This is posted as a resource for Redeemer Church and those seeking to learn more. Do not plagiarize.
Peace – Galatians 5:22
When we think of peace, the first thing we usually think of is inner peace: personal peace within us – psychological or emotional spiritual peace – inside of us.
We all want to have peace, we want to be at peace with ourselves, we want inner peace.
We want to be freed from the turmoil, stress, anxiety, fear, worry, restlessness which all too often seems to characterize our lives.
But the question is, how do we attain true and lasting peace?
Do we attain it through Diet? Exercise? More sleep? meditation? Medication? Do we get peace by simply escaping from and evading the stresses of life? Or from finding a way to be victorious or successful over every challenge in life? Is there some simple trick – some coping mechanism or 5-simple-steps to get us off the path of unrest and onto the path of peace? Maybe not all those things are bad; certainly some of them are helpful – and often some of them are necessary. But are they enough?
That’s the road many people nowadays try to take; but what if there’s a deeper problem that needs to be resolved before you can have inner, personal peace.
Peace, you see, doesn’t come – can’t come – from smoothing things over on the surface of life or within the circumstances of life – but has to start in the most foundational and basic aspects of our existence.
Inner peace is the first thing we often think of when we think of peace; but, there’s a sense in which that’s the last thing the bible things of – not because it’s not important; but because it’s the result of a different, deeper, more foundational and necessary and significant kind of peace.
It’s a symptom of having peace with God.
Because, if God exists, then he is that foundational most basic aspect of our existence where peace has to start. You can’t have peace anywhere, in any place or in any area of life – if not with your creator – the one who made you and sustains every aspect of your life – the one you were made to know and live in peaceful fellowship with – if that is disturbed; then turmoil will follow in every part of life; but if that is restored – then peace results.
Owen: “This is the great mystery of the gospel, that because of the blood of Christ, those who sin every day should have peace with God all their days.”
And, so, the primary question is: do you have peace with God?
3 areas of peace that the bible talks about:
- Peace with God
- Peace with others
- Peace within
Peace with God in the bible is a relational term, and it is most clearly understood in terms of it’s contrast; it’s opposite – which is, war; or conflict. The biblical term is “enmity” – which is the attitude of “enemies” and the biblical concept involves hostility and alienation.
Hostility – is opposition; it means that there is something that one or both parties has against the other;
Alienation – results from hostility – it is the resulting separation, lack of loving fellowship or unity or friendship.
Hostility, is hatred; alienation is the separation which results from that hostility. And, in order for peace to be accomplished, that hostility has to be ended, and that separation has to be reconciled.
Now, what does this have to do with us and God?
People either naturally, simply assume, “of course I’m at peace with God.” and live with a false sense of peace with God – Most people don’t naturally think that God is against them, or that they are against God, at least not in such a drastic way as we think of enemies being against one another.
Or, they think that the way to make peace with God, is simply by doing good; living right; being a good person.
But, the bible tells a different story:
It tells us that, naturally, by default, we are not at peace with God; before coming to Christ, we are not at peace with God; and there is nothing that you or I can do to change that; and, until something drastic happens in your disposition towards God, and his disposition towards you, something which God does and which only God can do, you are not at peace with God – in fact, you are God’s enemy.
Colossians 1:21-22 “Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. 22 But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation”
Romans 5:1, 6-11
“1Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ … 10 For if, while 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 boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.”
In both passages, you see that outside of Christ’s salvation we were God’s enemies; and the solution to that, and the path to peace with God, is reconciliation – something done for us and given to us – through the death of Christ for us.
Only through the gospel – the death and the blood of Jesus – can we be reconciled to God – put at peace with him, restored to loving fellowship with him – children of God instead of objects of wrath; friends of God instead of strangers.
This enmity, and the reconciliation needed to bring peace, has 2 sides: God’s attitude towards us; and Our attitude towards God. Both God’s attitude towards us and our attitude towards him was one of enmity; and so both of them are changed by the gospel and turned from enmity to loving peace.
God’s attitude towards us: He is rightly angry at us for our sin – because all sin is against God – all sin is betrayal; all sin is ceasing our allegiance to God and allying with Satan; and, because all sin is evil, and God is infinite in his holiness and purity – because God is a holy God, he doesn’t simply ignore sin and sweep it under the rug – he can’t simply do that – but he must punish evil in all its forms.
