“And His name shall be called . . . The Prince of Peace.”
“Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.”
His name shall be called the Prince of Peace!
Such is the name Isaiah ascribes to the Child to be born, and to the Son to be given!
But when this Son grows up and assumes the government which rests upon His shoulder, He declares to the constituency of His governed: Think not that I am come to send peace on earth, . . . but a sword!
On the one hand, the Son to be born is dedicated to the proposition of effecting an everlasting peace! At whose birth even the heavens will break forth into singing! Peace on earth to men of His good pleasure!
While on the other hand this same child, when He reaches the age of manhood, exclaims: I am come not to send peace, but a sword!
The Prince of Peace—with a sword!
The Prince whose duty and work it shall be to bring peace!
But who does so only in the way of battle, of making division!
Prince of Peace, He is called! What does this mean? To whom does this appellation refer?
The term “Peace” in the Scriptures has both negative and positive content. Negatively expressed, peace is the very opposite of war, confusion, distress and misery. Peace is a condition in which there is no disturbance or division; where war and its attending miseries are wholly absent. Positively, peace is a condition in which there is friendship, mutual agreement, unity; and where security, safety, and tranquility abound!
Further, it must be established that the term “Peace” as here used is not a peace which in any sense can or will be effected by any counsels of men or leagues of nations. Surely all humanistic and modern conceptions of peace and peace-making have nothing in common with the peace of the Prince of Peace. Men and nations may foolishly imagine and plan universal peace, but as long as it is a peace which is established by the mere physical, coercive power of flesh and blood, and mundane instruments of war, there will never be a realization of their dream. There can and will never be any peace among men, unless the Prince of Peace alone brings it! There is no peace apart from the Peace of God!
Peace in its most absolute sense is to be found alone in God, and it comes only from Him!
God is, in the Scriptures, called more than once: the God of Peace! the Lord of Peace! and other closely related appellations! This signifies not only that He alone establishes peace, but that He is that peace Himself. Peace in God is that virtue of God whereby He, as the triune Covenant God, lives His own covenant life in the sphere of eternal love in such a way that all three Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, are bound together in mutual agreement of love, and live together a most perfect, tranquil life of friendship. There is never any disharmony or division in God, for God is One. And this One but also Triune God is the source of all peace to His people in and through the One Whom Isaiah calls: The Prince of Peace!
Peace, therefore, is not to be understood as a mere physical condition, but it is a spiritual entity! And spiritual things have to do with God and our relation to Him!
Man by nature, as he is born into this world, and is composed of body and soul, is at enmity with God! He hates God and is His enemy. Likewise it is true, that God is his enemy! Through the transgression of one man, all have become sinners. We are, as the apostle Paul declares, all the children of wrath by nature. We are under the wrath of God and will abide under it forever, unless God Himself by His grace extricates us from this state and condition. It is plain from the Scriptures that there is no peace for the wicked. From Adam the first unto all eternity, the Scripture is true: “the wicked are like the troubled sea that cannot rest; there is no peace saith my God to the wicked.” You and I belong to this category as we come forth from our parents into this world. Only through the grace of the God of peace and the saving work of the Prince of Peace will the relation of us to God and God to us, a relation of wrath and warfare, change. Then, too, and only then, will the relation of man to his neighbor change!
Christ Jesus, born in Bethlehem’s manger, is the Prince of Peace!
It is the duty of a prince to set in order the things of the kingdom for the king. So, also, it is the high expectation of a prince when the kingdom has been perfectly arranged that he shall enter with the king into the glories of that kingdom. Moreover, it follows naturally that the prince, being the son of the king, is legally heir to the throne of his father. So, too, it must be understood that the Prince of Peace is the Son of the King of Peace, Who is God Himself! Through this Son, God arranges and sets in order the things of His Kingdom of Peace. When this Son has so fulfilled His office and work, He may of right expect to enter into the glories of that glorious Kingdom of Peace!
This Son of the King of Peace is sent into the world in the likeness of sinful men. He assumes our flesh and blood, and becomes like unto us in all things, sin excepted. And in our likeness bears in His own body and soul the burden of the wrath of God against sin. So perfectly did He bear it, that He became a perfect sacrifice of obedience before the holy and righteous God. He suffers and dies the bitter and shameful death of the cross, thus making atonement for all those whom the Father had given Him. He satisfies the righteous judgment of God Who will have peace only on the basis of perfect righteousness. Moreover, by His perfect obedience and sacrifice of atonement, He breaks down the wall of partition between His people and God. So that God no longer can look down on them in wrath, but counts them as His friends, even as He saw and loved them in His counsel in Christ before the foundation of the world, when He chose them to become His precious possession. And having done all to abolish that which made us subject to God’s wrath, the King of Peace crowns His Prince with glory and honor at His own right hand, whence also this Prince receives power through the Holy Spirit given Him to effect that peace also in the hearts of His people. So that His Word to His disciples shortly before His decease at Jerusalem is fulfilled: “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you; not as the world giveth, give I unto you.” And the word of the apostle is true: “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
But this Prince in His coming brings a sword!
