Pastor David B. Curtis


The Blessed Peace Makers

Matthew 5:9

Delivered 08/04/2002

If those who know you best were asked to pick a description that fit you best, would it be: peacemaker or troublemaker? What would you say better fit you? Jesus said that those who are approved by God are the peacemakers:

Matthew 5:9 (NKJV) Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God.

We live in a world full of troublemakers. You cannot escape the reality that our society is filled with conflict and violence of every sort. Most often, we think of the conflict happening around us today, but it has always been so. In 1968, a major newspaper reported that there had been 14,553 known wars from 36 BC to date. Since 1945, there have been over 70 wars and more than 200 significant outbreaks of violence. From 1958, over 100 nations have been involved in one way or another in armed conflict of some kind.

There has always been conflict. Many believe there always will be. Someone had said, "Peace is that glorious moment in history when everyone stops to reload."

When Jesus said, "Blessed are the peacemakers . . .", it must have sounded strange to their ears. Certainly, almost all listening to Jesus that day were Jews struggling to live under the dominion of Rome. Many of them wanted to see Rome defeated and run out of their country. There were Zealots among them who believed that the only way there would be peace in Israel was through hostility. Now they were being called to be peacemakers.

We haven't changed much over the years. We still struggle with the turmoil around us. We have our own conflicts. Each one of us deals with hostility all the time. We run into rude people who try our patience. Sometimes we find ourselves in volatile situations that might explode in some sort of conflict. And we run into our share of troublemakers.

All people are born sinners and at enmity with God; and because of this enmity, everything they do results in discord, dissension, and factions. Wars exist because of this enmity in the human heart. But this beatitude is not speaking about pacifism or disarmament. This beatitude is not a prescription for peace in the international arena. This beatitude is about peace, first with God, and then between men.

No man can establish true peace. Why? Every descendent of Adam is an enemy of truth, an enemy of justice, and an enemy of God. But God's Son, Jesus Christ, made peace between God and man through the cross by his own mediatorial death in our behalf. All those who trust in Christ have been reconciled to God through Jesus Christ and radically transformed. They have been given new hearts, hearts of flesh, that they may be renewed in the attitudes of their minds. Those who have experienced this great peace from God then become peacemakers, helping others to make peace with God.

Through Adam, we all are born sinners, born enemies of God:

Romans 5:12 (NKJV) Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned;

And not only do Adam's descendants oppose God, but they also oppose one another. The reason for civil wars and all other wars in the world is because of the enmity man has against God, which, in turn, manifests itself against fellow men. According to the Scripture, all wars and quarrelings come from the sinful hearts of men.

What, then, did Jesus mean when he said, "Blessed are the peacemakers"? As I said, this beatitude is not speaking about peacemaking in the arena of international politics, and it has no reference to the establishing of organizations like the United Nations.

In the "Sermon on the Mount," Jesus was speaking in terms of the kingdom of God, which is a spiritual kingdom. Jesus' kingdom is not of this world. He said that many times. Jesus came down to show the way of peace between God and man and between man and man.

If, as sinners, we are incompetent to make peace, how, then, can we be peacemakers? We must realize that true peacemaking begins with God.

We read in the Bible that God the Father takes the initiative to make peace with his enemies. In Judges 6:24, we read that Gideon built an altar to the Lord and called it "Jehovah Shalom," "The Lord is Peace." You see, the Lord had appeared to Gideon, and Gideon thought he was going to die. But God told Gideon, "Peace! Do not be afraid. You are not going to die" (Judges 6:23). And in Numbers 6, we read the priestly benediction which culminates in the Lord's giving his people peace: "The Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace" (Numbers 6:26).

The peace that God alone can give will remove all sin, guilt, and punishment. It ushers in all the conditions necessary for man's perfect happiness and prosperity. Why? According to the Hebrew understanding, peace does not mean just the absence of troubles. It also means the presence of conditions in which one is prospering and blessed.

According to the Bible, peace is synonymous with salvation. God must take the initiative to establish peace, and the Bible describes God as the God of peace, as we read in Romans 15:33, "The God of peace be with you all," or in:

Hebrews 13:20 (NKJV) Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant,

God is the God of peace. He must make peace if we are to have peace and imitate him in the task of making peace.

