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The Gospel of Peace

“Also, having come, he preached the Gospel of peace to you who are far off and peace to you who are near, for through him we have access, both of us in one Spirit, to the Father.”

(Ephesians 2:17-18)

It strikes me as odd that people do not seem to notice that as America moves further and further away from the Christian faith, we have become more violent and more divided than ever. To the Christian, who understands that the Gospel is a Gospel of peace and of reconciliation, the correlation should be obvious. Yet, it does not seem to be. People keep looking for a political solution to our problems; that may, at best, put a bandage on some of the wounds, but it does not get at the heart of the problem, which is sin. That sin separates us from God and from fellow man and if there is a time for the Gospel to be heard, that time is now. So, while I do vote, and commend Christians to do the same, I vote for those who I think will best uphold those Biblical values upon which my life is built, but I am under no delusion in thinking that one politician or another is going to bring a time of revival and overall spiritual wellbeing to our country.

In context, Paul is still addressing the unity that Christ has worked between God and man as well as man and man. It is no longer a matter of being Jew or Gentile or Barbarian; if we are in Christ, we are one person by the work of the Holy Spirit and are presented to God in peace — free from the penalty of sin. Jesus has paid that in full for His elect.

So, whether we were far off (the Gentile nations) or near (in Jerusalem or Israel), God has brought us together through this Gospel that brings peace. We must be clear that the primary sense of this peace is peace between man and God. But, when we are at peace with God, joined together as one body with others, then we will find ourselves at peace with one another. The world is to know that we belong to Jesus by the love we have for one another (John 13:34-35). The easiest way to determine whether a person is a true Christian is to observe how they behave toward other true Christians, for if they do not love those who are in the body, they truly do not have God in their heart (1 John 3:10). This, of course, John has said in the same context as making a practice of righteous living. If you want to know whether someone is a true Christian or just a scoundrel using the church for his own ends, this is as good a starting place as any. So, how does it describe you?

He is Our Peace

“For he is our peace, the one who has made both one and breaching the dividing wall which divided — the hatred in his flesh, the law in commandments nullified — in order that the two might be created in him into one new man making peace and reconciling both in one body to God through the cross, killing the hatred in him.”

(Ephesians 2:14-16)

Jesus is our peace. What a wonderful sentiment to meditate upon. How often we try and find peace in matters of earthly security — wealth, a career, etc… Yet, our peace only ever will be found in Christ. The rest of this verse approaches the question of why Jesus is our peace, but it is worth spending time meditating on the notion that if we wish to find peace in life it will only ever come in Christ and by being in His will. Security does not come from men or from the works of men; it comes from Christ.

Paul, of course, is borrowing this language from the prophet Micah (Micah 5:5). Here is one of the many promises of a coming Messiah — in this case, one who would be born in Bethlehem and who would shepherd the people of Israel (True Israel that is). Micah 5:4 speaks of him shepherding Israel in the strength of the Lord and his people finding a place to dwell securely in Him. For he will be their peace.

Scripture is full of references like this — the final verse of Psalm 2, for example, that says, “Blessed are those who take refuge in Him.” Ask yourself, what steps have you taken in life to try and secure peace by the works of your own hands? How successful have they been? I would wager that they are unsuccessful. What is holding you back from truly making Christ your source of peace and the pursuit of Christ, wherever that might lead you in this life, the direction of your life? Often we confuse peace with comfort. The first is found in Christ alone and is eternal. The second can be worked with our hands but is fleeting and unsatisfying. Choose this day what it is that you will pursue.

Peace

“And the peace of God that is better than anything the mind can comprehend will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

(Philippians 4:7)

In this world of chaos “with devils filled,” how often we yearn for this peace but find it fleeting. Yet, the answer is not to doubt God’s promises, but to seek them out, trusting in God’s hand to provide them. Oh, Heavenly Father, bring this peace that we desperately need in these chaotic hours.

Yet, notice too, as Paul writes, the purpose of this peace. We often speak about the “peace that passes all understanding,” but usually we stop there. That is not where Paul stops, though. Paul goes on to say that this peace is designed to protect our hearts and minds. And thus, when we forego this peace, it is fair to say that we allow our hearts and minds to be exposed to attack. How defenseless we often leave ourselves.

Thus, as you are tempted to fill your days, ask yourself what is needful for your spirit as well as for your flesh. If you are honest, you will recognize that we tend to spend far more time caring for the things of this world that will perish than that which is eternal. When we pursue the things of this world, the best peace we will find is that peace that the world can offer…which honestly, isn’t very much. But when we pursue the things of God we will find God’s peace, a peace that is infinitely greater than what our minds can even begin to comprehend.

Grace and Peace to you…

“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

(Philippians 1:2)

When you greet others who are Christians, how do you greet them? Do you have a sincere wish for them that God would give them grace and peace or do you greet them begrudgingly, perhaps because of something that has happened between the two of you in the past? Or, do you even think about these things at all? Do you just say, “Hello, how are you?” and then just keep on walking satisfied in the pleasantries but not really caring about the answer to your question. Isn’t it interesting, so often, that we want people to be genuinely concerned about our welfare or about what we happen to be doing but don’t have the same concern about our neighbor…even that neighbor who happens to be a believer in Jesus Christ.

