Summary: A review of what a faithful Christian should expect in a world at war against God and His people.
What Jesus Said About Pursuing Peace And Planning For Persecution
Matthew 5:9-13 "Blessed [are] the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. Blessed [are] they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when [men] shall revile you, and persecute [you], and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great [is] your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you."
This is part of one of the most widely known passages in the Bible. Yet, it is clear that it’s real scriptural teaching is also one of the least understood. A failure to apply basic rules of Bible analysis and practical interpretation has resulted in broad misconceptions and misunderstandings of what our Saviour is teaching. From this misinterpretation and misapplication has arisen such teaching as the works for salvation heresy, the social gospel perversion and the ecumenical movement.
It is critical to understand: Who is speaking.? Who is he instructing? What is the basic subject of the lesson? What is the occasion or what prompted the giving of the teaching at this time? The answer to all these questions seem quite obvious.
Jesus is speaking first of all to the twelve and in a wider sense to all who would be His disciples then and now. Since all those who are true disciples should strive to become active members and participants in an assembly of scripturally immersed true believers; committed to following and implementing all the teachings of our Saviour, He is obviously speaking to all in every age who will be obedient to that pattern. He is clearly preparing these for service in the immediate sense. They are soon to be sent out as sheep into a world of wolves to proclaim the good news of the Kingdom of God. He also speaks to future followers to prepare them for service in their day and time as well.
We have already laid a foundation for the consideration of how to be happy as a Christian in this world of woe. Let us go on and consider additional principles presented by our Saviour on the subject in His Sermon on the Mount.
JESUS SAID WE SHOULD PURSUE PEACE. "Blessed [are] the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God." It is clear that our Saviour is a bringer of peace as well as a giver of peace. The angel’s announced this truth when they heralded the coming of the King to the lowly shepherds on a hillside. "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men." (Luke 2:14) Jesus made this amply clear Himself when He said, "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid." (John 14:27)
Some might say, "If this is the case, why did He also say, ‘Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword’” (Matt. 10:34) In order to understand what some might view as an apparent contradiction, in His teachings, His peace needs to be defined.
We would begin by stating the simple fact that man is by nature at war with God and His purposes upon this earth. James told us as much. ". . .know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God." (James 4:4) The world as described here as being comprised of unregenerate men. Logic then dictates that man’s most basic spiritual, psychological and emotional need is to find peace with his Maker.
Paul made it clear that the great Peacemaker came to achieve just this. " ..now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition [between us];" (Eph. 2:13-14) Of course, for such peace to ensue, one of the combatants must unconditionally surrender. The sinner who is warring against God and His will and way must come to the foot of the cross. He must run up the flag of absolute and total surrender. He must throw in the towel of self-will. He must abandons his fortress of sin. Only then can he find real, lasting and permanent peace with God. "Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:" (Ro. 5:1) Then and only then can he have a foundation for the future peace that is beyond man’s understanding. "And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.." (Phil. 4:7)