Matthew 5:9 by Robert Dean
"All we're saying is give peace a chance." Sound familiar? Listen to this lesson to learn the many meanings of peace. See how the peace Jesus was referring to in the Sermon on the Mount was peace between God and man. Learn that we cannot have this peace with God by our own efforts but only when we trust Christ's payment for our sins on the cross. Discover three important questions that must be answered to gain peace and that peace at any price is not what is meant. Note that our mission now as believers is to tell others how to have peace with God so we will be peacemakers and called the sons of God.

How to be Happy - Part 6. Peacemakers Identified as Sons of God
Matthew 5:9
Matthew Lesson #023
February 16, 2014

There are several passages in the Sermon on the Mount where there are verses that have been ripped out of context and used in various contemporary settings that have absolutely nothing to do with the original text. 

As we have already studied the Sermon on the Mount is Jesus' instruction to His disciples. It is very important to understand that. His disciples gathered around Him. This is not a term for the general crowd yet; He is giving instruction to those He has recently called. He is teaching those who are already saved and justified how to live. He is not in any way, shape or form giving conditions for how people can come to be saved, i.e. to come to the point where they are going to have eternal life and spend eternity with God in the kingdom and in heaven. That is important because many times these passages are misconstrued. He is teaching about the kind of character that should be developed in those who will have a significant role in the future kingdom.

At this stage in the teaching ministry of the Lord He is still calling Israel to repentance. That is, a change of mind, a change of direction, to turn away from false religion, to turn away from the legalistic religion of the Jewish leadership and to turn to a worship of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in following the Mosaic Law. They are still under the Mosaic Law.

The Sermon on the Mount also has application to church age believers because the focal point here wasn't simply or only or exclusively to the Jews of His day under the Mosaic Law, but He is emphasizing the kind of character that should be developed by true disciples (not true believers; anyone can be a believer in Jesus Christ but not all believers are disciples). Those who are disciples are those who accept the challenge to grow to spiritual maturity. These are they who will have a significant role in the future kingdom. All church age believers will be in the kingdom but not all will have significant positions ruling and reigning with the Lord Jesus Christ. 

Matthew 5:9 NASB "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God."

Peacemakers are identified as sons of God. This section from 5:3 down to 5:16 is emphasizing the character and calling of those who inherit the kingdom—which is not a synonym for getting saved; it indicates those who have a special role in the future kingdom.

This verse 9 is really open to a lot of abuse, especially in modern times. In the 1960s there were even some evangelicals—usually those on the political left, even though they were to some degree conservative in their theology—who used this verse as a pretext for Christian social activism, especially during the era of the Vietnam war, as a pretext for anti-war activism. This comes as a result of Christians who do not take the time to actually study the Scripture and to examine what the Bible teaches. We must understand the Scriptures in light of Scripture; we must understand Scripture in light of the times in which it was written, which means we understand it contextually not only in terms of the immediate content in which something is written or said but also the context of biblical theology. But it is important just in terms of reading through a passage such as the Sermon on the Mount and the opening introduction, the beatitudes, that the beatitudes are not an action plan. They way they are stated is simply as character attributes. They describe character qualities of mature believers/disciples, who prepared for the future rule of Jesus in the promised messianic kingdom. They are not an action plan to go out and do something but they focus on personal character traits. To take a verse such as this or any of the others as a basis for social action is to pervert the purpose of Scripture and to rip the verses completely out of context.

One of my favorite statements that I ran across which was talking about the concept of peace is a statement that "the scarcity of peace in this world such that peace is defined as that glorious moment in history when everyone stops to reload".

If we go back in early church we discover that the early church fathers understood this to be emphasizing the personal aspects of peace, or tranquility with God, or reconciliation. So we see this as the earliest interpretation and this is very important in terms of understanding the context. Others have emphasized the fact that one background for this statement is found in the Old Testament in the rabbinic position that the highest task that a man can perform is to establish right relationships between man and man. Fillel who was a famous rabbi prior to the time of Christ stated: "Be ye of the disciples of Aaron, loving peace and pursuing peace". But we must first understand that the greatest enemy, according to Scripture, of peace is sin. And sin has its primary disruptive factor in relation to our relationship with God, not to other men. And so to understand peace and peacemaking biblically we have to understand that ultimately this involves our relationship with God. This is something that we see taught in the Old Testament.

Isaiah 53:5 NASB "But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being [NKJV = "peace"]{fell} upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed".       

This is one of the great passages on substitutionary atonement. The Servant will suffer in our place. He will be penalized and punished for our sins. We see that even in the Old Testament the concept of peace was grounded in peace with God, and for there to be peace with God the sin problem has to be taken care of. All of the ills of history all have their roots in a sin problem. It is not until the sin problem is dealt with that there can ever be peace enjoyed in the human race. The prophecy from the Old Testament is that the sin problem will be taken care of by the Messiah, and He will pay the punishment so that we can have peace.

