MATTHEW 10:34-36      by Jim Langford on FactNet

"Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law -- a man's enemies will be the members of his own household." -- Matthew 10:34-36

Some think they see in these words a God-ordained “principle” at work within the family of God. Through frequent reference to this passage, the minds and hearts of many dear saints have been conditioned to accept as God’s will the heart-rending divisions which have alienated believers and the mass “markings” which have insanely compounded the problem rather than alleviating it.

This passage, coupled with 1 Cor. 11:19, was used to bolster the faith of family members who stood to be separated from their believing loved ones as the result of so-called “disciplinary” action. It’s much easier to make such “sacrifices” when you have been led to believe that it’s pleasing to the Lord. May God help those souls who allowed themselves to be convinced that this is “correctly handling the word of truth.”

While it is understood that our love as individuals for the Lord Jesus Christ should not be compromised, it is not for a moment granted that Mt. 10:34-36 applies (in principle or otherwise) to Christians in their relationship one to another in the body of Christ. To grant that possibility would be to contradict much revealed truth in God’s word pertaining to the “mystery hidden in ages past.” A more insidious and malicious innovation of Scripture cannot be imagined. It only encourages more division and fosters hateful attitudes. Indeed, Christ “came not to send peace, but a sword.” But in what sense must this be understood?

A cursory reading of this chapter reveals that the division depicted here is the difference that exists between “sheep” and “wolves” (verse 16); “members of His household” and non-members (verse 25); those who acknowledge Christ and those who disown Him (verses 32-33); and those who are worthy of Him and those who are not (verses 37-39). And the persecution experienced was because Christ made this difference or division (verses 18, 22, 25, 27, 32, 37-40). Furthermore, to emphasize the intensity of this hatred for Christ, we are told that a “brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against parents and have them put to death.” (verse 21) Is there any doubt about the “principle” inherent in these verses? Is it not clear that the enmity experienced, the persecution suffered and the division manifested were – and still are – the direct result of the hatred the unsaved have for the Lord Jesus Christ and, consequently, for those who believe in Him?

These same thoughts were expressed on different occasions during the earthly ministry of our Lord (cf. Luke, chapters 9, 10, 12 & 21). In every instance the same underlying principle is evident: those who believed that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God, could expect persecution, alienation and hatred from the unbelieving world. The division that would come between those who believed and those who didn’t was so acute that even intimate family relationships would be disrupted. It is evident also that the scope of these warnings was to reach far beyond the ministry of the “twelve” and the “seventy” (Luke 10:1-18). They have applicability during the early church age, the present age and eventually the tribulation period.

Why, then, is this principle abandoned when verses 34-36 are read? What rule of interpretation…? What possible deviation in the context…? What change in thought could possibly cause the reader to think that the subject matter in these verses should be treated or understood differently?

(To be continued.)
MATTHEW 10:34-36 (Continued)

If a devious man is determined enough in his effort to find “proof” in the Scriptures for something that supplies a degree of plausibility to his contention, he’ll generally succeed in locating something. It matters not that he detaches a sentence from its context and gives it a meaning contrary to its setting. Or, if that is too far fetched, he invents a well intended but superficial generalization that he hopes will apply. Again, it matters not that this new found “principle” ignores or contradicts essential particulars.

Is it because in verses 34-36 the idea of “turn against” or “set at variance” is less repugnant than “put to death” as depicted in verse 21? Surely his sheep would be reluctant to swallow that pill. It’s a mute question, however, since verse 21 and verses 35-36 are quotes from Micah 7:6. It is also interesting to read in Micah 7:2-6 about the spirit of paranoia that will prevail: “All men lie in wait to shed blood; each hunts his brother with a net.” “…the powerful dictate what they desire – they all conspire together.” “Do not trust a neighbor; put no confidence in a friend. Even with her who lies in your embrace be careful of your words.”

Why didn’t those men who claimed to be shepherds of God’s flock quote Micah 7:5 and Matt. 10:21 in their attempt to justify their actions and embolden their followers? If the principle inherent in these passages applies to life in the body of Christ, then the spirit of distrust, suspicion, conspiracy and the inquisition that inevitably follows, must be accepted as part of God’s will for the church! In the search for “lepers,” in the quest to “purge out the leaven,” in the zeal to “clean house,” inquiry must be made as to “where people stand!” Fear will rule!

And if the wielding of the “sword” is a principle at work in the body of Christ dividing asunder families of believers, what can be said about the fact that Christ “did not come to bring peace.” Imagine the apostles trying to reconcile that statement with “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.” (John 14:27) It is not without significance that Paul prefaced all his letters to the church by extending God’s “grace and peace” to the brethren. To the church Christ is the “God of Peace.” (Ro. 15:33; 1 Cor. 14:33; 2 Cor. 13:11; Phil. 4:9; 1 Th. 5:23; 2 Th. 3:16; Heb. 13:20) To the world with its Christ rejecters, He remains a God of fire, division and the sword (Lk. 12:49-53).

