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7. Blessed Are The Peacemakers (Matthew 5:9)

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Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God.

Matthew 5:9 (NET)

As Christ continues his lesson on the characteristics of believers, it is no surprise that after speaking on the “pure in heart” that he now focuses on the peacemakers. It is only those who daily conquer sin in their own lives—who work to bring peace to the civil war in their own hearts—that are ready to help others fight this battle as well.

Peacemakers are those who mourn over sin, those who purify their lives, and help others do the same. This does not make them popular. In fact, it often leads to persecution, as we’ll see in the next beatitude: “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness” (Matt 5:10). However, this ministry is needed.

In this study, we will consider what it means to be a peacemaker, how to grow in our peacemaking, and the reward of peacemakers.

Big Question: What does the seventh beatitude mean and what are some applications we can take from it?

Peacemakers

Interpretation Question: What does it mean to be a peacemaker?

“Peace” or “Shalom” was a common Jewish greeting. It meant more than the absence of conflict; it expressed a desire that the one “greeted will have all the righteousness and goodness God can give. The deepest meaning of the term is ‘God’s highest good to you.’”1 In addition, it must be noticed that Christ doesn’t say blessed are those who “love peace,” but blessed are “the peacemakers.” Everybody loves the concept of peace, but very few are willing to be active in creating it. It is impossible to have peace without God’s righteousness. Peace without righteousness is just a truce with sin. The pursuit of true peace often results in trouble. Christ said, “I didn’t come to bring peace, but to bring a sword” (Matt 10:34, paraphrase). Christ, the Prince of Peace (Is 9:6), realized that to have true peace, there must, at times, be conflict. Christ died to reconcile God and people (Rom 5:1), and people with one another (Eph 2:14-18). Often a peacemaker is somebody who comes between two warring parties and takes the blows from each side in order to create peace.

What does it look like practically to be a peacemaker?

1. Peacemakers seek to reconcile people with God.

Second Corinthians 5:18-21 says:

And all these things are from God who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and who has given us the ministry of reconciliation. In other words, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting people’s trespasses against them, and he has given us the message of reconciliation. Therefore we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making His plea through us. We plead with you on Christ’s behalf, “Be reconciled to God!” God made the one who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that in him we would become the righteousness of God.

God is a holy God and therefore cannot have a relationship with sinful people. Therefore, all people are under the wrath of God because of our sins. The Gospel message is the truth that Christ bore God’s wrath on the cross for our sins, so we can have a right relationship with God. Romans 5:1 says, “Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Peacemakers are those who devote their lives to sharing this message. Because they have experienced it, they share it with others—hoping to reconcile people with God.

Are you sharing the Gospel message? This is what peacemakers do.

2. Peacemakers seek to reconcile people.

This starts with us and our relationship with others. Matthew 5:23-24 says that if we go to the altar to offer a gift and realize that somebody has something against us, we should leave the gift, reconcile with the person, and then offer the gift to God. Romans 12:18 says, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all people.” We forgive those who have sinned against us. We bless and don’t curse them. We humble ourselves and ask for forgiveness from those we sinned against. Because we’ve been reconciled with God, we seek to reconcile with others.

Not only do we seek to reconcile with others, but we seek to help others reconcile. In Philippians 4:2-3, Paul says,

I appeal to Euodia and to Syntyche to agree in the Lord. Yes, I say also to you, true companion, help them. They have struggled together in the gospel ministry along with me and Clement and my other coworkers, whose names are in the book of life.

Paul understood that division tends to spread, as people take sides. It opens the door for Satan (Eph 4:26-27) and removes the blessing of God from a community (Ps 133). Therefore, though Paul was away in prison, he urged two women in Philippi to reconcile. He also petitioned a member of the church to help them. In 1 Corinthians 6:1-11, when believers were suing one another before unbelievers, Paul called for the church to appoint wise men in the congregation to judge the dispute. He also counseled them to accept being wronged (even as Christ taught us to turn the other cheek) for the sake of unity. Satan is the divider, but Christ is the reconciler. Therefore, Christians aid Christ in this reconciliation mission. This means listening to others, exposing points of commonality, bringing God’s Word to bear upon the situation, and leading people towards a resolution.