How did God make peace?

Ephesians 1:4-5 (NKJV) just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, 5 having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will,

God the Father chose us in Christ before the creation of the world that we should be holy and blameless in his sight, and in love, he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ. He gave those whom he chose to be holy and blameless to his Son, that he might redeem them.

In John 17, we read about a gift that God gave to his Son. What did the gift consist of? People whom the Son was to redeem. And so we read in:

Romans 8:32 (NKJV) He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?

"He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all," doing so for our redemption, for our salvation - for our peace. Remember how at the birth of Jesus Christ the angels sang, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests" (Luke 2:14)? The Father's favor rests on those whom God has chosen to be holy and blameless in his sight.

We cannot have peace with God as long as we are unrighteous. Peace with God demands that we be righteous in God's sight. But how can we be righteous and have peace with God when, in fact, we are wholly unrighteous, and God's holy wrath is abiding upon us? Well, we read in:

Romans 3:21-22 (NKJV) But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference;

God presented Christ Jesus as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did so that he can be just and the justifier of all who believe in Jesus Christ.

Righteousness Brings Peace.

In Christ's sacrifice, the wrath of God against us sinners is removed. So Paul could say in 1 Corinthians 15:3, "Christ died for our sins." Now we receive total forgiveness of sins and the perfect righteousness of God by faith in Jesus Christ. Let me tell you: where there is righteousness, there is peace. The God of peace had to make peace, and he did so.

Some people think peace is the absence of conflict. But peace is more than that - there is no strife in a cemetery, but that's not a model of peace. God sees, peace not as the absence of conflict, but the presence of righteousness. Righteousness will bring about right relationships. Peace is not just stopping a war. It's the impartation of righteousness that brings two parties together in love. The Hebrew word "Shalom" (peace), when said to a friend, didn't mean, "May you have no conflicts." It meant, "I desire for you all the righteousness and good God can give." God's peacemakers don't just stop wars - they replace the causes of war with the righteousness of God.

There is a difference between a truce and peace. A truce is when people put down their guns and don't shoot for awhile. True peace is when conflict is resolved, and the parties to it become friends. Some think peace happens the instant the war stops. But that doesn't resolve the conflict unless the underlying issues are dealt with. Otherwise, cessation of open hostility only brings about a cold war, which is still a war. That may result in a state worse than if the fighting had continued. A conflict driven underground can smolder and slowly destroy both sides. Two people who are at war with each other shouldn't be separated so they can't see each other. Rather, the cause of their conflict needs to be resolved so that they can come together in love. Biblical peace never evades issues - it isn't peace at any price. The peace of the Bible conquers the problem and builds bridges between people. That may involve struggle, pain, and anguish, but real peace is the result.

Look at what James says about peace:

James 3:17 (NKJV) But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.

God's wisdom attains peace through purity. Peace is never established at the expense of righteousness. Two people will never accept peace until they accept that their bitterness and hatred is wrong, and they humble themselves before God and make things right.

Hebrews 12:14 (NKJV) Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord:

The word "pursue" is the Greek word dioko, which means: "to run swiftly in order to catch some person or thing". It is used of hunters and hounds after game. Used in a metaphorical sense, it means: "to pursue, to seek after eagerly, endeavor to acquire." This implies what we already know- that men are by nature wrathful and unpeaceful. Remember, he is talking to believers.

This also indicates that we are to be peace makers and not simply peace keepers. It doesn't say, "Don't quarrel," or "Maintain the peace". The exhortation is to "pursue peace", and there's a great difference between avoiding situations which might lead to wrath and anger among believers and actually going out of your way to restore relations that have been previously disrupted. He is telling us here to make it our business to restore believers who are at each others throats.

Notice, also, from this verse that peace and holiness are inextricably interlinked - they can't be divorced from each other:

Psalms 85:10 (NKJV) Mercy and truth have met together; Righteousness and peace have kissed.

We all want to avoid needless strife, whether in our family, place of business, or any other situation. But if we avoid conflict to the point of sacrificing truth, we are compromising our principles. We won't have true peace but a truce, in which everyone will merely reload.

