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Author:Rev. John van Popta
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 www.geocities.com/jlvpopta/home.html
 
Congregation:Fellowship Canadian Reformed Church
 Burlington, Ontario
 
Preached At:
 
 
Title:Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called sons of God
Text:Matthew 5:9 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Beatitudes
 
Added:2005-07-09
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Ephesians 2:11-22
Psalm 48:1,3
Psalm 119:62,63
Psalm 34:3,5
Psalm 85:3,4
Psalm 72:2,3,5
* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. John van Popta, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Brothers and Sisters of the Lord Jesus Christ

Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called sons of God.

1. What is peace?
2. Who are the peacemakers?
3. The ultimate peacemaker
4. Who are the Sons of God?
5. Are we peacemakers?

1. What is peace?

a. Warfare and conflict

As I prepared this sermon I read in various books that over the past 3,500 years of recorded history there has been less than 250 years of peace among nations. And that is only recorded history. The unrecorded history of Europe, Africa, Asia, North America will tell of countless wars, fighting, strife, conflict. War is a reality of life. Some suggested in the past, that if one of the super powers gain ascendancy, Russia, China, the USA and then peace would come: A new Pax Romana. The kind of peace that Rome imposed upon its conquered territories. The kind of peace that Augustus imposed upon the world at the time of the Lord Jesus Christ.

But even now, as some call the USA not a super power, but a hyper power, wars and conflicts erupt all over the place. Terrorists crash airplanes, bomb hotels, try to shoot down passenger planes, shoot up election places. Rebels engage in civil wars.

Others have suggested: what if they had a war, but no one came?

Others say, "Mankind need only live according to the golden rule, and all will be well."

But we know that this will never do. Peace cannot and will not be imposed by the power that comes from the barrel of a gun. Nor will peace be achieved by men deciding in their own power to refrain from conflict. Peace will not gain ascendancy by the goodness of men.

And why not? Because we live in a world broken by sin among a human race that is twisted out of shape by its own deep and total depravity. Peace achieved by strength, or weakness, by power or human kindness will never last. For what is needed is a fundamental transformation of the human spirit.

b. Shalom

For the matter of peace is more than an absence of war. It is more than the end of strife and bitterness. It is more than the cessation of conflict. Biblical peace is the restoration of right relationships between men. It is a matter of justice and righteousness. Biblical peace can only come when there is a restoration of relationship with God.

Peace is not first of all some sort of social thing. It is a rooted in, and founded upon, our relationship with God. Peace is not sociological; it is theological.

Shalom, the Old Testament word for peace speaks of wholeness and well-being. It is not the absence of strife: it is the presence of completeness. This Old Testament word is difficult-full of meaning. When the Hebrew Old Testament was translated into Greek, then the Hebrew word Shalom was translated into more than 25 different Greek words.

Peace is the sum total of all that makes man complete and fulfilled. It is about contentment, prosperity, quietness: it is about harmony among men. Reconciliation with God in Christ. Unity, concord, grace.

It is the condition of those who live in complete harmony with themselves, their fellow man, with creation, and with God. Peace is not the absence of war; it is the absence of everything that disturbs the well-being of individuals and the community and congregation. So how does peace come? How does that peace and well being come about?

c. Peace, peace, when there is no peace

In Jeremiah 6:13 we can read: From the least to the greatest, all are greedy for gain; prophets and priests alike, all practice deceit. They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. 'Peace, peace,' they say, when there is no peace.

The Old Testament people of God went into exile, into bondage because there was no justice. Because the people were self-serving. The leaders failed to lead in ways of godliness. The priests and prophets did not warn Godís people of coming calamity. They did not stand as watchmen on the walls. They did not warn of the corruption within and the threat from without. They said, "Peace, peace" where there was no peace. The leaders did not consider the wound of Godís people seriously. They said, "Peace, Peace," when there was none. They ignored the sin and rebellion.

But how then can peace come? Can peace come with a declaration of peace? Can peace come when leaders say, "Peace, Peace!"? No, those who do that, bind the wound of Godís people lightly. Peace comes to Godís people when there are peacemakers.

