We have been focusing our attention on Jesus’ words in Matthew 5. He provides what we have entitled a profile of spirituality as He described the character of the children of God. Throughout our study of the beatitudes we have defined the word that begins each one.
- “Blessed” is translated from the Greek word makarios (mak-AR-ee-os) which literally means fortunate or well off and is many times translated as happy. We have noticed that several of the characteristics mentioned by Jesus are antithetical to our perception of happiness. Society does not envision happy people as poor, mournful, hungry and thirsty, or meek.
- However, the character trait mentioned in vs. 9 seems to make more sense to us. Happy are the peaceful and those who make for peace. Matthew 5:9 – 9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God. Peace is at the heart of our hope for happiness. When we describe a happy world it begins with a hope for peace.
Do we have peace? In 1968 a major newspaper reported that there had been to that date 14,553 known wars since thirty-six years before Christ.
- Since 1945 there have been some seventy or so wars and nearly two hundred internationally significant outbreaks of violence.
- Since 1958 nearly one hundred nations have been involved in some form of armed conflict.
- Some historians have claimed that the United States has had two generations of peace — one from 1815 to 1846 and the other from 1865 to 1898. But that claim can only be made if you exclude the Indian wars.
- Peace from the physical and global perspective has been quite illusive. The scarcity of peace has prompted someone to suggest that “peace is that glorious moment in history when everyone stops to reload.”
I. The Meaning of Peace: Most of us have a well defined concept of peace. The word engenders many emotions. Any good English dictionary will define “peace” as
- as a circumstance or physical condition – freedom from war, harmony, agreement.
- as a state of mind: calm, tranquility, quietness, contentment, the absence of anxiety
- What is the opposite of peace? Its antonyms are war, anxiety, disorder, disturbance, disruption, conflict and commotion.
- But what does peace involve in Jesus’ words in Matthew 5? What is peace in scripture?
II. Peace in the Bible: The idea of peace dominates the Bible. The history of our creation and redemption is a story about peace lost and regained.
- Man was created and placed in a peaceful environment by God. (“It is very good”)
- But man’s disobedience interrupted the peace – broke the relationship.
- The peace of the original creation was created by God, not man. In fact, humans could not do anything to restore that original peace.
- The gospel is God’s plan to restore that lost peace. So God is the original peacemaker. The prophets often spoke of the coming Messiah as THE Peacemaker. Isaiah 9:6 – 6 For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
A. “ Covenant of peace” – Both Isaiah and Ezekiel, speak of God’s covenant through the Messiah as a “covenant of peace” In Ezekiel 37:21-28, the prophet speaks about a time when “David” (The Messiah) would rule over the united people as one King. God would cleanse them (v. 23) and establish a covenant of peace with His people. Ezekiel says God would dwell among them. Ezek 37:26-27 – 26 Moreover I will make a covenant of peace with them, and it shall be an everlasting covenant with them; I will establish them and multiply them, and I will set My sanctuary in their midst forevermore. 27 My tabernacle also shall be with them; indeed I will be their God, and they shall be My people.
1. The write of Hebrews later identifies this covenant as the new covenant of Jeremiah 31. (Heb. 8:10-12) that would provide peace through the forgiveness of sins.
B. How is peace defined in scripture? The Bible uses the word peace as we have defined it in the English. Ecclesiastes 3:8: “A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.” But it goes further, and deeper. Peace is more than the absence of conflict.
1. In the O.T. peace is translated from the familiar word. Shalom –It was a familiar greeting and was usually translated as a single word: rest, favor, health, prosperity. However the concept behind the word goes beyond just the absence of conflict. It denotes a complete state of well-being.
- The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia says Shalom has “a basic meaning of totality or completeness including fulfillment, maturity, soundness, and wholeness.”
- Shalom was even translated as prosperity as it denoted how one prospered – his total welfare – 2 Sam.11:7 – David asked Uriah,“how is the peace (shalom) of the war?”
2. In the N.T. the most common Greek word translated peace is Eirene (i-ray’-nay).
- It has the sense of “joining what had previously been separated or disturbed.” Thus, it frequently is used to signify “setting at one; quietness; and rest.” As the Greek equivalent of Shalom it also defined a comprehensive satisfaction or contentment that derived from living a full life.
- The Daily Study Bible Commentary by William Barclay says it “means not just freedom from trouble but everything that makes for a man’s highest good.”
III. Jesus, the Peacemaker – John 16:33 – These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” What is the peace God provides? It is easy to recognize that the peace that God provides is not political or national, but spiritual.