Focusing on the future kingdom: Isaiah 57:19 NASB "Creating the praise of the lips. Peace, peace to him who is far and to him who is near,” Says the LORD, “and I will heal him.” This is quoted in Ephesians 2:14ff, talking about peace being announced to both Jews who are near (because of their covenant relationship with God) as well as Gentiles who are far off because they are not in a covenant relationship to God. So God is the one who provides the basis for peace and He is the one who establishes peace.   

Matthew 5:9 NASB "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God." When we look at this passage we should ask three interpretive questions. It is very important to get to the core of what Jesus is teaching here.

a)      With whom is peace made? We are making peace, but with whom? What is the context biblically?

b)      By what methods is peace made? How are we establishing peace? Is this something that is done through a UN resolution, through Congress, some form of social activism? Or is something else intended?

c)      By what or whose standards is peace determined? How are we going to know if we have peace? Is it peace at any cost or are there standards by which we determine whether or not we will have peace?

When we look at the life of Christ we understand that Jesus certainly could not be using the term "peace" in some absolute sense that some people take it at the expense of everything else and everybody else. In fact, when Jesus said to His disciples in Matthew 10:34 NASB “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. [35] For I came to SET A MAN AGAINST HIS FATHER, AND A DAUGHTER AGAINST HER MOTHER, AND A DAUGHTER-IN-LAW AGAINST HER MOTHER-IN-LAW; [36] and A MAN’S ENEMIES WILL BE THE MEMBERS OF HIS HOUSEHOLD", Jesus is not talking about establishing a peace that is at the expense of truth. He is not talking about establishing a peace that is at the expense of right and wrong, at the expense of righteousness, or peace for the sake of peace. There are times in this fallen world to not have peace, when there are conditions where peace is not going to be possible because we live in a fallen world, the devil's world, where corrupt fallen sinners will only produce that which is characteristic of their father the devil.

So to understand Matthew 5:9 we have to look at the terminology that is used. The word that is translated into English is EIRENOPOIOS. It is a compound word from EIRENE, meaning peace, and the verb POIEO, meaning to do or to make. It is simply a noun here, the only occurrence of it in the New Testament. But the verb form of this noun is in one other location, EIRENOPOIEO, meaning to make peace, and this found in Colossians 1:20 where we have NASB "and through Him [Christ] to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, {I say,} whether things on earth or things in heaven".

We have seen that "the blood of Christ" is not a literal term, it is a figurative term indicating a violent death. The imagery from this idiom goes back to passages such as the covenant with Noah where God said that those who shed man's blood should have their blood shed. That is a prohibition against murder; it is the foundation for capital punishment. But it is not saying this only applies to cases where somebody literally has their physical blood shed. Throughout the Scripture we see this idiom "to shed blood" as a picture of a violent form of death. It is not Jesus' physical death that paid the penalty for sin because He announced that His payment for sin was completed before He died physically. It was during the period between twelve noon and three on that day when He hung on the cross that Gold the Father imputed to Christ the sins of the world. He bore in His body on the cross the penalty for our sins. When it was complete He said TETELESTAI – "It is finished", it has been completed. It is a perfect tense indicating that it is already a completed action and it was after He had paid the penalty for sin (spiritual death; the penalty for sin in Genesis 2 was stated to be spiritual death), and then He died physically. He went into the grave for three days and three nights and then was resurrected from the dead.

So it is through the death of Christ on the cross that the penalty for sin is paid for. This becomes the foundation, as we see in Galatians 1:20, for the biblical doctrine of reconciliation. God was in Christ reconciling us to Himself. What brought that breech between the human race and God was sin, the sin of Adam. When Adam as the designated head of the family and the human race disobeyed God and ate of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil he came under condemnation. At that instant Adam died spiritually and it plunged the human race into death and corruption. Romans 5:12 NASB "Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned—"

So someone needed to provide a solution because from the time of Adam's sin until the present and until the future new heavens and new earth are established those who are born with a corrupt sin nature are born at enmity with God. Enmity is the exact opposite of reconciliation. That enmity has to be dealt with and this is what was provided for by Jesus Christ on the cross.

The key term that is used to describe this in many passages such as Romans 5:1 is peace. Cf. Ephesians 2:14ff. But peace is used in different ways in Scripture. We have to understand that because when Jesus says "Blessed are the peacemakers" we have to understand in what sense He is using that term peace. Today people often take that to mean an absence of violence, an absence of war, an absence of criminality. But we do not find that to be a primary meaning in Scripture.

