NOT PEACE BUT DIVISION
Peace is undoubtedly the result of the Gospel wherever it is believed and received. But wherever there are hearers of the Gospel who are hardened, impenitent, and determined to have their sins, the very message of peace becomes the cause of division. … So long as men are disagreed upon first principles in religion, there can be no real cordiality between them. So long as some men are converted and some are unconverted, there can be no true peace. Let us beware of unscriptural expectations. If we expect to see people of one heart and one mind, before they are converted, we shall continually be disappointed. Thousands of well-meaning people now-a-days are continually crying out for more “unity” among Christians. To attain this they are ready to sacrifice almost anything, and to throw overboard even sound doctrine, if, by so doing, they can secure peace. Such people would do well to remember that even gold may be bought too dear, and that peace is useless if purchased at the expense of truth. – JC Ryle
Luke 12:49-53 49 ” I came to send fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! 50 “But I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how distressed I am till it is accomplished! 51 “Do you suppose that I came to give peace on earth? I tell you, not at all, but rather division. 52 “For from now on five in one house will be divided: three against two, and two against three. 53 “Father will be divided against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.”
The sayings of the Lord Jesus in these five verses are particularly weighty and suggestive. They unfold truths which every true Christian would do well to mark and digest. They explain things in the Church, and in the world, which at first sight are hard to be understood. We learn for one thing from these verses how thoroughly the heart of Christ was set on finishing the work which He came into the world to do.
He says, “I have a baptism to undergo”–a baptism of suffering, of wounds, of agony, of blood, and of death. Yet none of these things moved Him. He adds, “How am I straitened until this baptism is accomplished!” The prospect of coming trouble did not deter Him for a moment. He was ready and willing to endure all things in order to provide eternal redemption for His people. Zeal for the cause He had taken in hand was like a burning fire within Him. To advance His Father’s glory, to open the door of life to a lost world, to provide a fountain for all sin and uncleanness by the sacrifice of Himself, were continually the uppermost thoughts of His mind. He was pressed in spirit until this mighty work was finished. Forever let us bear in mind that all Christ’s sufferings on our behalf were endured willingly, voluntarily, and of His own free choice.
They were not submitted to patiently merely because He could not avoid them. They were not borne without a murmur merely because He could not escape them. He lived a humble life for thirty-three years merely because He loved to do so. He died a death of agony with a willing and a ready mind. Both in life and death He was carrying out the eternal counsel whereby God was to be glorified and sinners were to be saved. He carried it out with all His heart, mighty as the struggle was which it entailed upon His flesh and blood. He delighted to do God’s will. He was straitened until it was accomplished. Let us not doubt that the heart of Christ in heaven is the same that it was when He was upon earth. He feels as deep an interest now about the salvation of sinners as He did formerly about dying in their stead. Jesus never changes. He is the same yesterday, and today, and forever. There is in Him an infinite willingness to receive, pardon, justify, and deliver the souls of men from hell.
Let us strive to realize that willingness, and learn to believe it without doubting, and repose on it without fear. It is a certain fact, if men would only believe it, that Christ is far more willing to save us than we are to be saved. Let the zeal of our Lord and Master be an example to all His people. Let the recollection of His burning readiness to die for us be like a glowing coal in our memories, and constrain us to live to Him, and not to ourselves. Surely the thought of it should waken our sleeping hearts, and warm our cold affections, and make us anxious to redeem the time, and do something for His praise.
A zealous Savior ought to have zealous disciples.
We learn, for another thing, from these verses, how useless it is to expect universal peace and harmony from the preaching of the Gospel. The disciples, like most Jews of their day, were probably expecting Messiah’s kingdom immediately to appear. They thought the time was at hand when the wolf would lie down with the lamb, and men would not hurt or destroy any more. (Isaiah 11:9.) Our Lord saw what was in their hearts, and checked their untimely expectations with a striking saying–“do you think that I have come to send peace on earth? I tell you, No, but rather division.” There is something at first sight very startling in this saying. It seems hard to reconcile it with the song of angels, which spoke of “peace on earth” as the companion of Christ’s Gospel. (Luke 2:14.) Yet startling as the saying sounds, it is one which facts have proved to be literally true.
Peace is undoubtedly the result of the Gospel wherever it is believed and received. But wherever there are hearers of the Gospel who are hardened, impenitent, and determined to have their sins, the very message of peace becomes the cause of division. Those who live after the flesh will hate those that live after the Spirit. Those who are resolved to live for the world will always be wickedly affected towards those that are resolved to serve Christ.
We may lament this state of things, but we cannot prevent it. Grace and nature can no more amalgamate than oil and water. So long as men are disagreed upon first principles in religion, there can be no real cordiality between them. So long as some men are converted and some are unconverted, there can be no true peace. Let us beware of unscriptural expectations. If we expect to see people of one heart and one mind, before they are converted, we shall continually be disappointed. Thousands of well-meaning people now-a-days are continually crying out for more “unity” among Christians. To attain this they are ready to sacrifice almost anything, and to throw overboard even sound doctrine, if, by so doing, they can secure peace. Such people would do well to remember that even gold may be bought too dear, and that peace is useless if purchased at the expense of truth.
Surely they have forgotten the words of Christ, “I came not to send peace but division.” Let us never be moved by those who charge the Gospel with being the cause of strife and divisions upon earth. Such men only show their ignorance when they talk in this way.
It is not the Gospel which is to blame, but the corrupt heart of man. It is not God’s glorious remedy which is in fault, but the diseased nature of Adam’s race, which, like a self-willed child, refuses the medicine provided for its cure. So long as some men and women will not repent and believe, and some will, there must needs be division. To be surprised at it is the height of folly. The very existence of division is one proof of Christ’s foresight, and of the truth of Christianity.
Let us thank God that a time is coming when there shall be no more divisions on earth, but all shall be of one mind. That time shall be when Jesus, the Prince of Peace, comes again in person, and puts down every enemy under His feet. When Satan is bound, when the wicked are separated from the righteous, and cast down to their own place, then, and not until then, will be perfect peace. For that blessed time let us wait, and watch, and pray. The night is far spent. The day is at hand.
Our divisions are but for a little season.
Our peace shall endure to eternity.
Notes on 12:49-53
v.49 “I have come to bring fire.” I think this refers to persecutions, afflictions, dissensions, and strifes which were to accompany the introduction of the Gospel into the world. Fire is often used as a sign of trouble and affliction in Scripture. See Psalm 66:12; Isaiah 43:2. “To bring fire” was often used in the Old Testament to express the idea of sending trouble and affliction. See Lamentations 1:13; Ezekiel 39:6; Hosea 8:14; Amos 2:2, 5. 50. “A baptism.” This baptism, clearly, is not of water or of the Holy Spirit but of suffering. It is the same baptism of which our Lord said to James and John, “Youwill drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with” (Mark 10:39).
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