3. Peacemakers confront sin in hopes of fostering righteousness.

This again starts with the peacemaker’s own life. In Matthew 7:3-5, Christ taught that if we are going to take the speck out of our neighbor’s eye, we must first take the log out of our own eye. Christ also said that if our eye offends us, we should pluck it out, and if our hand offends us, we should cut it off (Matt 5:29-30). In other words, believers should be ruthless in seeking to get rid of personal sin. As we conquer wrong thoughts and actions in our own life, we are more effective in leading others out of sin.

In Matthew 18:15-17, Christ lays out the process for confronting sin in others. He said:

“If your brother sins, go and show him his fault when the two of you are alone. If he listens to you, you have regained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others with you, so that at the testimony of two or three witnesses every matter may be established. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. If he refuses to listen to the church, treat him like a Gentile or a tax collector.

If a brother is in sin, we should confront him one-on-one. Most fail at this first point. Some fail because their contention is not a sin issue at all—it is a preference or wisdom issue. We shouldn’t treat sin the same as a preference or wisdom issue. Christ flipped tables and pulled out a whip over sin (John 2). He also went to the cross over it. Sadly, many do this over non-sin issues—dividing relationships, ministries, and work places. When in a potential conflict, one must ask, “Is this a sin or non-sin issue?” This type of deliberation will end many conflicts before they start.

Others fail at Christ’s direction by sharing the sin with others first—causing more conflict. Proverbs 16:28 says a whisperer separates friends. Or, they fail by not confronting the person at all. We say to ourselves, “This has nothing to do with me,” “It is his choice,” and so on. However, sin always affects more than just the person sinning. It dishonors God, and it hurts others, even if only by modeling sin—leading to its spread. Paul said a little leaven leavens the whole lump (1 Cor 5:6). If sin isn’t confronted in the body of Christ, it will spread to others. Therefore, the peacemaker, in obedience to God, confronts sin. He or she speaks the truth in love (Eph 4:15). If the person in sin doesn’t respond, he brings one or two others to petition the person to repent. If this doesn’t work, he brings it before the church. And if the person still doesn’t respond, the church disciplines the believer. As mentioned, if this process of confronting sin is not happening in a church, sin infects, spreads, and ultimately kills. It pushes people away from God and his Church.

This is a difficult ministry, but God says that he blesses the peacemaker. Christ confronted the Pharisees—the spiritual leaders who were misleading Israel. Christ confronted those who were being dishonest at the temple. He ultimately confronted all sin at the cross, as he bore the penalty for everyone’s sins so they could be reconciled to God.

Are you willing to confront sin—both yours and others? If so, you must desire God’s blessing more than the blessing of others.

Application Question: What makes this ministry so difficult? Why do so many choose to not participate in it? In what ways have you had to participate in peacemaking in the past? What were the results? Is there a specific situation that you feel God calling you to intervene and help bring peace?

Growth as a Peacemaker

Application Question: How can we grow as peacemakers?

1. To grow as peacemakers, we must continually get rid of sin in our own lives.

The more we conquer sin in our lives, the more effective we will be at helping others conquer it. People will more likely listen to us if we’re walking right with God than if we’re not. Also, we’ll be more successful at counseling others on how to be set free, if we’re experiencing victory ourselves. Therefore, we must continually confess and repent of sin to be effective at this ministry.

2. To grow as peacemakers, we must be painfully honest.

Jeremiah said this about the false prophets: “They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. ‘Peace, peace,’ they say, when there is no peace” (6:14 NIV). Where false prophets ignore the problem or don’t recognize the seriousness of it, peacemakers call sin, sin, and rebellion, rebellion. We must recognize sin in our own life and others. First John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” The Greek word for “confess” means to “say the same thing.” We must see our sin, and that of others, the same way God does. It put Christ on the cross; it divides us from God and others. If we are going to grow as peacemakers, we must be brutally honest about sin both individually and corporately.

