studied last time, a pure heart is a heart that has been cleansed from the flesh, from the self. The word in Greek literally means ‘the clean in heart’, cleansed from sin and from self, but cleansed in such a way as we also saw that the whole heart - because it is freed from sin and from self - can now concentrate itself wholly upon loving God with its whole being. Loving God! So the circumcised in heart - those who are cleansed from sin and from self - are those who can love God with the whole being, with the whole concentration of its being. And because it is so devoted and dedicated to God in singleness of mind, it keeps His commands, it does His will - this heart which is dedicated to doing His will with single-minded devotion. So the pure in heart then are those who love God with the whole heart and who do His will. What is His will that we may do it? The answer is right here. His will is that we are peacemakers. “Blessed are the peacemakers.”
Order in the Beatitudes
We can see a certain progression of thought, a certain succession of thought as we move into these words. There is something very beautiful about the order of these nine beatitudes, and yet, there is a certain duplication of the beatitudes which reduces it, in essence, to seven. Yet, in form, there are nine. If we count the final two (which have to do with “persecution” at the end) as being the same, we have an order of eight which can still be reduced to seven. By this time you are very confused and are saying, “What do you mean?” What I mean is this: In some manuscripts, the words “Blessed are the meek” follow the words, “Blessed are the poor” because, of course, the meek and the poor are the same people. In fact, as we saw from the Hebrew [as discussed in the first message of this series], these are two forms of the same word: the poor and the meek. The Hebrew word can be translated as “poor” or as “meek”; it is virtually the same. That is why in many very important manuscripts, we have “Blessed are the poor” and “Blessed are the meek” following each other. These two are a kind of duplicate of each other. The last two are also a duplicate of each other: “Blessed are those who are persecuted” and “Blessed are you when you are reviled and persecuted”, are saying virtually the same thing. The first is duplicated and the last is duplicated. So that means, although there are nine, in essence there are seven beatitudes.
Then you will also notice a certain progression - a progression from the inward to the outward. It starts with “Blessed are the poor in spirit” - that is inward; in your spirit you are poor. But as we come to the last of this series of beatitudes, you will see it goes outward. A person who is actively making peace with other people is actively also being persecuted by other people. We have moved from the inward to the outward. Also there is an interesting correspondence between what is inward, that is, in relation to God and [what is outward], that is, in relation to man: “Blessed are poor in spirit” as we stand in the presence of God. But then also we mourn because of sin that is in the world and our relation on the human level. There is a vertical relation and a horizontal relation. This vertical and horizontal keep inter-playing and we see this pattern. And so we see the next one: “Blessed are the meek” in the relation to God, and then a hungering and thirsting in seeing this righteousness implemented in our lives and in the world. “Blessed are the merciful” [in relation to man and to God - Editor’s addition]. And then “Blessed are the pure in heart”, again the pure in heart in relation to God, and then the peacemaking in relation to man.
Now we shall look at all this in more depth, but we can see a certain pattern as we move along. We can see it most importantly - this moving from the inward to the outward. In other words the Christian, the disciple is never so focused on himself - concerned with his own holiness and righteousness - that he forgets the world round about him. This holiness is never one that is to be purely within, that we can live in isolation from others, that we can close the door and be holy in ourselves. The Lord is telling us that the holiness and purity that He is talking about is not a purity that is achieved by separation in such a way that we do not associate with other people anymore. It is not a holiness that can be attained in a monastery. It is a holiness that moves outward like light and penetrates the darkness; that moves outward like salt and conquers the corruption round about it. So, the Lord Jesus never speaks of a kind of holiness that refuses to have anything to do with other people, a holiness that can only preserve itself by shutting the doors, by isolating itself from others. So we see this progression from the inward - poverty of spirit - that moves outward, towards making others holy. We see this pattern very clearly.
This Peacemaking Not in a Political or Social Sense
Let us proceed to this matter of peacemakers. What is this peacemaking that the Lord Jesus is talking about? Now, here we must first understand what it does not mean, lest we become confused. When the Lord Jesus speaks of peacemaking, He is not talking about peacemaking in a political or social sense. That is very important [to know]. What do we mean by this? Supposing then there are two warring factions, or two armies facing each other, so what does the peacemaker do? He rushes in between the two armies facing each other and waves a banner and says, “Peace! Peace! We should not be shooting at each other. We shouldn’t be fighting each other.” Now, you will say, “That’s peacemaking.” Right? What should we all be doing then? Whenever there is going to be fighting and war, we shall rush in there and do something of this sort? We think that is peacemaking. But that is not peacemaking in the Lord’s sense because that is not the way the Lord wants us to make peace. You can see that although peacemaking looks very simple, we have to go a lot deeper than that. What about if, say for example, you are working in a company and the workers go on strike, say, against the management. The strike might take quite literal forms, like breaking windows. Lately we had this strike here and you remember they disrupted the traffic lights and things of this sort which could be quite dangerous in fact. So what do you do if that happens to be your company? So you go to them and say, “No, no. We must have peace. Peace. Let’s not have a strike. We are all going to be very friendly to each other. We are all going to smile at each other. We all are going to shake hands and make friends. And you say, “Well, you see I am being a peacemaker. I don’t go in for this violence, for this disruption and strikes and things like these.”
