In this essay we intend to call attention to the beautiful and well-known words: “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called sons of God.”
Have you ever heard it said, dear reader, that we human mortals do not know who the elect of God are? I have. And generally this is a contention that comes from the lips of either the unlearned and weak in faith, or, what is worse, from the lips of him who knows neither the Scriptures nor the power of God.
Do not be led astray by the oft-repeated assertion, that we do not know who the elect are. For this statement is only true in a very relative sense. If those making this assertion mean, that we do not know with absolute and infallible certainty who are true believers in distinction from hypocrites, then this insertion, that we do not know who the elect are, is true. And, again, if what is meant, is that there are elect of God who are not yet brought to conscious faith and, therefore, do not yet manifest the life of grace, then too this assertion is true. It is, however, very relatively true, that we do not know who the elect are.
Let it be clearly understood, that there is a sense in which we do know who the elect of God are, and that, too, infallibly.
In the first place, God has certainly called His elect people out of darkness into His marvelous light to declare His praises. We do not need to live in doubt whether we are living with those who are the elect church, or whether we are in the midst of the world of unbelief, For the fruit of grace is the confession of God’s Name in Jesus Christ, our Lord. A good tree bringeth forth good fruit and an evil tree bringeth forth evil fruit; a good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, nor can an evil tree bring forth corrupt fruit. Says Jesus: by their fruits ye shall know them; by the fruits of confession and walk. Our fathers in the Canons of Dort speak of the infallible fruits of election. Compare Matthew 7:16-20 and Canons of Dort, Chapter I, Art. 12. Secondly, God has also given His word of assurance to the individual believer, that he has life eternal while believing; God testifies in the heart of each believer, so that this believer cries by the power of the Holy Spirit: Abba Father. His Spirit testifies with our spirit,, that we are the sons of God.
Hence, we conclude that there is a sense in which we do know who the elect are, and that it is our business to know from the fruits of election both as to ourselves and to others.
With this in mind our Scripture passage is at once enlightening and practical. This Scripture passage, too, is instruction unto godliness. For all Scripture is given by inspiration and is profitable to instructor reproof, correction in righteousness, that the man of God man be thoroughly furnished unto every good work.
Let us give our sanctified attention to this passage,
Our text speaks of “peacemakers”. Who are they?
In order to clearly understand, who the “peacemakers” are, it is first of all of importance to understand, the Scriptural teaching concerning the making of peace in this world. Certainly, if anything is clearly taught in Scripture, it is this, that the world of unbelieving men, who are haters of God, will never have peace, nor will they ever be able to make, to bring about peace in the true sense of the Word of God. And yet, in spite of this clear and well-known teaching of the Word of God, there is nothing that the world of unbelief speaks of so much as of the making of peace on earth. Yes, especially on the earth. The making of peace that reaches into the very heavens is a theme on which men of unbelief are silent in every language.
Why are they silent on the theme of peace also in the heavens? For the very obvious reason, that they do not understand the Word of the cross. They do not understand that Christ is the great peacemaker and that His making of peace is indeed on earth, but that it is not at all limited to the earth. These unbelievers err knowing neither the Scriptures nor the power of God displayed in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. They dream, for vain dreamers they are, of a reign of peace on earth apart from the Lord’s Christ. And God has them in derision. The nations, indeed, imagine vain things.
This is the vain dream of Postmillenialism too. It looks at the history of the world as a process of gradually ascension from the lower to the higher state on society. Gradually mankind will outgrow and overcome its ills. Socially, politically, economically man will come to the higher state and condition of peace and harmony. There is still hope for man. Oh, the world will go through a “crisis” just as a very sick patient, but the fever will subside! Gradually the patient will return to a state of normalcy. The Utopia of the “better world” will yet be reached. It looks very dark at the present moment, it is said, but there will dawn a better day.
This imaginary “peacemaking” is not that of the Scriptures, nor are these “peacemakers” those of Matthew 5:9.
The peacemaking of our text is that which is wrought in this world by the wonder of grace in Jesus Christ.
This is the peace that will be realized finally when the law of God shall be written perfectly in the heart of all the redeemed, and when the tabernacle of God shall be with man. It is the peace that shall not only be realized on this earth, but it will be a peace of the new heaven and new earth, where righteousness shall dwell!