We don’t like to think about God being a wrathful God when we are the objects of that wrath. But what about when you see evil in the world? Or when you yourself are the victim of evil? It’s at those times that we all cry out for Justice.
Social Media – everyone is crying out in outrage for justice for everything – and the assumption is: that if there is someone who is able to right the wrong, then that someone ought to right the wrong – they are obligated to.
And it’s in those times when we see evil and injustice that we know to simply turn a blind eye to that evil would make God himself unjust and unworthy of worship. Because if he is able to right the wrong, then he ought to; and the Bible assures us that he will.
But, the hard part is when scripture tells us that we are on the wrong side of the right – and for God to right the wrongs in the world involves him righting the wrongs in us.
A child is a huge fan of justice when their sibling is in the wrong, when justice is on their side; but that changes when they themselves are in the wrong, and justice is against them – its at those times they don’t love it quite so much.
But the beauty of the gospel, is that though we were evil, though we were sinful, though God’s holy justice was against us, he sent his Son to stand in our place and receive the justice that should have come to us – to pay the penalty that we couldn’t pay – so that we wouldn’t be destroyed by God’s justice, but could be delivered through it; such that God’s wrath against our sin was fully satisfied by Christ’s death; and in Christ we now stand forgiven and accepted by God instead of standing guilty and condemned by him. Our sin paid for by Christ; Christ’s righteousness given to us by faith; God has no wrath left for us; but only love – because through Christ’s sacrifice, and our faith and trust in him, God is reconciled to us.
God’s attitude towards us; Our attitude towards him:
God’s attitude of hostility towards us has been reconciled so that he is at peace with us; But also, the gospel tells us that our attitude of hostility towards God has been reconciled so that we are at peace with him.
We are reconciled to God – our hearts – which were once hearts filled with rebellion, hostility, and anger towards God; hearts that desperately wanted to be our own Gods instead of submit as servants to his good and gracious rule over our lives; are changed. In christ we have new hearts; in Christ we are a new creation; In Christ we have the Spirit of Christ in us so that we are no longer turned against God in hatred and rebellion, but now our hearts are turned towards him in love for him.
Of course, we still sin, we still struggle, se still at times feel the old self in us rear it’s ugly head; we still feel it’s inclination to turn and rebel against God; but, the difference is, now we can see that old self, and now we can resist it – and we will if the Spirit of God is in us.
In Christ, you have peace with God. Enjoy that peace with God! Be at peace. Don’t live in guilt, as though you’re still unforgiven; don’t doubt his love, as though as though you’re still his enemy; don’t live in fear, as though you’re still condemned. Live in the freedom of the gospel – that you are God’s child, his friend, whom he loves and accepts.
And, if you have peace with God – then you can face any hardship in life because you know that God is for you.
God is no longer against you; he is for you, always, in all things, at all times – no matter what, we know that (Rom 8) nothing in all creation can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus; and we know that in all things, God is for us – even when bad things happen, we don’t despair because we know that whatever the reason for those things – the reason can’t be that God has turned against us, or abandoned us, or forgotten us. Because we have peace with God, and we know that he is for us, he loves us, and he is working all things for our good.
[George Costanza talking to therapist; life surprisingly going well for him, waiting for it all to fall apart]
G: God would never let me be happy. He’d kill me first.
T: I thought you didn’t believe in God.
G: I do for the bad things!
George believes in God for the bad things – he interprets the bad things in life as explainable by God being against him – and so he is living in constant fear of the next lightning bolt that’s going to hit him.
T: God isn’t out to get you George.
This therapist gives George that false assurance of peace with God which we talked about earlier. But, the gospel gives true assurance of peace with God.
And, whenever you’re tempted to doubt that you have peace with God in Christ, look at the Cross: Romans 8:31-32: “If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?
The proof that God is for us – not against us – is that he didn’t spare his son; and if he didn’t spare his son – the thing of supreme value, why would he withhold any good from us? Rather we can be confident that -despite appearances to the contrary – that he is working all things for the good of those who love him.
Peace with God;
2. Peace with others
(in contrast to conflict)
Proverbs 17:1 – Better a dry crust with peace and quiet, than a house full of feasting, with strife.
