Think not that I am come to send peace, etc. - The meaning of this difficult passage will be plain, when we consider the import of the word peace, and the expectation of the Jews. I have already had occasion to remark, ( Matthew 10:12;), that the word שלום shalom, rendered by the Greeks ειρηνη, was used among the Hebrews to express all possible blessings, temporal and spiritual; but especially the former. The expectation of the Jews was, that, when the Messiah should come, all temporal prosperity should be accumulated on the land of Judea; therefore την γην, in this verse, should not be translated the earth, but this land. The import of our Lord's teaching here is this, Do not imagine, as the Jews in general vainly do, that I am come to send forth, (βαλλειν ), by forcing out the Roman power, that temporal prosperity which they long for; I am not come for this purpose, but to send forth (βαλλειν ) the Roman sword, to cut off a disobedient and rebellious nation, the cup of whose iniquity is already full, and whose crimes cry aloud for speedy vengeance. See also on Luke 12:49; (note). From the time they rejected the Messiah, they were a prey to the most cruel and destructive factions; they employed their time in butchering one another, till the Roman sword was unsheathed against them, and desolated the land.
Think not that I am come - This is taken from Micah 7:6. Christ did not here mean to say that the object of his coming was to produce discord and contention, for he was the Prince of Peace, Isaiah 9:6; Isaiah 11:6; Luke 2:14; but he means to say that such would be one of the effects of his coming. One part of a family that was opposed to Him would set themselves against those who believed in him. The wickedness of men, and not the religion of the gospel, is the cause of this hostility. It is unnecessary to say that no prophecy has been more strikingly fulfilled; and it will continue to be fulfilled until all unite in obeying his commandments. Then his religion will produce universal peace. Compare the notes at Matthew 10:21.
But a sword - The sword is an instrument of death, and to send a sword is the same as to produce hostility and war.
Well would it be for the church and the world if the principles that actuated those steadfast souls were revived in the hearts of God's professed people. There is an alarming indifference in regard to the doctrines which are the pillars of the Christian faith. The opinion is gaining ground, that, after all, these are not of vital importance. This degeneracy is strengthening the hands of the agents of Satan, so that false theories and fatal delusions which the faithful in ages past imperiled their lives to resist and expose, are now regarded with favor by thousands who claim to be followers of Christ. GC 46.1
The early Christians were indeed a peculiar people. Their blameless deportment and unswerving faith were a continual reproof that disturbed the sinner's peace. Though few in numbers, without wealth, position, or honorary titles, they were a terror to evildoers wherever their character and doctrines were known. Therefore they were hated by the wicked, even as Abel was hated by the ungodly Cain. For the same reason that Cain slew Abel, did those who sought to throw off the restraint of the Holy Spirit, put to death God's people. It was for the same reason that the Jews rejected and crucified the Saviour—because the purity and holiness of His character was a constant rebuke to their selfishness and corruption. From the days of Christ until now His faithful disciples have excited the hatred and opposition of those who love and follow the ways of sin. GC 46.2
How, then, can the gospel be called a message of peace? When Isaiah foretold the birth of the Messiah, he ascribed to Him the title, “Prince of Peace.” When angels announced to the shepherds that Christ was born, they sang above the plains of Bethlehem: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” Luke 2:14. There is a seeming contradiction between these prophetic declarations and the words of Christ: “I came not to send peace, but a sword.” Matthew 10:34. But, rightly understood, the two are in perfect harmony. The gospel is a message of peace. Christianity is a system which, received and obeyed, would spread peace, harmony, and happiness throughout the earth. The religion of Christ will unite in close brotherhood all who accept its teachings. It was the mission of Jesus to reconcile men to God, and thus to one another. But the world at large are under the control of Satan, Christ's bitterest foe. The gospel presents to them principles of life which are wholly at variance with their habits and desires, and they rise in rebellion against it. They hate the purity which reveals and condemns their sins, and they persecute and destroy those who would urge upon them its just and holy claims. It is in this sense—because the exalted truths it brings occasion hatred and strife—that the gospel is called a sword. GC 46.3Read in context »
Shortly before His crucifixion Christ had bequeathed to His disciples a legacy of peace. “Peace I leave with you,” He said, “My peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” John 14:27. This peace is not the peace that comes through conformity to the world. Christ never purchased peace by compromise with evil. The peace that Christ left His disciples is internal rather than external and was ever to remain with His witnesses through strife and contention. AA 84.1
Christ said of Himself, “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.” Matthew 10:34. The Prince of Peace, He was yet the cause of division. He who came to proclaim glad tidings and to create hope and joy in the hearts of the children of men, opened a controversy that burns deep and arouses intense passion in the human heart. And He warns His followers, “In the world ye shall have tribulation.” “They shall lay their hands on you, and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues, and into prisons, being brought before kings and rulers for My name's sake.” “Ye shall be betrayed both by parents, and brethren, and kinsfolks, and friends; and some of you shall they cause to be put to death.” John 16:33; Luke 21:12, 16. AA 84.2
This prophecy has been fulfilled in a marked manner. Every indignity, reproach, and cruelty that Satan could instigate human hearts to devise, has been visited upon the followers of Jesus. And it will be again fulfilled in a marked manner; for the carnal heart is still at enmity with the law of God, and will not be subject to its commands. The world is no more in harmony with the principles of Christ today than it was in the days of the apostles. The same hatred that prompted the cry, “Crucify Him! crucify Him!” the same hatred that led to the persecution of the disciples, still works in the children of disobedience. The same spirit which in the Dark Ages consigned men and women to prison, to exile, and to death, which conceived the exquisite torture of the Inquisition, which planned and executed the Massacre of St. Bartholomew, and which kindled the fires of Smithfield, is still at work with malignant energy in unregenerate hearts. The history of truth has ever been the record of a struggle between right and wrong. The proclamation of the gospel has ever been carried forward in this world in the face of opposition, peril, loss, and suffering. AA 84.3Read in context »
There are no compromises in the Word of God for those who conform to the world. The Son of God has manifested that He might draw all men unto Him, but He came not to lull the world to sleep, not to send peace, but a sword. The followers of Christ must walk in the light of His glorious example, and at whatever sacrifice of ease or selfish indulgence, at whatever cost of labor or sufferings, we must maintain the constant battle with self and exalt the gospel standard.—Letter 49a, August 30, 1878. TDG 251.5Read in context »