The sword that divides

by Mike Ratliff

34 Μὴ νομίσητε ὅτι ἦλθον βαλεῖν εἰρήνην ἐπὶ τὴν γῆν· οὐκ ἦλθον βαλεῖν εἰρήνην ἀλλὰ μάχαιραν. (Matthew 10:34 NA28)

34 Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth. I have not come to bring peace but a sword. (Matthew 10:34 translated from the NA28 Greek text)

The peace that Christians have because they are in Christ is between them and God and because of that, with each other. However, that does not mean that there will be peace between them and those not in Christ. In fact, these words of our Lord in Matthew 10:34-38 make it clear that those truly in Christ will be so changed by the Gospel, the presence of the Holy Spirit in them, and their new nature that there will be inevitable separation between them and those who are not in Christ. This holds true even within families. This is true because the genuine believer is so changed that no matter what sort of pressure comes to bear on them, they simply cannot be at peace with the ways of the world or the ways of the flesh. Their conscience is bound to Christ and His Word while those not in Christ have consciences bound to the flesh no matter how religious they are. 

Since it is imperative for our conscience to be bound to the Word of God, then the necessity of regularly sitting under a teacher who rightly divides the Word of truth becomes absolute. This is why we must stand firm against those wolves in sheep’s clothing seeking to do away with the study of doctrine and the preaching of the Gospel in our churches.

Here is Matthew 10:34-39 from the NA28 Greek text:

34 Μὴ νομίσητε ὅτι ἦλθον βαλεῖν εἰρήνην ἐπὶ τὴν γῆν· οὐκ ἦλθον βαλεῖν εἰρήνην ἀλλὰ μάχαιραν. 35 ἦλθον γὰρ διχάσαι ἄνθρωπον κατὰ τοῦ πατρὸς αὐτοῦ καὶ θυγατέρα κατὰ τῆς μητρὸς αὐτῆς καὶ νύμφην κατὰ τῆς πενθερᾶς αὐτῆς, 36 καὶ ἐχθροὶ τοῦ ἀνθρώπου οἱ οἰκιακοὶ αὐτοῦ.
37 Ὁ φιλῶν πατέρα ἢ μητέρα ὑπὲρ ἐμὲ οὐκ ἔστιν μου ἄξιος, καὶ ὁ φιλῶν υἱὸν ἢ θυγατέρα ὑπὲρ ἐμὲ οὐκ ἔστιν μου ἄξιος· 38 καὶ ὃς οὐ λαμβάνει τὸν σταυρὸν αὐτοῦ καὶ ἀκολουθεῖ ὀπίσω μου, οὐκ ἔστιν μου ἄξιος. 39 ὁ εὑρὼν τὴν ψυχὴν αὐτοῦ ἀπολέσει αὐτήν, καὶ ὁ ἀπολέσας τὴν ψυχὴν αὐτοῦ ἕνεκεν ἐμοῦ εὑρήσει αὐτήν. (Matthew 10:34-39 NA28)

Here is my translation:

34 Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth. I have not come to bring peace but a sword. 35 For I came to divide a man against his father and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law, 36 and the enemies of a man will be the members of his own household.
37 The one loving his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me and the one loving his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 And the one who does not take his cross and follow after me, is not worthy of me. 39 The one having found his life will lose it, and the one having lost his life because of me will find it. (Matthew 10:34-39 translated from the NA28 Greek text)

Never forget my brethren, that genuine Christianity calls for unqualified allegiance to our Lord Jesus Christ. We who are genuinely in Christ must live our lives and contend for the faith no matter the cost. There is a scene in the movie Luther that I really like. Martin Luther is about to stand and be accused at the Diet of Worms. The monk who sent him away from the monastery many years earlier to Wittenberg to become a Doctor of Theology and “Change the Church” was shaving his head and while doing so was complaining that he was “tearing the Church apart.” Luther grabs his friend’s arm and says, “When you sent me away to change the Church all those year ago, did you think there would not be a cost?” The real Martin Luther may or may not have said that, but that question still resonates with me. If we are to obey the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ then we will experience the sword our Lord and what He is talking about here. If we really think about this fully, if the way we walk through our lives and minister is not costly like this then something is wrong.

Now, as we think through this, reasoning with our regenerate minds bound to the Word of God, if Christian ministries and the ministers behind them are friends of the world then something is wrong. Our Lord says it very clearly. When the Gospel is preached correctly, it divides. Men like Rick Warren know this and that is why they do not preach it. They want large crowds. They want large numbers of unbelievers to be attracted to their ministries. They attract them by attempting to meet their felt needs then give them a feel good sermon to keep them coming back. They absolutely NEVER give them the real Gospel that begins with the Law and original sin and the need that every man has for a Saviour. Nope, they never go there. Why? That offends people and these men and all those who emulate them are ashamed of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ and the offense of the Cross offends them. They will not preach the whole Gospel. Therefore, they preach the easy-believism version that results in something eternally tragic. Please read the following devotional by Octavius Winslow that explains this very well.

June 6: Not All Who Say “Lord, Lord”

“And he that takes not his cross, and follows after me, is not worthy of me.” Matthew 10:38

How few there are, among the many professing Christ, who yet know anything by experience of the great and wondrous life of faith! Only those who are taught by the Spirit the plague of their own hearts can possibly know it. How few there are who appear to possess vital religion in their souls! How few choose Christ with His cross!

The great mass of professors are aiming to separate them. They would sincerely bear the name of Christ, and be accounted as the followers of Christ, and do something for the cause of Christ; but they hide His cross, they are ashamed of His cross, they shrink from His cross. Christ and His outward lowliness, Christ and His poverty, Christ and His humiliation, Christ and the world’s despising, form no part of their creed nor their religion. But Christ and the world, Christ and the popular opinion, Christ and the slavery of sin, Christ and an unhumbled spirit, Christ and a love of money, and ease, and self-indulgence, make up the religion of vast numbers who yet profess and call themselves Christians.

Awful fact! How forcibly does it remind us of the solemn words of Jesus, “Not every one that says unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” Let us, in view of this solemn truth, search our hearts, and ask the searching of God’s Spirit; and in ascertaining the real state of our souls, let us take nothing for granted, rest not in past experience, nor in gifts, nor usefulness, but be satisfied only with the present, inward witness of the Holy Spirit.

Now my brethren, be not ashamed of the Cross or the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Know for certain that if this is true then there is a cost now, but in eternity, your award awaits.

Soli Deo Gloria!

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