The God of Peace
By J. Leland Earls
This Book was written by Leland Earls and was distributed in the 1970s and 1980s under the ministry name of…
Word of Life Fellowship
Holding forth the Word of Life…
About the Author – J. Leland Earls
Leland Earls was born and raised in Spokane Washington. As a young man with a call of God upon his life, he entered seminary and became a minister in the Christian Church Denomination. In 1958 while the pastor at the Multnomah Christian Church in Portland Oregon, Leland began to search for more in God, he knew that he wanted to have a deeper relationship with his Savior. After hearing of a fellow Pastor in his denomination who was “baptized in the Spirit”, he sought him out to find out what this “new experience” was all about. At the age of 37, Leland was filled with the baptism of the Holy Spirit and began to truly walk in a new and living way (Heb. 10:20). Leland returned to Spokane Washington in the early 1960s and Ministered at the Rock of Ages Church until 1969. In 1970 he returned to the Portland Oregon area and started Word of Life Fellowship where he pastored until he retired. Leland went home to be with the Lord in 1991.
Upon receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit, God began to open the scriptures and reveal spiritual truth to Leland in a new light and understanding that he did not have before. As God would give insight, Leland began taking prophetic truths and relevant teachings and putting them into small teaching “booklets” which were widely distributed throughout the US and in many foreign countries. Leland has had a far-reaching prophetic/teaching ministry that has touched thousands all over the world through his writing ministry.
The God of Peace was one of Leland Earls’ most popular booklets. It was requested often and praised much for the insight and simple clarity it brought to the subject of the peace of God. This version has been edited from the original by Glenn Earls, Leland’s Son.
“Now may the Lord of Peace himself give you peace always by all means” (2 Thessalonians 3:16).
What a glorious salutation! How wondrous to know that God wants to give us peace always by every means possible. In the Amplified Version the verse reads:
“Now may the Lord of peace Himself grant you His peace (the peace of His kingdom) at all times and in all ways – under all circumstances and conditions, whatever comes.” (2 Thessalonians 3:16 – Amplified Bible)
A similar expression is found in the O.T. in Jeremiah. 29:11:
“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.”
Peace is a central theme of the Bible and is an important aspect of the very nature of God Himself. The Scripture is filled with the description of God’s peace for us and in us.
The Lord wants us to enjoy the blessing and victory of His peace. But there is one who would seek to rob us of this peace and every other gift and fruit that we have in Christ. “The thief (Satan) cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I have come that they might have life and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10), Satan can steal and destroy this abundant life in Christ only if we through ignorance and lack of faith and understanding let him.
How well this is illustrated by an incident that took place in the life of the disciples, as recorded in Mark 4:35-41.
“That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” He got up, rebuked the wind, and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”
As we read this story we see how it corresponds to our “journey” on the “sea of life”. Christ was in the boat all the time, but asleep. Ah beloved, how often this is the case in our own lives. If we are truly “born anew”, then Christ is IN us (Colossians 1:27), and if He is in us, then ALL that He IS (all His attributes and fruits, including His peace)are also IN us. But so often we have conveniently “tucked Him away” in some corner of our life so that by our foolishness and lack of faith He is “asleep”, and is not AT THE HELM! We have not LET Him be in command! And thus our “boat” (life) begins to “fill with water”.
The water symbolizes the fears, worries, anxieties, and turbulent turmoil within which often seems to overwhelm us. No boat is ever in any real trouble until the water begins to get inside, even though there may be stormy winds and turbulent seas. We cannot escape the “rough waters” of life that sometimes come, but we can through the grace of Christ know His peace and the victory of that peace so that the turbulence does not spill over into our souls and inundate us with discouragement, depression, and defeat.
How foolish to try to “row it on our own” as the disciples were trying to do while Jesus was asleep. Awaken the Master and put Him in charge! Know the blessedness of His words spoken within the depths of our being: “Peace, be still”. Know that the wind (Satanically inspired thoughts) and the turbulent “sea’ (emotional turmoil within the Soul) have to cease at the word of His command. And when Christ is within you, you have the authority to speak deliverance and claim His peace.
Paul’s declaration to the Roman Christians in Romans 16:20 is:
“And the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.”
Notice that it is the God of peace that will bruise Satan. If we are experiencing that divine peace within, then Satan is being bruised (defeated) under our feet. But if not, then Satan is robbing us of that which is rightfully ours through Christ.
The complete victory over Satan will not come until our bodies have been redeemed and death is no more, but we can know the essence of that full victory NOW. That victory is the confidence and assurance which comes through His divinely reigning peace in our hearts, and this happens through the miracle of His grace to us, provided through the cross and its victory.
In addition to the above verse of Romans 16:20, I began to notice recently how many times in the New Testament God is referred to or called “The God of Peace”…
Romans 15:30-33 – “I urge you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me. Pray that I may be rescued from the unbelievers in Judea and that my service in Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints there, so that by God’s will I may come to you with joy and together with you be refreshed. The God of peace be with you all. Amen.”
Romans 16:29 – “Everyone has heard about your obedience, so I am full of joy over you, but I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil. The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.”
1 Corinthians 14:33 – “For God is not a God of disorder but of peace.”
2 Corinthians 13:11 – “Finally brothers good-by. Aim for perfection, listen to my appeal, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.”
Philippians 4:8-9 – “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me–put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”
1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 – “May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul, and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.”
2 Thessalonians 3:16 – “Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you.”
Hebrews 13:20-21 – “May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.”
One of these references to the God of Peace particularly stood out as I read them…
“And may the very God of Peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:23.
It is the God of PEACE that sanctifies us wholly (completely). It dawned upon me as if the Lord had turned on a light, how great the sanctifying power of God’s peace in us! That divinely given peace is not only a state or condition of inner calm but also a power and a living supernatural dynamic within us, which sanctifies (separates) us from the anxieties, worries, fears, and turmoil that most humans fail prey to.
Just before Jesus was to be brutally killed and taken away from the disciples he told them that he was going away. Jesus knew that this would be a confusing time for the disciples and that they would not understand the events that were about to take place. He knew that they would be filled with anxiety and fear. He let them know that he was going to go away but that he was giving them a supernatural gift of peace and that this peace would come through the ministry of the Holy Spirit to them.
In John 14:25-27 Jesus said:
“These things I have spoken to you while being present with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you. Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”
This work of Peace also imparts such a sense of the Lord’s presence and His in-working grace that it increasingly sanctifies (separates) us from the engrossing attachment and concern for the things of this world, so that our inner affection (and attention) is able to abide on the beauty of our Lord and His goodness to us.
In John 16:33 Jesus again said to His Disciples:
“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.”
How much we need the sanctifying work of God’s peace in the day we live with the world in its current state. It is that very peace that gives the inner assurance first of Christ’s complete victory in us (inner power over fear, anxiety, stress, worries, etc.) and secondly his victory for us (outward power to overcome the attachment to the world).
