Be a Peacemaker

Matthew 5:9

by Paul George

This seventh Beatitude has to do more with conduct than with character. The first four may be grouped together as the negative character of the heart of the godly. They are not self-sufficient, but consciously poor in spirit; they are not self-satisfied, but mourning because of their spiritual state; they are not self-willed, but meek; they are not self-righteous, but hungering and thirsting after righteousness. In the next three, the Lord names their positive character, having tasted of the mercy of God, they are merciful in their dealings with others; having received a spiritual nature, they now hate impurity and love holiness; having entered into a peace with God they now wish to live in harmony and peace with all mankind.
In a world where there is no strife there is no need for peacemakers. Where the world is filled with malice and envy, hateful and hating one another” (Titus 3:3): though attempts are often made to conceal this by the cloak of hypocrisy yet it soon comes forth again in its hideous nakedness, as the history of the nations attests, peacemakers are needed.

The desire of peacemakers is to live peaceably with all men and abstain from deliberate injury of others, promote unity and heal broken relationships. Peacemakers pour sooth oil on troubled waters, reconcile those who are alienated, right wrongs, and strengthen the kindly ties of friendship. As the sons of peace they bring into the hostile atmosphere of this world the pure and calming air of heaven.

The disposition of the peacemakers is a vastly different disposition of the easy-going indolence which is often nothing but selfishness, of the wicked of this world. The peace they desire to establish is not a peace at any price. It is a peace that is not to be sought at the expense of righteousness. It is a peace God Himself approves of. In this life we are to avoid all needless contention, to the point of sacrificing the truth.
It is the duty of every Christian to see to it that we conduct ourselves in such a way no just complaint can be filed against us. It is also for our own peace we do this because it is impossible to be happy when we are involved in strife and enmities. When disturbance and turmoil is aroused, we should diligently examine ourselves before the Lord as to whether the cause for it lies in us and if it does confess the sin to Him and seek to reconcile those offended. Peacemakers must constantly be on their guard against an invasion by the spirit of bigotry, intemperate zeal, and a quarrelsome spirit and keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3).

In order to develop a peaceful disposition we must first cultivate the grace of “lowliness,” which is the opposite of pride, of meekness, which is the opposite of self-assertiveness, and the grace of long sufferance, which is the opposite of impatience. We are not only to do all we can to heal broken relationships we are to reconcile men to God. This is a contrast in the task given to Joshua and his officers under the Mosaic economy, of taking up the sword to slay the enemies of the Lord! In this age the servants of Christ are commissioned to seek the reconciliation of those who are at enmity with God.

Peacemakers are the ambassadors of God, calling sinners to come to God, throw down the weapons of their warfare and enter into peace with God. They know there is no peace for the wicked, and therefore they exhort them to make peace with God.

There is still another way in which it is the privilege of believers to be peacemakers, and that is by their prayers. In the day when the Lord’s anger is kindled against a sin-laden people and the dark clouds of providence threaten an impending storm of judgment, it is both the duty and the privilege of God’s peacemakers to stand in the breach and in earnest supplication plead with God to withhold His judgment as Moses did (Exodus 32:10), Aaron did (Numbers 16:47, 48), and David did (2 Samuel 24:14). This is indeed a blessed work of peace: to intercede as Abraham did for Sodom. Only in the Day to come will we know what the wicked gained by the presence of the righteous remnant in their midst.
The reward for being peacemakers is decisive proof that these Beatitudes are not directed toward the moral virtues of the natural man, but rather the spiritual graces of the regenerate. To be called a child of God is to be renewed in His image and likeness and to be a peacemaker. The Lord Himself is “the God of peace” (Hebrews 13:20), and where this peaceful disposition is manifested by His people He owns them as His children. Furthermore, peacemakers are recognized as children of God by their spiritual brothers. Ultimately, God will make it manifest to the entire universe that we are His children (Rom. 8:19).

The Christian life is one that is full of strange paradoxes which are not understood by human reason, but which are easily understood by the spiritual mind. God’s children rejoice with joy unspeakable, yet they mourn with a lamentation the children of wrath don’t understand. They rejoice because they have been brought into contact with a source of satisfaction which is capable of meeting every longing, yet they pant with a yearning for righteousness like that of the thirsty deer. They sing songs in their heart to the Lord, yet groan deeply and daily over the lost condition of the ungodly. Their life is often filled with pain yet they would not part with it for all the gold in the world. These puzzling paradoxes are among the evidences which they possess that they are indeed blessed of God. But who by mere reasoning would ever conclude that the persecuted and reviled are “blessed”! They are not compatible with the world’s idea of blessed but are actually a manifestation of the miseries of life.
The reason why the children of God are persecuted, reviled, and have all manner of evil said of them is the wicked of this world hate justice and love those who defraud and wrong their neighbors. They hate righteousness. If the children of God would cease walking humbly with God, they might go through the world, not only in peace, but with applause. Because they refuse to cease their walking humbly with God they suffer persecution because their life reveals the ungodliness of men and this provokes their resentment. The wicked in this world hate God and those who bear His image.