3. To grow as peacemakers, we must be willing to risk pain.

Any time we confront sin—seeking to restore people to God and others—we risk being misunderstood, hated, and even persecuted. Such is the lot of peacemakers. As mentioned, it is no surprise that the next beatitude is, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness.” If we are going to be peacemakers, we must be willing to risk pain. Proverbs 27:6 says, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend”—true friends are willing to hurt each other, in love, in order to heal each other.

4. To grow as peacemakers, we must develop healthy communication skills.

  • Healthy communication includes being a good listener. James 1:19 says, “Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters! Let every person be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger.” Note that he says we should be “quick to listen.” Literally, we must hurry up to listen. Typically, we only hurry up to speak. This leads to misunderstanding, as we often lack all the facts. As believers, we must listen to (1) what a person is saying, (2) and what a person is not saying. This includes asking clarifying questions to discern what’s really going on and the root of the issues. (3) We also must listen to the Holy Spirit. We should shoot arrow prayers up to God when engaging in a potentially explosive conversation. That’s what Nehemiah did, while talking with the King of Persia about restoring the walls of Jerusalem (Neh 2:4). This conversation could have led to his execution; therefore, he bathed it with prayer.
  • Healthy communication includes choosing our words and tone carefully. Proverbs 17:27 says, “The truly wise person restrains his words, and the one who stays calm is discerning.” To restrain one’s words means to weigh them and consider their potential effect, instead of simply speaking without much deliberation. We should ask ourselves, “Could this offend or hurt somebody?” “Is this the best way to say this?” A fool just says what’s on his heart—not considering how others might respond (Prov 29:11). In addition, thought must be given to the tone of our words. Proverbs 15:1 says, “A gentle response turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up wrath.” It has been said that communication is seventy percent nonverbal including body language and tone.
  • Healthy communication includes controlling our anger. James 1:20 says, “For human anger does not accomplish God’s righteousness.” Proverbs 15:18 says, “A quick-tempered person stirs up dissension, but one who is slow to anger calms a quarrel.”

5. To grow as peacemakers, we must return good for evil.

Since the peacemaker is often misunderstood, criticized, and even persecuted, he must make peace by sowing seeds of peace. Romans 12:18-20 says,

If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all people. Do not avenge yourselves, dear friends, but give place to God’s wrath, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. Rather, if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in doing this you will be heaping burning coals on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

As we sow peace, Lord willing, it will create righteousness. James 3:18 (NIV) says, “Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.” Are you returning good for evil?

6. To grow as peacemakers, we must develop perseverance.

Often sin takes a long time to root out. Our evangelism, prayers, and conflict resolution will often not immediately produce positive fruit. However, Galatians 6:9 encourages us, “So we must not grow weary in doing good, for in due time we will reap, if we do not give up.”

Don’t give up. There is a proper time for a harvest, and that time is within God’s sovereign plan. He will produce fruit, if we don’t give up.

7. To grow as peacemakers, we must trust God.

We cannot actually create peace; only God can. We must sow the right seeds and trust God. Second Timothy 2:24-25 (NIV) says,

And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth

The Lord’s servant doesn’t quarrel because his hope is in God. Only God can change hearts. We plant seeds and water them, but God makes it grow (1 Cor 3:6). We must remember this.

In addition, part of trusting in God is being faithful in prayer. We should fight our battles in prayer before we fight them in person. We should pray for blindness to be removed from people’s eyes, Satan to be bound, right words to say, and God to bring truth and righteousness.

Are you growing as a peacemaker?

Application Question: Which aspect of growing as a peacemaker do you feel most called to develop? Are there specific skills that you feel stronger at? Which ones? What are some other ways to grow or become more efficient at peacemaking?