Paul sets for us a model that would serve us well to follow. May God give you grace and peace. The idea expressed by Grace as Paul presents it is that of God having a disposition of goodwill toward you, that he might bless your steps and your actions and that the world indeed would see God’s hand in your life. This is not a health-wealth or prosperity Gospel, though. For the evidence of God’s grace is not seen in money or physical well-being, Paul presents the evidence of God’s grace as peace in your life. Peace denotes a resting in God’s hand of mercy. It is a deliverance from the Evil One and his power. And later in this letter, Paul will refer to this peace as that which “passes all understanding” (Philippians 4:7), because it is a peace that can be had despite the fact that you are facing trials in this life. Such peace, such resting in God’s mercy, is the result of God’s gracious hand upon your life (and while not always, often abundant wealth is a sign of God’s judgment…).

Yet, Paul also makes it clear where this grace and peace come from…God. Grace and peace are not found in wealth, careers, politics, sports teams, fancy cars, electronics, entertainment, computers, movies, status, fame, or anything else we might think of that captures our attention (and sadly also, our hearts). True grace and peace come from the hand of God and thus we should seek it in no other place but in God alone. How often we fall into the trap of looking elsewhere. John the Apostle closed his first letter with the words, “protect yourself from idols.” Indeed, how we need to here those words over and over again. And while we do that, may we train ourselves to take a genuine interest in one another’s welfare and the condition of their soul. Such is the heart behind the command to love your neighbor as yourself.

Peace be with You

“May there be peace within your walls—

peace in your palace.

On account of my brothers and of my companions,

I will now say, ‘Peace be with you.’”

(Psalm 122:7-8)

Indeed, how important the blessing of peace is.  We have already discussed the value of peace in connection to freedom from one’s enemies—the ultimate peace coming from God himself who sent his Son, Jesus, to suffer and die to bring us freedom from the great and final enemy, death (notice too how God connects his “peace” to his people with his covenant faithfulness and mercy—Jeremiah 16:5).  In light of that, let us reflect for a moment on how often the blessing of peace is offered by the authors of the New Testament:

“To all those in Rome who are beloved of God and called holy: Grace and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

(Romans 1:7)

“Therefore, having been justified as a result of faith, we have peace toward God through our Lord, Jesus Christ.”

(Romans 5:1)

“But may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in the believing, that you may abound in the hope that is in the power of the Holy Spirit.”

(Romans 15:13)

“Grace to you and peace, from God, our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.”

(1 Corinthians 1:3)

“Peace to the brethren, and love with faith from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

(Ephesians 6:23)

“And the peace of God, which exceeds all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

(Philippians 4:7)

“Now, may the God of peace wholly sanctify you himself—and the whole of your spirit and soul and body be kept blamelessly—until the return of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

(1 Thessalonians 5:23)

“Pursue peace with all, and the holiness, without which no one will see the Lord.”

(Hebrews 12:14)

“But the fruit of righteousness in peace is sown by those who make peace.”

(James 3:18)

“May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus, our Lord.”

(2 Peter 1:2)

“Peace to you.  The friends greet you, greet the friends according to the name.”

(3 John 15)

“May mercy be to you and may peace and love be multiplied.”

(Jude 2)

“John, to the seven churches in Asia.  Grace to you and peace from the one who is and who was and who is coming and from the seven spirits in front of his throne.”

(Revelation 1:4)

These are only a sampling of the promises and blessings of peace that are found in the New Testament—again, a peace that can only be found in Jesus Christ.  My prayer is that we would commit ourselves to the task of praying for peace for our churches, but also that we seek to work out peace in the lives of those around us—for indeed, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9).  As Jesus reminded his disciples on the night that he was arrested:

“Peace I leave you; the peace which is mine, I give to you.  Not as the world gives do I give to you; do not let your heart be troubled nor be afraid.”

(John 14:27)

Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem

“You must pray for the peace of Jerusalem!

May those who love you rest at ease.”

(Psalm 122:6)

Beloved, how do you pray for the church?  The word that we translate as “pray” in this passage is the Hebrew word, la’v’ (shaal), which more literally refers to the way someone might plead or beg for something.  There is a sense of desperation in its tone.  Beloved, is this the way in which you pray for the church?  Do you plead with God for her purity and for her peace?  Are you committing yourself to intercede on her behalf, not just for her witness, but for her genuine peace as well.  Just as the psalmist is commending ancient Israel to do this for Jerusalem, how desperately important it is for us to do so for the church—both for our local congregations and for the witness of evangelical churches throughout the world.

