Peace Series: Peace or Sword?

Do not think that I came to bring peace but a sword.  For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’; and ‘a man’s enemies will be those of his own household‘” (Matthew 10:34-35).

Do you suppose that I came to give peace on earth?  I tell you not at all, but rather division.  For from now on five in one house will be divided: three against two, and two against three.  Father will be against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law” (Luke 12:51-53).

How can this be?  The Messiah was to be the “Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6-7).  Angels announced Jesus’ birth by saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men!” (Luke 2:14).

Jesus’ message, if followed, leads to peace: Peace with God (Romans 5:1), and peace between men (Ephesians 2:14-18).  Christians are taught to be a peaceful people: “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men” (Romans 12:18); “Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14); “Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence” (1 Timothy 2:1-2); “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9); “The wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy” (James 3:17).

However, not all follow Jesus’ message.  John W. Haley comments, “A religion of inherent, radical purity could not be propagated in the world without awaking the fierce antagonism of everything impure and evil.  Hence would arise strife and division, bitter conflicts…” (Haley, Alleged Discrepancies, p. 119).  Oliver Greene comments, “When Jesus spoke of sending a sword to divide even the nearest relatives, we understand that He came for the purpose of teaching doctrine which would inevitably lead to this division to which He referred.  These evils were not what Jesus wished for, but they occur because men love darkness rather than light” (Greene, The Gospel According to Matthew, Vol. 2, p. 467).

Why does Jesus say this?  First, He wants us to know that there will be opposition.  Things will not always be easy. Opposition may come even from one’s own family. Second, He is challenging our committment and loyalty. It is in this context that He says – “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” (Matthew 10:37-39). While we love our families, our loyalty to Him must surpass our devotion to them, and our desire for peace in our homes.

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Have You Been Circumcised?

In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through Faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead” (Colossians 2:11-12).

Judaizing teachers, for years, tried to bind physical circumcision on gentile converts to Christianity (cf. Acts 15:1, 5; Galatians 2:1-4; 5:1-4; 6:15; 1 Corinthians 7:18-19; Colossians 2:11-12; 3:10-11).  They were wrong in this (Acts 15:23-29).  “Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing,  but the keeping of the commandments of God is what matters” (1 Corinthians 7:19).  Physical circumcision is not a part of the New Covenant.

However, there is a circumcision which is needed, spiritual circumcision.  This circumcision is performed without hands; meaning – this is something that God does and not man (cf. Daniel 2:34, 45; 8:25; Colossians 2:11-12).

There is a similarity between physical circumcision and spiritual circumcision.  The word “circumcision” literally means to “cut around.”  It refers to an operation to remove something.   The priests of old performed circumcision removing the foreskin of the male organ.  God performs circumcision removing sin.  He performs this operation when one is buried with Christ in baptism.  The same power which raised Jesus from physical death, removes one’s sins and raises one from spiritual death to walk in newness of life (Colossians 2:11-12 cf. 3:1-2; Ephesians 1:20 cf. 2:5-6; Romans 6:4).

Some have appealed to this circumcision illustration to try to defend infant baptism.  Therefore it is worth pointing out some dissimilarities between physical circumcision and spiritual circumcision.  (1) Physical circumcision was performed on Israelite males eight days old (Genesis 17:12; Leviticus 12:3).  The New Testament teaches that baptism is for those who believe (Mark 16:15-16; Acts 8:12; Acts 8:35-39; Acts 18:8).  (2) Physical circumcision was performed only on males (Genesis 17:14; Exodus 12:48).  Baptism is for both men and women (Acts 8:12; Galatians 3:26-28).  (3) Physical circumcision did not make one a Hebrew or an Israelite.  One was born such (Leviticus 23:42 k.j.v.; Romans 11:1).  Though, the uncircumcised were to be cut off (Genesis 17:14; Exodus 4:24-26).  Baptism places one in the Kingdom (John 3:5) and makes one a child of God (Galatians 3:26-28).  There are differences between physical circumcision and spiritual circumcision.

Additionally, let us point out that there is a circumcision we are to do.  God instructed Israel to circumcise their heart (Deuteronomy 10:16; Jeremiah 4:4).  One is not humble but stiff-necked and rebellious, if he is uncircumcised of heart and ears (cf. Leviticus 26:41; Jeremiah 6:10; Acts 7:51).  God desires us to be circumcised in the heart (Romans 2:26).  May we remove pride and rebellion and make our hearts and ears tender and receptive to His will. It takes a circumcised heart to receive circumcision from sin.

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Observing The Wind

He who observes the wind will not sow, and he who regards the clouds will not reap” (Ecclesiastes 11:4).