Look at what Jesus said in:

Matthew 10:34 (NKJV) "Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword.

That sounds like the opposite of Matthew 5:9. But what Jesus meant is He did not come to bring peace at any price. He knew there would be strife before there could be peace - conflict needed to be resolved. Being a peacemaker in this world is difficult, because it requires bringing the truth to a world that loves falsehood. That causes strife. That's why people often get upset at the gospel message before they accept its truth and embrace it.

Jude 1:3 (NKJV) Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.

The words "contend earnestly" comes from the Greek word epagonizomai, which comes from epi, meaning: "beyond" and agonizomai, which means: "to struggle, lit. (to compete for a prize), fig. (to contend with an adversary)".

Christians are to be contentious about some things. A true peacemaker does not say, "I don't ever want to offend someone who isn't a believer." Peace can't be made that way, because a lack of righteousness is the issue non-believers must face. Conflict will come when people are convicted by the truth of the gospel, but it will be resolved when they put their faith in Jesus Christ. A peacemaker must not abandon biblical principles. He knows it's better to offend people with the truth so they can eventually experience real peace. Christians aren't peacemakers in the sense that they never cause strife. They are peacemakers in that they offer true peace to those whom they confront.

Luke 12:51-53 (NKJV) "Do you suppose that I came to give peace on earth? I tell you, not at all, but rather division. 52 "For from now on five in one house will be divided: three against two, and two against three. 53 "Father will be divided against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law."

He knew that when people come to Him, there would be conflict.

True peace comes only when the truth reigns. There will be people who come up to you and say, "You are so narrow in your beliefs. You need to be more ecumenical and set aside the things we disagree on. We should discuss only what we agree on." But Christ never pronounced a blessing on apostates. Whenever He met someone who was in error, He pointed out the person's error. He knew true peace would come only as people responded correctly to the truth. You can't avoid disagreeing with someone about a central truth in God's Word and be called a peacemaker. You might establish a truce by doing that, but you won't be helping that person to make peace with God.

Biblical peacemakers are not quiet, easygoing people who want to make no waves. Some who appear to be peacemakers are that way, because they have no convictions. A Biblical peacemaker will not preserve the status quo at the expense of truth. He will not accept something that is wrong so that things can be "peaceful." Biblical peacemakers seek to resolve a problem with the truth and righteousness.

Since the essence of peace is righteousness and truth, the menace to peace is sin and falsehood. There is no peace in this world, because those things currently dominate:

Isaiah 48:22 (NKJV) "There is no peace," says the LORD, "for the wicked."
Jeremiah 8:11 (NKJV) For they have healed the hurt of the daughter of My people slightly, Saying, 'Peace, peace!' When there is no peace.

Many people talk about peace but never experience it, because they ignore their sin. Man is internally defiled. He will never produce peace on his own, because it is a result of holiness, righteousness, and purity. That's why James says:

James 3:18 (NKJV) Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

A person can't have real peace until he bears righteous fruit. If two people are fighting, it's because of sin; eliminate the sin and the fight will end. Mere separation accomplishes nothing. A person at war with God needs to have the sin that stands between him and God removed. Then the two will be reconciled.

Peacemakers make peace by sowing righteousness. That's why the wisdom of God "is first pure, then peaceable" (James 3:17). The only peacemakers in the world who accomplish anything are those who bring men to submit to God's truth. Diplomats, statesmen, ambassadors, presidents, and kings who have tried to bring peace in other ways have always failed.

You can't be a peacemaker until the first six Beatitudes characterize your life. That means you must start with the attitude of a beggar in your approach to God because of your sin (Matt. 5:3). Next you must mourn over your sinfulness (Matt. 5:4). That will produce meekness toward God in the light of His sovereignty and holiness (Matt. 5:5). As a result, you will hunger and thirst for righteousness (Matt. 5:6), and God will extend to you His mercy (Matt. 5:7). When you've received His mercy, you become pure in heart (Matt. 5:8). Only the pure in heart can be peacemakers (Matt. 5:9). But when you become a peacemaker, the world won't accept you. That's why Matthew 5:10 says, "Blessed are they who are persecuted for righteousness' sake." Peacemakers are always trying to bring about righteous solutions to problems. But the world reacts negatively to a peace based on righteousness, because it doesn't want to deal with the reality of sin.