It is easy to fall into the pattern of primarily wanting to see the Lord’s victory for us in all of our physical circumstances. If only the Lord would do this or that for us so that our outer conditions would change and be as we want them. But this is an immature perspective, It is getting the “cart before the horse”, so to speak. God’s primary concern is to change us within. His desire is that we experience the inner victory of His peace and joy regardless of the circumstances.
This does not mean He is not concerned about the outer conditions, and will not work for us to give us victory in all of our circumstances. But this is secondary and is a by-product of the inner victory. Victory within through His abiding peace is the primary work God does so that the inner strength and assurance made possible by His peace will remain steadfast, through every testing, pressure, and difficulty that comes our way (see also Colossians3:1-2, Philippians 4:8-9).
In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word for peace is Shalom. The use of Shalom in the Old Testament is frequent (237 times) and varied in its range. Peace sometimes had a physical meaning, suggesting security (Psalms 4:8), contentment (Isaiah 26:3), prosperity (Psalms 122:6–7), and the absence of war (1 Samuel 7:14).
The traditional Jewish greeting, Shalom, means “peace; completeness; welfare; health.” and was a wish for peace. Shalom is a very important term and has maintained its place in Modern Hebrew. In Israel today, people greet a newcomer and each other with the words mah shlomka, (“what is your peace,” “how are you doing,”) and they ask about the “peace” (“well-being”) of one’s family. The Old Testament meaning of peace was completeness, soundness, and well-being of the total person. This peace was considered God-given.
Shalom signifies “peace,” indicative of a prosperous relationship between two or more parties. This relationship is one of harmony and wholeness, which is the opposite of the state of strife and war: “I am for peace: but when I speak, they are for war” (Psalms 120:7).
In the New Testament, peace often refers to the inner tranquility and rest of the Christian whose trust is in God through Christ. This understanding was originally expressed in the Old Testament writings about the coming MESSIAH (Isaiah 9:6-7). Isaiah prophesied concerning the “prince of peace” (Isaiah 9:6), whose kingdom was to introduce a government of “peace” (Isaiah 9:7). Ezekiel spoke about the new covenant as one of “peace”: “Moreover I will make a covenant of peace with them; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them: and I will place them, and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in the midst of them for evermore” (Ezekiel 37:26).
Psalms 122 is one of those great psalms in celebration of and in prayer for the “peace of Jerusalem”: “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love thee” (Psalms 122:6). In benedictions God’s peace was granted to His people: “… Peace shall be upon Israel” (Psalms 125:5).
The peace that Jesus Christ spoke of was a combination of hope, trust, and rest or quietness in the mind and soul, brought about by reconciliation with God. Such peace was proclaimed by the host of angels at Christ’s birth (Luke 2:14) and by Christ Himself in His SERMON ON THE MOUNT (Matthew 5:9) and during His ministry.
He also taught about this kind of peace at the Lord’s Supper, shortly before His death (John 14:27). The apostle Paul later wrote that such peace and spiritual blessedness was a direct result of justification by faith in Christ (Romans 5:1). Peace is central to the Gospel and is used as a greeting in the New Testament just as it was in the Old Testament.
In every one of His epistles, the apostle Paul gives a salutation of “peace”
Romans 1:7 – “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.”
1 Corinthians 1:3 – “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
2 Corinthians 1:2 – “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Galatians 1:3 – “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Ephesians 1:2 – “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Philippians 1:2 – “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Colossians 1:2b – “Grace and peace to you from God our Father.”
1 Thessalonians 1:1b – “Grace and peace to you.”
2 Thessalonians 1:2 – “Grace and peace to you from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Timothy 1:2b – “Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.”
2 Timothy 1:2b – “Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Titus 1:4b – “Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior.”
Philemon 1:3 – “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
The Apostle Peter in his two letters also gives salutations of “peace” and expresses his desire that we have peace in abundance (“Peace be Multiplied to you” KJV)
1 Peter 1:2b – “Grace and peace be yours in abundance.”
1 Peter 5:14 – “Greet one another with a kiss of love. Peace to all of you who are in Christ.”
2 Peter 1:2 – “Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.”
The Apostle John in two of his letters and in the book of Revelation gives a salutation of “peace”
2 John 1:3 – “Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Father’s Son, will be with us in truth and love.”
3 John 1:14 – “I hope to see you soon, and we will talk face to face. Peace to you.”
Revelation1:4 – “To the seven churches in the province of Asia: Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come.”
The Apostle Jude gives a salutation of “peace”
Jude 1:2 – “Mercy, peace, and love be yours in abundance.”
Jesus also used this salutation of “peace”
Luke 24:36 – “While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’”
John 20:19 – “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!’”
John 20:21 – “Again Jesus said, ‘Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.’”
John 20:26 – “A week later his disciples were in the house again and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!’”
Luke 7:50 – “Jesus said to the woman, ‘your faith has saved you; go in peace.’”
Luke 8:47-48 – “Then the woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed, came trembling and fell at his feet. In the presence of all the people, she told why she had touched him and how she had been instantly healed. Then he said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.’”
Some of Jesus’ last words were that he was going to leave us His Peace.
John 14:27 – “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.”
John 16:33 – “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
The gospel of Jesus Christ is primarily the good news of peace, as Paul declares in
Romans, 10:15 – “How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things.”
Peace is a part of the fruit of the spirit.
GALATIANS 5:22 – “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things, there is no law.”
The kingdom of God is demonstrated by peace.
Romans 14:17 – “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”
We are to have this gospel of peace as part of our spiritual armor as Paul wrote in:
Ephesians 6:13-17 – “Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”
This peace of God is to guard and rule our hearts and minds:
Philippians. 4:6-7 – “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.”
Colossians 3:15 – “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.”
The Blessing of Peace
“The LORD said to Moses, “Tell Aaron and his sons, this is how you are to bless the Israelites. Say to them: “The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace.’ So they will put my name on them, and I will bless them.” Numbers 6:23-26
The Gospel of Peace
The two-fold manifestation of the good news of peace:
(A.) Vertical bar of the Cross:
Peace between God and man
1. Peace with God
2. Peace of God
(B.) Horizontal bar of the cross:
Peace between man and man
1. Peace between man and man
2. Peace on Earth
There is a two-fold manifestation of peace represented by the two bars of the cross upon which Jesus was crucified; the cross is the instrument that brought peace between man and God. There is also more than one aspect of the truth of the peace which was won for us on the cross of Calvary. As you read this book visualize the cross with its vertical bar coming out of the earth reaching towards heaven, and the horizontal bar stretching out towards the other two men on the crosses on that hill. This picture is showing that the very symbolism of the cross speaks to us of God’s provision of peace in every phase of life. Peace! How wondrous is the theme! But unless we understand the basis and means of God’s provision and fulfillment, how can we enter in?
The first reality of peace is symbolized by the vertical bar of the cross. It was placed on (or in) the ground and was then lifted upwards to point into the heavens, thus bridging the gap between the holy God of the heavens and sinful man on the earth. The second is symbolized by the horizontal bar of the cross, upon which Jesus’ arms were outstretched, directed towards the other two men who were crucified on either side of Him, and symbolizes the bridging of the gap between the alienated peoples of the earth. The second is possible only through the first. Each of these manifestations has two aspects.
