There are a lot of opinions, but I want to know what it really means...
ESV - 34 Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.
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I was invited to dialogue with Muslim students at an Islamic University. When I arrived I discovered that my concept of a dialogue was very different to theirs. I thought I would be sitting down with a few students and having a round table discussion. However, by dialogue they meant a seminar. They had an Islamic professor to speak and I was the other speaker. I was totally unprepared. Before the seminar began, the professor left his handouts on the table and went out to make a phone call. I looked at the handout and it stated that the Christian faith was an aggressive faith because Jesus taught Christians to fight and he quoted from the verse in Mat.10:34,"Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword." I shuddered! And prayed, "Lord, what do I do?" I thought I would listen to the professor and then pray and prepare for a response, but I was in for a shock. The seminar was about to begin. Some 300 Islamic scholars, imams etc came into the room and it was announced that I was the first speaker. God, what do I do? I had no idea. I just quietly prayed and said, "Would it be ok for me to begin by reading a verse from the Bible?" They said yes so I read Matt.10:34 not knowing what I would say. After reading I asked, "Do you know what Jesus meant by this?" I was asking myself the same question and then I sensed the leading of the Holy Spirit and I began saying things I had never thought of or considered, so I said: "Jesus said this because He is the Light of the world and He was coming into a world of darkness ruled by Satan. The coming of Jesus automatically meant that there would be war between Satan and Jesus. His coming brought the war, the conflict, the sword. It's not that Jesus was going to take a sword, or teach His disciples to take the sword, in fact the opposite was the case because in the same Gospel Jesus told Peter when he took out the sword to defend Jesus, "Put your sword in its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword", Mat.26:52." So I said that it was not Jesus wanting to create war, but it was an unavoidable fact that the coming of Jesus brought the sword, because Satan saw his kingdom under threat and so rose up to destroy Jesus and those who followed Him. The professor did not present his paper. And God opened a wonderful opportunity to share the Gospel.
In Matthew 10, Jesus is speaking to His disciples before sending them out on their own to minister in His earlier days of walking with them and teaching them. He was warning them in this verse that they would face tribulation and testing as they went out, that not everyone would be open to receiving their message, and that the gospel was bound to cause upheaval and division in some situations, just as it still does today. "Peace" in this passage comes from the Greek word "eirene" (number 1515 in the concordance), which can have the following meanings: 1) a state of national tranquillity 2) exemption from the rage and havoc of war 3) peace between individuals, i.e. harmony, concord 4) security, safety, prosperity, felicity, (because peace and harmony make and keep things safe and prosperous) of the Messiah's peace 5) the way that leads to peace (salvation) 6) of Christianity, the tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ, and so fearing nothing from God and content with its earthly lot, of whatsoever sort that is 7) the blessed state of devout and upright men after death "Sword" means: 1) a large knife, used for killing animals and cutting up flesh 2) a small sword, as distinguished from a large sword 3) curved sword, for a cutting stroke 4) a straight sword, for thrusting In the two verses prior to Matt. 10:34 Jesus tells His disciples: “Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven." The Jewish people, from whom Jesus' disciples were descended, had been anticipating the coming of the Messiah for centuries. During that time, many erroneous beliefs had emerged about who and what the Messiah would be all about. Before sending His disciples out, Jesus seemed to sense that it was important to make certain matters very clear, especially in areas that might be a stumbling block for them and could cause them to retreat from the mission on which He was sending them. He wanted them to know that although many prophesies had been decreed about the unique peace that would come when the Messiah would reign in people's hearts, with that peace would also come division. A sword can cut and divide, and the gospel does this at times--sometimes it divides friendships and even family members, and it also cuts through the junk in our sinful hearts and helps us to see the truth. A sword can also thrust and cause pain and even death--the gospel can hurt when we're confronted with it, and it causes death to our flesh. For many people living in nations where persecution is severe, the gospel can bring literal death to those who receive Jesus as their Savior. A sword can defend us, which the word of God does. God's word is our defender because those who believe are justified by faith, no longer bound by death and no longer helpless against our accuser: Satan. A sword trims off fat, which God's word does for us, helping us to get rid of the "excess" of the flesh in our lives, trimming us down and helping us to become better reflections of Jesus. There is much more that can be said about this verse, but I hope this at least sheds some light on its meaning for you. If you want to study it further, I recommend using the study tools that are available on eBible and other websites. Blessings to you!
