August 20, 2014 Broadcast

Blessed Are The Peacemakers

A Message by R.C. Sproul

Peace is not easy to achieve in a fallen world.  Even at a personal level, resolving conflict can be costly.  What does authentic biblical peace look like?  What does it take to be a peacemaker in the Kingdom of God?  In this lesson, Dr. Sproul considers Matthew 5:9, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”

From the series: The Beatitudes

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Further Study On This Topic

  1. article

    Adopted Sons and Daughters

  2. devotional

    Purity and Peacemaking

  3. devotional

    Peace with God

Adopted Sons and Daughters

Kim Riddlebarger

Q. Why did Christ command us to address God thus: “Our Father?”

A. To awaken in us at the very beginning of our prayer that childlike reverence for and trust in God, which are to be the ground of our prayer, namely, that God has become our Father through Christ, and will much less deny us what we ask of Him in faith than our parents refuse us earthly things.
(Heidelberg Catechism, Q&A 120)

It is not uncommon to hear critics of Reformation theology complain that Martin Luther, John Calvin, and those who followed them, were so preoccupied with justification, that they depreciated the family relationship that sinners enjoy with their creator (adoption). This charge stems from the Reformation (and biblical) doctrine of justification, in which it is understood that the righteousness of Christ is reckoned (or imputed) to a sinner through the means of faith, so that the sinner is given a right-standing before God and therefore saved from His wrath. 

In emphasizing a Christian’s right-standing with God, critics contend that the Reformation’s focus on a person’s legal basis before God somehow depreciates the personal relationship that a sinner enjoys with God because of Christ. I once heard a Roman Catholic apologist put it like this: “Protestants use a courtroom model, while we use a family model.” In other words, the Reformation emphasis supposedly shifts the focus to being saved “from” God, instead of emphasizing being saved “for” God. God is primarily understood as a stern judge, not as a loving father.

This would be a powerful argument, if it were true. Both John Calvin and the Westminster Confession of Faith speak of the importance of the biblical doctrine of adoption (wherein we become members of God’s family) because God does not justify individuals and leave them on their own without uniting them to Himself through Christ. God incorporates all justified sinners into a covenant community (the church) and grants them access to the very throne of God (Rom. 8:26–27; 1 John 2:1-2). All justified sinners are the adopted children of God.

Calvin frequently speaks of our adoption throughout his famous Institutes, while the Westminster Confession of Faith devotes chapter 12 to this topic. The critical point that Calvin and the Westminster Confession are both making is that once the sinner is justified, that same sinner now enjoys a wonderful new status as a child of God. The sinner, who was formerly estranged from God, is now a full member of God’s family (Eph. 2:11–17). This new right-standing (justification) grants all the children of God access to His throne, and this unfettered access to the presence of God is the means through which we as God’s children are protected, preserved, given gifts of the Spirit, and even chastened as needed.

The Heidelberg Catechism does not speak of the doctrine of adoption per se, but as something implied by the very first petition of the Lord’s Prayer in question 120. Apart from Christ, we cannot speak of God as our Father, only as our creator and judge. As our creator and judge, God remains distant, even threatening to us because of our sins. There is no intimacy with God, and we dare not even approach Him. Once we are justified, because Christ’s perfect and faultless righteousness has been reckoned to us through faith, God is no longer our judge. He is now “our Father.” This comes about because God has already placed Christ under His judgment (the cross) so that we need never fear His wrath. Christ has borne that wrath in His own flesh. He was judged for us and in our place. Apart from the cross, God is our judge. Under the cross, He is our Father.

With our legal-standing firmly established, and assured that God is no longer angry with us because of our sins, we can now approach Him without fear. This is why when Jesus instructs the people of God how to pray, the very first thing He tells us is that God is to be addressed as “our Father.” This injunction implies that all those justified are now adopted into God’s family.

The Heidelberg Catechism depicts this relationship in the most intimate of terms. If God is our Father, then by implication we are His children. We revere our God. We can trust Him in all things. Because we do, we can approach Him confidently in prayer, knowing that He hears us and that He delights in our feeble efforts to communicate with Him.