The first meaning that we see mentioned a lot on Scripture is the idea of inner tranquility and contentment. It is often used not in contrast to war or violence but in contrast to fear, anxiety, worry, and various forms of inner stress. Philippians 4:6, 7 NASB "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." The focal point there is that this peace is a supernatural peace; it comes from God. It is also mentioned as a fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22ff. This is not simply reconciliation to God but has to do with an inner mental attitude. This is what Jesus was talking about in John 14:27 NASB "Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful."

It is used also to describe the state of reconciliation with God as in Romans 5:1 NASB "Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have [present possession] peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ". This is because at a point in time we trusted in Jesus as savior. Justification here is understood to be something that occurred in the past at the moment of salvation and as a result of that we are in an ongoing state of peace with God, because our sins have been dealt with on the cross and we have accepted that payment on our behalf.  

This is also part of the gospel that we announce. We see this in passages such as Romans 10:15 NASB "How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, 'HOW BEAUTIFUL ARE THE FEET OF THOSE WHO BRING GOOD NEWS OF GOOD THINGS [NKJV = of the gospel of peace]!' "

The gospel of peace is the message of peace, the message of reconciliation.


So an important aspect of the gospel is announcing that there is peace between man and God because of the work of Jesus Christ on the cross. This of course is foundational in understanding Colossians 1:20 where it is used not simply of reconciliation but the entirety of the work of Christ on the cross: NASB "and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, {I say,} whether things on earth or things in heaven." This is the Greek word APOKATALLASSO, which indicates a complete and total reconciliation. It is used also in Ephesians 2:16 where it is talking about Jews and Gentiles being reconciled, that the wall of division between them (the Law) is torn down, but also that Jew and Gentile were separated by a barrier from God and that was removed at the cross. NASB "and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity." So that status of enmity and hostility between the rebellious sinner and God is destroyed objectively at the cross through Christ's work of reconciliation.

Reconciliation, then, is defined as the work of God for man in which God undertakes to transform man's position of hostility to one of peace in order to make possible an actual eternal fellowship with a righteous and just God.

Man cannot reconcile himself to God. God is the one who performs the work and it was performed on the cross when Christ paid the penalty for sin. Man has the problem of sin itself, the problem of the penalty of sin (spiritual death of separation from God), he is born spiritually dead so there is the problem of his birth, there is the problem of his position in Adam; all of these things are just different aspects or components of the sin problem and all of these were addressed by different aspects of Christ's death. He pays the penalty for sin in redemption, He satisfies the character of God in propitiation, He atones for our sin, and He reconciles us to God. So it is God's work for man, and what has happened is God undertook to transform man's position of hostility. We are born at enmity with God. Romans 5:8 NASB "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners [in a state of hostility to Him], Christ died for us."

So God is in the business of transforming our position of hostility to one of peace. This is done objectively at the cross. That doesn't mean because Christ reconciled man that every individual is automatically reconciled, it means that the foundation or the basis for reconciliation is accomplished at the cross. But each individual has to make a decision as to whether or not that applies to their own life. By accepting the gospel, by accepting Christ's payment for our sin, we can have eternal fellowship with a righteous and just God. The issue in application is volition.

Reconciliation was accomplished forensically. The word forensic has to do with the courtroom. It is in the courtroom that we have the payment for sin. All of this terminology related to what Christ did on the cross has to do with the courtroom. Man in Adam disobeyed God, violated His standard and came under a judicial penalty. Jesus Christ paid the judicial penalty on the cross. We are told through the Protestant doctrine of justification by faith alone that when we trust in Christ God judicially imputes to us the righteousness of Christ and declares us to be righteous. Technically that is called forensic justification. Reconciliation was accomplished forensically, i.e. in relation to the justice of God at the cross once and for all. But reconciliation must be applied to each believer positionally when they trust in Jesus Christ as savior. That is the doctrine of reconciliation.

So we learn is:

a)      The human race is born in a legal state of hostility toward God. Every human being is born spiritually dead under a legal condemnation from God, and apart from faith in Christ they remain under that condemnation which has as its eternal penalty the lake of fire.

b)      No human being can change that state of hostility. There is nothing we can do, we cannot perform anything good enough, righteous enough to merit God's approval. All of our works of righteousness, Isaiah says, are filthy rags.

c)      The opposite of hostility is peace or harmony with God. So there has to be a change of our status. In order for there to be a change in our status the legal penalty must be paid and this payment is accomplished through death, i.e. the substitutionary spiritual death of Christ on the cross. Ephesians 2:13 NASB "But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ." The death of Christ objectively pays that penalty. [14] "For He Himself is our peace, who made both {groups into} one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall." The "both" there refers to Jew and Gentile who by faith in Christ are united as one in the body of Christ. The middle wall of separation that separated Jew and Gentile was the Law. That which separated Jew and Gentile from God was sin.  [15] "by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, {which is} the Law of commandments {contained} in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, {thus} establishing peace, [16] and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity." So there is a horizontal reconciliation on the cross between Jew and Gentile and there is a vertical reconciliation that takes place because Christ paid the penalty for sin.