How strange this sounds in the light of all that which we have said of Him in the preceding! Does that not all fade into thin air when we are placed before this declaration of Him: I came not to send peace, but a sword? Does He not Himself deny the very purpose of His coming? Much more serious these questions appear when we also ask the question: What does He mean by that sword? What is its idea?
Immediately we feel that this is figurative language. The sword of which He speaks is not a literal, physical instrument. For at no time did Jesus appear on earth with a sword. And we have His own statement to show that He never condoned its use when He declared to the apostle Peter in the garden of Gethsemane: “Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.” This is plain also from Luke 12:51 where the Lord says: “Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division.” There can be no doubt therefore that Jesus is thinking of that only which a sword represents and does. A sword is an instrument that is used to make division by cutting. Jesus is speaking then of division, dissension, and war. If that is the meaning, and it must be, then it appears that He came to send division, dissension, and war upon earth. And, if that is not plain enough, He even adds, “I came not to send peace, but a sword.” How contradictory this sounds to all that is said of Him as the Prince of Peace! On the one hand, He came to establish peace, a peace so wonderful that it passeth all understanding, reaching even unto heaven and the throne of a Holy and Righteous God, Who, seeing it, bends down in love and grace to those who were once enemies, but now covenant friends. While on the other hand, He came to begin a warfare that is so universal that it enters into every home, hamlet, city and nation, and effects every man, woman, and child who ever came into contact with Him or His!
O, to be sure, He does not contradict the truth that He is the most glorious Prince of Peace!
Rather, He emphasizes the fact that His Peace is limited, as His atonement is limited! For as we have already seen, the angels at His birth sing: Glory to God in the highest and peace on earth to men of good pleasure! It is peace to men of His good pleasure, in whom He delights, who are well-pleasing to Him! There are many who are not of His good pleasure, who are not pleasing to Him, who will never taste of His Peace! Indeed, the wicked are like the troubled sea that cannot rest! And as it is true in a natural sense that a sea does not become troubled of itself, but is effected by the wind blowing upon it; so, also, it must be understood that the sea of the wicked is brought to unrest by the breath of the Prince of Peace! His Person, His Word, His Spirit, aggravates the wicked and draws out of him a heated warfare. The sword that makes division was in Christ Himself as He appeared among men! The very holiness of His Person, the very power of His Word, and the very Spirit which was in Him struck opposition and made division! Beginning at Bethlehem, and culminating in the cross, His Word and Spirit made separation between sheep and goats, between righteous and wicked, between the children of light and the children of darkness, between His disciples and the synagogue of Satan!
Not with all men, did Christ come to make peace!
Nor was it His purpose to amalgamate all human society!
That modern doctrine of a universal brotherhood of man, Jesus never had in mind! Nor such a peace as is planned and sought after in the United Nations, and advocated by the Council of Churches, did the Prince of Peace come to realize! These searchers for peace, who deny the blood of atonement which is limited, and call the God of Righteousness Who can only be appeased by a sacrifice of blood, a “big bully,” shall never taste of His peace!
Indeed, the separation which the Prince of Peace makes is so keen, so wide, so definite, that no inventive genius of man will ever be able to bridge the gap, or span the gulf that is fixed!
This sword of the Prince of Peace is an ever present reality in the world into which He came! From His high and exalted place, the Prince continues to wield His sword through His Word and Spirit, through His church, through His apostles, His ministers, His people, in whose hearts His Peace dwells!
Glorious and abiding comfort!
Comforting it is to know, not only that before God we stand no longer as enemies, but friends; no longer as objects of wrath, but of His favor! But comforting it is also to know, how and why it is that in the world we must have tribulation, division, and strife!
The question is often asked: Why should there be so much strife? so much division? Why is it that even churches cannot have peace?
The answer usually given is: There is still so much sin in man and in the church! This answer is only a part of the truth! The other part is: that where the Word and Spirit of Christ is, there must be separation!
The disciples to whom Jesus said: I came not to send peace, but a sword, evidently imagined that to confess the Name of Christ in the world would be an easy task. Jesus puts them straight, when He intimates that there would be much opposition. Remember, He said, “For I am some to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household.”
Let all those, then, who have in their hearts the peace of the Prince of Peace, rejoice when they see that powerful sword of His making separation between sheep and goats, righteous and wicked, as it shall finally be wielded in the day of His coming!
Then shall they rejoice eternally in His kingdom of everlasting peace!