Well, when it says peacemakers, the Lord is hardly envisaging that the church is going to go out there and confront people at picket lines and all be pacifists. He does not mean that if you want to be a peacemaker you are not going to be in the army, you are not going to be shooting at people with guns and so forth; in short, we are involved, in this case, in political and social activity. So you may think that “Blessed are the peacemakers” refers to those people who are there when the army is going to battle, who lie down on the road and say, “You have to march over my body because I am a peacemaker. You shouldn’t go to war because in fact I am a pacifist.” Is that what the Lord Jesus is talking about?
Well, you can see, we can easily have the Scriptures being interpreted in this sort of way by people who want to use the Bible for political and social purposes. Is that what the Lord Jesus asked His disciples to do? Did you see the disciples lying down in front of the Roman army when it was advancing on Jerusalem and saying, “Peace! Peace! Don’t do this! Don’t march into Jerusalem; we must have peace in our age”? Oh no! Anyone who thinks of it this way and talks about peace making in this world and peace on a political level has not understood what is our task in this generation. Peace is not going to be achieved by this sort of means. As you read the NT, you will realize the church hardly ever (in fact we have no instance of it) gets involved in political issues or social issues and things of this kind. Now if that is not the case, how exactly do we make peace? What kind of peace are we talking about? Clearly when you study the Lord’s teaching, you will understand that He is talking about peace first and foremost on what level? Of course at the spiritual level! “Well,” you say then, “does the Christian not care about political things? Does the Christian not care about social things?
Today we have this constant debate going on about Quebec, whether “Yes” or “No” - is it going for independence or not - and these two factions are going at it. How do we make peace under this circumstance? Does the Christian withdraw and say, “No, we only talk peace on the spiritual level”? How do we cope with these questions and with these problems? Well, the other day when I was talking to a sister, she was asking me this very question: “Should we not be involved in social issues or in political issues as Christians, since after all Christians do make a rather big number in this world? If all Christians decided to make peace or to deal with social and political issues, we should have quite a significant voice in the world.” Indeed, but that is not what the Lord Jesus is talking about at this stage. I explained it to her like this: you could deal with the problem at the social and political level, but you would only be dealing with the symptoms. It is like so much medicine today which is symptomatic treatment. If you have a pain here, you treat that particular symptom; you do not treat the cause of the problem, you treat the symptom. So if you have a headache, you swallow an aspirin. That is symptomatic treatment. You do not ask or you do not know why there was a headache in the first place. So instead of treating the problem at its source, you are treating the surface at its manifestations of the problem. You are treating symptoms, not the disease at all.
True Peacemaking Deals with the Root of the Problem
Now political and social unrest, political and social problems are symptoms of something much, much deeper. That is why lying in the path of an advancing army is not going to solve any kind of problem because the problem lies not in this particular advance or that particular advance but in what causes wars at all. There you have to go into the human heart to look for the problem. That is why the Christian who understands the problem treats the problem at the level of the heart. “Blessed are the pure in heart.” Only the Lord Jesus deals with the problem at the root of the matter. It is no use trying to deal with this particular strike, and then when you have tried to settle this one, then you have another strike and another strike and endless strikes. You cannot deal with problems by treating those particular symptoms. If you want to deal with the problem, you will have to go right to the heart of the matter, and that is the corruption of the human heart. When the human heart is healed of its disease, then of course, the symptoms disappear. That is clear. Scripture has always aimed at solving social problems, not at the social level, but at the spiritual level from where all the other problems arise. Therefore it is very good to have a social consciousness and a political consciousness, but to deal with the problem at that level is to fail to understand that all human problems originate at the spiritual level. You are only truly dealing with those problems when you do so at the spiritual level.