Only when we deal with sin can true peace ever exist. You won't have peace in your life if you have a problem with purity. If you have righteousness, you will have peace. If your marriage and your home are characterized by righteousness, you will enjoy peace in both. Righteousness produces peace with God, others, and yourself.

Man can search the world over for peace - going from counselor to counselor, gathering at summits, writing treaties, flitting from one religion to another - but he will never find it apart from God and His righteousness. That's because peace isn't based on circumstances. Man can't find peace because of his innate sinfulness - no matter how good his circumstances, they are irrelevant to his obtaining peace. His uncontrolled lusts rob him of peace. If mankind is feverish, it's not because of the temperature on the outside but because of his own boiling blood on the inside.

Once in a while the world honors a peacemaker who helps prevent a war. But generally it exalts those who fight. Consider those who pay a fortune to watch two men in a ring beat each other to a pulp! Worldly kingdoms give their highest honors to warriors and soldiers. Too often we bow to the god of macho. Society's heroes tend to be hard-nosed, tough, and wild. Our heroines are the women who lead parades promoting their rights and stirring up contention. Psychologists and psychiatrists tell us we are to get all we can for ourselves and not let anyone take anything from us. That kind of thinking precipitates strife. It's no wonder the world fights against the peace of the gospel.

Many Jewish people didn't like Jesus Christ, because they wanted a fighter. They wanted a messiah who would knock the Roman government out of power. When Jesus said, "Blessed are the peacemakers," many probably thought, Who needs that? When we offer the peace of the Lord Jesus Christ, many look down on us and think we are weak. When we preach the gospel, they often actively fight against us. Scripture tells us to expect that. Our Master was the "Prince of Peace" (Isa. 9:6), yet everywhere He went, He created conflict. Jesus' accusers said of Him, "He stirs up the people" (Luke 23:5). Jesus promised that His followers would receive the same treatment (Matt. 10:24-25).

The apostle Paul preached the gospel of peace everywhere he went. Riots frequently started as a result of his preaching. His enemies accused him of being "a pestilent fellow" (Acts 24:5).

It can be hard to be a peacemaker. If you see a person living in sin, Jesus wants you to tell him, "You are offending God. Your sin has brought war between you and Him. I want to make peace between you and Him, so I'm offering you the gospel of Christ." If you see two Christians fighting, you shouldn't ignore what is happening. A real peacemaker will tell them, "You must resolve your problem in a righteous manner." Peacemakers don't avoid spiritual conflicts - they dive into the middle of them.

Peacemakers draw their peace from God. A person who doesn't know Christ can never be a peacemaker. The best he can do is provide a truce - but not peace. A psychiatrist or counselor who does not know God has no source of peace from which to extend peace. To try to mend a heart or put a family together without God is ultimately futile - apart from Him, there is no peace. No nation can be unified apart from God as its source of peace. The peace of the Christian is the tranquil serenity of righteousness wrought by God. That peace stays even in a world of troubles. Those who abide in the Lord have His peace.

Today every Christian is in the peacemaking business. This means that every believer who enjoys peace with God and the peace of God through the mediating work of Jesus Christ is called upon to proclaim the gospel of peace to others:

2 Corinthians 5:18-20 (NKJV) Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, 19 that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. 20 Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ's behalf, be reconciled to God.

Paul tells us here that God has given the ministry of reconciliation to Christians. He has committed to us the message of reconciliation and has given us a position as his representatives. "We are therefore Christ's ambassadors," Reconciliation refers to peacemaking.

In Exodus 20, we read how God spoke to the Israelites from the heavens in thunder and lightning. Does he speak to us like that today? No. God speaks today through His children who are proclaiming the gospel.

To be effective as a peacemaker, you must maintain your peace with God. Sin in your life disrupts that peace. You can't commune with God openly when you're in sin. Nor can you dispense God's peace to others. If you are living in disobedience to God's will as revealed in Scripture, you cannot function as a peacemaker. A true peacemaker first concentrates on his own peace with God. When you wake up in the morning, your attitude must be, "Lord, I want to continue enjoying peace with you." Confess the things that are wrong in your life and turn away from sin so you can be a peacemaker.

