March 16, 2003


Jesus and His disciples had already been accused of violating the Sabbath by plucking and eating a few heads of grain as they made their way through a grain field. Mark tells us that Jesus "entered the synagogue again, and a man was there who had a withered hand. And they watched Him closely, whether He would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse Him. Then He said to the man who had the withered hand, 'Step forward.' And He said to them, 'Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?' But they kept silent. So when He had looked around at them with anger, being grieved by the hardness of their hearts, He said to the man, 'Stretch out your hand.' And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored as whole as the other. Then the Pharisees went out and plotted with the Herodians against Him, how they might destroy Him" (Mark 3:1-6).

Keep in mind that before Jesus entered the synagogue, He had been disputing with the Pharisees regarding their accusation that His disciples had violated the Sabbath. Jesus had closed His argument with the statement, "Therefore the Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath" (Mark 2:28). Being Lord of the Sabbath did not permit Him to violate it or disregard it. Being Lord of the Sabbath simply qualified Him to know of a certainty what was and what was not proper to do on that day.

Matthew's account of this incident shows that in the synagogue, the Pharisees had asked Jesus whether it was lawful to heal on the Sabbath, Matt. 12:10. Jesus turned their question back to them, "Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good?" They were not willing to answer. Their careful observance of Jesus, and their questions to Him were not directed toward learning the truth from Him, but in hopes that they might find something of which to accuse Him, Mark 3:2.

Note that this is one of the passages where we are informed that Jesus sometimes got angry, verse 5. In Eph. 4:26, the apostle Paul quotes the Psalmist from Psalm 4:4, "Be angry, and do not sin." This is not a command to be angry, but neither is it a command to not ever be angry. Rather, it is a command to control anger so that it does not lead to sin. Jesus became angry, but He did not sin.

Note also that in their desperation to destroy Jesus, the Pharisees plotted with the Herodians. The Herodians were that party of Jews who were loyally devoted to King Herod. The Pharisees considered them to be traitors to the Jewish nation, yet their mutual hatred of Jesus prompted them to work together with the Herodians to destroy Jesus.

And one more thing. Note the faith of the man with the withered hand. Jesus said to the man, "Stretch out your hand." That is the very thing the man had never been able to do! Jesus' command demanded faith on the part of the man -- not a passive, dead faith, but faith enough to do what the Lord commanded. And as a result of his obedience, he was abundantly blessed.

--Clarence R. Johnson


Jesus Christ is frequently referred to as "Prince of Peace!" This is certainly a scriptural designation, (Isa. 9:6). "He is our peace," and "He came and preached peace to you that were far off, and peace to them that were nigh." (Eph. 2:14, 17. But the very peace of which Paul writes in the Ephesian letter, the peace and oneness available to Jew and Gentile in Christ, --this very preaching, of "peace" was the cause of great strife, gospel perversions, and even physical violence. Churches were divided by the preaching of this "peace," as any careful student of the New Testament knows. (Cf. Gal. letter).

It is in Christ that true unity and peace prevails; but we must not claim divine sanction for our own private brand of peace and unity (or union) by misuse of Christ's name. We must not assume that becoming a Christian assures one perfect tranquility. We may cry, "Peace!" when there is no peace. (Ezk. 13:10). Paul wrote of Christians as soldiers, fighters. (Eph. 6).

Surely real peace in Christ can be obtained only by understanding the teachings of Christ; and those teachings contain some rather startling words. Let the man who thinks of Christ as a mushy lover, -- embrace all -- accept any doctrine just so one is sincere -- let that man read the following scriptures with care:

"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, 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 12:54 53.

In Matthew's account of this statement (Matt. 10:32-39) these words should be noted: "I came not to send peace, but a sword." And again, "He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me-." The closest ties of this life may, under certain circumstances, be cut asunder by the sword of Christ, the Divider.

But why? Why would Christ divide a family'? With what consistency does the "Prince of Peace" come bearing a sword? The answer to these questions is to be found in certain divine principles--great truths clearly revealed in God's Word. Paradoxically, we may find ourselves better equipped to understand the Prince of Peace after we have carefully studied Christ, the Divider.

Why Is Christ A Divider?