Living at peace with others is one of the marks of the children of God – Matthew 5:9 – “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.”
Being a peacemaker is the mark of being a child of God – because God is the God of peace, who has made peace with us who were his enemies – and so we should strive to live at peace even with those who we may feel to be our enemies.
And so, believers ought to live at peace with others – other believers especially, but all people as much as it is possible – in every sphere of life: in the home; in the church; and in the world.
Too often, though, believers lead the way in being petty, holding grudges, nursing bitterness, withholding forgiveness, stirring up conflict, and even causing division within the church.
And it was the same in Paul’s day, in the Galatians church – Galatians 5:15 – “If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.”
In contrast to the fruit of the Spirit, Paul lists the “works of the flesh” v20 – and many of them contrast directly to peace: hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, envy…
Those middle eight in his list of the works of the flesh are all ones that have to do with relationships – and they are all things that threaten peace in relationships.
Especially in the church – where Jesus puts a high value on unity – unity which involves the absence of divisions and conflict and which is the product of the presence of peace – especially in the church believers should work towards living at peace with one another.
Ephesians 4:3 – make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.
Romans 14:19 “Make every effort to do what leads to peace”
Hebrews 12:14 “Make every effort to life in peace with everyone”
Why do you think, so often, when scripture calls us to live at peace, it emphasizes the need to “make every effort” to do so?
Because it doesn’t just happen naturally; it doesn’t come about easily. Conflict happens naturally and easily; peace is hard-won, the result of conscious effort to not live in disunity; to reconcile differences; to forgive wrongs.
We are called to be peace-makers; but all too often we are peace-breakers (when in our anger we create conflict or only make it worse); or we are peace-fakers (when in our fear we run from or avoid dealing with every problem – which creates conflict and only makes it worse).
2 specific threats to peace with others:
Anger (fits of rage – works of flesh)
I Cor 13: Love is “not easily-angered”; (commentator): “irritable; quick-tempered; or cantankerous; or easily-provoked: love is not grumpy or grouchy, love doesn’t get ticked off, love doesn’t go off on a rampage or tirade, love doesn’t launch into verbal abuse or give people the silent treatment, or get into a bad temper, or do whatever else it is tempting to do when we are angry or irritated.”
anger is a threat to peace because anger – (angry feelings, angry words, angry actions) is incompatible with love.
2 misconceptions: not a forced reaction; it’s not mere temperament.
Anger, is not something that just happens, it’s not sort of some forced action – which we’re helpless – and which results from other people around us behaving in frustrating or angering ways. Anger, the feeling itself; the words and actions that flow out of it: is sinful, and is something you choose to do, for which you are responsible for. You’re not a victim of your anger; the people around you are the victim of your anger – you, are responsible for it.
Not mere temperament: some people may be more prone to anger based on temperament, but anger is not the fault of your temperament; not the fault of “just having a temper”; not the fault of your personality; not the fault of those around you; it’s your fault.
And nothing saddens me more when I hear stories of wives seeking help from the church from angry, abusive husbands, and they perhaps are told “I’m sorry”, but then soon after, the focus of things shifts the blame from the angry abusive spouse to them, the victim – and the focus becomes: “well, what are you doing to make your husband angry?”
And the reason that saddens me, is because the answer to that question is: NOTHING. they are not doing anything to MAKE their husband angry. They may not be perfect; they may be sinning; they may be contributing to conflict; but they are not at fault for their husband’s angry response, and they are certainly not in any way to blame for the abuse they receive.
Anger, is a threat to peace; in fact, anger is extraordinarily damaging to our relationships and to our world:
“No form of vice does more to harm society than evil temper. For embittering life, for breaking up communities, for destroying the most sacred of relationships, for devastating homes, for withering up men and women, for taking the bloom of childhood, in short, for sheer gratuitous misery-producing power this stands alone.”
Probably an overstatement… but for anyone who has experienced abuse or harm at the hands of an angry raging person, it’s not that much of an overstatement.