Take for example, in the days when Paul lived, you will have noticed there was the problem of slavery. What did Paul say? Did he go out there and say to the people, “We must have peace. We must not have this oppression. We must change the social situation. We must not have man oppressing man. We must abolish slavery”? We do not hear Paul saying that. And we are surprised! Well, if you understand the spiritual strategy, you will realize that Paul is going to abolish slavery not by standing there waving the flags about the abolition of slavery, but by working in preaching the Gospel in such a way that men’s hearts are changed. And because your heart is changed, you feel immediately, you realize immediately that you cannot treat a fellow human being as a piece of property. You cannot do it! And you cannot do it because your heart is changed. No wonder that as the Gospel advanced, slavery fell away. The Gospel did not need to preach anti-slavery. It simply changed the heart of man, and slavery just went away. Slavery could not be practiced anymore when the Gospel was preached because man could no longer treat a fellow man in such an oppressive manner. When you treat the root cause, the symptoms disappear. Slavery was a symptom of man’s sinfulness, man’s desire to possess another person and to dominate another person. But when his heart is changed, that desire goes away. If you change the outside without changing the inside, then slavery will simply take another form. You can abolish slavery in the form, in which people buy and sell human beings, but slavery simply appears in another form of oppression, such as oppressing workers, oppressing the poor. You may not own him as a slave, but you can still oppress him economically. You can still exploit him. You can still trample the poor as they did in Israel. You see, whenever Israel spiritually declined, that is exactly what happened. Social injustices arose. What are you going to do? You fight each social injustice as it arises? If you do that, you are again only fighting the symptoms. The prophets did not fight just the symptoms. They denounced the symptoms but they said those symptoms were due to the spiritual malaise, the spiritual disease right deep down in the person.
Let us understand the issue clearly. The reason why I will not get involved in political disputes or social unrest is because I aim to deal with the problem at the spiritual level. Only when the man is changed at the spiritual level will there be a change at the level of social and political problems. Now you begin to understand the strategy of the Gospel, the strategy of the Bible. Many Christians, failing to understand this, think that Christians are passive and uninvolved. That is quite mistaken. Because when people are changed, then all the other issues will be affected, too. Let us understand how it affects our behavior. When it says “peacemakers”, it does not mean that you go out and carry signs outside there, walking up and down the street saying, “Peace.” That does not change people in the heart. It can make you look ridiculous without achieving anything. I do not mind looking ridiculous if being ridiculous helps to change people in their hearts. Otherwise nothing is really solved; no problems are really dealt with.
Peace and Righteousness Are Inseparable
Now the other thing we must understand what peacemaking is not is that it is not compromise. Making peace is not just compromising all kinds of moral and spiritual issues. You say, “Okay, we’ll make peace. And since you disagree with me, okay, we will just forget the whole issue.” That means truth does not really matter; peace is all that matters; and we will have peace at any price. Well, that is not the Lord’s teaching at all. That is not the case at all. To speak like this is to fail to understand the relationship in Scripture of peace and righteousness. Peace and righteousness in Scripture can never be separated. Wherever you see peace, you will see righteousness. It is always like this in Scripture. This is a principle that will not and cannot change. Let us look at one example in Prov.10:10 where the word ‘peacemaker’ appears. It reads like this: “He who winks the eye causes trouble, but he who boldly reproves make peace.” Now that is very surprising. He makes peace by boldly reproving falsehood. Strange, isn’t it? We did not expect that. In v11 we see, “The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life”. How is the mouth of the righteous a fountain of life? Because he reproves falsehood as we have just read. “...but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence.” Notice it ‘conceals’ violence. It speaks peace but really it means violence. In other words, violence is hidden in the beautiful words that are said. V12: “Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offences”.
Notice again v10 then. The one who winks his eye (winking the eye is sort of a friendly gesture, maybe in the West), but this person causes trouble. “...but he who boldly reproves”, who speaks out against evil and sin, is the one who “makes peace”. You see, without righteousness, peace has no foundation. How can you have peace - enduring peace - on the foundation of falsehood? You cannot have it! That is very easy to understand. The only sure foundation of an enduring peace has to be justice and righteousness. How can you have justice and righteousness through falsehood and through compromise with falsehood? You cannot have it.
That is why you understand Prov.10:10 says “he who reproves boldly is the one who makes peace”. This is in contrast to those false prophets that Jeremiah denounced all the time, in Jer. 6:14 and Jer. 8:11 for example, where these prophets were forever saying, “Peace, peace!” when there was no peace. That is falsehood. They are not peacemakers at all. You do not make peace by just saying, “Peace, peace!” You have to speak the truth. When there is no peace you do not say, “Peace, peace!” You say, “There will be no peace”. In Isa. 48:22 it says: “’There is no peace’ says the Lord, ‘for the wicked.’” You cannot have peace at the price of righteousness and truth. This is the reason why for example the Lord Jesus, who is called the Prince of Peace in Isa. 9:6, is also one who constantly denounces sin, and nowhere more seriously as against the religious people of His day. The most religious people in the Lord’s day were the Pharisees and the scribes, that is, the Pharisaic scholars. The Lord denounced this group with a severity that is not seen elsewhere. He speaks out against the sin and the falsehood of these religious people. You see the whole chapter of Mt. 23 is occupied with such denunciation. So bear in mind what peacemaking is not. Peacemaking is not a compromise with falsehood, that we say, “Well, okay, for the sake of peace, even if what he says is false, I won’t say anything about it. We just have to love. We just have to be peacemaking.” That is not the case at all. So when Peter, for example, in Gal. 2 - as Paul mentioned it - when Peter was behaving in an unscriptural, incorrect and unrighteous manner, and inconsistent manner, you find Paul immediately spoke out against him and rebuked him publicly. Now you say that it is very unloving to speak out like this in such a severe manner against Peter who after all is a senior apostle. That does not matter as far Paul is concerned because where there is falsehood, there is going to be strife; there is going to be dissension. You cannot have peace where there is sin. You have to understand this clearly.