For we must bear the following in mind.
In the first place we must notice, that mankind is hopelessly lost and perishes under the wrath of God almighty; man as he is by nature can never “make peace” and establish righteousness on the earth. For let it not be forgotten that such is man’s state as observed by God Himself, and as He has told us in His Word. For there is not that seeketh after God, there is none that understandeth, they have all gone backward and become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good and makes peace, no not one. Man is totally depraved in relationship to God. And, therefore, he is also totally corrupt in relation to his fellow men, and nation rises against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there is no peace to the wicked, saith God. Their waters cast up mire and filth. They are full of restlessness and cannot sleep unless they sin. For their throat is an open sepulchre, with their tongue they use deceit, the poison of asps is under their lips, their mouth is full of cursing and bitterness, their feet are swift to shed blood, destruction and misery are in their ways, and the way of peace they have not known. There is no fear of God before their eyes.
Such is the picture of mankind. Such is the picture also of the citizens of the Kingdom, the elect, as they are by nature. Such is, indeed, the flesh of the elect; in this flesh there dwells no good for it is simply full of iniquity sold under sin. The elect, the believers, are in themselves never peacemakers. Nay, we are by nature the very opposite; we are those whose ways are full of destruction and misery!
This we must keep in mind. Only thus will we be able to see the implication of Christ being our peace.
But now God has thoughts of peace. He would make a peace that could from its very nature never enter into the heart of man. His peace is wonder, it is the mystery of godliness, that is great. Our fathers spoke of the “Vrede-Raad”, the counsel of peace. They loved to speak of the eternal counsel of God wherein He sovereignly determined to bring such a peace upon earth, that even the angels, who always behold His face, might rejoice at the prospect of it as in its realization. Wherefore the angels sing at Christ’s birth: Glory to God in the highest, and peace on earth among the men of His good pleasure.
According to this counsel of peace God works all things. (Eph. 1:11). Also according to this counsel of peace God sends His Son in the fulness of time, that He might be born from a woman and made under law. And that under law He might redeem us from the curse of the law, and that we might thus be brought to God. Such is the purpose of God in sending His Son. Thus He is our peace, having made peace for us in His perfect sacrifice on the cross.
In this peace we share as the elect of God legally being justified by faith. He hath sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, so that we are freely justified and have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. And in the knowledge of the sweetness of this peace, whereby the “godless” are justified we understand the “secret” of peacemaking. The secret is in foregiving even as we have been forgiven. It is the law of the Kingdom, the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus.
We now are ready also to say who the “peacemakers” are in our text.
They certainly are not the “peacemakers” in the world who with diplomacy, with the mere natural ability to “get along” with men try to make this world a “better place to live.” It is more than the natural slogan of “keep smiling”. The peacemakers of this world never bring about anything lasting or real, because they have no foundation of righteousness to undergird them in their labors. The wounds of bitterness and strife can never be healed apart from the work of Christ on Calvary. Hence, all the peace of the unbelieving world is shallow sham. Such are not the peacemakers of my text, who are called “blessed”.
But who are they then?
They are those who make peace with their “neighbors” because by faith they stand on the Gilbraltor Rock of Christ’s work of having accomplished lasting peace with God in His death and resurrection.
Inwardly the peacemaker is strong in humility. He has tasted the humility of Jesus. He has learned that Jesus is meek and lowly of heart. He has found rest for his soul. It is a spiritual-psychological reality that the man who makes trouble does so because He is not at peace with God. Love is not at all or “not yet” perfected in him. The outward manifestation simply reveals the internal warfare of the lusts. He has not learned that the Spirit of God never incites to envy, but always gives more grace. But the peacemaker has learned that blessed truth. The Spirit gives more grace. And being led by this Spirit the peacemaker sows the peaceable fruit of righteousness. He is then not temptable of evil and does not tempt others. The evil one does not take hold of him.
Behold, then the blessedness of such a one!
In his very nature it is written, not with ink, but with the Spirit of grace: sons of God. He reveals the Father’s work among men. Image bearer of God he is in an evil world. He is made like unto the image of Christ the firstborn Son. He has the firstfruits of the full harvest. Presently he shall stand amidst the multitude of the sons of God, the great family of the heavenly Father in eternal blessedness!