But, the gospel can bring peace – because the gospel humbles us – anger is all about self-righteousness (thinking I’m better) and entitlement (thinking I deserve better); and anger rages when I don’t get what I feel I deserve, or when I have to put up with people I’m better than – but the gospel kills those sinful attitudes – because the gospel tells us that we’re no better than anyone else; we deserve nothing good from God’s hands – no, we are sinners who deserved his wrath, and the infinite good we receive from him we receive because of his graciousness, not because of our goodness or superiority. Gospel humbles the angry heart.
anger; Bitterness/revenge are threats to peace (hatred – works of flesh):
bitterness involves holding grudges; revenge involves making someone pay for what they did; both are threats to peace because they are the opposite of – the absence of – forgiveness – which means not holding something against someone and making them pay for it.
Christians should – must – be forgiving people, because Christians are forgiven people. And, if you claim to be a Christian, forgiven by Christ’s merciful giving of his life and shedding his blood for your sin, then you have no right to withhold forgiveness for those sins of others against you when they ask for forgiveness.
Colossians 3:13 – “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”
That doesn’t mean that there may not be legitimate boundaries or changes in the relationship; or that forgiveness may not take some time; but it does mean that it can’t be withheld without denying the reality of the gospel in our own lives.
the gospel gives you both the ability to ask for forgiveness; and the ability to extend forgiveness:
ask – because you’ve already admitted to God that you were a sinner and asked for forgiveness form him – you’ve already admitted you are far from perfect and needy of grace – why is it so hard to admit that to others, and ask their forgiveness?
extend: because of how much we know God has forgiven in us – so much, in fact, that it makes any amount of wrong that we need to forgive in others seem small in comparison to the forgiveness we’ve received.
of course, we do all we can to avoid conflict. We love one another, we are kind to one another, we are patient with one another, we are faithful to one another. But, though we strive to be all these things, all of us fall short. Every church falls short. And, so, when conflict comes to the surface, don’t be surprised; don’t be afraid; but know that the Spirit can bring the fruit of peace into even the most challenging conflicts.
peace with God; peace with others
3. Peace within
peace with God leads to peace with others (as opposed to conflict); peace with God leads to peace within (as opposed to anxiety, fear, and worry)
“Worry doesn’t empty tomorrow of its fears; it empties today of its strength.”
We all know that worry accomplishes nothing, that fears are often irrational, that anxiety is counterproductive – but it seems that knowledge is utterly insufficient to get them out of our lives!
Worry, anxiety, fear are all unwelcome intruders into life which steal our peace. Anxiety is one of the greatest mental health concerns in our culture – and I just want to say, that sometimes, medication is necessary and helpful – because our problems are not only spiritual problems because we are not only spiritual beings – we are mind, body, and soul – and the fall into sin affects all those aspects of our being. And so, while we need to beware of the idea that medication automatically cures all of our problems, we also need to avoid the false notion that it is necessarily wrong for Christians to make use of and to be thankful for.
But, those who are at peace with God, receive the peace of God. Jesus in fact – just like last week we saw that he gives his very own joy to us, so he gives us his very own peace:
John 14:27 “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you…Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
But the presence of peace doesn’t mean the absence of trouble.
John 16:33 – “I have told you thees things so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world!
just like the promise of Joy doesn’t mean that life won’t at times be un-joyful and present threats to our joy; so the promise of peace doesn’t mean that life at times won’t be un-peaceful and present threats to our peace.
But, Jesus has overcome the world – and so if we put our lives in his hand, we have nothing to fear.
Peace is built upon trusting God, and comes to us through prayer – because prayer is the action of trust – casting ourselves upon God, looking to him in dependence, placing our faith in him as the one who can give us what we need.
Phil 4:6-7 – “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your request to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Instead of being anxious, pray! Not necessarily an automatic or immediate fix to anxiety; but it is the path to peace because in prayer we are putting the burdens of life into the capable hands of God who loves us, who watches over us, and who cares for us.
Inner peace comes from believing, as Jerry Bridges puts it, that: “Nothing is too big for God to handle, and nothing is too small to escape God’s attention.”
Psalm 46 – no matter what – even when it feels like the world is falling apart, if you make God your refuge, then you can have strength and peace – your soul can be still.
1 God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
3 though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.
4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy place where the Most High dwells.
5 God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at break of day.
6 Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
he lifts his voice, the earth melts.
7 The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.
8 Come and see what the Lord has done,
the desolations he has brought on the earth.
9 He makes wars cease
to the ends of the earth.
He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the shields with fire.
10 He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”
11 The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.