By Gene Hutchcraft
“Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man's foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me.” (Matthew 10:34-38)
God is on the offensive in the earth, a spiritual offensive executed partly in the realm of flesh since that is where man sinned and the enemy so rules the fallen. Yet, God does not war as does the flesh and neither do those who engage the enemy in His name. Paul stated this truth categorically in these words. “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:3-5) So, this offensive stance projects from God the Father of our Lord Christ Jesus into those who abide in Him by faith. Heaven stages this battle through God’s people according to their measure, engaging the enemy in His name and for His glory as he strengthens or enables them!
The created realm is part of the offensive in which God works His will by establishing an earthly, physical environment and inhabiting it with beings make in His image, male and female. He then allowed a spiritual being, who opposed Him, to enter its realms and by deception corrupt those God made in the divine image. Such a composition baffles the mind unless you have a revelation of God’s purpose in which the earth and the human race are crucial elements, though not the key elements. Scripture also records the culmination of that revelation in Christ Jesus. He is God’s essential element in this spiritual conquest. Paul writes of it that believers would have a grounded perspective which they cannot have without a revelation from on high. Apostolic preaching and teaching, especially Paul’s, were to this end; “…to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Ephesians 3:9-11)
So, in our primary text Jesus declares heavenly battle tactics by which He, ‘in the likeness of sinful flesh,’ entered the realm of the Prince of Darkness. Christ’s statement, of our main text, was when He sent His twelve disciples out two by two at the end of His second year of ministry, previous to the first feeding of thousands with bread and fish. Then, months later, our Lord restated it in other words which Luke records. Jesus’ aggressively offensive focus, as He approached the cross, was unflinching. “Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division: For from henceforth there shall be five in one house divided, three against two, and two against three. The father shall be divided against the son, and the son against the father; the mother against the daughter, and the daughter against the mother; the mother in law against her daughter in law, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.” (Luke 12:51-53) He does not use the words ‘sword’ in this statement, yet His point about this current conflict is in both texts.
The impact of Jesus’ presence in the earth forces human choices based on faith or the lack of it. Heaven engaged spiritual forces of wickedness in the earth, a warfare that is in the field of flesh, that is, the race of men. The souls of men are the trophies won and lost. However, heaven is on the offensive while the forces of wickedness and darkness unsuccessfully attempt to deflect divine progress. These forces are in fact, are tools of God’s sovereign will and purpose. Paul later declares Jesus’ total triumph in these words where he quotes a portion of a Psalm. “Wherefore he saith, ‘When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.’” (Ephesians 4:8 … Psalm 68:19). In another letter Paul states Jesus’ absolute domination of our enemy in this manner,“And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it.” (Colossians 2:15)
Jesus did this in the earth, where sin controls men, and while in the body or ‘found in fashion as a man.’ Satan used every deception in his arsenal and they all fell uselessly to the ground in the presence of the Son of God and Man. Nothing was too hard for Jesus as He “went about doing good and healing those oppressed of the devil, for God was with Him.” (Acts 10:38) Satan had nothing in Jesus Who pressed forward in the work of God on every front. He often caught the enemy unaware as in the case of the demonized man in Capernaum. “And there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit; and he cried out, Saying, ‘Let us alone; what have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth? art thou come to destroy us? I know thee who thou art, the Holy One of God.’ And Jesus rebuked him, saying, ‘Hold thy peace, and come out of him.’ And when the unclean spirit had torn him, and cried with a loud voice, he came out of him. And they were all amazed, insomuch that they questioned among themselves, saying, ‘What thing is this? what new doctrine is this? for with authority commandeth he even the unclean spirits, and they do obey him.’” (Mark 1:23-27) Another time Jesus confronts the ‘Legion’ of spirits. “And when he was come to the other side into the country of the Gergesenes, there met him two possessed with devils, coming out of the tombs, exceeding fierce, so that no man might pass by that way. And, behold, they cried out, saying, ‘What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God? art thou come hither to torment us before the time?’” (Matthew 8:28-29) His near presence was a painful and terrifying experience for these spiritual entities because of the reality of His power and glory which oppressed them as they oppressed their weaker victims.
Christ blazed a trail through the earth in which believers now make their way to God’s presence, that way is Jesus Himself and the power of His indestructible resurrected life. Believers are His happy captives willing to follow His way and doing in all things. They are the primary trophies of His triumph over sin and the grave! Those who fear God and love His truth yield to His mercy, kindness, and righteousness in all things. They forfeit anything that entangles them as they ‘press the battle ere the night shall veil the glowing skies.’ ‘We have heard the joyful sound, Jesus saves, Jesus saves.’ And since we fear nothing as we do God’s wrath, we cast ourselves upon the ‘Stone’ heaven set in the earth that our broken selves will then be restored and recovered on and from the battlefield. The Captain of our salvation gives new life and equips us in His armor for the offensive against the flesh, the world, and the enemy of our souls.
This involves cutting loose from earthly and fleshly engagements which distract us from the primary assignment, to daily crucify our flesh by walking in the Spirit. This cutting loose will include separation from some people ‘near and dear’ to us in the earth if they refuse the gospel of grace, if they fear other things more than God, if they love the earth more than the promises of God. Such expressions take many forms. However, faith enlightens the heart and mind of the believer to that which blinded us. Now we see clearly and so love God’s truth, wisdom, goodness, and righteousness more than any earthly bond. The call of God pitches us forward and upward, away from the lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and the boastful pride of life. Truth made us free of these things and strengthens us to obtain that which God holds out, through His dear Son, to those who are His by faith!