So when we read in Matthew 5:9 "blessed are the peacemakers" this is not talking about those who are creating social peace, political peace, peace where there has been war and violence. This is talking about those who are proclaiming the gospel of peace: that there is only one way to God and that is through Jesus Christ and His death on the cross.

A third way in which peace is used in the Scriptures is in relation to personal harmony. This is always based on the realities of forgiveness of sin. Something has to address the problem that causes a breech. There is a status of hostility between human beings that has to be addressed. Just as there was a status of hostility between man and God which had to be addressed and could not be ignored. It is only on the basis of addressing the cause of the conflict that harmony can be restored in relationships. But this is also to be a priority in the life of the believer.

Romans 14:19 NASB "So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another."

It doesn't mean that we can always accomplish it. It is not creating peace in relationships at all costs. There is a foundation, a standard. But we are to pursue peace with all men, as Hebrews 12:14 states.

2 Corinthians 13:11 NASB "Finally, brethren, rejoice, be made complete, be comforted, be like-minded, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you."

As part of the Christian life we are to seek to have peace and harmony with all men. That will not always be possible because other people have volition, they are sinners, they are fallen, they are corrupt and they may not make it possible for us to have peace; but that is to be their responsibility, not ours. The peace that we pursue is not a peace with out standards.

Galatians 6:16 NASB "And those who will walk by this rule, peace and mercy {be} upon them, and upon the Israel of God."

The peace and mercy is upon those who walk according to a standard. It is not without regard to a standard or to an absolute. It is not peace at any cost but peace according to the standard of God's righteousness.

A fourth use of peace in the New Testament is that it is a primary characteristic of the future messianic kingdom. When we are making peace today by the proclamation of the gospel it is to provide a basis for people to have eternal life, and they will be in the kingdom in the future that is established by Jesus Christ. This aspect of peace in the kingdom is seen in the titles of Christ. For example, in Isaiah 9:6 Jesus Christ is called the Prince of Peace. He is the one who establishes peace with God and only upon the basis of His rule will there actually be peace—political peace, world peace—in His kingdom. Isaiah 9:7 NASB "There will be no end to the increase of {His} government or of peace …" The future millennial messianic kingdom will be characterized by peace.

But today we have been given a mission as believers. It is a mission related to the message of reconciliation.

2 Corinthians 5:18-20 NASB "Now all {these} things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God."

This message of reconciliation is the gospel of peace. We have been given the responsibility to announce this message of peace. As ambassadors for Christ we represent His kingdom to a fallen world. The human race is objectively reconciled to God by the work of Christ on the cross but it hasn't received that personally. It is our responsibility as believers to spread the gospel, the good news which is the gospel of peace.

As we look at the second half of Matthew 5:9 we are told that the peacemakers, those who are proclaiming the gospel, "shall be called sons of God". There are some who read this and think that means that in order to become a son of God, to be saved, you must be spreading the gospel; you must be a peacemaker. But this is a different term from that which is used in John 1:12 NASB "But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God …" The concept of becoming a son of God is recognizing our adult position as children, of being an adult son and receiving all of the privileges of our adoption which occurred at salvation.

Scripture uses this idiom many times, to be the son of something. It originated as a Hebrew idiom that is talking about having the characteristics of whatever the noun is that follows it. A person who was a murderer in Hebrew may be described as the son of a murderer. A fool would be described as the son of a fool. One who was following destruction and following the devil would be called a son of Belial. So to be called a son of God means that you are exhibiting the characteristics of God in your life. One of the characteristics of God is that he initiated the process of reconciliation, to reconcile the world to Himself. When we are witnessing to other people, evangelizing others, proclaiming the gospel of peace, then what we are doing is demonstrating that we are following in the footsteps of our Father in heaven who is reconciling the world to Himself. He is the God of peace. 

In review we need to answer the question: with whom is peace made? Peace in Scripture is first and foremost made between fallen human beings and God. How is peace made? What are the methods? There is only one: Christ on the cross paying the penalty for sin so that the enmity, the hostility between man and God, can be removed.

By what standards is peace determined? By God's standard: that there is only peace when sin has been correctly dealt with.

So we recognize that our Father in heaven is the God of peace, as Romans 15:33 states. And so to exhibit our sonship we too function as those who call the unsaved to peace with God through trusting in Christ who provided the possibility of reconciliation only on the basis of His death on the cross.