The Sermon on the Mount is Heaven’s benediction to the world—a voice from the throne of God. (E.G. White, Preface to Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, pg. vii)
On that mount of blessings, Christ continued by saying, “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God” (Matthew 5:9).
In this world, calls are repeatedly made for peace. Leaders have arisen seeking to establish a world where there is peace and safety, but they have only managed to create strife and war. Others call for harmony and peace between the contending forces of the nations. Yet it seems that despite all human efforts, there continues to be a great lack of peace in our world.
What is true peace? Where can true peace be found? Who then are the peacemakers?
The Lord pleads with His people: “O that thou hadst hearkened to my commandments! then had thy peace been as a river, and thy righteousness as the waves of the sea” (Isaiah 48:18). Heeding God’s commandments and having peace and righteousness are linked together. God’s “commandments are righteousness” (Psalm 119:172). And the “work of righteousness shall be peace” (Isaiah 32:17). Righteousness is conformity to God’s law (see Ellen White, Thoughts from the Mount of Blessings, pg. 18). When there is conformity to the law of God there is peace. Thus when there is righteousness, there is peace.
“All unrighteousness is sin” (1 John 5:17), and “sin is the transgression of the law” (1 John 3:4), thus unrighteousness (breaking God’s law) will cause conflict and war. It is sin that causes strife and contention. It is sin that destroys peace. “To be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be” (Romans 8:6-7). The carnal, sinful nature is enmity against all righteousness and holiness. It is enmity, hatred, or war against God, and thus cannot be subject to the law of God in any way. Thus it is that “there is no peace, saith the LORD, unto the wicked” (Isaiah 48:22).
Yet so often we go about to establish our own righteousness. We seek to conform our lives to God’s law in order to have peace. But all these things are our own attempts, our own righteousness. And this the Scriptures declare to be “filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6). “If you would gather together everything that is good and holy and noble and lovely in man, and then present the subject to the angels of God as acting a part in the salvation of the human soul or in merit, the proposition would be rejected as treason” (Ellen White, 1888 Materials, pg. 816). We cannot, then, by our own efforts secure peace. It is placed completely beyond our reach or our own accomplishment. How then do we have this peace for which we long so much?
Isaiah 9:6 declares: “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.” And at His birth, the angels sang: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men” (Luke 2:52).
Christ is ‘the Prince of Peace.’ […] and it is His mission to restore to earth and heaven the peace that sin has broken. (Ellen White, Thoughts from the Mount of Blessings, pg. 27).
Christ came to this world as the Prince of Peace. He came to this world to bring righteousness and peace. It is not man bringing his goodness and works to God in an effort to appease Him; Christ was the great Gift sent from heaven to bring peace to all mankind.
While God has desired to teach men that from His own love comes the Gift which reconciles them to Himself, the archenemy of mankind has endeavored to represent God as one who delights in their destruction. Thus the sacrifices and the ordinances designed of Heaven to reveal divine love have been perverted to serve as means whereby sinners have vainly hoped to propitiate, with gifts and good works, the wrath of an offended God. (Ellen White, Prophets and Kings, pg. 685).
“God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself” (2 Corinthians 5:19). It was not when we loved God that He loved us. It was not when we were good people that Christ died for us. It was not when we were at peace with God that Jesus came. God gave to us His love when we were sinners. It was “while we were yet sinners,” that “Christ died for us;” it was “when we were enemies” of God, that “we were reconciled to God” by the death of Jesus Christ (Romans 5:8-10).
“But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5). In the French translation, the middle part of the verse states: “Le châtiment qui nous donne la paix est tombé sur lui” (Esaïe 53:5 Louis Segond), or “The punishment that gives us peace is fallen upon him.” It is the fact that the punishment for our sins fell upon Christ that brings us peace. He took the punishment so that we can have peace.
How is this restoration of peace accomplished in us? Of Christ it was prophesied, “In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS” (Isaiah 23:6). Christ is our Righteousness; He is our fulfilling of the law; “He is our peace” (Ephesians 2:14).