Sin - the Cause of Disharmony - and Righteousness, its Antidote
This takes us to our next point. You must understand that sin is the cause of all disharmony and all discord. Untruthfulness, falsehood whether in speech or in conduct is the foundation of every kind of disharmony. Sin is the cause of every sort of conflict there is, whether within yourself or outside yourself. You can be sure of that. If you live in sin, you can be sure of one thing: that sooner or later inside of you there is going to be unrest, discomfort, tension, nervousness. We live in a Western society which is one living on valium, living on tranquilizers, living on sleeping pills. This is our problem because we live under so much pressure from outside and from inside. Why is there so much pressure? Why is there tension? If there is tension simply because you are rushed by the volume of work, that is another matter. Sometimes we simply cannot put up with this enormous pressure of work that has to get done, so much so that even Paul was able to say that sometimes he suffered from sleepless nights when he thought of the work that had to be done - the anxiety and care of the churches. That is another matter. But if your nervous tension, if your anxiety is due to some other cause, such as your conflict with a brother and sister, your conflict with your wife or with your husband, your conflict with friends, your conflict with your boss - conflict, conflict, everywhere tension, then that is a different matter. Then your sleeplessness is due to sin. Sin is the ground of all conflicts. How is your personal relationship getting on? Let us say with your wife. Oh, the family is the source of so much conflict because there sin comes to the surface so quickly. Selfishness causes so much problems, so much tension, so much unhappiness in the home or among friends, or between father and mother, or sons and daughters. Oh, the conflict - it is just terrible!
You know it when you bring up a child. A child is always insisting on his own way. You try to tell him what is good for him, but he thinks it is no good; he does not like that way. Conflict again! So sin brings on internal distress, mental distress and stress all around you. That is why the peacemaker cannot just make peace by covering up these issues. It will not do. He must realize that sin is the cause of all this kind of discord and therefore he must deal with sin. Therefore the peacemaker must have as his primary concern the antidote to sin which is righteousness. He must be preoccupied with righteousness. This point is so important to observe. Now, how do we go about being concerned with righteousness in dealing with sin? The peacemaker then must consider how he deals with unrighteousness. Well, he can reprove it, that is one thing. He must speak out against sinfulness and that is not going to make him very popular. That is not going to make him well liked. You are going to see the very next beatitude is that blessed are those who are going to be persecuted for righteousness’ sake. You see the connection. Immediately the next beatitude speaks about persecution for righteousness’ sake. So clear is the connection; the sequence immediately follows. So, you want to establish true peace in your own life. How do you go about establishing peace in your own life? By swallowing tranquilizers? Well, that will help you relieve the symptoms for a while but it will not solve the problem within you. How do you solve the problem? You must begin to build righteousness into your life. But how?
Peace through a New Heart, a New Foundation
There are some places in this world, especially in Africa and some places in South East Asia, where the floor of the house is made of mud. How do you clean a mud floor? How do you get a mud floor really clean? The way to do it of course is what? Well, you take soapy water, you pour it over the floor and you take a hard brush and you scrub it, right? What happens when you scrub a mud floor? Well, all you will have is a pool of mud by the time you finish. So instead of getting cleaner by putting the soap on it, what happens? It gets even muddier. You say, “Okay. I think this soap and brush method isn’t very good for a mud floor.” So what do you do? You sweep it and the dust flies up in the room. How do you clean a mud floor? The best you can do is to sweep the dust out and hope that that will solve the problem to some extent. In fact, you see, a mud floor cannot be cleaned in this way. You just have to put something else on the floor; you have to have a different floor altogether. That is why you can understand why houses today have wooden floors elevated above the mud floor. Otherwise you have to put a cement foundation so that your foundation is cement and not mud. Your house is built on a solid foundation. Most of you go down to the basement of your houses, you won’t see mud down there. Your whole house is founded on a solid block of concrete. So in the same way, in order for this house to be stable and to be clean you have to have a new foundation in it. You cannot just keep scrubbing your mud floor.
What is the message then? The message is simply this: If you are just trying to say, “Okay, I realize I don’t have peace because my life is not clean - it is not righteous - so what am I going to do? I am going to bring in the soap and the brush and I am going to wash the mud away.” Well, underneath that mud, there is more mud. So you are never going to solve your problem. The only way is to change completely the foundation of your house, to change the foundation of your life. It is the only way to have peace in your life. This is what the peacemaker understands: it is to have a new foundation. That is what the Bible calls regeneration. In short, you cannot have peace (and if you do not have peace you cannot be a peacemaker) without being changed, without having a completely new heart within you. You have to be transformed. So when the Lord Jesus speaks about peace He is not talking about a superficial peace in which everybody keeps their mouth shut.