The meaning?  John Waddey comments, “His illustration is that of a farmer who is so concerned about having perfect conditions for sowing or reaping that he never gets his crop planted; or if he does, he fails to get it harvested” (Waddey, Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon, A Exposition, p. 64).  Matthew Henry comments, “If the husbandman should decline, or leave off, sowing for the sake of every flying cloud, and reaping for the sake of every blast of wind, he would make an ill account of husbandry at the year’s end” (Henry’s Commentary, Vol. 3, p. 859).  Adam Clark comments, “If a man neither plough nor sow till the weather is entirely to his mind, the season will in all probability pass before he will have done anything” (Clark’s Commentary, Vol. 3, p. 834).

Too many excuse their inactivity by claiming that “It is not the right time.”  They claim that they are looking for the ideal circumstance.  However, such never seems to come.

There is much that needs to be done.  Life is short.  If we wait until all difficulties are removed, likely what needs to be done, will never be done.  Think on this.  Then, get to work!

“To the work!  To the work!  We are servants of God, Let us follow the path that our Master has trod; with the balm of His counsel our strength to renew, let us do with our might what our hands find to do” (Song: To The Work by Fanny Crosby).

“I want to be a worker for the Lord.  I want to love and trust His holy word; I want to sing and pray and be busy ev’ry day, in the vineyard of the Lord\I want to be a worker ev’ry day; I want to lead the erring in the way that leads to heav’n above Where all is peace and love, in the kingdom of the Lord\I want to be a worker strong and brave; I want to trust in Jesus pow’r to save; all who will truly come shall find a happy home in the kingdom of the Lord” (Song: I Want to be a Worker by I. Baltzell).

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Holding Down The Truth

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness” (Romans 1:18, KJV).

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (Romans 1:18, NKJV).

The original word Katecho comes from Kata, which means “down,” and echo which means “hold,”  It is used in this passage of “unrighteous man who restrain the spread of the truth by their unrighteousness” (Vine’s).

God’s people are to shine as lights in this world.  Jesus said, “You are the light of the world… Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16).  Paul wanted the Philippian brethren to be “children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation,” adding, “among whom you shine as lights in the world” (Philippians 2:15).  Peter wrote, “Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles…” (1 Peter 2:11-12).

When we are not what we should be, our behavior can hinder others from receiving the truth.  Consider: “You therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself?  You who preach that a man should not steal, do you steal?  You who say, ‘Do not commit adultery,’ do you commit adultery?  You who abhor idols, do you rob temples?  You who make your boast in the law, do you dishonor God through breaking the law?  For ‘the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you,’  as it is written” (Romans 2:21-24).  Let us be careful that we do not become a hindrances to the truth.

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A Lesson on Borrowing

The Bible is clear that we should be willing to lend and share, if we are able, with those in need.  “A good man deals graciously and lends” (Psalm 112:5).  “Give to  him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away” (Matthew 5:42).  “(Those who are rich) Let them do good, that they may be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share… that they may lay hold on eternal life” (2 Timothy 6:18-19).  There are qualifications to these work.  One has a duty to first provide for his own family (Matthew 15:3-6; 1 Timothy 5:4, 8, 16).  Next, one is to give priority to helping Christian brethren who are in need (Galatians 6:10).  Then, others should be helped as we have opportunity (and ability).  Moreover, one should not enable bad behavior (2 Thessalonians 3:10).

But, what about the borrower?  Does he have a responsibility?  I do believe that he does, and such is the focus of this writing.

Have you ever loaned something to someone, only to be disappointed at the condition of the item when it was returned?  Have you ever borrowed something from someone, and had it break or be damaged, while it was in your possession?  What does the Bible say about this?  Consider from the Old Testament: (1) “The wicked borrows and does not repay” (Psalm 37:21).  We should return what we borrow.  (2) “If a man borrows anything from his neighbor, and it becomes injured or dies, the owner of it not being with it, he shall surely make it good” (Exodus 22:14).  One should try to replace, repair, or pay damage to the lender.  (3) “When they came to the Jordan, they cut down trees.  But as one was cutting down a tree, the iron ax head fell into the water; and he cried out and said, ‘Alas, Master!  For it was borrowed.”   One of the “sons of the prophets” said to Elisha.  He was greatly concerned, not simply for the loss of the ax head, but because it was borrowed.  Elisha miraculous caused the iron to float, and it was retrieved.  The righteous take their responsibility to care for borrowed items seriously.  True, these are Old Testament passages, but does God expect less care for others property today?

