1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us. 6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since we have now been justified by His blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through Him! 10 For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to Him through the death of His Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through His life! 11 Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 20 After He said this, He showed them His hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. 21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 22 And with that He breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”
One Mothers’ Day a 10-year-old boy and his younger brother decided to pool their pocket money and buy their mother some flowers, but a bunch of flowers was beyond their budget, so they bought her a small pot plant instead. Nevertheless, their mom was absolutely thrilled that they had used their own money to spoil her. The moment lost a bit of the magic though when her oldest son said with a sad face, “There was a bunch of flowers at the shop that we wanted to give you. It was really pretty but it was too expensive. It had a ribbon on it that said, ‘Rest in Peace,’ and we thought it would be just perfect since you are always asking for a little peace so that you can rest.”
The actress Greta Garbo famously said, “I just want to be left alone.”
We can all identify with her, as there are many times we’d just like a bit of peace and quiet. Our lives are so busy, and we feel a bit like a hamster on a wheel occasionally – furiously trying to keep up with everything that needs to be done, yet not really getting anywhere.
I love the story of a pilot who flew for a small airline who always looked down intently on a particular valley on every flight. One day his co-pilot asked him, “What’s so interesting about that spot?”
“Do you see that river where it flows into the lake? I grew up there, and when I was a kid I used to sit down there on a log and catch fish. Every time an aeroplane flew over, I would look up and wish I was a pilot and flying. Now my life is so busy that I look down and wish I were still fishing.”
Peace and quiet is a precious commodity, and I think we could all use a bit more than we have.
But what is peace really? For many it is just the absence of war. Our own country seems to be balancing on a knife-edge at the moment, and we long for a peaceful solution to all the political and social ills we’re bombarded with every day.
Of course, when the Apostle Paul lists peace as one of the qualities of the Fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5, he is talking of a different kind of peace.
Biblical peace is very closely linked to the joy we looked at last Sunday. We can experience joy and peace in the midst of, and in spite of much of the turmoil that we have in our lives every day.
So what is peace, and why do we need the kind of peace that only God can give us?
In the New Testament, the word “peace” is found at the beginning or end of every epistle except for James and 1st John, and is closely linked to God’s grace. Paul opens his letter to the Church in Rome by saying, “To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.”
One of the most beautiful passages of the Bible is found in the Aaronic blessing in Numbers 6: “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace.” The NIV translation says, “The Lord turn His face toward you and give you peace.” Here we are given a clue as to what true peace is. It is when we, the natural enemies of God who are now redeemed by Jesus, experience God’s peace as opposed to His wrath when He turns His face towards us.
Godly peace is clearly very different from worldly peace. Romans 8:6 says, “The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace.” And 14:17, “The kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”
In the Old Testament, the concept of peace is usually expressed by the Hebrew word shalom.
Hayford’s Bible Handbook defines shalom as follows: “Completeness, wholeness, peace, health, welfare, safety, soundness, tranquillity, prosperity, perfectness, fullness, rest, harmony; the absence of agitation or discord. Shalom comes from the root verb shalam, meaning ‘to be complete, perfect, and full.’ Thus, shalom is much more than the absence of war and conflict; it is the wholeness that the entire human race seeks. The word shalom occurs about 250 times in the Old Testament. In Psalm 35, God takes delight in the shalom of His servant. In Isaiah 53, the chastisement necessary to bring us shalom was upon the suffering Messiah. The angels understood at His birth that Jesus was to be the great peace-bringer, as they called out, ‘Glory to God in the highest: and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!’”
So the kind of peace that the Bible speaks about is the peace that Jesus brings through His sacrifice. It is a peace which is exclusive to the Christian faith, because it comes only through Christ.
We have been reconciled to a Holy God. Human sin deserves wrath and punishment, but Jesus bore all of that on the Cross of Calvary, and we are now able to live at peace with God because of Him.
The Biblical concept of peace is a peace which is total and profound. It speaks to our relationship with God, with our inner self, with other believers, and with the world at large. Biblically, peace is no mere absence of strife but the active experience of a harmony that promotes total well-being.
Peace is always the product, the fruit of God’s active involvement in our lives. Without Him we will never find true peace. He has to intervene in our lives to bring us peace, because sin has destroyed any chance of true, lasting peace.
It is only and exclusively God’s plan of salvation through Jesus that enables us to live at peace with Him.
The peace that God brings through Christ is complete and it is perfect. We can strive for worldly peace and quiet in our lives, and have varying degrees of success, but worldly peace (which is temporary) is found in created things. History proves that our restless striving for the peaceful promises of power, wealth and fame, leave us instead with anxiety and remorse. God has not given created things the power to give peace. The result is that once we get these things, the endless cycle to achieve their desired peace will only begin again. If you’re going to try and find peace exclusively in worldly things, you will only end up like a hamster on a wheel.
False religions, human philosophies and even close friendships cannot completely satisfy our hunger for peace.
The problem we have is our deep-rooted sinful nature. Unless if that is dealt with first, we will remain at odds with the God who created us, and we will never have peace.
Worldly things can claim to give peace, but what can they do about the problem of sin and a relationship with God? Can any of these reconcile a person to God and give him a whole new nature?
Can these things give a person the security that comes with knowing his life is in the hands of the Almighty Sovereign Creator of all things? Can they give us an understanding of the meaning of life? The answer to all of these questions is an emphatic and resounding no.