It is like the case I told you about at a wedding. Somebody asked an old couple, “How come your marriage has lasted so long?” The husband replied, “Well, it was like this: we made a pact between us at the beginning of the wedding.” The man queried, “Well, what was the pact?” The husband answered, “The pact is like this: whenever we have a dispute or a quarrel, then I go out for a walk. We let things calm down. That’s the way we have lasted so long in the marriage.” He went on, “The reason we lasted so long is because ever since we made that pact, I have been living my life out of the house most of the time.” He had been spending most of his time going out on walks. He kept very healthy as he stayed out of the house most of the time. He commented, “I have been engaged in the outdoor life ever since then.” The only way to have peace was that they do not see much of each other and every time they have a quarrel he goes out for another walk. He must do several walks every day then. That is a good way to keep healthy. Unfortunately so much of this so-called peace in this world is really this kind of peace, a so-called ‘standoff’. It is a kind of truce in which everybody ceases fire for the time. “You don’t shoot and I don’t shoot, okay? We will just call it a cease-fire. You don’t open fire and I don’t open fire. Otherwise we will both get hurt. So we will just have a standoff.” Well, that is peace with a mud floor. That is no use. How can you have a long-term peace like this? The effect of that kind of marriage is virtually not to be married at all. You have a home in which you spend most of your time outside. Or else you have a home where you partition the house with a sort of Berlin wall, and you come across only with passports. You stay on your side and I stay on my side and then we will have peace in this way. I have seen marriages that only function in this way, let me tell you honestly. It is a complete standoff in which husband and wife try to talk to each other at a minimum of occasions possible because every time there is going to be a talk, there is going to be an argument and there is going to be a flare-up. So the best way, they say, is, “You keep quiet and I keep quiet and that is how we will have peace. If that doesn’t work out, the next step will be divorce.” The solution is not a standoff nor separation. No, no! We have to have an inner change to have lasting peace, a genuine peace. That is the only way.
You see, only when God has so changed our hearts and so transformed our hearts that we can have this peace within us. “My peace,” the Lord Jesus said to His disciples in Jn. 14:27, “I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you.” This peace that the Lord Jesus speaks of comes about through reconciliation. A peacemaker is one who reconciles two parties, isn’t it? He says to this party and to that party, “I will stand in between the two and make peace between these two parties.” That is a peacemaker. We are to become peacemakers in what way? First and foremost, we must make peace with God and make peace with man. Then we can reconcile God and man. In this way we can make peace between these two parties because we ourselves have been reconciled.
We Cannot Be Peacemakers without Love for God and Man
Now a peacemaker must then be in good standing with both two parties. Nobody is going to accept you as mediator if you do not stand on good terms with one party or the other. That is the first essential: a mediator, a peacemaker who stands in good relations to both parties. But more than that, he has to not only stand in good relations, he must love both parties. Why would you make peace between two people? Why would you stick your neck into it? Peacemaking is one of the most dangerous occupations. You are likely to be fired on from both sides. You are likely to get into trouble with both sides. You know what happens to mediators - they are the kind of people who get shouted at by both parties in their effort to make peace for both. Just look at what Carter had been trying to do. He was trying to make peace between both the Arabs and the Jews and he only ended up with both parties shouting at him. He was still hoping that something might work out of this. It is so difficult because while you are making peace, one side would say, “You are on the other’s side. If you talk to the Arabs, the Jews would say that you are on the Arabs’ side; if you talk to the Jews, the Arabs would say that you are on the Jews’ side. So where is he? He is caught in between. Nothing but genuine love will make us to be true peacemakers.
Notice very carefully the spiritual principle that emerges from this. You cannot be a peacemaker in the Lord’s sense of the word unless you truly love God and you truly love man, and therefore you desire to reconcile both. That is something very difficult. That shows how high is the standard of a peacemaker here. It is not something quite as simple as waving a card or walking on the street. We can all do that for political reasons. It is not as simple as just standing there and making political speeches. It has to be borne of a genuine love for God and for man. Loving God - can we say we really love God that we love Him enough to want to be a peacemaker, to reconcile people to God? Can we say we really love man to the extent that we want to be a peacemaker? Just think of your personal conflicts for a moment, if you think that is easy. Think of your relationship to, say, your roommates, to your parents, to your friends; or let us come back to this matter of husband and wife again, or with your children. Peacemaking - oh, that comes to the brass tacks of making peace! That is really the difficult part. We can see that having such a love for God and such a love for man has to come from regeneration. As Rom. 5:5 says, “The love of God” which is “shed abroad in our hearts”. [KJV] Unless that happens all this talk about “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God” is impossible; it cannot be done. It is again a pipe dream - unless we are changed. I stress this time and again, that salvation depends upon a transformation of a man, that transformation within us to make this possible. Can you say that you have been changed to the extent that you are willing to love God with your whole heart and love man, even if he is your enemy?
