Why Did Jesus say “He came Not To Bring Peace But A Sword?”
A pulpit committee approached me one time and said, “We need a pastor for our church.” “I know just the guy,” I said. “He’s a fantastic preacher with a fiery evangelistic spirit. But he has health problems. And he’s kind of old. He’s also been in jail several times.” They began to shake their heads, and one said, “Well, we don’t know whether he’s the man we want or not.” I said, “Well, don’t worry; you couldn’t get him. He’s already in Heaven, and his name is Paul.”
You don’t want a guy who can rub shoulders with the people of this world and not rub any salt in their wounds. Where there is no offense, there is no effect.
Pray for those who occupy the pulpits in our churches that they would not water down the truth of God’s Word but be strong to proclaim its power.
Let Me Add This:
Jesus Christ’s comment in Matthew 10:34 seems puzzling at first. In order to understand what He meant we need to look at the context in which He said these words. We really need to look at all the verses to understand the full picture of what’s being said in Matthew 10: 34-39. “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a man’s foes will be those of his own household. He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.”
Starting off in verse 34: Our Lord’s words must be understood as a figure of speech in which the visible results of His coming are stated as the apparent purpose of His coming. He says, “He did not come to bring peace on earth, but a sword.” Actually, He did come to make peace. The peace Jesus came to offer was peace with God through faith in Christ, not peace among men per se. Hence, we read: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matt. 5:9), this concerns those who preached a message of salvation in order to bring peace between God and man through faith in Christ. He came that the world might be saved through Him (John 3:17). So, there is a peace that Christ did bring to man, but it is not the absence of strife among men.
In verses 35 through 37, the point spoken of here is that whenever individuals become His followers, their families would turn against them. A converted father would be opposed by his unbelieving son, a Christian mother by her unsaved daughter. A born-again mother-in-law would be hated by her unregenerate daughter-in-law. So, a choice must often be made between Christ and family. The Savior must take precedence over father, son or daughter. One of the costs of discipleship is to experience tension, strife, persecution and alienation from one’s own family. Simply, the gospel divides families (Micah 7:6). This hostility is often more bitter than is encountered in other areas of life. One should never forget that Jesus warned us that we would be hated for His sake because those who reject Him hate Him, they will hate His followers as well (John 15:18).
In verse 38, we read that there is something even more apt to rob Christ of His rightful place than family – that is, the love of one’s own life. Jesus said, “And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.” The cross, of course, was a means of execution. To take the cross and follow Christ means to live in such complete devotion to Him that even death itself is not too high a price to pay. Not all disciples are required to lay down their lives for the Lord, but all are called on to value Him so very highly that they do not count their lives precious to themselves. Finishing off in verse 39, we see that the love for Christ must be stronger than the instinct for self-preservation. Jesus said, “He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.” The temptation is to hug one’s life by trying to avoid the pain and loss of a life of total commitment. But this is the greatest waste of a life – to spend it in the gratification of self. The greatest use of a life is to spend it in the service of Christ. The person who loses his life in devotedness to Him will find it in its true fullness.
This Powerful Message is Not Often Preached
In the context, it is evident that Jesus aims to bring division between those who are faithful and those who are not, even within the same family. This doesn’t seem to be consistent with the message of love that is preached to churchgoers and goes against the doctrine of loving your enemies. This saying about the sword is not often preached from the pulpit – it seems that churchgoers don’t want to talk about it. This is why Adrian Rogers closes off his commentary by saying: “Pray for those who occupy the pulpits in our churches that they would not water down the truth of God’s Word but be strong to proclaim its power.”
Many evangelical leaders today make the presumption that Christ came to bring peace on earth. This is the very opposite of what Jesus said. Jesus did not come with a social gospel. He came with the message that precludes other beliefs: Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me (John 14:6).” “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12).
Many believers live their lives under the policy of “safety first.” There is no such policy in the Word of God. The believer is to live by faith, courage, and risk for the advancement of Christ in this world in furthering God’s kingdom by witnessing to others and bringing them into the kingdom. The believer’s life brings tension, strife, persecution and alienation in taking up His cross, not comfort. Those who seek comfort above all cannot live the life God designed for them.