But who is that peacemaker? What does a peacemaker look like? How does he act? What does he do?

2. Who are the peacemakers?

a. Define

Well, first of all, what are they not? It should be clear that they are not simply peaceful people. Nor just peaceable people. Notice that the Lord Jesus in our text does not say, "Blessed are the peace keepers." He says, "Blessed are the peacemakers." The peace doers.

Many peace keepers cause trouble-not peace-by allowing threatening and dangerous situations to arise. For the sake of peace, they do not want to take action. But peacemakers are doers, not docile. They are active. For the sake of peace, they take action. They do not avoid issues but meet them head on. And effectively deal with them.

The peacemaker is not passive, but is a source of peace. A peacemaker is not one who simply says, "You do your thing, and Iíll do mine!" Nor does he promote appeasement, saying, "Just give him what he wants." He does not accept the status quo. He is not content to, "let sleeping dogs lie." He pursues more than just the absence of conflict. He desires wholeness and well-being. And not just for himself, as if peace were just something between himself and God. No, he wants peace for the community. He wants peace in the church.

So how does a peacemaker do this? What is a peacemaker like? Well first of all, he is honest. If there is a problem, he admits it. He does not just put plaster over flimsy walls. Those who do that lead Godís people astray. Ezekiel says in chapter 13:10 "Because they lead my people astray, saying, "Peace," when there is no peace, and because, when a flimsy wall is built, they cover it with whitewash, therefore tell those who cover it with whitewash that it is going to fall. Plaster obscures the cracks and fractures. But when trouble comes, the wall falls."

The peacemaker knows that there is no peace where sin abounds and where depravity rules. He is aware of the status of all relationships outside of Godís grace. He knows that sin causes warfare and strife. He admits failed relationships. He acknowledges that there is tension and difficulty and discord and dissension among people. He refuses to say, "Peace, peace, where there is none."

And yet we often do this. We tend to putty over the cracks. Put plaster over the fissure lines. We act as if everything is OK, even when it is not. But that leads to disaster.

A Dutch proverb, learned from a brother, loosely translated: A mild healer causes wounds that stink.

Peacemakers must take risks. Even risk pain. Because the world is not a peaceful place, peacemakers are often misunderstood.

Peacemakers will apologize when they have done wrong. They will also admonish where injustice reigns. The temptation is to let things go. To think that to deal with trouble will only make things worse.

In a sense, we might say that these are the two qualities of peacemakers. Honesty about the true status: lack of peace. And willingness to risk pain: pursuing peace.

The scripture teaches us that peace is something that takes effort. Make every effort... make every effort... to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace (Ephesians 4:3). The Apostle Paul writes in Romans 14:19: Make every effort... make every effort to do what leads to peace... And in Romans 12:18 he writes: If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

Some one once wrote: Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hate, may I bring love. Where offence, may I bring pardon. May I bring union in the place of discord.

The peacemaker is active; he is fighter, but not a destroyer. He is struggles and strives, but does not break down. He is a builder. He is not thoughtless or self-centred.

His character is one filled with godly wisdom. Think of what James writes in 3:17-18. But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.

The peacemaker is a positive force, for he comes with purity, he is considerate of others, he is full of mercy-this reminds us other beatitudes-he is pure in heart. He is merciful. He is submissive: meek. Peacemakers seek, they hunger and thirst for righteousness.

And the peacemaker is tolerant, in the good sense of the word. He is sympathetic, even as Jesus is the sympathetic High Priest who knows our weakness. He is like God, who knows that we are but dust. That we are like flowers and grass, soon fading. He knows that he too is a sinner of a common fallen condition. And so he is humble, gentle, full of mercy. He is impartial, sincere.

There is something called cheap grace.

Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance: baptism without church discipline. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate (D. Bonhoeffer: The Cost of Discipleship 36).

Cheap grace is grace of forgiveness without the demand of obedience. It is granting forgiveness without the need for holiness. It is grace without gratitude.

