The Gospel of Peace

The word peace may bring to mind hippie anthems like “Give peace a chance!” or political jargon like “peace talks.” For many, the word simply means a lack of conflict. But the Bible says peace is so much more, holding huge implications for the believers’ life and ministry.

Despite narrowly understanding peace, it is in fact the global, historical, and highest quest of humanity. Who doesn’t want world peace? This goal remains elusive for humans; God alone knows how to conquer through peace instead of force because His kingdom is “not of this world.” When Jesus died  and resurrected, He sealed God’s victory of Satan and established the foundation for peace between people and God, and people with each other. This is why the New Testament calls the message of the cross the gospel of peace.

In Luke 1:79, John the Baptist’s father Zacharias prophesies the coming of Jesus as one who will  shine on those in darkness and “guide our feet into the way of peace.” Then in Luke 2:14 heaven’s armies proclaim “peace on earth” to the shepherds invited to see baby Jesus. Since when do armies announce peace? Acts 10:36  describes the apostles spreading the gospel as “preaching peace”, and Ephesians 6: 15 lists the “gospel of peace” as part of the believer’s spiritual armor, once again mixing the  language of conquest and peace.

Peace defines spiritual growth as well as the gospel. The New Testament writers link peace with central Christian qualities such as love (2 Corinthians 13:11, Galatians 5:22) and grace (see the greetings and closings of many epistles). Peace is also central to sane, workable Christian community: “God is not a God of confusion, but of peace” (1 Corinthians 14:32).

Jesus is the source of God’s peace. In the Old Testament he’s known as Shiloh, the Prince of Peace. Ephesians 2:13-18 explains how Jesus made peace:

“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 into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so 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 away, and peace to those who were near; for through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father.”

So much more than ceasing hostility, peace means bringing people into harmony and sharing. This peace begins with Jesus “bringing people near” by extending grace, reconciling people to God so that they are able to make peace with others.

How did Jesus accomplish this? First, by “breaking down the barrier of the dividing wall” which separated Jews & Gentiles in the temple and everywhere. He did this “abolishing the enmity” of self-righteousness and hypocrisy that arose from the Law. In place of these divisions he “made both groups into one new man” with a new identity and relationship to God where all are equal. This group is known in Scripture as the Body of Christ, in which Jesus unified all believers by “reconciling them both in one body to God.”

Quoting the prophet Isaiah, Ephesians 2: 17 says Jesus preached peace to all by giving all access to the Father. God’s peace was to shed his blood for us while we were still his enemies. He paid the penalty we deserved so that we could be reconciled with Him. The gospel of peace is that when we live by God’s grace, we can have peace with God, others, and ourselves: “Peace I leave with You, My peace I give you….do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful” (John 14:27).

Keith’s primer on peace ended with a list of contrasts characterizing the peacemaker versus the divider. The peace-maker is admittedly dirty instead of self-righteous; reconciles instead of judges; teaches instead of demands; exposes truth instead of deceiving; takes risks instead of protecting self; and builds God’s kingdom instead of man’s, by spreading God’s message of peace.

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