A. “Gospel of Peace” – Paul said that those who preached the good news preached the gospel of peace. (Romans 10:15). Although God’s word makes for peaceful relationships, the good news of the apostolic message was not peace among nations, but peace between man and His Creator. The apostles constantly connected the promise and provision of peace to work of Christ on the cross.
B. Peace through Justification: In Rom 5:1-2 Paul writes: “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” These verses follow a long section on justification by faith. Here Paul says that peace comes as a result of our justification (being declared innocent). Because God is willing to forgive us and declare us innocent, we are brought back into a peaceful relationship with Him. This restored fellowship is what Paul describes by the word peace – (joining what had previously separated or disturbed). As in human society, the execution of justice creates peace, as the demands of law are satisfied.
1. This state of justification is the circumstance of peace; or peace with God; – the wrath of God is satisfied and there is not more conflict.
2. But this peace was not cheap. There was a price that was paid for the peace that God provides. Ephesians 2:13-18 – 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, 15 having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, 16 and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity. 17 And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near. 18 For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father. Paul says it was the blood of Christ that brought us near again to God (reconciliation). The law (through my disobedience to it) made known the enmity between me and God. But Jesus abolished that enmity “in His flesh”, or through his physical sacrificial death. He has reconciled both the Jew and the Gentile in one body though the cross, and now preaches peace to us in the gospel message. What gift!
3. The Bible uses the word propitiation to describe the efficacy of Jesus in bringing peace between God and the sinner. 1 John 2:1-2 – My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. 2 And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world. The word propitiation means satisfaction or appeasement. It reflects the fact that the blood of Jesus completely satisified the payment that was due as a result of my sin.
a. Sin cannot be ignored (1:8 – if we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves).
- b. Nor can sin be worked off. I cannot do enough good deeds to erase the guilt of my sins. The blood of Jesus is the only propitiation. It was enough to make peace.
- Colossians 1:19-20 – For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
C. Peace Through Conquest: The concept of peace in the first century, particularly among the Romans was different from our modern concept. We often think of peace as the absence of war. We pursue peace through diplomacy and cooperation.
1. But the Roman concept of peace was the peace which resulted from war and conquest. Peace was the result of military action, not diplomacy. Peace was not achieved by negotiation or cooperation. Peace was imposed on the subjugated by means of force. Peace was not negotiable nor was peace voluntary. Peace was brought about by taking lives and creating inequality.
- Tacitus records the words of Calgacus, chieftan of the Britons, in a speech before battle against Agricola, in Agricola 30: “To robbery, slaughter, plunder, they give the lying name of empire; and where they made destitution, they call it peace.” The Romans called peace conquering other nations.
- Mark Antony praised Julius Caesar in his funeral oration as a “peace-maker” because he had so successfully subjugated his enemies.
- The Pax Romana, the peace of Rome, was also called Pax Augustus, not because there was peace in the world, but there was an end to the civil wars in Rome. Augustus brought an end to civil war and went conquering the nations, subjugating them to Rome, bringing about this peace.
- Even more interesting is that the Altar of Peace (Ara Pacis) stood on the Hill of Mars, the god of war. Peace was brought about by war to the Romans.
2. The peace that God accomplishes is not a negotiated peace. God did not arrange a truce or ceasefire with Satan (the one who initiated the conflict). God brought about peace by conquering Satan, and leaving him powerless. Heb 2:14-17 – 14 Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. 16 For indeed He does not give aid to angels, but He does give aid to the seed of Abraham. 17 Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.
a. Earlier in Ephesians Paul described this conquest that came through Jesus’ resurrection from the dead as the exceeding greatness of His power- Eph 1:19-23 – 19 and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power 20 which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places,21 far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. 22 And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, 23 which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.
· What did Jesus do at the cross? Col 2:15 – Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it. Jesus subjugated His enemies and secured the peace for us all.
· Paul also tied war and peace together in Romans 16:20, “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.”
D. Peace through Faith: The peace that God offers is accessed through faith. I must trust in Him for the victory He has won. Contrary to popular religious thinking, faith does not exclude obedience, but rather demands it. James says faith without obedience is dead faith. “He that believes and is baptized will be saved.” (Mark 16:16)
Conclusion: The gospel of peace is the good news of a conquering Savior who cannot lose. If you are in His Kingdom you have nothing to fear. He is in complete control. But to be in His Kingdom you must submit to His authority. Have you obeyed His commands? We submit our lives to God by dying to sin and being immersed in water (Romans 6:1-4). Paul says if we die with Christ we are made alive with him.