"All who draw the sword will die by the sword" (Mt 26:52) Jesus was always a teacher. Even at the hour of horror and agony, He made it a point to teach timeless truths to His disciples. O how much the Lord was concerned about the future life and ministry of His disciples! Peter might have been wondering what the use of the sword was if it had not been used! After all it was Jesus Himself who had urged the disciples to buy swords even if they had to sell their clothes to mobilize money for it! (Lk 22:36). Vengeance is God's (Rom 12:19; Dt 32:35a; Heb 10:30). Vengeance is right, but we humans are incapable of handling it (Lev 19:18). Paul wrote to the Christians in Rome who were experiencing injustice in their social life, "Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, `Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,' says the Lord" (Rom 12:19). This is an oft-repeated truth in the Scriptures (Dt 32:35; Heb 10:30). Sooner we learn this, fewer will be the casualties and less the losses in the Kingdom of God. It was perfectly natural and logical for a disciple to hit the enemy who lays hand on his master. That's what Peter did. But Jesus wouldn't allow even that. When God's word does not permit us to use a sword even against an enemy, how can we ever use it against another child of God or His servant? David did not earn the title of "Man-after-God's-own-heart" easily. God was not playing favoritism with him. When David secretly cut off a corner of Saul's robe at the prompting of his men, "David's heart troubled him." He said to his men, "The Lord forbid that I should do this thing to my master, the Lord's anointed, to stretch out my hand against him, seeing he is the anointed of the Lord" (1 Sam 24:1-7). A secret information one has about his brother is a sword. "Put it in its case!" (Mt 26:52a). Dr. Herbert Lockyer (1886-1984), one of the most voluminous Christian writers from England, in his book, The Sins of Saints, writes, "Those who are jealous of the abilities of others often settle for assassination of character." Dr.W.L.Watkinson asserts, "The lives of the most gifted and delightful of mankind have been blasted by envy. It seems to vitiate the whole creation." Next time you are tempted to lift a sword against a brother, pause a while, look yonder! You will see "a ram caught by its horns in a bush!" (Gen 22:13). Remind yourself of Paul's challenge: "Who shall bring a charge against God's elect? Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died and is pleading for us" (Rom 8:33,34).
He came to SEPARATE those who are of the faith, from those that are not of the faith. The people that you may have been related to by blood, may not treat you as if you are family anymore, because of your renewed Spirit in HIM. The Sword is HIS WORD!
Jesus said this as a confirmation of the statement of Simeon in Luke 2 :34 which says The child Jesus is set for the rise and fall of many in Israel and a sign which shall be spoken against.The true Gospel of Jesus Christ will definitely bring about division as many will reject it while some will accept it .
When the world hears the gospel they are so enraged by the truth that it causes conflict, between those that receive the gospel and those that reject it. When Jesus says " I come not to bring peace" he is talking about the inevitable conflict between those that hear the word and receive it and those the reject it, Consider Luke 12:52-54 when Jesus speaks of divisions within a single household these divisions are those in the hose that receive and those that reject the word of God. I think this is important for us to realize that the true word of God will not bring peace because the world, the carnal mind of man is an enmity against God. (Romans 8:7) So that when Jesus brings the sword, He is not speaking of a physical sword, but a metaphysical sword which is word of God (Ephesians 6:17) So that now when we read Matthews 10:32 we should to some level understand that Jesus men hear the truth of the Gospel they are going to be passionate about it. to to hate it and some to embrace it.