And Christ gives the invitation: “let him take hold of my strength, that he may make peace with me; and he shall make peace with me” (Isaiah 27:5). This is why “shall one say, in the LORD have I righteousness and strength” (Isaiah 45:24). When we come to Christ, lay down our dependence on our own righteous works, give up our own attempts at law-keeping, let our sin go, and take hold of His strength and His righteousness so that we can make peace with God, we will be at peace with God.
“Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1), for “the work of [Christ our] righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of [His] righteousness quietness and assurance for ever” (Isaiah 32:17). We receive this righteousness, the work and effect of which is peace and quietness for ever, by receiving Christ. We are justified, or made righteous by faith in Christ as our righteousness. It is no work that we can accomplish of our own —even the faith itself is not our own. It is “not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us” (Titus 3:5), and “Christ Jesus…is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption” (1 Corinthians 1:30).
Let the subject be made distinct and plain that it is not possible to effect anything in our standing before God or in the gift of God to us through creature merit. Should faith and works purchase the gift of salvation for anyone, then the Creator is under obligation to the creature. Here is an opportunity for falsehood to be accepted as truth. If any man can merit salvation by anything he may do, then he is in the same position as the Catholic to do penance for his sins. Salvation, then, is partly of debt, that may be earned as wages. If man cannot, by any of his good works, merit salvation, then it must be wholly of grace, received by man as a sinner because he receives and believes in Jesus. It is wholly a free gift. Justification by faith is placed beyond controversy. And all this controversy is ended, as soon as the matter is settled that the merits of fallen man in his good works can never procure eternal life for him. (Ellen White, 1888 Materials, pg. 812)
When the righteousness of Christ is received by the sinner as a gift of God to him, peace is created in his life. “There is no other ground of peace than this. The grace of Christ received into the heart, subdues enmity; it allays strife and fills the soul with love. He who is at peace with God and his fellow men cannot be made miserable. Envy will not be in his heart; evil surmisings will find no room there; hatred cannot exist. The heart that is in harmony with God is a partaker of the peace of heaven and will diffuse its blessed influence on all around. The spirit of peace will rest like dew upon hearts weary and troubled with worldly strife” (Ellen White, Thoughts from the Mount of Blessings, pg. 27).
Jesus said that the peacemakers are called the children of God. The apostle John, in his letter to the churches, in seeking to explain to them the wonderful thought of God’s love, could not find any language to describe it and so simply calls upon us to “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. Beloved, now are we the sons of God” (1 John 3:1-2).
When we become partakers of the peace of God, there will arise in our hearts a desire to share that peace with others. God’s children are sent into the world to proclaim the message of peace to a dying world. And of those who proclaim in their life, by word or deed, the precious message of heaven’s peace it is said: “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!” (Isaiah 52:7).
Those who bring others to look on Calvary and see the Savior dying for them there, those who speak to others of the Love of God, and by this bring them to lay down their sin and receive Jesus Christ are peacemakers.
This peace of Christ in the life will keep the soul stayed on God even amid the trials of this world. Jesus comforted His disciples in John 16:33 by saying, “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”
Christ did not give the prospect of a life with no trial or tribulation, but He declare that we can have the peace of heaven in the midst of trial.
Jesus continued, “Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you” (Matthew 5:10-12).
Christ, the “Prince of Peace,” said Himself, “I came not to send peace, but a sword” (Matthew 10:34). These two statements seem at first to be complete contradictions of each other. How can the same Prince of Peace who brought the message of peace declare that He came, not to bring peace, but to unsheathe a sword? This strife spoken of is not the result of the Gospel, but arises from opposition to the Gospel.
In order to keep peace, we cannot compromise with the principles of Satan’s kingdom, for they are enmity to the principles of Christ’s kingdom of righteousness. “While we are required to be Christlike toward those who are our enemies, we must not, in order to have peace, cover up the faults of those we see in error. Jesus, the world’s Redeemer, never purchased peace by covering iniquity, or by anything like compromise […] He was too much their friend to remain silent while they were pursuing a course which would ruin their souls—the souls He had purchased with His own blood […] His peace was the consciousness of having done the will of His Father, rather than a condition of things that existed as the result of having done His duty” (Ellen White, The Upward Look, pg. 220).
