The late Gerrit Vos was a pastor in the PRC and for many years a writer for the SB. We reprint here an article of his which appeared in the December 1 issue in 1958.
Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.
… and on earth peace….
… The Prince of Peace.
Higher criticism delights to find contradictions in the Bible.
Well, the above texts seem to teach such.
On the one hand we have heard the song of the nightingale in the Old Testament: Isaiah. He sang beautifully of the coming of Jesus. And he told us even of the various names which He would bear. In Isaiah 9:6 we read, “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder; and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.”
Later, much later, we heard the song of the heavenly host at the birth of this Prince of Peace, and here are the words of that glorious song: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”
So both Isaiah and Luke agree: Jesus is the Prince of Peace, and He shall, as such, bring peace upon the earth.
However, when Jesus began to teach He seems to tell us the very opposite. Especially Luke’s version is emphatic: “Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on the earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division.”
So, again, higher criticism once more has a hellish delight in pointing to another supposed contradiction in Scripture.
Indeed, there are more texts that seem to stand in opposition to Matthew 10:34 andLuke 12:51-53. Read, e.g.,Ephesians 2:14, 15: “For He is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace.”
And Zacharias the priest sang of Him: “To guide our feet into the way of peace!”
Is it not startling that Jesus seems to contradict the Holy Spirit in Isaiah, Zacharias, and the angels in the fields of Ephratha?
We have heard from our youth, yes, even from our earliest infancy, that the Bible is true; that the real Writer of the Bible is God, from Genesis to Revelation; that God cannot contradict Himself.
If there is one thing which is cemented in the hearts of the little ones when they come to their first catechism class it is this: The Bible is true! God is true! Jesus is true!
Does it then not shock us when we hear Jesus say: Think ye not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword!
It is my habit to say to persons, to the devil, and to myself when confronted with so-called contradiction in the Bible: God is true!
I cannot believe that there are contradictions in the Bible. The very thought is monstrous.
I readily admit that there are difficult texts in the Bible, and that it is difficult to harmonize one text with another. I will also admit that the branch of study called Textual Criticism is warranted, although I hasten to add that we should be very careful with that branch of study.
But even after we have studied a seeming contradiction in the Bible and have not come upon a satisfying solution, I am ready to confess: O Lord! I cannot understand this or these texts, but I confess that it is because of my stupidity. Thy name is truth! Amen.
However, in the case of the above texts there is only a seeming contradiction.
Let me show you first that the expression of Jesus inMatthew 10:34 is according to divine planning.
The plan of the Almighty for all of history is exactly as Jesus expressed Himself: He came not to bring peace on earth but the sword—or, according to Luke: division!
The plan of God is war, division, strife, rebellion, blood, and tears. The first revelation of that plan is uttered in Paradise: “And I will put enmity between thee (the devil) and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.”
This was spoken by God to the devil who stood before Him in the guise of a serpent.
And this statement by our God is confirmed soon after in the slaughter of innocent Abel, and the subsequent struggle between the two seeds. On the one hand we see in all history the seed of the devil, and on the other hand we see the seed of the woman, that is, the church.
That struggle started at once; it continued every moment of time since; it is with us right here and now; it shall continue unabated until the last moment of history.
Listen to Enoch, the seventh from Adam: “Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints, to execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him.”
Enoch is only the seventh from Adam, and note the intensity of the warfare which God brought upon the earth, by putting enmity between the devil and the church.
Next note the appellation which the Holy Ghost gave to Noah: the preacher of righteousness! Noah was not the preacher of the gospel of God, but of righteousness.
God did not decree any positive fruit either: the ark had no room for many thousands, while there must have been millions of men upon the earth.
The theme of Noah’s preaching must have been: The flood is coming. The flood is coming! And all because of you! In one hundred and twenty years Noah had not one convert.
But what a battle!
It was not any different in the days of Nimrod, the mighty hunter before the Lord.
In his days the tower of Babel was an attempt of wicked men to maintain themselves against the Lord and His people.
But the time would fail me to tell you of the unrest, the strife, and the conflict between God and His anointed on the one hand, and the devil and his seed on the other hand. I would have to tell you of Nineveh, Syria, the Chaldeans; also of men like Nebuchadnezzar, Cyrus, Alexander the Great, Antiochus Epiphanes, and more of their godless ilk.
But in all the ages we see nought but the holy war of God on the earth. Wherever God manifests Himself among men, you find the godless reaction of the devil and his followers. Wherever Jehovah reveals Himself, there you always find war, bloodshed, division, and unrest.
A great weariness comes over you when you follow God’s footsteps in the Old Testament: the patriarchs, the judges, the kings, the priests, and the prophets. There are the foes without the camps of the seed of the women, but also the foes within the gates of Zion. At one time David wends his way in sweet company to the house of God, and later this same sweet (?) company will strangle him. Christ complains in David that they gave Him hatred for His love.
But it is not any different in the New Testament.
Wherever the Son of God appears there is strife, hatred, war, unrest.
During His three and one-half years of preaching, He is ever surrounded by a brood of devils. They watched His every word and move.The hatred found its bathos in the crucifixion.
But even then the devil was not satisfied.
After the Ascension and Pentecost the hatred of the seed of the devil broke out anew. The devil knew that his time was short.
Wherever Paul appeared with Jesus in his heart and mouth, there you found strife, unrest, bloodshed.
Only one of the twelve died in his bed.
Read your gospels and the epistles of the witnesses of Jesus. Even in the organized churches of Jesus there is no rest. You read of divisions, hatred, jealousy, and envy. James complains: “From whence come wars and fightings among you?”
Will you please read the seven letters to the seven churches in Asia Minor?
And will you continue to read what Jesus prophesies relative to the church of Christ and its reception in the world?
Was it any different after John closes Holy Writ?
Whenever you see Jesus appear on the scene you also find war and unrest, blood and suffering.
Indeed, God’s plan for the Seed of the woman is not to bring peace on the earth, but a sword.
But what about Isaiah, the angels at the birth of Jesus, and Paul?
They all herald the coming of Jesus as the Prince of peace!
And the angels literally say: on earth peace!
Here is the solution, beloved: Christ did not come to send peace for the wicked on the earth. Christ came to do the exact opposite with respect to them: He came to destroy them!
He came to destroy and to bruise the head of the devil. The head, that is, the intellect, the thought, the counsel, the conception of the wicked. His own name of truth, and with the word of His mouth, that is, His truth, He destroys the lie and the makers of the lie, and at the same time, and through the same truth, He sets you free!
So Jesus did indeed come to bring peace on the earth. Both Isaiah and the angels, as well as Paul, are right: His name is Prince of Peace. He did come to bring Peace upon the earth. A correct reading of the song of the angels would read: Peace on earth toward the men of good will, that is, to God’s elect church.
Paul told us in the above quoted text of Ephesians 2:14, 15.
Christ brought peace on the earth by shedding His precious blood for you and me. So making peace.
Christ took our hatred against God on His neck, and paid the price of eternal death.
So making peace for us.
Peace now: a little bit of heavenly peace in our heart; a peace that passeth understanding.
And presently? In the sweet by-and-by? A kingdom of heavenly peace!