The greatest privilege a peacemaker has is helping someone at war with God to make peace with Him. An unsaved person will be antagonistic towards your message initially, because he is not part of God's kingdom. But the minute he comes to Christ, he makes peace with both God and you. Then he is God's child and your brother. The best way to be a peacemaker is to preach the gospel of peace in a way that makes plain to men and women their alienation from God:

Romans 10:15 (NKJV) And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: "How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, Who bring glad tidings of good things!"

By telling someone the gospel, you will accomplish more than a politician or statesman could ever do - only Christ gives peace that lasts forever.

Matthew 5:9 was an indictment of the smug self- righteousness of the Pharisees. They thought it was their right to preach hostility against Rome and a theology of self-exaltation. In the process, they stepped on the necks of others and created strife everywhere they went. They looked down at people and divided society into cliques. Jesus told them they were completely wrong - God doesn't want spiritually elite people who think they know everything; He wants poor, beggarly sinners who know they have nothing to offer God.

Peacemakers build bridges between people.

Matthew 5:21-24 (NKJV) "You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.' 22 "But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, 'Raca!' shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, 'You fool!' shall be in danger of hell fire. 23 "Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 "leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.

God doesn't want you to worship Him if there is strife between you and someone else. Deal with the conflict first:

Matthew 18:15-17 (NKJV) "Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. 16 "But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that 'by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.' 17 "And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.

It's tempting to avoid telling someone to repent. We tend to want to let sleeping dogs lie. But only when a problem is resolved righteously will there be real peace. The Bible commands us to be peacemakers. Mark 9:50 says, "Be at peace with one another."

Notice what Paul says about peace:

Romans 12:18 (NKJV) If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.

The impossibility is not on our part, it's on the others who hinder peace. If another believer is living in sin, there can be no peace. Remember it is righteousness that brings peace. If disharmony is to exist, be sure it is by another's hand and not yours.

Sons of God

Our Lord's promise to peacemakers is that "they shall be called the sons of God"(Matt. 5:9). Nothing compares to being called "the son of God." That's the badge of the peacemaker.

In Matthew 5:9, the Greek word translated "sons" is huioi, not tekna, which means "children." Tekna was used to express tender affection; huioi describes a position of dignity and honor. When Christ spoke of being called "sons of God," He went beyond affection to promising a privileged position - the honor of being a peacemaker. If you look at your life and see you are not a peacemaker, then either you are not a Christian or you are a peacemaker who is living in sin. You need to examine yourself to see if you are in the faith (2 Cor. 13:5). He whose life is characterized by discord, and has no desire to make peace, needs to question his position.

In the Greek text of Matthew 5:9, the word translated "called" is stated in the future passive tense. That expresses continuous action. Jesus meant that in the future, believers will be continuously be called the sons of God. Believers are sons of God now and will continue to be called that throughout eternity. What a great promise!

Notice how God feels about His children:

Zechariah 2:8 (NKJV) For thus says the LORD of hosts: "He sent Me after glory, to the nations which plunder you; for he who touches you touches the apple of His eye.

Zechariah wasn't talking about a piece of fruit - he referred to the pupil of the eye, perhaps the most vulnerable part of the body. When anything comes toward your eye you protect it. When someone harms one of God's children, he's poking his finger in God's eye!

God has a personal and eternal love for those who are His own. He bears with our weaknesses and sin, accepts our imperfect service, provides for our needs, and shields us from danger. He has revealed His truth to us and made us heirs of all He possesses. He works everything for our good and will accept us into heaven. Those are all things God does for His sons. Peacemakers are indeed blessed!

Peacemaking is a God-like work. God makes peace with us; and as his children, we are to imitate him. Are you a peacemaker or a troublemaker? Do you seek to point people to the Prince of Peace? Become an agent of reconciliation. Take seriously the call to be an ambassador for Christ.

How many of you know Christians who are not at peace with each other? How many of you are actively trying to restore peace between them?

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