Consider the word of John and the New Testament: (1) “Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the law and the prophets” (Matthew 7:12).  (2) “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men” (Romans 12:18).  (3) “Love does no harm to a neighbor, therefore love is the fulfillment of the law” (Romans 13:10).  (4) “Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others (Philippians 2:4).  True, these passages are not specifically addressing the borrowing issue, but is there not an application?

I have seen many problems develop between brethren over borrowed items.  I have seen friendships damaged over such.  Many problems could be avoided if the above passages were considered.

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The Value of Asking Questions

Counsel in the heart of man is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out” (Proverbs 20:5).

Here is what some have said of this passage:

(1)  Adam Clark – “Men of the deepest and most comprehensive minds are rarely apt, unsolicited, to join in any discourse in which they might appear even to the greatest advantage; but a man of understanding will elicit this, by questions framed for the purpose, and this pump up the salubrious waters from the deep and capacious well.”

(2)  Matthew Henry – “A man’s wisdom is here said to be of use to him for the pumping of other people… to get knowledge of them… some are very able and fit to give counsel… but they are modest, and reserved, and not communicative; they have a good deal in them, but it is loth to come out.  In such a case a man of understanding will draw it out… we lose the benefit we might have by the conversion of wise men for want of the art of being inquisitive.”

(3)  Albert Barnes – “Every question is, as it were, a turning of the windlass.”

Will Rogers once said, “Everyone is ignorant (of something).  We are just ignorant of different things.”  The most knowledgeable of humans, no doubt, know only a small fraction of the sum total of human knowledge.  The point is: There is a vast wealth of wisdom and knowledge in the people around us.  A wise person asks questions.  He seeks to learn.

The disciples and others asked Jesus many spiritual questions (e.g. Mark 4:10; 7:17; 10:10; 10:17; 12:28; 13:3-4).  The apostles were asked spiritual questions (e.g. Acts 2:37; 16:30; 1 Corinthians 7:1a).  Do you care enough about spiritual matters to ask questions?

My advice is two-fold:  First, never stop asking questions.  Ask questions to self as you read.  Ask questions to others.  An inquisitive mind is a helpful thing in preventing stagnation in Biblical knowledge.  Second, test all answers with God’s word (Acts 17:11; 1 Thessalonians 5:21).  Remember that, “His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3).  Scripture and doctrine must harmonize.  Thomas Warren points out – “Any doctrine which implies a fake doctrine is itself a false doctrine” (Warren, Logic and the Bible, p. 68).

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Peace Series: Peace and Goodwill Toward Men!

The Dayspring on high has visited us… to guide our feet into the way of peace” (Luke 1:78-79).

The Dayspring refers to the rising of the sun.  The prophets depicted the coming Messiah as a coming light (Isaiah 9:1-2 cf. Matthew 4:16; Isaiah 60:1-3; Malachi 4:2).  Jesus is the true light (John 1:4-5; 1:9; 3:19; 8:12; 12:46-48; 2 Corinthians 4:4; 2 Timothy 1:10).  J.W. McGarvey comments, “Travelers in the Judean mountains often waited patiently for the morning light, lest they should lose their lives by a false step taken in the darkness” (McGarvey, The Fourfold Gospel, p. 22).  Burt Groves comments, “As the sun blesses man with physical light, the gospel brings enlightenment to guide him to heaven” (Groves, The Gospel According to Luke Commentary, p. 12).

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God saying: ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!‘” (Luke 2:13-14).

Jesus’ first coming was not to condemn the lost.  “God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved” (John 3:17).

Many did not, and do not, receive this message of peace.  (a) “He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him” (John 1:11).  (b) “This condemnation, that light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil” (John 3:19).

Some did, and do.  (a) “As many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become Children of God, to those who believe in His name; who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, but of God” (John 1:12-13).  Those who believe have the right to become children of God. Man’s response starts with belief.  Let us point out that there is a difference between having the right to become something, and actually being something.  A man may have the right to become a member of a certain credit union, but that does not mean that he is a member.  A man may have the right to become a citizen of a certain country, but that does not mean that he is a citizen.  God’s children are born of God (John 1:13 cf. 3:3; Galatians 3:26-28).  They are not born of blood (literally plural ‘bloods’ – mother and fathers; Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, etc.  It is not a fleshly birth).  They are born of God.  (b) “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:18).  Belief, as used here, refers to an obedient belief which accepts and responds to His authority for salvation (cf. John 3:3, 5, 21; Hebrews 5:9). Have you?

“Tell me the story of Jesus, write on my heart every word;  Tell me the story most precious, sweetest that ever was heard; Tell how the angels in chorus, sang as they welcomed His birth: ‘Glory to God in the highest! Peace and good tidings on earth'” (song: Tell me the story of Jesus by Fanny Crosby).

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