But there is also cheap peace. "Peace, peace," where there is no peace.

Peacemakers know that peace is costly. It comes at great personal cost. It comes with humility. It comes with self-sacrifice. It comes with self-denial.

The peacemaker has that right view of himself as he climbs the seven rungs of the ladder of the beatitudes. By the grace of the Holy Spirit, he has that right view of himself. He knows that he is not worth bothering about at all. He has no rights, no privileges. He knows the blackness of his own heart. And so he will not stand on his rights, his honour, his integrity. He turns the other cheek when it comes to his own reputation.

He understands what it means when the Lord Jesus Christ says, "He who loves his life will loose it."

He is filled with the willingness to forgive and with the willingness to be forgiven. Peacemakers will risk personal pain and misunderstanding to make things right. They will not say, "Peace!" where there is none.

And as a man who has a right view of himself, he will also have a right view of others. He will not say, "Why do people behave so badly?" He knows why. For he knows himself to be a sinner as well. "I must have mercy and pity on him." "I must come with grace to him."

His concern is not his own name, but the glory of God. He wants to direct his whole life so that his words thoughts deeds honour Godís name, praises Godís name (Lord's Day 47).

He is willing to suffer personal cost and injury to achieve peace.

c. the radical call

This is the radical call to peacemaking. It is not a natural human characteristic. It is not a normal quality, that we carry. It is above human nature. It is impossible. Impossible in and of ourselves.

The world will point to this beatitude and say, "See that is the true gospel." "If men will do this then the world will be at peace." They will quote Isaiah 2:4 They will beat their swords into plough shares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.

And then they will say, "If man would only do this!" And of course that is true. If we would only do this. If only we could. But we know that it is impossible. For there is no peace.

The beatitudes are not commands to fulfill. They are the description of the New Testament man. The new woman of Israel. The person filled with the Holy Spirit. A person controlled by the Holy Spirit. For peacemaking does not come about without the radical, life changing work of the Holy Spirit. It comes about where there is a change of the human heart. Where there is repentance. Where the Holy Spirit enables.

Peacemaking means that the human heart is renovated. We are inclined by nature to hate God and neighbour. Unless we are regenerated by the Spirit of God.

The peacemaker has experience the poverty of the spirit of the 1st beatitude. He knows he has nothing in himself. He knows his sin and mourns over it. And because he knows his poverty and mourns over his own sin, he is meek and gentle. And moreover, he seeks, he hungers and thirsts after righteousness. And so he is merciful to others, for he has received mercy. He has undivided loyalty, he has a pure heart. One devoted to God. His pure life is one that cleansed by the blood of Jesus. He knows this and so has peace with God. And having these, knowing this peace, experiencing this peace, he is now a peacemaker. For peace is a hallmark of the kingdom of Christ.

The human personality needs to be transformed. Raised from death to life. From rebellion to obedience. Then there can be the experience of peace. Peace with God. Only then can someone become a peacemaker.

No one can be a peacemaker without having himself been brought into peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ. None can bring peace, without having it first. Our hearts must be changed. We cannot give what we do not have.

d. Silence

The call to peacemaking is a call to silence. To being slow to speak, slow to anger, swift to hear. That is one of the best ways to peace. Slow to speak. The temptation is to have a swift reply to offensive words and actions. Peace is brought about by silence. Temptation is to speak about others and their attitudes and wrong doings. Peace is brought about by silence. Temptation is to repeat that which harms. Peace is brought about by silence. Temptation is to repeat to others what you have heard about them. Peace is brought about by silence. The peacemaker is one who does not say things: he is tempted to, but he does not.

The next thing about a peacemaker is that he sees everything in light of the gospel, of Jesus Christ, of the church. What are the implications of this? What about the communion of saints? What about that brother or sister? What about the cause of the church? The rule of the kingdom? The advance of the gospel?

If he thinks of himself, there is war. If he thinks of these things, he is a peacemaker.