Peacemaking Involves Love for the Enemy
You see the Lord’s teaching here involves love for the enemy. Mt. 5 tells us this very same thing of loving the enemy because in vv44-45 we find the parallel to this beatitude. Here the Lord Jesus said, “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.” Note carefully these words: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of God. You see the meaning is exactly the same: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” This is so important to observe. Peacemakers are those who love their enemies for how else are you going to make peace? That we cannot do. Left to ourselves we cannot do this because by nature, the natural man is aggressive. We have conflict because the natural man is always seeking his own interest. By nature he is like that. He may be a very nice fellow but his interest is his primary concern. I find that you notice this immediately that when you have to deal with children. Their own interest is always foremost in their own minds. Kids are beautiful. Kids are so nice, and so unbelievably selfish. They are so nice. I love kids. I love them even though they are unbelievably selfish. It’s incredible! Selfishness is the cause of all this conflict that we have. We have this conflict because we must have our own way. We do not want to put God’s interest first or other people’s interests first. We do not want to do this. But we will not have peace, we must understand, until we have the kind of love for people that is willing to love people until God changes them completely. That is what a peacemaker has to do. When you go out there and love people until they are changed from their selfishness, you will begin to understand the mind of Christ. The Lord Jesus made peace by the blood of His cross.
The Cost of Being a Peacemaker: Overcome Sin by Love
This takes me to the next point. The cost of being a peacemaker. The cost of being a peacemaker here is precisely that you are overcoming sin (which is the cause of unrest and turmoil) by love. That is what a peacemaker has to do. He recognizes that sin is the cause of there being no peace. So how to overcome this situation of there being no peace? Well, you have to draw people away from it. You have to tell them that sin is the cause of unrighteousness. You not only have to speak to them with your words, as we saw, to reprove their sinfulness, but you also have to love the sinner. You have to do two things. You have to reprove the sinner, as the Lord Jesus did, and still love him. Oh, that is difficult. That is what makes peacemaking so difficult. It is a task that is simply so incredibly difficult, yet so wonderfully worthwhile. What is so wonderful is that you see a person change - moving away from unrighteousness - because he now understands that sin is bad.
Have you been bringing up a child? If so, you will understand exactly what I mean. Being a peacemaker is like bringing up a child. When my girl does wrong I reprove her. If necessary I will even spank her and discipline her. Yet I have also not only to reprove her, I have to love her in such a way that she recognizes that sin is bad. The job of a parent is really difficult. It is so hard to convince a child that something is bad because the child thinks it is very good. Have you ever tried to convince a child that sweets are bad for him? I have almost given up on this impossible task. I do not know how I must go about proving to the child that the sweet is bad not only for the teeth; but also bad for the health - it spoils the appetite. I think any of you who are parents know how impossible a job that is. The child is convinced that the sweet is good and you have to tell him something contrary to his experience. He tastes it and says, “Hmm...delicious!” And there is Daddy saying it is no good. You try convincing a child next time. That, you will understand, is the job of a peacemaker: trying to convince a sinner that sin is bad. The sinner says, “But sin tastes nice! I cheat in my income tax. It is just so delicious because I got an extra of $50. If I did not cheat, I’d lose $50. Are you trying to tell me that paying $50 more to the income tax man is good? Nonsense! Paying $50 extra is bad because I know what I can do with $50. I could eat so many steaks in Ponderosa; I could buy so many nice things with $50. And you tell me, ‘No, no. That is bad. Pay the $50 income tax!’ Rubbish!”
You see the task of the peacemaker - he tries to establish righteousness, peace on the foundation of righteousness. Now you see the job of a peacemaker. How do you convince the sinner that sin is bad? I don’t know. How is this task going to be done? I am still trying to figure out a way to prove to my girl that sweets are bad and she is not convinced because her teeth are not rotten; her teeth are still good. Last time she saw the dentist she had no holes to fill in. She said, “See?” And I had to say, “That is because Daddy told you not to eat sweets.” She is still not quite convinced yet. What a job! Telling the sinner not to love sin because all his life he loves sin and you are telling him, “Don’t love sin.” That is quite a job. That is impossible. Those beautiful photographs of all those half-naked women, and someone says, “Oh, it looks so exciting!” And then you say, “No, no. That is appealing to the flesh.” But it looks good to his eyes! He says, “It’s so beautiful!” You say, “No, no. That’s no good. This is a task that is really tough! A Christian who is trying to establish righteousness as a peacemaker often finds himself fighting an uphill battle that he is almost sure to lose. Try convincing the guy and he says to you, “Well, I am not worse that the other guy. I only cheated $50 in income tax; that guy cheated $500. I am a good fellow compared to that one.” Then you are trying to say that it does not matter if it is $50 or $500; stealing is stealing. He does not see it this way. After all, there is a difference between $500 and $50, right? What a job! A peacemaker has an unenviable job. What is more, if you go on long enough, you are going to find that you make an awful lot of enemies because they will begin to say, “Go and take yourself away, holy Joe! We have had enough of this. I mean we have to live in the reality of this world, okay? You take your holiness away somewhere else and you preach to the monks in the monastery. As for us we have to fight this life and we have to live this life in this real world.” We all know the feeling. You go away frustrated: “Here I am trying to make peace, to reconcile man with God, and I am just wasting my time. It is a very tough job. What is more when you go to the point when you really touch a raw spot, then you are in trouble because they are going to turn on you as they turned on the Lord Jesus and crucified Him. When you are dealing with small matters, they can still smile. But when you are dealing with the big sins in their lives, they are not going to smile anymore.