The Gospel, if received into the life, will reconcile people with God and bring peace to their fellow man. But the world is occupied by the archenemy of Christ. The vast majority of the people of the world are under Satan’s control.
“Light and darkness cannot harmonize. Between truth and error there is an irrepressible conflict. To uphold and defend the one is to attack and overthrow the other” (Ellen White, Great Controversy, pg. 126). “Between righteousness and sin, love and hatred, truth and falsehood, there is an irrepressible conflict. When one presents the love of Christ and the beauty of holiness, he is drawing away the subjects of Satan’s kingdom, and the prince of evil is aroused to resist it” (Ellen White, Thoughts from the Mount of Blessings, pg. 29).
David, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit wrote: “My soul hath long dwelt with him that hateth peace. I am for peace: but when I speak, they are for war” (Psalm 120:6-7). The Prince of Peace longed to bring the peace of heaven to all, but He was hated by the world. Christ’s children, His peacemakers, are at peace with all; however, not all are at peace with them.
One can trace through the history of the world and look at the stories of Abel, Noah, Moses, Elijah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, Zechariah, John the Baptist, Stephen, James, Peter, Paul, and Christ Himself; one can cover the history of the early church, the Waldenses and Vaudois, Christians of the Dark Ages and Reformation; one will discover men and women who were mocked and derided, reproached and scorned, bound and imprisoned, scourged, stoned, burnt in the flames, sawn asunder, beheaded, crucified, torn of beasts, slain with the sword of the gladiators, tortured in the Inquisition; these men and women were poor in this world’s good, wondering about in the desert, wilderness, and caves.
But they could all say with Paul, “I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18), “for to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). “We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body” (2 Corinthians 4:8-10).
And still they pressed on, declaring the Gospel of peace to the world in the face of persecution and reproach. Nothing could stop them. In the face of the stake, they could declare with triumph, “The oftener we are mown down by you, the more in number we grow; the blood of Christians is seed.” (Tertullian, Apology, paragraph 50).
Yet today, “the offense of the cross” has not ceased (Galatians 5:11). The same spirit that actuated the persecutors in all ages is still in our world. The persecution may change form with the times, but it is still present. Again, as of old, the Lord “calls for men of devotion to His work, men of moral courage, with ardent love for souls, and with a zeal that never flags. Such workers will find no task too arduous, no prospect too hopeless; they will labor on, undaunted, until apparent defeat is turned into glorious victory. Not even prison walls nor the martyr’s stake beyond, will cause them to swerve from their purpose of laboring together with God for the upbuilding of His kingdom” (Ellen White, Prophets and Kings, pg. 263).
We may be called to suffer reproach for Christ, yet in Christ we are blameless. The world may seek to blacken the reputation of God’s children, but in this they cannot bring one stain on the character of one who has taken Christ’s righteousness. They may seek to banish them from their society, but in this they cannot separate them from the love of Christ.
The apostle Paul in his letter to the Romans asks the great question: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?” (Romans 8:35). The answer comes ringing down to our day:
What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us… Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:31-39)
When for the truth’s sake the believer stands at the bar of earthly tribunals, Christ stands by his side. When he is confined within prison walls, Christ manifests Himself to him and cheers his heart with His love. When he suffers death for Christ’s sake, the Saviour says to him, They may kill the body, but they cannot hurt the soul. ‘Be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.’ ‘Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of My righteousness.’ John 16:33; Isaiah 41:10. (Ellen White, Acts of the Apostles, pg. 85)
Christ calls those who are persecuted and reviled blessed in the eyes of heaven. To them is promised the same as was given to the first of the Beatitudes: “there’s is the kingdom of heaven.” The kingdom of Christ belongs to these ones; it is theirs. There is no “perhaps” or “maybe” to it; it is a positive fact that theirs is the kingdom of God.