The blessed in this world are those the world detests. Although those the world detests are persecution it is really a blessing in disguise. The opposition the child of God encounters in this world enables them to be aware of their own infirmities and needs. They are made aware of the fact they cannot stand for a single hour unless Divine grace upholds them. By persecution they are often kept from certain sins into which they would most likely fall were the wicked at peace with them. Persecution affords the believer an opportunity to glorify God by his constancy, courage, and fidelity to the truth.

This persecution “for righteousness’ sake” calls upon us to honestly examine ourselves before God when we are being opposed: “But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters” (1 Peter 4:15). The same qualification is made in the verse which immediately follows the last quoted: “Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf”: this is a most necessary caution, that the believer see to it that he is suffering for doing what is right and not on account of his own misconduct or foolish behavior.

Jesus warns His servants what they may expect to encounter, and then defines how they are to respond. The glory worldly leaders value and crave is flattery and honor, but the glory the disciple of Jesus crave is conformity to Jesus who was “despised and rejected of men.” Instead of being downcast over and murmuring at the hostility they meet with in this world, they are to be thankful to God for the high honor He confers upon them in making them partakers of the sufferings of His Son.

The Lord Jesus pronounced blessed or happiness on those who, through devotion to Him, would be called upon to suffer. They are “blessed” because such are given the unspeakable privilege of having fellowship with the sufferings of the Savior. They are “blessed” because such tribulation works patience, and patience experience, and experience hope, a hope that will not make ashamed. They are “blessed” because they shall be fully recompensed in the Day to come. The child of God must not be dismayed because the fiery darts of the wicked are hurled against him. We must remember that “The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18).

The afflictions which come upon the children of God for their faithfulness are to be endured not only with patience and resignation, but thanksgiving and gladness because they come upon them for Christ’s sake. He suffered so they must and they should rejoice to suffer a little for Him. Because they shall be richly recompensed, great is their reward in heaven. These are a reason to rejoice, no matter how fierce the conflict may be.

A Message From the King

Matthew 5:1 – 7:28

Matthew chapters 5, 6, 7 are the longest and fullest continued discourse of our Savior that we have in all the gospels. The many miraculous cures wrought by Jesus in Galilee were intended to make way for this sermon and to prepare the people to receive instructions from One in whom there appeared to be a divine power and goodness. These chapters are probably a summary of what Jesus had preached in the synagogues of Galilee.
The sermon is preached on a mountain in Galilee. As in other things our Lord Jesus had no convenient place to preach or lay His head. While the scribes and Pharisees had Moses’ chair to sit in, with all possible ease, honor, and state, and there corrupted the law; our Lord Jesus, the great Teacher of truth, is out on a mountain side seated on a hard rock or the stump of a tree. The sermon is an exposition of the law given to Moses upon a mountain. The difference is when the law was given the Lord came down upon the mountain, now the Lord goes up on a mountain. On Mount Sinai He spoke with thunder and lightning. On this mountain in Galilee there is no thunder or lightning. When the law was given to Moses the people were told to keep their distance; now they are invited to draw near. To this mountain we are called to learn to offer the sacrifices of righteousness.

The Sermon on the Mount does not present the way of salvation but the way of righteous living for those who are in the family of God. It is a contrast between the new way with the old way of the scribes and the Pharisees. A comparison between the letter of the law and the spirit of the law. It is for the benefit of the disciples of Jesus because they are to teach others and it is necessary that they have a clear and distinct knowledge of these things. Although this discourse was directed to the disciples, it was in the hearing of a multitude. On this mountain in Galilee no bounds were set about it to keep the people off it as it was about Mount Sinai (Exodus 19:12). The good news is through Jesus we have access to God, not only to speak to Him, but to hear from Him.

When Jesus had placed himself so as to be best heard He taught the disciples and the people according to the promise in Isaiah 54:13. He begins His sermon with blessings because He came into this world to bless us as the great High Priest of our profession. In Him all the families of the earth are blessed. He came not only to purchase salvation for us, but to pour out and pronounce blessings on us; and in this sermon He does it as one having authority, as one that can command the blessing that have been promised to the believers.