The first, or vertical bar, brings
(l) peace with God, and then
(2) the peace of God.
The second, or horizontal bar manifests as
(l) peace between men, and then as
(2) peace on earth.
Both the vertical and horizontal aspects of peace through the cross are seen in Ephesians 2:13-18:
“But now in Christ Jesus, you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He, Himself is our peace, who made both groups (Jews and Gentiles) into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity… that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity. And He came and preached peace to you who were far off: and peace to those who were near” (New American Standard).
Three times in this scripture Paul uses the word “peace” to indicate the removal of the enmity (alienation and hostility) between man and God, and between man and man. He makes it clear that both Jew and Gentile are reconciled to God by means of the cross, and that this reconciliation with God makes possible the joining of the two together into one new body in Christ, thus making peace. A similar passage is found in Colossians 1:19-22:
“For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven. And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death.” (New American Standard).
The Vertical Bar of the Cross:
1. Peace between God and man – Peace with God
From the beginning of his subversion of Adam and Eve in the garden until now, Satan’s tactics have always been to separate and alienate man from God through misrepresenting the nature, character, and Word of God; and by thus instilling doubts, suspicions, fears, and arousing latent pride and selfish desires by tantalizing with supposed benefits, he leads man into a path of disobedience to God. Thus blinded and bound by the deceptions of Satan (see 2 Corinthians 4:4, John 8:34), man finds himself in a condition of estrangement, alienation, and hostility to God. This “fallen” condition of self-will and carnality whereby man is “out of tune” with God, also eventuates in disharmony between man and man, with all of its attendant strife, jealousy, hatred, war, etc. (see James 4:1-3).
Obviously, God cannot condone man’s disobedience and self-will. Therefore from the very beginning, He warned of the consequences (Genesis 2:17). God established a spiritual law (patterned and exemplified in nature) that man reaps what he sows (Galatians 6:7-9), and “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). The “death” situation God can easily remedy, for “the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23). But God cannot bestow this life on a person while he is still in a state of rebellion and alienation. This is why Adam and Eve were barred from the tree of life after their sin (Genesis 3:24). So before life can be received through Jesus Christ, sinful man, who is alienated in his mind by wicked works (Colossians 1:21) must repent of his sinful ways, and accept the peace (reconciliation) proffered to him through the blood of Jesus Christ, which removes the penalty and guilt of his sin, and places him once again in a position of acceptance for the favor and fellowship of God (see Ephesians 1:6-7). This is what Paul calls being justified by faith, which brings peace with God (Romans 5:1).
Paul makes it clear in Romans 5:8-10 that it is the blood of Christ, shed in His death upon the cross, that reconciles us to God, but after being reconciled, we receive salvation through His life. It is His resurrection life, imparted to us when we are regenerated, or born anew, that brings salvation or preservation to our souls (see James 2:1, 1 Peter 1:23, Hebrews 10:39). Then we not only have peace with God, through the blood of the cross, but we have the peace of God, through His indwelling life, and through His spiritual presence in us by means of the Holy Spirit. This inward peace is one of the fruits of the Spirit’s working in us (Galatians 5:22). In Romans 14:17, Paul says that the Kingdom of God within us IS righteousness and peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.
The Vertical Bar of the Cross:
2. Peace between God and man – Peace of God
When it comes to facing the difficulties and problems of life, other than the assurance of our salvation, the greatest need in the life of Christians is peace within. Jesus recognized this when He spoke the words recorded in John 16:33: “These things have I spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” He made His peace available to us as we read in John 14:27: “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world gives, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” The supernatural peace of Christ is the perfect antidote for a troubled and fearful heart. The first words which Jesus spoke to the fearful disciples when He appeared in their midst after His resurrection were: “Peace be unto you” (John 20:19).
That peace is to be the dominant or ruling principle in our lives is indicated by Paul in Col, 3:15: “And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.” Paul makes it clear in 2 Timothy 1:9, that we have not only been saved but also called with a holy calling (see also Philippians 3:14, Hebrews 3:1), and this calling is to be kings and priests unto our God (Revelation 1:6) even as Christ was called to be a king-priest forever after the order of Melchizedec (Hebrews 5:4-6), Hebrews 7:1-2 tells us that Melchizedec was “King of righteousness, and after that also King of Salem, which is King of peace.” Now, IF we understand our calling, we will realize that not only are we to rule with our Christ in the coming kingdom age, but we are to “reign as kings” in this present life through Christ (see Romans, 5:17, Amplified Version), and like Christ, righteousness and peace will RULE in our lives,
The “reigning” of the peace of Christ within us is the KEY to our daily fellowship with Christ. Our fellowship and communion with Christ are BORN out of that peace. IF that peace is not abiding deep within, then without question, something else is reigning within, and our fellowship with Christ is greatly hindered. When unrest, worry, fear, rebellion, bitterness, etc, are dominant, then we find ourselves STRIVING with the Lord instead of RESTING in Him, and we surely know there is no sweet fellowship in such strife, we read in Isaiah 45:9, “Woe unto him that strives with his Maker!” And in Isaiah 66:1, the Lord asks this question: “where is the house that ye build unto me? and where is the place of my rest?” When we strive with the Lord, then He must strive with us and there is no rest for us or for the Lord, We build a “house” or habitation of rest for the Lord within us by letting His peace reign within, and through that peace, we also enter into His rest.
The preceding seems so wonderful and simple; one might wonder why so many Christians simply do not experience the “reigning” of this peace within as a daily experience. The reasons may be many and varied, but I believe that basically the answer can be reduced to one particular problem: the failure to make a total surrender to the Lord without reservation or condition of any kind, God does not want just an armistice or truce which merely brings about the cessation of hostilities on our part so that we are willing to accept His proffered pardon, but rather a total yielding of unconditional surrender; a fully negotiated peace whereby He sets the terms of the agreement and we are willing to submit to them. When such a peace has been made with the Lord, and there is a constant daily yielding of ourselves and all circumstances of our lives totally into His hands (with gladness and thankfulness), then shall our fellowship with the Lord be sweet and unhindered, and His peace within will become a blessed and joyful reality.
The foregoing can be illustrated in type by means of the sacrificial offerings which were a part of the religious life of the Israelites under the law given through Moses. The symbolism of these sacrifices shows that the consummating purpose which God had in mind was to bring man into a state of lasting and perpetual peace, fellowship and communion with Himself. In Leviticus 3:1-17, 7:11-21, 28-34, are given the instructions for the peace offerings. The peace offering was the one sacrifice that provided for a sacrificial feast in which the person offering the sacrifice participated, along with his family and the priests, symbolizing communion and fellowship with God. The peace offering is thus the last in order of the sacrifices when they are considered together in their symbolic application to us.
1. First, the sin offering taught the need of, and symbolically brought, atonement for sin (Leviticus 4:1-35);
2. The whole burnt offering represented the absolute surrender of man’s will to God (Leviticus 1:3-17);
3. The grain or cereal offering, by its gift of homage, declared the loyal submission of the offerer in a life of holiness to the Lord (Leviticus 3:1-16);
4. Finally, the peace offering symbolized the festive joy which pervades the souls of those who are in communion with God.