But what do we mean by “peace”?  The term ~Alv’ (shalom) means more than rest from war or personal comfort without oppression, though certainly those elements are included and those elements should be at the heart of our prayer life.  Indeed, we should long for the day when the scoffers and nay-sayers who mock the church are brought into judgment and they can no longer tear down God’s people.  At the same time, the call for peace, in the Hebrew tongue also anticipated the coming of the Messiah (for the Hebrews today, it still does—at least in their mindset).  It is a longing for the great redeemer that God had promised to send to his people…though the Jewish people rejected Him.  And praise the Lord that the Jewish people rejected Christ, for this rejection made way for the Gospel to go out to us, the gentile believers!  When we see the mighty plan of God unfolded in this way, all we can do is to say with the Apostle Paul:

“Oh the depth of riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!

How unfathomable are his judgments and inscrutable his ways!”
(Romans 11:33)

Thus, when we pray for peace, we pray with the knowledge that God has already sent his Messiah in Jesus Christ and assured for us, his people, the peace that “passes all understanding” (Philippians 4:7) which will “rule in our hearts” (Colossians 3:15) and be a testimony of a mind that is set upon Jesus Christ (Romans 8:6).  Indeed, our Lord, said, “my peace I leave with you” (John 14:27) and it is because of this that our hearts need not fear or be troubled by the things of the world.  We have a confidence that the peace of God has been offered in part to us already and that there is a guarantee given to those who are trusting in Jesus Christ that such peace will be enjoyed in its fullness in the world to come, thus as we pray for that peace here and now, we also pray to hasten the day of our Lord’s return.  Indeed, “come Lord Jesus, come!” (Revelation 22:20).

Beloved, let us pray for the peace of the church so that our minds and hearts might rest assured.  There are many trials and difficulties that must be faced in this fallen world and there are many challenges that must be met, yet the church of Christ has been promised victory; let us be a part of that mighty day and engage the world’s lies with Truth, knowing that the Messiah has come and his name is Jesus Christ.

Jude’s Greeting

Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ, brother of James, to those who have been loved in God the father, and who have been guarded and called for Jesus Christ:  May mercy be to you and may peace and love be multiplied.”

(Jude 1-2)

 

As mentioned earlier, Jude identifies himself not as Jesus’ half-brother, but as Jesus’ servant and brother of James.  It is a clear reminder to us that we are to take a humble attitude when we approach leadership roles.  We are called to be servants, not masters and Jude’s attitude exemplifies just this mindset.  Jude also reminds us as we read this letter, that those of us who are called and elect are beloved to God and kept, not on our own strength but guarded by the power of God and held for Jesus.  There is a great eternal wedding that God has planned and He has called a people to himself—the church—to be the bride of his beloved son, Jesus.  What a blessing to be called beloved of God.  This is the name that God gave to Solomon (Jedidiah: see 2 Samuel 12: 25). 

The blessing is also interesting.  Not only does he pray for mercy, which is unusual (only 1 & 2 Timothy and 2 John contain mercy in their blessing), but it is the only epistle where mercy is listed first.  I think that it is an indication that there are serious problems in this church.  The people have clearly, based on the text, fallen astray, following these false teachers, they are in need of God’s mercy.

Note also that Jude’s blessing is for peace and love to be multiplied while mercy stands alone.  Though one may argue that all three of these items are connected, as many modern translations would lead you to believe, the Greek sets mercy apart from the other two blessings.  Perhaps this is because of the problems that are going on in this church.  One of the things that these false teachers are doing is to create disharmony within the fellowship and to pervert the people’s love feasts.  All sinners desperately need the mercy of God, yet, given the issues going on within this fellowship, they especially need God’s peace and love to shape their fellowship.

David in the Wilderness: Psalm 63 (part 10)

“And those men of ruin, who require my life,

they will go to the lowest parts of the earth.”

(Psalm 63:10 {Psalm 63:9 in English Bibles})

 

Thus, not only does David have the assurance that he may hide behind the strong hand of God for protection, like a small child with his or her parent, but that God will act against those that seek his harm.  He says of those who seek his life, that God will send them to the lowest parts of the earth—the grave—Sheol—as a sign of his judgment against them.  Even in referring to these men, he calls them “men of ruin”—not so much because they are seeking David’s ruin (which they are), but because by seeking the death of God’s anointed king, they are condemning themselves to judgment.  Woe to those who oppose the chosen of God—woe to those who would seek to destroy God’s anointed children!

There is some discussion about the translation of the first clause of this verse.  Many will translate it as “those who seek to ruin my life,” connecting the “ruin” with the work of these men and not the lives of these men.  Yet, the Hebrew system of accent marks (a system designed to bind words together or to separate them) binds these first two words together into one unit—hence, “men of ruin.”

The principle, beloved, is clear.  God will protect and preserve his own.  Oh, how we so often fail to trust in that promise.  Oh, how often we doubt God’s provision for us!  And, loved ones, how often we neglect to remember that promise when we have a dispute with another believer.  Oh, dear friends, let us never forget that the promises that God extends to us are the same promises that He extends to other born-again believers; there is no room for bickering and in-fighting in the house of God.  Beloved, let there be peace.