I would like to pick up on two aspects from Hamann's and La Valley's answers. The sword of the Spirit is the sword that Jesus was speaking about (La Valley). The great physician uses that word to cut away the flesh of my heart (Hamann). Since the day of Adam till today the Spirit has performed this circumcision on our hearts. Oh, yes,, circumcision. One of the least taught but of the most important sacraments. Abraham was circumcised in the flesh and told to walk blameless (Genesis 17:1-27). The law picked up on this circumcision and we are told it is the Spirit's work in our hearts that takes away our stiff-neck or disobedience (Deuteronomy 16:10). Jeremiah connected this sword to knowledge and understanding and the breaking up the fallow ground (fruitless ground or no fruit of the Spirit) of our hearts lest God's fury come forth like fire (Jeremiah 3:14-15, 4:1-4). Paul picks up this circumcision in Romans chapters 2, 3 and 4 concerning Abraham but especially Romans 2:25-29 as a work of the Spirit in our hearts. Hebrews 4:12-16 speaks of this sword dividing soul (flesh) and spirit (God) and bone (death) and marrow (life). Oh yes,, circumcision. Has the Holy Spirit circumcised your heart with the sword of the Word to not be stiff-necked in following Him (Luke 9:23-24) and fulfilling your personal destiny (Ephesians 2:8-10) and producing the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-26)? May you be found to be a good and faithful servant.
I really appreciated the Holy Spirit's leading Jeff Hammond when he said "Jesus said this because He is the Light of the world and He was coming into a world of darkness ruled by Satan. The coming of Jesus automatically meant that there would be war between Satan and Jesus." While I do acknowledge God's promise to bring judgment on the wicked, the more I read the scriptures the more I realize that His first priority wielding the "Sword", the "Word of God" (Ephesians 6:17)is to bring enlightenment, understanding, and repentance (2 Timothy 3:16). God takes no pleasure in punishing the wicked (Ezekiel 33:11) , (2 Peter 3:9) and even went so far as to command us to partner with Him in that rescue through the word (Jude 1:23), (James 5:19). May our focus be less on judgement and condemnation, and more on what unites us (John 17:20,21), His love (1 John 4:7-21) and His call to us, to love others (Matt 5:43-48, Luke 6:27-36), so that they can be led to repentance. Ultimately, our love for each other (John 13:35), not our judgement, will lead others to the truth of who we serve.
The "sword" of the Spirit is the Word of God. Eph. 6:17 & Heb. 4:12,13 imparts God's purpose where He sends it and its Him whom we have to do.
Jesus was prophesying that his ministry on earth will not bring peace but discord and turmoil; that is what history tells us, and that is what still is happening to this day. "Take up your cross and follow me" (Mat. 16:24). However, a thousand year peace and joy will come when the Kingdom of God is finally set up here on earth.
I believe that the sword was manifested in more than one manner. Jesus was saying His coming was issuing judgment upon the Jewish people who had persecuted God's prophets in earlier generations. This is much the same as John the Baptist's warning in Matthew chapter 3. The "sword" arrived later when the Romans carried out God's judgment on Jerusalem in 70 AD. Of course, people who obeyed God by repenting would also suffer persecution. That would be another form of the "sword."
The sword is a well-known symbol for war, authority over life and death, and separating one thing from another. Christ will provide Christians with a sword to battle against the forces of evil where otherwise they would be wiped out. This happens only in the future. An example would be the prophesied battle of Armageddon. The time when it is justified is after the Kingdom of God is in force on earth, since the Sons of God who exercise kingship are permitted to kill or execute their enemies (this has always been true of kings). See the parable of the householder, Matt. 21:33-44. The verse also implies that whenever Christians are truly in danger, a sword will be used to save them, perhaps as in the case of Constantine and Charlemagne, even though they don't exercise the sword themselves.
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