The eating of the sacrificial meal of the peace offering served as a memorial to the Israelites of the institution of the covenant between God and themselves (a covenant in the East being ordinarily ratified by the parties to it eating together), and reminded them of the blessings they derived, which naturally called forth feelings of joyous thankfulness; while it pre-figured the peace wrought for man by the sacrifice of Christ, through which he has communion with God.
Whether it was offered by the whole congregation or by individuals, the fat of the peace offering had to be placed upon the whole burnt offering (Leviticus 3:5), for the burnt offering was offered every morning and evening by the priests, and was thus perpetually burning upon the altar (see Exodus 29:38-42). Both actually and symbolically the burnt offering serves as the foundation of the peace offering, portraying the fact that, self-surrender leads to peace.
The apostle Paul makes it clear that Christ’s divinely given peace is a necessary part of our protective armor against the devices of Satan. In Philippians 4:6-7 he admonishes:
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God, And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (New American Standard) Why do our hearts and minds need to be guarded (protected)? Because Satan has the power to put thought impulses into our minds and to incite feeling impulses in our hearts. And Paul’s admonition indicates that it is particularly in the realm of anxieties, worries, fears, etc., that Christians are susceptible to His attacks. But when peace reigns, then it does not matter what happens, or what our circumstances may be, we know absolutely that all things are in the hands of our wonderful Lord, and He will not allow anything to go amiss, or anything to happen that is not within His control and for our good. And thus that divinely given and reigning peace imparts inner assurance, tranquility, and dynamic victory even in difficult and seemingly adverse circumstances.
Paul further indicates in Ephesians 6:15 that peace is a part of our protective armor against the “wiles of the devil”. He says, “And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel (good news) of peace.” It dawned on me one day that Paul was not talking about going out and preaching the gospel to others in this passage. Our “feet” carry us wherever we may go in our daily “walk”, in all kinds of situations with their potential for the temptations, difficulties, and devices of Satan. Thus we are to be shod with the “preparation (of the gospel) of peace” in other words, the inner peace of Christ prepares us for every situation, and protects us from the adversary. To go (“walk”) with peace reigning within will certainly provide the inner dynamic for victory in every circumstance.
Now having seen that we are now “reigning” with Christ in our present experience to the degree that peace is the ruling principle and power in our lives, let us now take a further look at Colossians 3:15 and point out a complementary truth. Let me quote the verse from the Amplified version:
“And let the peace (soul harmony which comes) from the Christ rule (act as umpire continually) in your hearts–deciding and settling with finality all questions that arise in your minds.” (Amplified Bible)
Paul teaches in Romans 8:14 that the sons of God are led by the Spirit of God. I will not at the present time go into all that is involved in being led by the Spirit, but one of the most important aspects is the guiding principle of moving and acting only in the peace of God. The word translated “rule” in Colossians 3:15 comes from the Greek word brabeuo which means “to act as a judge or arbitrator’. As the Amplified version indicates we are to let peace act as the “umpire’ within to judge. It is impossible to be “led of the Spirit” without letting peace rule, for the Spirit of God does not lead us to act, make decisions, etc., in a state of uncertainty, confusion, turmoil, or fear. We have already seen that when we have the proper relationship with the Lord and have placed matters totally in His hands, His peace guards (reigns within) both our hearts and minds. It takes both a heart surrendered to the will of God, and a mind dwelling on the truth of God to receive the guidance of the Lord. A heart in union and fellowship with the Lord to receive the inner witness of the Spirit, and a mind attuned and open to receive the understanding of the Lord: both are necessary to be led by the Spirit (Romans 8:14).
Whenever we need guidance in any matter, we should wait on the Lord in prayer (with thanksgiving for the answer) until we can move only in His peace. He does not want us to act on some sudden impulse in our feelings or according to some “darting” thought in our minds (Satan can produce these–see Ephesians 6:16), but only in peace and sureness, after a time of sincere seeking, weighing and discerning. If there comes a sense of calmness and spiritual serenity deep within our inner being, and there is clarity in our minds, then we can be quite certain that the contemplated step or decision is within the will of God. If we sense by the Spirit a troubling or apprehensiveness within, and the Lord does not give sufficient clarity and understanding in the mind about the matter, then the Spirit is dealing with us to be cautious, to wait, to reconsider, or to change our proposed decision. We can trust the Lord to fulfill His word that “the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace” (Romans, 8:6), and “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee; because he trusts in thee.” (Isaiah 26:3). “The wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable” (James 3:17).
The Horizontal Bar of the Cross:
1. Peace between man and man
We have seen how the vertical bar of the cross speaks to us of peace (reconciliation) with God, through which we receive the peace of God, Now let us turn to the horizontal bar which symbolically portrays God’s provision through the cross for peace between men, and peace on the earth, In the symbolic picture we can see that the horizontal (peace between men) is absolutely dependent on the vertical (peace with God); for only the vertical bar of the cross was fixed into the ground; the horizontal bar had no “ground” of its own to rest upon; it was totally suspended in the air by being fastened to and supported by the vertical bar. In reconciling us to God, Christ has also reconciled us to one another. Paul makes it clear, as we have already pointed out in Ephesians 2:14-16 & Colossians 1:20-21, that is the “enmity” of the carnal mind or nature with its wicked deeds that alienates or divides, both between man and God, and man and man. But Paul declares that the cross of Christ has “slain that enmity”, breaking down the “dividing wall” of enmity between us, and making us “one new body” in Him.
The above truth can be comprehended only as we see the two-fold work of the cross:
1. Christ crucified for us, that our sins (the fruit of enmity) might be forgiven
2. We are crucified with Christ that our carnal nature (the source of enmity) might be destroyed (see Galatians 2:20).
Forgiveness alone is not the answer, but the very source of the problem must be dealt with. James goes to the heart of the problem: “What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source of your pleasures that war in your members? You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. And you are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.” (New American Standard Bible). So many Christians have failed to see the peace of the cross means the piercing (crucifying) of the “old man of sin” (Romans 6:6). This is the “circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh (the carnal nature) by the circumcision of Christ” (Colossians 2:11). I have already pointed out that full peace within can come only through total self-surrender, but what is true vertically in our relation to God, is also true horizontally in our relationship with others. The thing that divides man from man is carnality, the putrid effervescence of his sinful nature. And this is also basically what separates and divides Christians in the body of Christ.
We need to be honest and recognize the root of our divisions. The basic reason for division among Christians in the apostolic church was not primarily differences of belief, for those who adhered to the teaching of the apostles (Acts 2:42) all believed the same thing. Paul gets right to the heart of the matter in I Corinthians 3:3-4, where he says: “for ye, are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, for while one says, I am of Paul, and another I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal?” The Greek word translated “carnal” here is sarkikos, translated elsewhere in the N.T. as “fleshly”. The noun form of the word is sarx, and is translated many times as “flesh”, to denote the fallen sin nature within man. In 1 Corinthians 3:1, the word is contrasted with “spiritual”, as Paul says: “And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ”. In other words, divisions in the body of Christ is an open declaration that most Christians are yet woefully carnal and immature, walking according to the ways of fleshly, carnal man (see 1 Corinthians 3:3, marginal reading), and not as spiritually mature ones (manifesting the fruits of the Spirit).