Jesus Will Bring Peace, But Not Right Away
Even though Jesus said that He did not come to bring peace but a sword, Scripture clearly tells us that Jesus is the Prince of Peace. “For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end….” So, which is it? Did Jesus come to bring peace or not? And the answer is yes, Jesus will bring peace, but not right away. The world will experience true peace only when the King returns again to rule on earth as King of kings and Lord of lords. Jesus came to offer a theocratic kingdom to the nation Israel, but when Israel rejected that message, He deferred that purpose until the Millennial kingdom. Jesus will come to make peace after His Second Coming – the 1,000 year reign of Christ on earth called the “Millennium.” Speaking of the saints (believers): “They shall be priests of God and of Christ and shall reign with Him a thousand years (Rev. 20:6).” In the Millennium righteousness will flourish (Isaiah 11:3-5), peace will be universal (Isaiah 2:4), and the productivity of the earth will be greatly increased (Isaiah 35:1-2).
The glory of the future Millennial kingdom of our Lord can be found in Isaiah 2:1-4: “Many people shall come and say, ‘Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, To the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths.’ For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall Judge between the nations, and shall rebuke many people; They shall beat their swords into plowshares, And their spears into pruning hooks; Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, Neither shall they learn war any more (v.3-4). In that day Jerusalem will be established as the religious and political capital of the world. The Gentile nations will make pilgrimages to Zion (Jerusalem) for worship and for divine instruction. King Jesus will arbitrate international problems and settle disputes for the people. As a result, there will be universal disarmament. Justice and peace will ultimately be realized in the millennial Kingdom.
For those who want to read more regarding Christ’s Millennial Kingdom I would suggest reading Isaiah chapter 11 as it is one of the greatest passages on the Millennium in either the Old Testament or the New Testament. One of the most glorious promises in all of Holy Scripture is the second half of verse 9, giving the reason for the ideal conditions during the Millennial Kingdom. You will read that even wild animals will submit to Christ’s rule, making it possible for the wolf to dwell with the lamb, the leopard lying down with the young goat, making it possible for a nursing child to play by the cobra’s hole, and that the lion will eat straw like the ox. The predatory instincts and carnivorous appetites will cease in animals. In summary, the character and nature of the planet, including its occupants and even the animal creation will revert to their position as before the “fall of man.” Paradise is restored as it was in Adam’s day.
Let me ask you this: Have you personally presented the gospel message that saves and have witnessed to family, friends, relatives, and neighbors? What was their response? Be honest. Were they warm, receptive, overwhelmed with the truth of the gospel? Were they thrilled with the good news and could not wait to give their lives to Christ? Let me guess! The answer in most of the cases would be “No.” Why? Jesus as the sword divides. His gospel is the sword that divides. Every born-again believer soon finds that the most divisive thing they can do is tell someone else about their sin and their need for a Savior even or especially the ones they love most. They find that living for Jesus brings even greater and deeper division.
The gospel that is beautiful and transforming to God’s people is ugly and odious to those who are not His people. The gospel that so satisfies those who believe it, revolts those who reject it. This difference brings division. It divides – so that the One (Christ) who brings peace to the believer’s soul also brings division to his relationships (family, friends, relatives, etc). Look, hostility against believers results not from their making themselves obnoxious but from the sad fact that in most cases the gospel so alienates unbelievers that they lash out against those who would love them for Christ’s sake. It isn’t the believer who pushes away the unbeliever, but the unbeliever who pushes away the believer. This distance is caused not by the believer’s hatred but by their love – love that is rejected and despised.
Look, as believers, we should not be surprised when we experience division; in fact, we need to expect it. Why? Jesus and His gospel will bring division between those who embrace Him and those who reject Him. Jesus clearly laid out this for us in John 16:33 “… In Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” Christ came to give us peace with God, peace in our consciences, peace with our brethren, but in the world, we would be hated, despised, rejected, falsely condemned, etc. and even pursued and persecuted in some parts of the world. Yet Christ leaves us with this assurance: He overcame the world at the cross of Calvary. In spite of our tribulations, we can rest assured that we are on the winning side. Isn’t that great news!