So, again the words of our Lord provoke us to right thinking. “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.” (Matthew 10:34) Jesus’ presence causes decisions in those drawn to Him and in those repelled from Him. Each reveal their decisions by their responses to the life and immortality brought to light in His person, words, and works. Some men react as the demons and run for cover at the threat of exposure to His light. Other men may attempt to fight and overcome the light but they cannot, they cannot even comprehend it! Yet, even as the demons, they continue on the course of their nature and desires which brings corruption and ultimate destruction. His presence forces such revelations and reactions which glorify God and honor the Son, even when men reject the truth.
This sword of truth and righteousness separates the old and new, it divides that which is above from that which is of the earth, and it even divides people from people. Scripture is one instrument of this work and Jesus, Who is the Word, is the power and wisdom behind God’s living and active word! His very words provoke the hearts and minds of the hearers. Those who receive the love of the truth draw nearer and nearer while those who reject it turn away with apathy or disgust. Jesus’ did not come to earth to make men happy or contented in it. He came to purchase people from every tribe, tongue, people, and nation as His Father’s possession and dwelling forevermore. That involves their turning to Him from their flesh, the world, and the prince of the world. They turn from that which the world loves and values to that which the Father of life loves and values. As John states…“And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.” (1 John 2:17)
So, the presence of godly people in the earth provokes conflict with the world. This world resents, even hates, those who do not love it and share its values. They may speak of tolerance yet they begrudge those who refuse its interests and appetites. And it comes to blows in a spiritual conflict of thought vs. thought ‘that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God.’ It even comes to physical violence in many places still today where believers and followers of Jesus live under a constant threat because of their identity with the One Who came from and returned to heaven. This division enters families and produces resentment, it did throughout the Bible record, from Cain and Able to believers in the first century and continues to do so today. Jesus is not something which a person adds to their life. He is life, nothing and no one else is. The conflict simply reveals which side the opponents take while in this vale of appearance and shadows.
Jesus states the situation clearly in our primary text, cf. Matthew 10:34ff, and its restatement in Luke 12:51ff. Faith in Him reveals what the heart loves or desires. It will not turn to another since it knows His voice and wants to follow where He leads. The sheep of His flock will not follow another for He alone has the words of life and gives the water of life which becomes in His people a well of water springing up to eternal life. They want this supply of life more than what the world offers. Also, they are worthy of Him by His working in them and prove it by their allegiance to Him and opposition to any and all who oppose the gospel of His grace.
Scripture is full of this partitioning, from Genesis to Revelation. It began when God divided the light from the darkness, the firmament above from that below, and the land from the waters. God makes distinctions in things and displays the qualities of each, assigning them their nature and all that attends that nature. They do not mix but are purposefully divided in line with God’s will and purpose for it. Paul will later declare this aspect of life which also involves human decisions grounded in God’s decisions. “But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonour. If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master's use, and prepared unto every good work.” (2 Timothy 2:20-21) Men do have decisions to make; however, God’s decisions are the ultimate factors. So, let us align ourselves with those which then engage God’s pleasure or grace that is in Christ Jesus. Then we will find ourselves numbered among these seen by John. “After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; And cried with a loud voice, saying, ‘Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb.’” (Revelation 7:9-10)
The Savior’s words reveal what we need to understand the divisive nature of God’s truth and Jesus’ identity to the world. Then we can count the cost with knowledge and set our face toward Him though the world plague us for doing so. Heaven injected this division in the families of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God commanded Abraham to send Ishmael away from Isaac, Isaac sent Jacob away from Esau, and Jacob’s sons lived in contention toward Joseph and each other for years. They did reconcile, to some degree, but still lived in fear of Joseph, thinking he was like them and would seek revenge after Jacob’s death. He did not though when young most of them hated and planned his death. Joseph accepted these things as from God’s hand leading to the present deliverance Joseph provided for them. This is a type of God’s salvation provided by the One hated of many in His own people!
Joseph and Jesus took up their cross and followed God’s will for their earthly work which separated them from natural earthly involvements and enabled them to do the work God called them to do and bring about God’s promised deliverance. Those enemies were as dogs or bulls attaching at every opportunity. However, earthly circumstance could not interfere with God’s purpose and will to have His people and dwell among them. God did this in Israel and has fulfilled this also in the people of His flock in Christ Jesus the Great Shepherd of the sheep. And it will have its ultimate fulfillment when the Son delivers up the Kingdom to the Father, cf. 1 Corinthians 15:20-28.
Jesus divided those who heard His words and saw His works. Believers clung to Him at all cost while unbelievers turned away in apathy or reviled Him and worked to damage Him as they could. Later some (who claimed to follow Him) twisted or distorted His word and works to make it appear His kingdom has an earthly focus or emphasis, a here and now agenda. Yet, John declared this reality in the opening words of his gospel, which are part of Jesus’ earthly experience and that of His people as they follow Him. “He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:10-13) Those words are a few which confirm this nature of the truth as people believe or turn away from Him. The Scripture contains much more as to this work of division in the heart!
The separation begins when one is born again from above. Life from above is separate from the old life or the old man. And so the apostle commands the believers in this vein, drawing a contrast with the ways of the world and life in Christ. “But ye have not so learned Christ; If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus: That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.” (Ephesians 4:20-24) Paul, earlier in the letter, reminded the readers, “Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.” (Ephesians 2:2-3)
Finally, we separate from all who are not in Christ Jesus and following Him in truth. Yet, our Savior assures that, “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.” (John 15:18-19) Jesus lived this and those who belong to Him do as well. So, “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified.” (1 Peter 4:12-14) “But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.” (1 Peter 5:10)
You belong to the Lord of heaven and earth Who by this truth prepares you for His presence from which you will not go out but abide in glory, strength, and peace forevermore. The conflict is only for this world and will not endure long! Lift up your heads, redemption draweth nigh!