When we examine Paul’s list of the “works of the flesh” in Galatians 5:19-21, we notice more words that are descriptive of the inability of men to get along with one another than any other form of carnality. I want you to notice the underlined words: “The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity, and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like.” And tragically, we see the manifestation of such carnality among many Christians, Shame on us! Notice the last word in verse 20 is “factions”; in the King James Version the word is translated “heresies”. The word is translated “sect” in Acts 5:17, 15:5, & 26:5, to denote the “sects” of the Pharisees and Sadducees, The word means an opinion or sentiment, but with a divisive or factious connotation (dissension or party clique). Thus when “flesh” has its way, it causes people to follow the principle that “we are right and all others are wrong”, thus refusing fellowship with those they consider “heretics”. It is when a group sets itself up as alone being right and condemns all others as wrong and refuses to recognize and fellowship with others that there is formed a “heresy” or a “sect” or “division”.
A “heretic” is a division-maker, an opinionative, argumentative person, who out of his own selfish carnality and wrong spirit (pride, strife, jealousy, party spirit) demands that others see just as he does, stirring up enmities and animosities between brethren. It is in this sense that Paul uses the word in Titus 3:10 when he says: “A man that is a heretic after the first and second admonition reject.” Read verse 9 preceding and notice that Paul is talking about avoiding “foolish questions. . . contentions, and strivings.” Going back to 1 Corinthians 3:3-4, we see that it was envying and strife, cliques, and “party spirit” (personal preferences) that were causing divisions at Corinth. See also Paul’s reference to “contentions” in 1 Corinthians 1:11, and his words in Philippians 1:15-17: “Some, to be sure, are preaching Christ even from envy and strife, but some also from goodwill; the latter do it out of love. . . the former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, rather than from pure motives” (New American Standard Bible).
Beloved, if we are truly experiencing the peace of the cross, then every carnal selfish ambition and every impure motive will be crucified with Christ. Neither will we allow our foolish pride to be “offended”; we will not get mad, miffed, or filled with animosity toward any brethren in Christ. We will begin to grow out of the carnal “baby” state of immaturity sufficiently to get our eyes totally fixed upon Jesus Christ rather than men, desiring above everything else to seek and know ) truth, rather than trying to prove “I am right” or to vindicate this or that group, denomination or sect, Paul says that those who are spiritual (rather than carnal)are able to judge or properly appraise all things, receiving the revelation of the Spirit and the “mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians, 2:14-16). Such learn to “know no man after the flesh” (2 Corinthians 5:16), according to a man-indoctrinated, pigeon-holed, sectarian-labeled type of thinking. But learning to judge after the Spirit, they see the “new creature in Christ” in everyone born of His Spirit, desiring to love and fellowship all brethren in Christ regardless of differences of belief or practice, whenever that is possible.
Let me say that I am not in the slightest bit offended at any person who does not agree with me. If I did take such “personal offense”, it would only indicate that I had a serious “ego” or “pride” problem and that I am spiritually very immature. The same is true of you if you take personal offense, get “hot under the collar”, emotionally indignant, angry, etc. The person who cannot hear or read something which differs from what they already believe puts themself in a ridiculous position (if they take “personal offense”), of assuming that they have “arrived at all truth”, and/or worse, that they, as one fallible human being, have the ability to be the “sole arbiter” of what is true and what is not. Of course, each of us has the responsibility of searching for ourselves (Acts 17:11) and making up our own minds. But in Scriptural matters, we should keep an “open-ended” perspective; not assuming an absolute finality, but a willingness to keep on studying and searching, and not immediately taking an emotional adamant stand against that which differs from what we already believe, or taking a personal offense at the person who introduces us to something new or different from what we already believe.
I read recently that one of the leading full-gospel evangelists in America (I will not mention his name, although most of you would likely recognize it if I did), stated in one of his messages, that several years ago, during one of his visions, the Lord spoke to him and said: “You are teaching 60% truth, 30% tradition, and 10% error.” I am not ashamed to admit that there are things that I was taught and believed while going through seven years of Bible College and Seminary, that I can no longer accept as truth. Furthermore, the more I studied through the years, the more I changed my perspective on a number of Scriptural subjects. To fully pursue truth, I found that I had to withdraw from certain organized religious groups. I discovered the truth of Jesus’ statement that one cannot “put new wine into old wineskins” (Matthew 9:17). This does not hinder me, however, from having fellowship with anyone who loves the Lord, as long as they are willing to fellowship with me. I do not believe that there should be any “tests of fellowship” other than our common faith in and allegiance to Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. The older I get the more I realize that I am a product of God’s grace, from start to finish. Without His grace I would be nothing, neither could I do anything. You no doubt would assent to this truth with regard to yourself. But is it REAL to you? Has it penetrated to the very “core” of your being? That you and I are simply “trophies” of His grace? (1 Corinthians 15:10). God has arranged things so that all “boasting in the flesh” is excluded (1 Corinthians 1:29).
The foregoing considerations do not mean that we have to compromise what we believe or be “mealy-mouthed” for the sake of placating everyone. Some brethren are going to misunderstand us regardless of what we say or do. Paul was concerned and somewhat fearful that there would be misunderstandings with the Corinthian brethren, and that this would provide the occasion for the eruption of all kinds of carnal attitudes and actions: “For I am afraid that perhaps when I come I may find you to be not what I wish and may be found by you to be not what you wish; that perhaps there may be strife, jealousy, anger, tempers, disputes, slanders, gossip, arrogance, disturbances” (2 Corinthians 12:20, New American Standard). But though he would speak the truth as he believed was needed for them, he wanted them to examine his motives and see if he was seeking personal gain or was trying to take advantage of them in any way, expressing his love and desire to only see them edified and built up in Christ (read 2 Corinthians 12:14-13:10). His final admonition to the Corinthian church which had experienced such divisions was, “be of one mind, live in peace, and the God of love and peace shall be with you” (2 Corinthians13:11). But Paul realized that some would remain carnal and factious regardless and that this would provide the occasion for the bringing forth of some good in the over-ruling providence of God: “For there must also be factions among you, in order that those who are approved may have become evident among you” (1 Corinthians 11:19, New American Standard).