(To be continued.)
MATTHEW 10:34-36 (continued)

Robert Grove toured the country in 1985 and 1986 brandishing the message of Matt. 10:34-36. I first took issue with him on his spurious application of that passage in San Luis Obispo in early May 1985. I also chose that moment to give him a copy of my written objection to the spurious use of Numbers 16. Nor can I forget our brother Russell Ross, who stood up after Jack Langford delivered his castigating polemic that Saturday morning at Santa Maria in December, 1985, and, without explanation, read from his Bible before several hundred people verses 34 through 36 of Matthew 10. What did he mean by that? What was his purpose? Recorded here are the transcribed words of Robert Grove spoken at Alhambra on August 24, 1986. After reading verses 34 and 35 he continued:

“My heart goes out to a lot of mothers and daughters and fathers and daughters and sons among saints that I know and love here that I believe are facing THAT KIND OF SITUATION. Does that mean that those the friction or confrontation is with, that they’re not children of God? NO. Is that the first application of this passage? I BELIEVE SO. DOES THAT MEAN I CAN’T APPLY IT TO ANYTHING ELSE? NO. No, because it’s obvious that when we stand true to God and someone will not stand true to God, there’s going to be friction; there’s going to be heartache; there’s going to be sorrow.

And I think particularly of Art and Pat Warner. Right across the street and just up the block a way, two members of their immediate family! That can’t help but be one of the most difficult things to live with that a Christian is asked to live with who has Godly love in their heart. And so what happens if they say, ‘WELL, I JUST CAN’T DO IT!’ Well, we would have to recognize that THEY SINNED AGAINST GOD, because God will give us the strength to stand true if we want to. If we don’t want to, we won’t have the strength… If I hear someone say, or someone says to me, or I hear about it, and it’s true – if somebody expresses that, ‘If my children are involved, I’m not going TO STAND AGAINST my children’ – I have to conclude that you just love your children (you think!) more than you love God.”

In an open letter to John Morey I commented on Robert’s words: “Are the saints really facing THAT KIND of situation? What kind of situation is depicted in those verses, John? Robert knows the primary teaching there. He tells us so! But then he claims he has the right to ‘APPLY IT TO ANYTHING ELSE,’ which he promptly does, in such a way that Art and Pat will be guilty of sinning before God if they don’t ‘stand against’ their children. Must I remind you of who stands against whom in Matthew 10?”

Since relatives and members of immediate families are unavoidably involved in this arena of warfare, emotions run high. Authoritative leaders know this, and the methods they sometimes choose to maintain control are identical to those the cultist’s use to ply their trade. How do you convince a son to “turn against” his father and “avoid” him? You may resort to slander. You may paint the most horrible portrait imaginable of that father. But most likely, you’ll scare that young man out of his wits with the two most powerful tools known! One of them is the Bible and the other one is God! When you threaten naïve saints with a view of something from the Scriptures, and tell them it will please (or displease) God, you will get results! It is especially effective if you go one step further and warn him what will happen to him if he displeases God! (Robert is especially noted for invoking such anathemas as Mt. 18:6 or 1 Tim. 1:19, 20) It matters not, you see, that the Scriptures are being misused and you are disobeying not God but a mere man.

So, in “cleaning house,” children are prompted to stand against parents; parents are persuaded to turn against their sons and daughters; and wives are coaxed into betraying their husbands. And in so doing, they are told that this is how to win God’s approval. The result is peace? NO! NO! The result is more biting, devouring and consuming (Gal. 5:15)! When it’s all over, what will be left? A cold-hearted, doctrine-oriented, exclusive, wary, legalistic, fear-filled sect!

(To be continued)
MATTHEW 10:34-36 (Continued)

In concluding this study I refer to a taped response Jack Langford made in August 1990 to a letter written by Don Stevens. Don had questioned the liberal use of Matthew 10 in supporting the separation of Christian family members, pointing out that it was unsaved family members who would turn against and persecute saved ones in the households. He added that the passage had application mainly to persecutions during the apostolic age and to the tribulation period in association with the kingdom message. Jack’s answer:

“I’ll just say that basically I think I agree with that, as far as I know Maurice Johnson would agree with that, and Wilbur and your father and everyone else would agree with that… I think everyone who reads that… recognizes that the conversion of people to Jesus Christ will sometimes split the allegiances of families… I don’t think we’ll have any confusion there… However, as Christ quotes that, we recognize this truth as not just peculiar to the kingdom, but is stating principles that have always been true in God’s word and in God’s law. Consequently, we can make an application, a secondary application of it, to us today.”

Jack then proceeded to list numerous examples “about spiritual discipline in the church” where the “burning indictment and warning” of Matthew 10 applies “because some members of the spiritual family will begin to walk like natural unregenerate man.”

After saying that he “basically” agrees with Don’s understanding of Matthew 10, and that “everyone else would agree” also, Jack added that he didn’t “think we’ll have any confusion there.” Interesting! We all agree on the primary, original meaning of the text. But it’s only one little jump from interpretation to application and another great leap to “a secondary application!” And, as can be expected, that’s exactly where Jack proceeds to introduce “confusion!” There’s an old adage that says: “Interpretation is one, application is many.” Therein is the source of most of out woes. What application the teacher or preacher makes of a text is usually determined by his purpose. In order to make the text relevant and contemporary, he may distort it or misrepresent it in some way. And his hearers must always be alert to how far he ranges with his applications, or a meaning can be brought to a passage that wasn’t intended by the Holy Spirit.

In Matthew 10 the only ones who “stand against a family member” are unregenerate Christ rejecters. How so clear a principle can be flipped to encourage Christians to stand against their own beloved, I don’t know. And why any leader would go to this passage for instruction about “church discipline,” I don’t know. Much has been written about the misuse of this passage. And much has been documented about what Robert Grove, John Morey and Jack Langford have taught. That evidence has yet to be refuted; simple denials won’t suffice anymore!

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