The Old Testament ended with a curse (Malachi 4:6), the gospel begins with blessings and each of the blessings has a double intention. They identify those who are to be accounted truly happy, and what their characters are. This is designed to rectify the ruinous mistakes of a blind and carnal world. Happiness is the thing which men pretend to pursue. But most mistake the end, and form a wrong conclusion and then wonder why they missed what true happiness is. As well as the general opinion the happy are the strong and rich, the great and honorable men and women in the world. In the Sermon on the Mount our Lord Jesus corrects this error and advances a new way of life. He gives us a different idea of happiness and happy people, which, however paradoxical it may appear it is in itself a rule and doctrine of eternal truth and certainty, by which we must shortly be judged. The sermon is designed to remove the discouragements of the weak and poor who receive the gospel, by assuring them that His gospel does not make only those that are widely known and honored for the gifts, graces, and comforts they have received, but that even the least in the kingdom of heaven whose heart is right in the sight of God can find happiness in the kingdom of heaven.

In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus tells us what God expects from us, and what we may expect from Him. No where in the Bible is this more fully set before us and in fewer words than in this sermon or a more exact reference to what God expects from us and what we may expect from Him. This is the good news which we are required to believe and conform to. The highway to happiness is here opened and it comes from the mouth of Jesus Christ.

In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus gives us eight characteristics of the blessed and truly happy in this world, their inner qualities, and their future blessings. The inner qualities of the blessed contradict the proud thinking of the scribes and Pharisees who believe they can attain righteousness through their good deeds and their relationship with Abraham. Jesus points out this error in their thinking when He tells us righteousness, blessings, and happiness are not through good deeds or a relationship with Abraham, but through a relationship with Him.

In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus reveals the secret which is hidden from the ungodly and unrighteous who believe the comforts and luxuries of this world are indispensable. He strikes at the root of the carnal conceit of the Jews, who vainly believed external peace and prosperity were to be the result of the coming of the promised Messiah.

The poor in spirit are blessed not because they are poor but because theirs is the kingdom of heaven. The ungodly and unrighteous of this world claim it is the rich who are the blessed and happy people for theirs is the kingdoms of the world. What they don’t understand the kingdoms of the world are fading away. The kingdom of heaven is eternal, it will never fade away. Jesus says it is the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven, a kingdom far greater than all the kingdoms of the earth.
When we compare what Jesus said about the happy people in this world we need to remember there is a vast difference between being poor in the spirit and financial poverty. There is no virtue and often disgrace in financial poverty. Financial poverty doesn’t produce humility of heart. This poverty of the spirit Jesus speaks of is not generally found in the majority of the religionists. We often read and hear the about a conference for “promoting the higher life,” but who ever heard of one promoting the lowly life? Many books are written telling us how to be “filled with the Spirit,” but where can we find one telling us what it means to be emptied of self-confidence, self-importance, and self-righteousness? Jesus said, “That which is highly esteemed among men is detestable in the sight of God” (Luke 16:15), it is equally true what is of great price in His sight is despised by men. Almost all of the so-called “ministry” of this generation feeds pride, instead of starving the flesh; puffs up, rather than abases; and anything which is calculated to search and strip is frowned upon by the pulpit and is unpopular with the pew.

Spiritual poverty is the opposite of the proud, self-assertive and self-sufficient disposition which the world admires and praises. It is opposite of the independent and defiant attitude of men and women who refuse to bow to God, who say “Who is the Lord that I should obey His voice?”

The poor in spirit have arrived at the point in life were they know they have nothing, are nothing, and can do nothing in themselves, and have need of all things. Poverty of spirit is a consciousness of their emptiness, the result of the Spirit’s work within. All their righteousness as filthy rags, their best deeds are unacceptable, an abomination to God. Poverty of spirit brings us to our knees before God, acknowledging our utter helplessness and deserving the judgments of God. It corresponds to the initial awakening of the prodigal in the far country.

Poverty in spirit is realizing God’s great salvation is free, “without money and without price,” the most merciful provision of God’s grace. If God put a for sale tag on His grace and salvation no sinner could purchase them because he has nothing with which he could possibly purchase them. Most people don’t understand it is the Holy Spirit who opens the eyes of the sin blinded. It is those who have passed from death unto life who become conscious of their spiritual poverty, take the place of beggars and are glad to receive Divine charity, and begin to seek the true riches. Poverty of spirit is the realization of our utter worthlessness which precedes the laying hold of Christ. It is the Spirit emptying the heart of self that Jesus may fill it: it is a sense of need and destitution.
The one who is poor in spirit is nothing in his own eyes, and feels that his proper place is in the dust before God. He may, through false teaching or worldliness, leave this place, but God knows how to bring him back; and in His faithfulness and love He will do it because this is the place of blessing for His children.

It is the spiritual poor and not the financial poor who are pronounced “blessed.” The poor in spirit are blessed because they have a disposition the opposite of what was theirs by nature. They are blessed because they have in themselves the evidence that a Divine work of grace has been wrought in their heart. They are blessed because they are heirs of the kingdom of heaven in the present and in the hereafter.