Beloved, above everything we should desire to be among those who are “approved” of the Lord. If we disagree, then let us disagree in love, realizing that none of us has come into the full knowledge of the truth as yet and that all of us are subject to error, having to change our minds when the Lord gives us more light and understanding. We all (especially Ministers) need to read 1 Corinthians 8:1-2 frequently: “We know that we all possess knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know.” Also Galatians 6:3: “If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself.” Much havoc has been brought through self-importance, pride, and vainglory, which is nothing but childish carnality. Paul says, “Let nothing be done through strife and vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves” (Philippians 2:3). Paul declares to Timothy that “the servant of the Lord must not be quarrelsome–fighting and contending, instead he must be kind to everyone and mild-tempered–preserving the bond of peace…patient and forbearing and willing to suffer wrong. “He must correct his opponents with courtesy and gentleness; in the hope that God may grant that they will repent and come to know the truth” (Amplified Version). We must “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15), but “keep our cool” and not get carnally “hot under the collar” when someone does not agree with us, or when seeking to point out to someone what we believe to be in error.
Paul’s plea recorded in Ephesians 4:1-3 is important to consider at this point. “I, therefore the prisoner of the Lord, entreat you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, and patience, showing forbearance to one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.” (New American Standard) In order to walk (conduct ourselves) in a manner worthy of our calling as Christians, Paul indicates that we must give special diligence (do all possible) to maintain the unity of the Spirit until we all attain the unity of the faith. Hove we all attained the unity of the faith? Hardly! But though we still have many differences in belief and doctrine, it is still our sacred duty and privilege to maintain the unity of the Spirit. What is this? It k nothing less than letting the fruit of the Spirit, divine love, control us and manifest through us in all we say and do (instead of carnal pride and selfishness). The only true unity is the unity of divine love by the Spirit, for the “love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which is given to us” (Romans 5:5, Galatians 5:22). This love enables us to manifest the humility, gentleness, patience, and forbearance toward one another that results in the bond of peace mentioned in Ephesians 4:3. The word translated “bond”, indicates that which is joined or cemented together. It is the same word used by Paul in Colossians 3:l4 where he speaks of love as the bond of perfection. Or as the New American Standard translates it, “And beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.” If we do not have this love we are nothing, regardless of our pretentious claims, so-called great gifts, or out-standing deeds of service (see I Corinthians 13:1-3).
Jesus emphatically declares in John 13:35 that there is one supreme mark of discipleship: “By this shall all men know that you are my disciples if you have love one to another.” Before leaving this earth Jesus prayed for all those who would believe in Him, which includes us in this day: “that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” (John 17:21-23), Jesus’ prayer is that His disciples be one in the same way as He and the Father are one, and verse 23 makes it clear that the unity of Father and Son is perfect love. Without love, Christians may have uniformity but never unity. Trying to build unity through uniformity of creed, methods, organization, and patronage to some person or denomination, will never work. The one and only focal point of unity is Jesus Christ Himself: His love for us and our love for Him. Beyond this, we must allow freedom for diversity. Paul states that there is ONE (spiritual) Body of Christians (Ephesians 4:4), but also points out the diversity of this spiritual Body in 1 Corinthians 12:12-31.
The need for such unity in diversity is the theme of Paul’s instructions in Romans 14, Where there are seemingly irreconcilable differences, each is to be fully persuaded in his own mind (14:5), but each is to accept the other without passing judgment upon him in his relation to the Lord, or despising him for his convictions (14:1-4, 10-13), for we shall all give an account of ourselves to the Lord at His judgment seat. Paul is not advocating unity through compromise of conviction, but rather the acceptance of one another in love (as brethren) in spite of differences of conviction. We each have a responsibility to “judge what is right” (Luke 12:57) as best we can, and live accordingly in faith, “for whatsoever is not of faith is sin” (Romans 14:23). And at the same time, we can heed Paul’s admonition in Romans 14:19, 15:1-3: “Let us, therefore, follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another we then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let every one of us please his neighbor for his good to edification. For even Christ pleased not himself; but as it is written, the reproaches of them that reproached thee fell on me.”
Jesus said, “if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? Do not even the publicans do the same? And if ye salute your brethren only (those who belong to your church or denomination), what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?” (Matthew 5:46-47). If we manifest love and fellowship only to those who agree with us or who belong to what we consider the “right” church, we are no better than common sinners who don’t even know the Lord. Peter says “love the brotherhood” (1 Peter 2:17), and this means all Christians, not just “our kind”. And this must involve more than just a theoretical concept that we are willing to give mental assent to. It must be a practical heart-felt demonstration wherever possible. The world doesn’t understand our theological differences (most could care less), but they can understand the language of honest and sincere love manifested before them, This does not mean pretending that we do not have differences, but it does mean that our approach to such differences is all-important. And there is no better way of illustrating this than by quoting the attributes of love as given by Paul in I Corinthians13:4-8 from the Amplified Version:
“Love endures long and is patient and kind; love never is envious nor boils over with jealousy; is not boastful or vainglorious, does not display itself haughtily. It is not conceited– arrogant and inflated with pride; it is not rude (unmannerly) and does not act unbecomingly. Love (God’s love in us) does not insist on its own rights or its own way, for it is not self-seeking; it is not touchy or fretful or resentful; it takes no account of the evil done to it–pays no attention to a suffered wrong. It does not rejoice at injustice and unrighteousness but rejoices when right and truth prevail. Love bears up under anything and everything that comes, is ever ready to believe the best of every person, its hopes are fadeless under all circumstances and it endures everything– (without weakening Love never fails–never fades out or becomes obsolete or comes to an end. “Read the passage again and substitute the word “I in every place where “love” is mentioned or referred to, and see how much this divine love is a part of you (Amplified Bible).
Regardless of what has happened to us in experiences with other Christians, whether individuals or groups, we need to put away any bitter or blaming spirit. Bitterness only defiles (Hebrews 12:15), regardless of how “justified” we may feel. “Get rid of all bitterness, rage, and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:31-32). If we have done something that is unkind or hurtful that has caused our brother to have something against us, then we are to go and be reconciled to our brother (see Matthew 5:23-24). Peace means reconciliation, and reconciliation comes only through surrender (of self). Christ surrendered (was willing to give up) His “rights” as a sinless human being who did not deserve death, and lay down His life on the cross for us, so that we might be reconciled to God. Even so, we must be willing to surrender our so-called “pride”, hurt feelings, resentments, etc. in order to be reconciled to our brethren in Christ. Consider carefully 1 John 3:16: “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.”
The way of the cross is the way of love and self-sacrifice, not the way of demanding “my rights”. Paul makes it clear that we must be willing to lay down anything that would cause a brother to stumble. This is too large a subject to go into here but study 1 Corinthians 8:1-13, 10:23-33, Romans, 14:13-21. And Jesus’ parable in Matthew 18:2l-35, given in response to Peter’s question concerning forgiveness makes it very clear that God will forgive us only if we are willing to forgive from our hearts those who have wronged us (see also Matthew 6:12, Luke 17:3, 2 Corinthians 2:7-11).
