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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?

The Dividing Peleg

“It came to pass that Eber had lived thirty-four years and he begat Paleg. After Eber begat Peleg, he lived four-hundred and thirty years and he begat sons and daughters.”

(Genesis 11:16-17)

 

Like Shelach, we find Peleg presented with two sets of vowel, which again should not cause us to stumble greatly as we are reminded that the vowel pointing is present for pronunciation, not for definition. Of the Sons of Shem, this is the first case where more than one son is mentioned (see Genesis 10:25) and in that context we are also given the meaning of his name: “division.” We are told that it was in this generation that the earth was divided up — in context, most likely speaking about the various clans going in their separate directions. God had commanded the children of Noah to be fruitful and multiply, filling the earth with their kind (Genesis 9:1), yet the children of Noah settled in Shinar and set forth to build a city in their own honor (Genesis 11:1-4). God confused their languages and thus divided the people, forcing them apart and to migrate to every corner of the earth, leaving behind their plans for vain-glory and being made to be obedient even if that was not their intent. While we do not know for sure exactly which “division” that Eber had in mind when he named his son, it is not unreasonable to consider Babel as the event behind the division. Peleg’s brother’s name was Yoqtan, which means “watchful,” and traditionally is seen as the forefather of those who live in the Arabic nation of Yemen.

How often disobedience brings division. Our culture is one which celebrates the individual and tends only to think of the ramifications that one’s actions may have on oneself. Yet, what of the ramifications of one’s actions on the community around us? God would have us understand that one’s actions either bless or bring trial upon the community around us — hence the seriousness of the punishments prescribed for Old Testament Israel were incremental based on the seriousness of the crime within the covenantal community. Division was brought in Peleg’s day. If as a result of Babel, then we know exactly the kind of disobedience that caused the division. If as a result of something else, then all we know is that the actions of the day were ones that brought division — something that brought grief and separation on the face of the earth — no longer could the people dwell together but they had to separate and divide.

As Christians, we are called to be a people of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18-19). Yet how often we act as Pelegs — people of division. Numerous protestant denominations are a testimony to this fact. And, though there are certainly times when denominations separate themselves from the body of Christ by their unfaithfulness, how many small, faithful denominations are there whose only point of separation was on whether one sang psalms, hymns, or praise choruses? Loved ones, we are quick to divide and slow to reconcile…it ought to be the other way around.