When John the Baptist said to King Herod, “You must not take your brother’s wife”, for his trouble, he ended up in jail and he died there. If he had only talked about $50 in income tax, Herod might still have been smiling, and would have said, “Well, that is life.” But if he starts talking about Herod’s private affairs with his brother’s wife, Herod would have said, “For that I don’t stand. That is enough. Privacy is privacy. You just go and mind your own business. When you are talking about sin, you are talking about my sin and my private life, now you just stick your nose out of it. Otherwise when I slam the door your nose may just be jammed in it.” The peacemaker, what a job! Yet, notice well that we are called precisely to this job. Because when you are calling people to peace, you are calling people to a task of a complete change of life - a life where Jesus is going to reign in their lives, where they cease from their selfishness and Jesus is going to establish righteousness in their lives. Oh, what a task! (I was talking with Boo just a while ago in the car. He is going back to Singapore with Boon and the others. We were talking about the problems he might face when trying to speak to his family and friends about the truth. Well that is the whole problem. The peacemaker is one who has to speak the truth to build peace on a solid foundation.)
Peacemakers Shall Be Called the Sons of God
Before we close, let us notice these words. What does it say here? “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God.” We must observe these words: “they shall be called the sons of God”. Now what does it mean “they shall be called the sons of God? This passive in Greek grammar is often called the divine passive which means God shall called them His sons. He shall acknowledge them as His sons. They shall be called by God as His sons. Notice also this is future tense: they shall be called sons of God, not that they are called sons of God now. This is very interesting because a little bit further on, we do find that the Lord Jesus speaks of His disciples as God’s sons. [Mt. 5:] V16 for example, “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” If God is already your Father, it follows that you are His son now. Yet the Lord here is not speaking about a present sonship, but a future sonship. This is very important to understand accurately on the basis of exegesis. We must not make the mistake of thinking that the Lord is speaking about a present sonship. It is very important to notice this. He is speaking about sonship in the future.
There are two things about sonship you must observe. There is a present sonship and a future sonship. Did you realize that the Scripture teaches two types of sonship? You are sons now but only in a very preliminary sense. So do not argue from the sense that once a son, always a son. Don’t make this kind of mistake. You are only a son on a probationary sense. You might say, in a sense that you are not yet fully adopted. Am I saying that? No, no. Scripture says that, not me. Let me read to you Rom. 8 and you will see that Paul is saying exactly this. Paul speaks of our sonship many times and yet when he comes to this passage he speaks about a sonship that is yet future in Rom. 8:23. But notice that earlier in the chapter he spoke of us as already sons.
Let us read Rom. 8:15 first that you may see the full picture: “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the spirit of sonship. When we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’” In v16 it says, “it is the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God.” Now read vv22-23, “We know that the whole creation has been groaning in travail together until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit....” What was the first fruits of the Spirit? The Spirit was given to us by which we cry, “Abba! Father!” So, we “who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” You may say, “He just said that we have the spirit of adoption, and yet in v23, he says we wait for the adoption of sons. No, no! We are not yet completely adopted as sons. We still wait for adoption. We have the Spirit as a first fruit and because of that Spirit we can already truly say, “Father!” How do we understand this - we are sons and yet not fully adopted as sons? The only way we can understand this is that we are sons on a probationary basis. How else shall we understand this, that we are sons and yet not adopted as sons? We are not fully confirmed as sons? Until that day, as the Lord Jesus says in Mt. 5, we shall be called by God. He will look at you [that Day] and say, “You are My son; you are My daughter.” On that day He finally and fully acknowledges you as a son. Up to that point you are a son, but not yet accredited as sons.
That makes me think of the case of ambassadors. They arrive in a country and they have to be accredited as ambassadors. They have to present their credentials to the President to be formally, as it were, accepted as an ambassador. Presumably if the President does not accept him, he has to turn around and go home again; his being an ambassador is not accepted, not recognized. Well, there is a sense we are sons: yes, we have the first fruits of sonship but we have not yet fully been adopted, as Paul says here. Our salvation is not yet complete. We are waiting for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. Our bodies have not yet been redeemed. Our salvation in that sense is not yet complete. We have yet to be acknowledged as sons. This point may be somewhat puzzling to us but if anyone else has a better solution I would like to hear it.