Peace between brethren is not the only consideration of the horizontal aspect of the cross. Let us consider Paul’s words in Romans 12:17-18: “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” The words indicate that it may not always be possible to live at peace with some, but let us make sure that the fault is not ours, Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers; for they shall be called the children of God” (Matthew 5:9). The “ministry of reconciliation” is both God-ward and man-ward as Paul clearly indicates in 2 Corinthians 5:18-19: “Now all things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ, and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.” (New American Standard Bible). Both in word and deed we are to so live that Christ will be uplifted in us so that men will be drawn to Him (John 12:32). This does not mean compromise with or appeasement of the world. “The friendship (intimate fraternization) of the world is enmity with God” (James 4:4). We know that many times truth cuts and offends, and we have to be willing to accept the consequences of any stand we take, even to being persecuted for righteousness sake (Matthew 5:10-12, John 15:18-25). But we are to do all we can to maintain peace with all men, “I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; for kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior (1 Timothy 2:1-3; see also Romans 13:1-7).
If others will not be at peace with us, then we must do what is necessary to defend or protect ourselves (and our own) from anything that is malicious, harmful, or dangerous, taking our stand for truth and righteousness. But other than this we are not to take things into our own hands and go out for “revenge” and try to “get even”. God is perfectly capable of vindicating us if we are wronged, and this is His prerogative. “Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. . . Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay, says the Lord”, Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:17-21, New American Standard). ‘
We seek to overcome evil with good by “turning the other cheek” as admonished by Jesus and refusing to retaliate (Matthew 5:38-39). We also follow the example of Christ Himself: “For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; and while being reviled He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously” (1 Peter 2:21- 23). We must learn the truth that injury added to injury heals nothing; returning evil for evil only multiplies evil. To want to strike back at those who have wronged us is a natural, carnal reaction, but we have been called to follow a different path; seeking to overcome (gain victory over) evil with good, trusting God to work on our behalf.
We can either become a channel of divine grace and peace in every situation, or an instrument of carnal reaction, as vividly contrasted by the apostle James: “Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? Let him show out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom, But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not and lie not against the truth, This wisdom descends not from above but is earthly, sensual, devilish, For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy, And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.” (James 3:11-18). Phillips translates that last verse: “And the wise are peacemakers who go on quietly sowing for a harvest of righteousness–in other people and in themselves,”
There can be no harvest of righteousness (right relationships) without sowing peace, Peace and righteousness are like two sides of the same coin; they cannot be separated, “Righteousness/and peace have kissed each other” (Psalms 85:10), “And the work of righteousness shall be peace, and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance forever, And my people shall dwell in a peaceable habitation, and in sure dwellings, and in quiet resting places.” (Isaiah 32:17-18). Like the seed which produces the fruit, and the fruit which contains the seed, peace is the seed ground for righteousness, and the product or effect of righteousness is peace. God is the author and producer of both: “LORD, you establish peace for us; all that we have accomplished you have done for us.” (Isaiah 26:12). Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright: for the end of that man is peace” (Psalms 37:37).
The Horizontal Bar of the Cross:
2. Peace on Earth
We now come to the culmination of God’s purpose through the work of the cross: peace on earth. It will be paradise restored, but with much added because of the lessons learned as a result of God’s strategy of allowing sin and death to come into the world, and the accompanying grace and the glory of His redemption through Christ. Since Christ is the “prince of peace” (Isaiah 9:6), there will be no real and lasting peace on this earth until He returns to take over the kingdoms of this world and reign in righteousness (Revelation 11:15), We have already seen there can be no peace without righteousness. “Behold, the days come says the Lord, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth, In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely; and this is his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.” (Jeremiah. 23:5-6)
Because of man’s stubbornness and rebellion, however, he will do everything possible to establish peace on this earth apart from God. Instead of peace through righteousness, man’s efforts are based on peace through compromise. And because of the extreme perplexity of the problems of these last days, (see Luke 21:25), the leaders of nations will compromise more and more, even to the virtual “selling out” of their people for the sake of some kind of world stability and so-called peace. Although much of this compromise arises out of sincere but woefully misguided attempts to find answers, there is a definite conspiracy to subvert the nations of Christendom and bring them into subservience to a World Government. This conspiracy is depicted to us in type and pattern by the attempt of Absalom to overthrow the rule of David his father and take over the Kingdom.
David means “beloved”, and his reign over Israel can be viewed as a type of this present Christian dispensation which began with Jesus Christ the beloved Son of God. Saul ruled before David, and the era of his reign is a type of the law, which was a conditioner or schoolmaster to prepare for Christ (Galatians 3:24). Saul means “asked for”, and shows us that the law was given because the people, “asked” for the harsh taskmaster of law by their rebellious nature. Paul tells us that law is made for the lawless and disobedient and not for the righteous (1 Timothy 1:9), and that the law was added to the covenant with Abraham and his seed because of transgression (Galatians 3:19). Following the reign of King David came Solomon’s reign as king and his name means “peace”, in order to depict the great millennium of peace which is to follow this Christian age.
But before David’s reign was over and Solomon’s reign began, the conspiracy of Absalom had to be faced and overcome. Absalom means “father of peace “, and thus he depicts the attempt of man to establish peace through a false world System initiated by man, not God. But this false world System is a yoking together Christ and anti-Christ, which God forbids (2 Corinthians 6:14). When the United States and other nations which have been the product of the truth and freedom of Christ’s gospel unite in league with nations that have blasphemed the name of Christ (see Revelation 13:1) and have sworn to destroy Christianity from off the face of the earth, or accept the mixing of true Christianity with the false religions of these nations, it is what Isaiah calls “a covenant with death and an agreement with hell”, and because of this “we have made lies our refuge, and under falsehood have we hid ourselves” (Isaiah 28:15). But God has declared that He will destroy this “refuge of lies” and this “covenant with death and hell” will be disannulled through His judgments which are coming as an “overflowing scourge” on this earth (Isaiah 28:17-18).
Absalom was much praised for his beauty (see 1 Samuel 14:25). This shows us that man’s false world System is an attempt to band the nations together as a means of preserving peace is a very beautiful and idealistic concept. As David was the father of Absalom, so does this show that this concept of a one-world system as a means of keeping the peace has been to a great extent “fathered” in the nations of Christendom, but its formation apart from the recognition of God and in compromise with the henchmen from hell is a gross error, shown to us by the fact that Absalom’s mother was a foreign princess (see 2 Samuel 3:3). Therefore the false world System as it is presently constituted is foreign to the truth and purpose of God. We read in 2 Samuel 18:18 that Absalom erected a pillar. Absalom erected the pillar because he said “I have no son to keep my name in remembrance “; even so shall this false world System will end without fruitfulness for good.
2 Samuel15:1-6 tells how Absalom stole the hearts of the people in preparation for His attempt to overthrow his father, David, “Oh that I were made judge in the land” he said (15:4), and this is what man’s false world System proponents want to see: the one world government given the power to “judge” and rule over the nations as a final arbiter so that the nations can no longer act independently. In Revelation 13:11 we read of the 2nd Beast coming up out of the earth, in contrast to the first Beast who came up out of the sea. The sea speaks of peoples (sea of humanity) in a state of flux, even agitation, and revolution, such as is taking place on the earth even today. But coming out from the earth speaks of that which is already organized. Thus it seems possible that the 2nd Beast, who is the “false prophet” (Revelation 19:20), will arise out of a presently organized system or nation, or will become head (leader) of the false world System, and lead in an attempt to make a World Government, seeking to destroy national sovereignties and bring the nations into a universal dictatorship. Absalom’s massive hair (2 Samuel l4:25) is a type of the many nations that will be involved and the fact that the false world System will seek to assume HEADship over the nations.