Sons of God

Interpretation Question: What does it mean to be called sons of God?

In this context, the phrase “children of God” is better translated “sons of God”2 (cf. the ESV and NASB versions), since, in Jewish thought, the term ‘son’ bears the meaning “partaker of the character of.”3 For example, when Christ sent the disciples on missions, he told them to look for a house with a “son of peace.” “Son of peace” simply means a peaceful person (Lk 10:6 KJV). When Barnabas was called a “son of encouragement,” it meant he was an encouraging person (Acts 4:36). Therefore, to be called a “son of God” refers to someone who is Godlike—demonstrating God’s character. In the same way that Christ came to earth to reconcile people with God and people with one another, “sons of God” participate in the same ministry.4

The verb “shall be called” is a continuous future passive. It means that believers will not call themselves sons of God. Others will do so, and this will happen throughout eternity.5

The reward of peacemakers reminds us that those who continually participate in God-like peace-making are truly born again—truly children of God. If we don’t participate, then we may not be. Kent Hughes puts it this way:

If we are not peacemakers but troublemakers, there is high probability that we are not true children of God, regardless of how prominently we wear our evangelicalism. Peacemakers are sometimes troublemakers for the sake of peace, but not troublemakers who spread rumors and gossip about others. If you are constantly fomenting discontent, if you find joy in the report of trouble and scandal, if you are omnicritical, always fault-finding, if you are unwilling to be involved in peacemaking, if you are mean—if these negative qualities characterize your life, you are probably not a true Christian (cf. 1 Corinthians 6:9–11; Galatians 5:19–21 on the fate of those involved in slander, hatred, discord, dissension, and factions).6

MacArthur adds:

Peacemaking is a hallmark of God’s children. A person who is not a peacemaker either is not a Christian or is a disobedient Christian. The person who is continually disruptive, divisive, and quarrelsome has good reason to doubt his relationship to God altogether. God’s sons-that is, all of His children, both male and female-are peacemakers. Only God determines who His children are, and He has determined that they are the humble, the penitent over sin, the gentle, the seekers of righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, and the peacemakers.7

Are you a peacemaker? If so, God calls you a son or daughter of God—a partaker in his character—and others will know you by this designation throughout eternity.

Application Question: Are there any prominent peacemakers—sons or daughters of God—who come to your mind when you think of this beatitude? How do you feel called to model them?

Conclusion

“Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called sons of God.” Christ, the Son of God, was called the Prince of Peace. He brought peace between God and people, and people with others. He has committed this same ministry—the ministry of reconciliation—to us. It is a difficult ministry. Many want peace at all costs, but sons and daughters of God will not forsake righteousness or truth to have peace. That is just a truce with sin—something God will never do. There is often a cost for peace, and peacemakers are often the ones who pay it. Christ bore a cross and so must his disciples. Are you willing to pay the cost for peace? Lord, help us to be faithful peacemakers who reap a harvest of righteousness.

Copyright © 2019 Gregory Brown

Unless otherwise noted, the primary Scriptures used are taken from the NET Bible ® copyright © 1996-2016 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. All rights reserved.

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Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®) Copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, Copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

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1 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1985). Matthew (p. 211). Chicago: Moody Press.

2 Carson, D. A. (1999). Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount and His Confrontation with the World: An Exposition of Matthew 5–10 (p. 28). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.

3 Carson, D. A. (1999). Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount and His Confrontation with the World: An Exposition of Matthew 5–10 (p. 28). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.

4 Barclay, W. (2001). The Gospel of Matthew (Third Ed., p. 126). Edinburgh: Saint Andrew Press.

5 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1985). Matthew (p. 218). Chicago: Moody Press.

6 Hughes, R. K. (2001). The sermon on the mount: the message of the kingdom (p. 66). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

7 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1985). Matthew (pp. 217–218). Chicago: Moody Press.

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