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Thursday, May 23, 2013

Is Jesus a divider or the Prince of Peace?

Last Sunday, we saw Jesus denying that He came to the earth as a peacemaker:
“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Matt 10:34).
We saw that Jesus’ coming and the gospel that He brought separated all mankind into two groups – those who obey the gospel and those who do not.  The gospel of Jesus Christ draws a proverbial line in the sand, and frequently that line will divide a family as some members follow Christ and others do not.  In that sense, Christ will cause a family to be separated rather than drawn together as their different worldviews lead them to different places. 
But the idea of Jesus not being a peacemaker but rather a divider may be a bit unsettling to many people.  Wasn’t Jesus supposed to be the Prince of Peace?  And if so, doesn’t the text that we studied on Sunday pose a contradiction?
Well, there are no legitimate contradictions in Scripture.  If we think there are, we are misunderstanding one or both texts within their respective contexts.  Once again, context is king when it comes to making sense of this supposed contradiction. 
Since we looked at the context of the passage in Matthew 10:34-39 in great detail, I won’t dedicate much space to it here.  Let me just remind you that Jesus was speaking about the call of the gospel and its purpose of separating believers from unbelievers in the present age, that is, prior to His second coming.  With that in mind, let’s consider the other text, Isaiah 9:6-7:
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.
While there are no direct quotations of this passage in the Gospels, Luke 1:32-33 uses strikingly similar language to describe the coming of Jesus: …And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end."  Additionally, Matthew directly quotes Isaiah 9:2, a verse from the same passage as the above quotation, applying it to the coming of Christ: …the people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned (Matt 4:16).  So, Isaiah 9:6-7 is widely regarded as a Messianic prophecy about Jesus Christ.
So if Isaiah described Jesus as the Prince of Peace and said that there would be no end to the peace He would bring, how is that not a contradiction of what Jesus says about Himself in Matt 10:34?  If we look at all of vv6-7 together, we find some clues to help us.  The description of Jesus as the Prince of Peace is tied to the prediction that He would ascend the throne of David and over his kingdom to establish it and uphold it.  It is also said that His peace would never end.  So we should ask ourselves, “have those things happened yet?”  I would say they have not.  Jesus will establish His kingdom on earth in the last days (Rev 21-22).  It is then that He will uphold the kingdom “with justice and with righteousness.”  It is then that He will establish peace. 
Since the words in Isaiah 9:7 appear to describe events that have not been fulfilled yet, and since it is in that context that Jesus is described as the Prince of Peace, His ministry as the Prince of Peace must also be an eschatological reality.  That is, the fullness of who Jesus is as the Prince of Peace will be known in the last days.  After the Lord returns and vanquishes His enemies and destroys evil and brings about the new heavens and new earth, that is when there will be peace forevermore.  That to me is the best way to make sense of the supposed contradiction.
Another way to resolve the issue is to realize that the division that Jesus causes as described in Matthew 9:34-39 is division between men – those who believe and those who don’t.  Jesus’ work on the cross made peace between God and man.  So if the name Prince of Peace in Isaiah 9:6 refers to this part of Christ’s ministry as the mediator of our peace with the Father, there is no contradiction.  Christ divides men from one another with the gospel and unites man with God through the same gospel.
Ultimately, God’s Word is one book written by one Author.  He does not contradict Himself.  We just have to look closely at the near context and larger context in order to make sense of things that do not appear to fit.
This God-- his way is perfect; the word of the LORD proves true… (Psa 18:30)
Posted by Greg Birdwell

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