Absalom’s conspiracy gained great support as we see in 2 Samuel 15:13: “The hearts of the men of Israel are after Absalom. David had to flee the city of Jerusalem (15:14). We see in 2 Samuel 15:12 & 31 that Ahithophel, David’s counselor, joined the conspiracy. Ahithophel means “foolish brother”. Even so in our day shall many who are “counselors”, such as ministers, priests, and leaders in the Churches join in the support of a World Government. But David prayed: “0 Lord…turn the counsel of Ahithophel into foolishness” (2 Samuel 15:31), and so shall many Christians who know the truth, and who will refuse to compromise with the False Prophet and his attempted World Government, pray that God shall confound such foolish counsel. And God shall use such men as David’s friend Hushai to subvert the plans of the enemy for a complete sell-out of the United States and other Christian nations to the Beast powers (see 2 Samuel 15:32-37, 17:5-14). It is quite clear from the story that if God’s overruling providence had not saved David and those with him, he would have been murdered and the Kingdom lost to Absalom. Even so in our day, only God can save us from the powers that are subtly working towards a worldwide dictatorship.
2 Samuel 18:1-17 tells of the battle that ensued as Absalom sought to pursue David and destroy him, But God gave David the victory, and he returned to the helm of government in Israel (2 Samuel 19:15), even though there was much strife and conflict yet in the land, with much bitterness and internal turmoil. So it is in the days that are ahead for the United States and other nations of Christendom who will finally extricate their lands from the beast powers, even though that be through much fighting and bloodshed, and internal strife and civil conflict. If Jesus were here today He would weep over our so-called Christian lands as He wept over Jerusalem, and He would say: “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace–but now it is hidden from your eyes.” (Luke 19:42). Jesus came “to give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace” (Luke 1:79), but our peoples and leaders have refused to let the Lord guide their feet into the path of peace on earth, choosing their own foolish ways instead, so now the darkness and “shadow of death” is upon us, and the way of peace is hidden from the eyes of those who lead us. But thanks be to God that through the coming agony of our national “Gethsemane”, the banner of Christ will finally wave over the “land of the free and the home of the brave”. Our David (Christ) is being driven away by the cunning of Absalom and the foolish counsel of Ahithophel, but HE SHALL RETURN in triumph to reign as KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS (Revelation 19:16), and as the “PRINCE OF PEACE” (Isaiah 9:6). He shall bring peace to all the earth, Praise His wonderful Name!
Peace is a divine gift, in whatever aspect of life it is manifested: horizontally, in relation to God; or vertically, in relation to others. Hear Jesus’ promise in Revelation 2:7: “To him that overcomes will I give to eat of the tree of life in the midst of the paradise of God,” The “tree of life” is Christ IN you–in the midst of your heart or inner being, which is the “paradise of God”. Paul says “we have this treasure (Christ) in earthen vessels” (2 Corinthians 4:7). Eating of that tree means to experience and enjoy the FRUIT that the tree produces, and PEACE is one aspect of the fruit (Galatians 5:22). But the promise to “eat” is to the “overcomers”; those who overcome the deceiving tactics of Satan to rob them of that which is theirs in Christ. And this comes through knowing and applying the truth (John 8:31-32). Not only is Christ IN you as the “tree of life”, but you are IN Him, as a branch is grafted into a tree, to partake of the life-giving sap (Romans 11:17), and bear the fruit of PEACE for the sake of others. And this can come only as we learn to ABIDE (live, dwell, remain) in Christ at all times and in all circumstances, and let His Words ABIDE in us (John 15:1-11). “These things I have spoken to you, that IN ME ye might have peace (John 16:33). In the center of a hurricane, there is a perfect calm, though the storm rages all around. Jesus is the eye or center of any “hurricane” of life; IN HIM there is nothing but peace. Learn to ABIDE in Him. May the abundance of His peace be yours!
Finally, the Lord holds out this invitation and promise in Isaiah 27:5: ‘Let him take hold of my strength, that he may make peace with me; and he shall make peace with me,” Read verses 1-6 of this chapter and meditate on what the Lord promises to those who will “take hold” of His strength and fully enter into His peace.
(1) With His sword (Word) He will destroy the power of Leviathan (Satan) in the “sea” (thought-emotions) of your life;
(2) You will sing and rejoice in the vineyard (Kingdom) of God and enjoy the “wine” (blessings) thereof;
(3) You will be “watered” (refreshed by His Spirit) and KEPT by His mighty power every moment of every day;
(4) He will fight your battles and destroy any “briers and thorns” that would threaten or spoil your vineyard-kingdom; and
(5) Your life shall “blossom” and be filled with the abundance of His divine fruit. These promises are true we can have the peace procured at Calvary.
The Lord has quickened to me a further insight that I believe needs to be added. Peace means reconciliation, and reconciliation comes through forgiveness. But peace is possible only as we learn to both give and accept forgiveness. And this means accepting ourselves and forgiving ourselves when we have been assured of the forgiveness of God and others. You may have said or heard someone say: “I’ll never forgive myself for doing that.” But such self-incrimination is an open invitation for the accusations, guilt, and condemnation of Satan who is called the “accuser of the brethren” (Revelation 12:10), And you cannot know full peace until you “cast out” such Satanic torments from your “heaven” (mind) through the grace and power of Christ (see Revelation 12:7-11).
Faith is seeing things as God sees them. And through faith we see and accept ourselves in terms of the value God places upon us (Romans 5:8, 1 John 4:19), and we see our past sins and failures as God sees them (Isaiah 44:22, Psalms 103:12, Jeremiah 31:34). We cannot forget our past in the same sense that God has promised that He will, but we can get it into a proper perspective, and see that God’s purpose is to build virtue (character) and moral strength in our lives through experience (Romans 5:3-5, 2 Peter 1:5-7). Thus the lessons learned through past sins and failures can be a great benefit to us as we see God, through His providential working, “weaving” the fabric of our inner being with the “threads” extracted from experiences that seemed so disastrous and terrible (Romans 8:28). God can utilize the greatest errors of sinful man, fitting them into His overall plan for His objective. This does not excuse sin, for it must always be repented of, with restitution where possible.
Sin can leave “marks” or “scars”, even though repented of and forgiven. But we need to be reconciled to the fact that even our failures have served a purpose in God’s redemptive plan. So don’t reprimand yourself over the past; accept God’s forgiveness and accept yourself, realizing that God foreknew you and what you would be and do, and arranged the circumstances of your life for your greatest growth and good (in the “long run”). A part of the gift of His peace is the grace to be at peace with yourself, because of the incredible wonders of His love and providence.
For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, and through Him reconcile all things to Himself, having made Peace through the blood of His cross. Col. 1:19
But now in Christ Jesus, you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He, Himself is our Peace… Eph. 2:13