But the only way we, as sinners, can become the adopted sons and daughters of God is because of Christ. His death for our sins and His perfect righteousness grants us a right-standing before God. And once that right-standing has been granted, the door to heaven is wide open, 24/7. And as God’s adopted sons and daughters, all we need to do is enter His presence and ask Him for whatever we need, knowing that He hears us and answers us because of Jesus and according to His will. After all, we are His children and He is our heavenly Father.

Purity and Peacemaking

Dr. Sinclair Ferguson’s book The Sermon on the Mount reminds us that Christians are not free to embody only some of the traits in the Beatitudes (pp. 35–36). As believers, we must possess all the qualities of Matthew 5:2–12, at least in some measure, lest our claim to have faith be proven false.

The text chosen for today’s study tells us the “pure in heart” receive God’s blessing and will one day see Him (v. 8). Jesus’ instruction in this verse is not new information for those well-versed in the Old Testament. It is based on Psalm 24, which says that only those with “clean hands and a pure heart” can stand in the Lord’s presence (vv. 3–4). According to Augustine, seeing God face-to-face when He renews all things (the beatific vision, 1 Cor. 13:12) is “the end and purpose of all our loving activity” (Fathers of the Church: A New Translation, 11:214). This privilege is only for those who have hearts characterized by purity.

Those pure in heart, Psalm 24 tells us, are wholly devoted to our Father in heaven. They do not lift up their souls (in worship) to falsehoods (v. 4). As a result, their actions and motives line up so that a pure intent lies behind what appear to be their good deeds. In his commentary on Matthew 5:8, John Calvin says to be pure in heart is to “take no delight in cunning, but converse sincerely with men, and express nothing, by word or look, which is not felt in the heart.”

Jesus also pronounces God’s blessing upon “the peacemakers” (v. 9), and this saying cannot be separated from the peace Christ brought through the cross and thus be used to support pacifism. Peacemaking is tied intimately to the work of Christ, which is “to bring together things divided and to reconcile the alienated” (Chrysostom, Sermon on the Mount, 1.2.9). First and foremost, the Son of God came to reconcile sinners to God (Rom. 5:1), and He uses His church to extend this reconciliation. We are peacemakers whenever we share the Gospel in word and deed (Isa. 52:7). Yet our Lord, by destroying the power of sin, also effects peace between people in the church. We are called to be “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:3). In both the church and the world, contention and strife are not to follow in our wake. 

Peace with God

It has been said that the greatest commentary ever written on Paul’s epistle to the Galatians is his letter to the Romans, which was composed some eight to ten years after Galatians. Certainly this is an appropriate description of the book of Romans, for many of the themes Paul takes up in Galatians — the purpose of the Law, the doctrine of justification, and Christian liberty — are also dealt with in Romans, often in a more comprehensive manner. So that we might more accurately interpret the book of Galatians we will be taking a short break from the letter to look at some of the main themes of Paul’s epistle to the Romans using Highlights from Romans, a teaching series by Dr. R.C. Sproul.

Our studies in Galatians have dealt at length with justification by faith alone, the imputation of Christ’s perfect righteousness, and the atonement, so we will not spend much time on the development of these topics in Romans 1–4. After establishing the universal sinfulness of mankind (1:18–3:20), Paul discusses the righteousness from God available to us on account of the work of Jesus (3:21–31). Then, like he does in Galatians 3, the apostle looks to Abraham as the example par excellence of the one who gains a right standing in our Creator’s eyes through trusting His promises, which promises are kept in Christ (chap. 4).

Justification brings with it the benefit of “peace with God,” and Paul looks at this peace in Romans 5:1–11. In our day, peace with God is not valued, largely because few people in our culture believe that the Almighty would ever not be at peace with them. What has been lost is the idea that all sinners are at enmity with God, a teaching that is found throughout Scripture (Gen. 3:22–24; Ps. 11:5; Col. 1:21). Whether it is felt or not, all people outside of Christ are at war with their Creator, but we who have been made to know our estrangement and have found reconciliation through trusting in Jesus know the joy that comes from being at peace with God through His Son.

Peace with God is not a truce that is broken at the slightest provocation. Our sin grieves the Lord (Eph. 4:30), but He will never again take up the sword of His eternal wrath against those with whom He is at peace (Ezek. 37:26).

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