John Lennon famously sang, “All we are saying, is give peace a chance.” The entire hippy movement of the 60’s and 70’s was built around the pursuit of peace, but apart from some good music, some questionable clothing fashions and a bad drug culture, it achieved absolutely nothing.
There is a lot of truth in the simple bumper sticker you still see sometimes: “Know God, know peace. No God, no peace.”
Do you want peace? Then turn to Christ! You will not find it anywhere else.
We looked at Philippians 4:4 last Sunday: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!”
Paul continues in verses 6 and 7, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
It is only the Christian who can have the peace that transcends all understanding, because God does all these things and so much more.
The Biblical word ‘peace’ signifies something infinitely greater than merely the absence of war. It carries with it the idea of completeness and wholeness. It conveys a sense of inner-satisfaction and fulfillment. It communicates the idea of contentment and serenity. In its fullest sense, it expresses our hope of reconciliation and redemption.
And it comes only in and through Christ. We are less than two months from Christmas, when we will be reminded again of the prophecy of Isaiah 9:6. “To us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on His shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
When He came, He came preaching peace. Peter said to a crowd of people in Acts 10:36, “You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, announcing the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all.”
Jesus offers us a peace that the world just cannot give. In John 14:27, while He was preparing His disciples for the events of Calvary the next day He said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
If we truly believed that, and allowed the peace of Christ to rule and reign in our hearts, we as Christians should be the happiest and most well-adjusted people in the world.
If we’re not, that should be a clear warning that something is not right. If we cannot find peace in Jesus, even though He has already given it to us, then we are like Peter in one of his moments of weakness. Instead of walking on the water, we’re concerned about all the waves crashing around us and we’ve lost our focus on God.
We may face difficult problems, but the peace of God enables us to maintain a proper balance. Peace is not the absence of conflict in life, but the ability to cope with it.
I’ve told the story of Horatio Spafford before. He was a prominent businessman who lost everything in the Great Chicago fire in 1871. He put his wife and four daughters on a ship to England where they were to start a new life, and he was due to follow later after sorting out his business affairs. Somewhere during the Atlantic crossing their ship collided with another going in the opposite direction, and in the confusion that followed, all four of Spafford’s daughters were swept overboard and drowned. As soon as he heard the news he caught the next ship to England.
He asked the captain to tell him when they reached the exact spot where his daughters were drowned. It was at that place where he sat down in his cabin and wrote the words of one of the most incredible hymns of the faith ever written. We will be singing it shortly. “When peace like a river attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll, whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, it is well, it is well with my soul.” In a time of unspeakable sadness and tragedy, Horatio Spafford knew the peace of God that passes all understanding.
Because of the peace we can know only through Jesus, we can overcome any adversity. As we saw last week, we can even have joy in the face of hardship. There is an old anonymous quote that goes, “Peace doth not dwell in outward things, but within the soul. We may preserve it in the midst of the bitterest pain, if our will remain firm and submissive. Peace in this life springs from acquiescence, not in an exemption from suffering.”
You simply cannot measure the peace that God gives us in human terms.
Of course, although the peace we have is really about our relationship with God, it spills over into our interpersonal relationships too. One of the side effects of harmony and peace with God is harmony and peace within the Church, and even in our relationships with non-believers. Again, when there is discord, especially in the Church, that should be a warning to us that something is wrong and we’re not dying to self, and we are disobeying the command given to us in Philippians 2:1-5, “If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from His love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.”
When we are grafted into the vine and rooted in Jesus, peace in every sphere of life is a natural by-product.
I found a story of a young man who applied for a job as a farm hand. When asked for his qualifications, he said, “I can sleep when the wind blows.” This puzzled the farmer, but he took a liking to the young man and hired him. A few weeks later, the farmer and his wife were woken in the middle of the night by a violent storm. They quickly began to check things out to see if all was secure. They found that the shutters of the farmhouse had been securely fastened. A good supply of logs had been put next to the fireplace. The farm implements had been placed in the storage shed, safe from the elements. The tractor had been moved into the garage. The barn had been properly locked. All was well. Even the animals were calm. It was then that the farmer understood the meaning of the young man’s words, “I can sleep when the wind blows.” Because he had performed his work loyally and faithfully when the skies were clear, he was prepared for the storm when it broke. So when the storm came, he had nothing to fear. He was able to sleep in peace.
Do you want peace in your life? You can have it, you know.
Be at peace with God. And the only way you can be at peace with God is by accepting the gift of salvation offered to you through Jesus Christ. Be reconciled to God, and I can guarantee you that you will experience a peace that transcends all understanding.
Peace is through Christ, and Christ alone.
Homegroup Study Notes
How does the world define the word ‘peace’?
How different is this is to the Biblical understanding of God’s peace – Shalom?
Read Romans 5:1-2
It is clear from this and many other passages of Scripture that true peace with God is only available to those who come to Him through Jesus. Peace is exclusively given to Christians alone. Unless if we come to Christ first, we remain God’s enemies and under His wrath.
How do we reconcile this truth with other belief systems that claim to offer peace?
Why are politicians, human armies and “peace keeping forces” doomed to fail in their attempts to stop wars and conflicts?
Discuss a time or an event in your life when despite going through a real struggle, you knew that God’s peace was with you.
Read Philippians 4:4-9
Is it really possible to know God’s peace during the storms of life?
Discuss in your group which barriers might keep people from reaching out to God.
Next week: The Fruit of the Spirit is patience.