So then, let us come to this final point that we must bear in mind. What kind of persons will God address and acknowledge as sons? What kind of a person? There is only one kind of person I read here, and that is, the peacemaker. It is the peacemakers who will be acknowledged by God as His sons and His daughters. I wonder how many of us will qualify. Time and again I have asked many Christians: What does Paul means in Phil. 2:12 when he says, “work out your salvation with fear and trembling”. What did Paul mean by these words - fear and trembling? Today we are in a generation that stresses the need for assurance, the need for feeling secure because we say that if we do not feel secure our spiritual life might be damaged. The scripture puts it the other way around. If you feel secure, you will be damaged. If you don’t feel so secure, you might work out your salvation with fear and trembling and so be saved. Strange! We have twisted the scripture quite the opposite - the other way around. In Phil. 2:12 that is exactly what Paul says. I have many times asked Christians, tell me what it means that you need to work out your salvation with fear and trembling. With today’s Christians nobody can give me an answer. Not one can produce an answer. No pastor, no Christian has ever been able to produce an answer for me. You try it yourself and see. If ever you want to stump a pastor sometime, just ask him what Phil. 2:12 means. And you will be guaranteed that he will have no answer because given the present set up there is no way to answer the question. When you understand what the Lord is saying, He is saying, “Don’t feel so secure.” I will say that God is your heavenly Father, it is true. But do not forget that in Rom. 9, the Jews are also called sons. There are various kinds of sonship in the NT, many kinds of sonship. The question is: What kind of sonship are you talking about? The Jews are also called sons of God. We read that in Rom. 9:4. Theirs is the sonship, theirs are the promises, theirs are the patriarchs, Paul says as he begins the chapter. You say, “So they are sons, too?” Oh yes! They are sons. The angels are also called sons of God. They also are sons. But none of these are the ones who will stand on the kind of sonship that Paul is talking about here. What sonship is Paul talking about here? It is the sonship in which God acknowledges you as a son in a very direct and personal way. That is salvation in the NT sense. The angels do not have this kind of salvation. The Jews who did not believe, who did not obey did not have this kind of salvation. They have sonship but not this kind of sonship. So bear in mind: this sonship that the Lord Jesus is talking about, this ultimate sonship, this adoption of sons is the one that is awaiting the future.
By the way this future salvation is very much the point in this beatitude. Prof. Schweizer notices this very well and so does H.A.W. Meyer. They all recognize this sonship is not a present sonship; it is talking about the future. Are you going to be a son on that day? That is the big question. Will you be a son? Who are going to be sons? Sons are those who are peacemakers here and now.
Proclaiming Peace, Proclaiming Salvation
Are you a peacemaker? If not, you had better start working out your salvation with fear and trembling. I say that to you on the authority of God’s word. You have got to get this clear. You ask, “What shall I do?” Well, be a peacemaker. What does a peacemaker do? As we have seen, he reconciles God and man. To do that he has to love God and he has to love man. And he can do this only by the Holy Spirit pouring that love into his heart. So he is totally dependent upon grace in order to become a peacemaker. Now notice carefully this. You are called to be a peacemaker. Every true disciple has to be a peacemaker, not just the pastor. The peacemaker then has to preach the message of peace. What is the message of peace? The message of peace is the message of salvation. That is what it is. The proclamation of peace is a proclamation of salvation. Isa. 52:7 says, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good tidings” - the messengers of peace, it tells us in that passage. Paul in Eph. 6: 5 as he ends the letter, says to the Christians that we must put on the helmet, we must put on the breastplate, we must put everything on. And on your feet put on what? Put on “the gospel of peace”. What does it mean? It means us you have to so walk and so conduct yourself so that the whole course of your life, the whole direction of your life is designed to advance, to further the gospel of peace, to further peace, spiritual peace in this world. Now unless you do that - brothers and sisters, please bear this in mind - unless you do that, unless you become a messenger of peace, unless your feet are shod with the gospel of peace, then salvation is not going to be your portion. You are not going to be called sons of God. Because it says here, it is the peacemakers who shall be called sons of God. That is a high calling. No wonder that Paul said that our calling is a very high calling. Do not say to yourself that you are now called a son of God, that you are a son of God because you believe in Jesus. You are justified in the past. Yes, in a sense you are a son of God, much in the sense the Jews are also sons of God. But if you are going to be a son of God on that Day in the full sense of sonship to which you have a chance of coming into, then right here and now you have to go out and reconcile God and man, reconcile man and man and become a peacemaker in this generation on the foundation of righteousness. I hope you understand well what the Lord Jesus is saying.
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