3. The ultimate peacemaker

And then we know that the Lord Jesus Christ is the ultimate peacemaker. He is the one who denied himself. Who lay down his life for his friends. Who humbled himself. Who did not revile in return for insults. Who did not stand on his honour. Who did not demand his rights. But who humbled himself to death, even the death on the cross. And the Apostle Paul says in Phil 2, that he is our example. That we are to have the same mind. There was nothing cheap about the peace he achieved. It cost the blood of the Son of God.

In Colossians 1:19,20 the apostle says that Jesus Christ made peace. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

No cheap peace, this! No! Peace comes to Godís people through the blood of the cross. God is reconciling the world to himself as he establishes the Messianic Kingdom. We will sing of Psalm 72. Give to the king your justice. May righteousness flourish in his days May peace abound.

Or Psalm 85. Righteousness and peace will greet each other. Yes, the angels announced peace to those on whom Godís favour rests over the fields of Bethlehem. Peace was to abound in the Kingdom of the Son.

He has made peace. In Colossians 1:20, we just quoted that, in Col 1:20, it says that God made peace. The word is of the same root as in our text. Peacemaker. One is the verb, one the noun. He made peace. He is, in Christ, the ultimate peacemaker.

He saw the seriousness of our situation. He saw the brokenness. He saw the horror of sin. The warfare of depravity. The loss of, the lack of, shalom. And he made peace, through, by, the blood. Jesus Christ made peace by actively working and doing his Fatherís will. He became our peace.

As we read in Ephesians 2:13, he is our peace. He himself, is our peace. He has made the two one. He has destroyed the barrier. The dividing wall of hostility. He created one new man out of two: Jew and gentile. He reconciled them both to himself and to each other. He preached peace. He reconciled them both to himself and to each other. He did it then and he can do it now for us in this congregation.

Peace he leaves with us. He himself said so in John 14. Peace I leave with you. And that gift was costly. There is no cheap peace. It was bought with the precious blood, of Christ. He did not grab or grasp at glory.

The angels of Bethlehem sang of peace. And the crowds on Palm Sunday, as Jesus made his triumphal entry into Jerusalem almost echoed the very words of the angels. Peace in heaven and glory in the highest.

The Lord Jesus came to bring peace. For he is the Prince of Peace. And he calls us to peace... And to peacemaking. And those who do this will be called the sons of God.

4. Who are the sons of God?

This is the benefit. This is the blessing. "They will be called sons of God." They will have divine paternity. This is the paternity of peace. They will be called sons of God.

The word order in Greek: for THEY sons of God, shall be called. They and no others. "They," the word "they," stands in the forefront of the second part in every beatitude. These shall be called. These and these only.

And when it says, "be called" that describes their character. Who they really are. Not just a name applied to them, but character description. This is not just a name, but means that these actually ARE the sons of God. They partake of his character. They are like the only begotten Son, have become like him: they are peacemakers.

By the promotion of peace they have entered into the Fatherís work. They are his co-workers. By their humble attitude, performed out of gratitude, to Godís glory, they are crowding out the evil and warfare in human hearts. They are already sons of God and on the final day when they see God, they will be publicly acknowledged as Son of God. As the true inheritors with Jesus Christ of all the blessings of the covenant. Prosperity, blessing, peace.

Peace comes with hard work. If we are not peacemakers then we will be, we are, troublemakers. We will be troublemakers who spread rumours, gossip... Troublemakers who foment dissension, partisan spirit: us and them... We will be troublemakers if we find joy in reports of scandal and trouble... If we finally have our opponent where we want him... If we are omni-critical, fault-finding, blame-shifting...

And we know brother, sister, that we all must struggle against these sins. These are part of our sinful nature against which we must struggle our whole lives. Who of us can say we are free of these sins? Who can say, "Not me"? I for one, cannot.

But let us then together struggle against them and pray for Godís grace and Holy Spirit. And may it be that he call us all "Sons of God."

Amen



* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. John van Popta, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright, Rev. John van Popta

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