First, we should realize that Christ is an ABSOLUTE King. He is "Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come…" (Eph. 1:21). He has all power, all authority, and demands complete and absolute allegiance. "Ye cannot serve God and mammon." (Matt. 6:24). This is but a way of saying that God will no more share allegiance than authority. God has placed absolute authority in Christ, and expects absolute loyalty to Him. Christ said. "He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad." (Matt. 12:30). Consistent with this great principle, Christ must divide the father (who persists in taking some authority to himself, or delegating it to some priest, council, or conference) from the son (who accepts Christ's word without addition, subtraction, or substitution).

Second, divine justice decrees that every man shall be judged individually. The parable of the talents, (Matt. 25:14-30) clearly illustrates this principle. Perhaps the one talent man would have been pleased to say, "Lord, you gave us eight talents -- and behold, we have gained seven other talents. We are glad to return to you now these fifteen talents." But no! The Lord singles out each one, and judged him individually, on the basis of his own faithfulness. Frequently, when a congregation is involved in difficulties, some one will remark, "They are having trouble in that church." But let the pendulum swing in the other direction -- attendance and contributions swing upward -- and the same person may say, "We are certainly doing fine." These "good-time friendships" will not stand before the onslaught of Christ's sword. Christ divides the wife (who serves humbly, worships faithfully) from the husband (who thinks he can fish and golf his way to heaven because his wife is such a fine Christian).

Christ is a divider, third, because evil is like leaven; it spreads to corrupt the good about it. Christ divides for the sake of purity among His people. "Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump," etc. (1 Cor. 5:6-7). "Come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you." (2 Cor. 6:17). In His sermon on the mount Jesus gives us a drastic illustration of this principle by saying, "If thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell." (Matt. 5:29). Thus, when Paul or others of the New Testament writers urge disfellowship of the evildoer, this is not with a desire to stir up personal animosities -- to be arrogant judges of one another. It is completely in keeping with the "spirit of Christ" the divider, that evil-doers, teachers of false doctrine, etc., who will not mend their ways, be "cut off". It may seem hard to us earth-bound creatures; but for the sake of the body as a whole. Christ divides the daughter (who plunges recklessly into marriage, divorce, remarriage -- with a snap of the fingers to the church and the elders who plead with her) from her mother (who, heartbroken, prays fervently that somehow, some way, her girl may again be brought into the fold of safety before it is too late).

And finally, Christ is a divider because TRUTH is uncompromising. Truth and error are incompatible. They can not exist peacefully together. There can be nothing more straight than a straight line. Any change in a straight line makes it crooked. It can be no straighter than straight. And truth (pardon the pun) can be no "truther" The light of the gospel of Christ was not given to brighten darkness -- it was given to dispel darkness. "In Him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not." (Jn. 1:4-5). There is "one Lord, one faith, one baptism. . ." (Eph. 4:5) and no amount of well-wishing for the person who contends otherwise can alter this truth. Jesus said, "Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up." (Matt. 15:13). False doctrines, substitutes for the one faith, create false hopes in the hearts of men and women. Christ divides the man (who contends earnestly for the faith once for all delivered) from his friend (who wants to be "broadminded" (?) and hit error only by patting it on the back). 

Christ could not be consistent with these divine truths unless He was a divider. And Christians who desire peace (?) and unity (?) which encourage laxity in regard to the authority of Christ, weakens the moral fiber of the church, compromises the truth of God, and establishes false hopes in individuals. These Christians, I say, are untrue to Christ.

Christ, A Divider In Judgment

Christ will be a divider in judgment. Matt. 25:31-f. represents Him as dividing the sheep from the goats; assigning to one everlasting life, and to other everlasting punishment. And in 2 Thess. 1:7-8 we read, "…when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ." Christ now commands faith, repentance, obedience -- not only in baptism but in humble faithful service to His cause. Christ's word will judge us in the last day. (Jn. 12:48). Christ, through His word, separates the believer from the unbeliever, the penitent from the impenitent, the baptized from the unbaptized, the faithful from the unfaithful. Do not deny these truths, but profit by them. It is for your good. and mine, that Christ is a divider -- in the process of being Prince of Peace.

--Robert F. Turner, Truth Magazine, March 1957



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